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June 15, 2011

Impact of Vatican II on Consecrated life in the Church

I belong to the Post-Vatican II generation of  young women theologians of colour in a developing country. It is difficult to see the difference between Pre-Vatican II and Post-Vatican II theologies. As far as I understand, Vatican II tried to reduce the gap between clergy and laity, religious and laity - and it tried to flatten the hierarchical mountain, to bring the priesthood at the center rather than the top. The vision/mission of the  ordained priesthood according to Vatican II was at the service of animating the priesthood of the laity (all the non-ordained people of God)--so that together the entire Church could be at the service of the world. The purpose of the desire to flatten the pyramid was mainly for greater unity and harmony within the Church.

From an Asian perspective, I do not see why instead of the gap between religious women and laity being reduced, in the struggle for equality of power/ leadership by men and women in the Church, most theologians (both conservative or liberal and Pre or Post Vatican II) have succeeded in 'raising' women religious to stand next to the clergy on the PYRAMID OF POWER.

So the pyramidal structure is being encouraged in order to encourage women in general (?) in developed countries, and women religious whose vocations continue to flourish in  developing countries, at the expense of the vast majority of the remaining People of God. My observations show that the 'main' reason why religious life is flourishing in Asia is the ‘high’ feeling experienced by religious women when they are put on the pedestal. I  have seen exceptions in some congregations and individual religious. But the majority seem to be motivated to religious life due to the attraction of security, comfort, education, privileges, and power.

I  do not support  these kind of motivations – inspite of the fact that I’m a woman who has been through a long long  journey of liberation as a woman in Asian culture and society and certainly wish the advancement of women in all fields.

As a disciple of Christ, I do not see this theology of  equality of power between men and women – moving in the right direction or in the spirit of the Gospel.

Even if I imagine women priests, maybe they would work in the developed countries in the right spirit, without  hampering the vocation of the laity in general. But  I have reasons to doubt this would be the case in other parts of the world which are simply not ready for such drastic reform in the Institutional Church and may not survive such a crisis. (Although I know the Holy Spirit holds surprises ! ) Hence I am personally not in favour of women’s ordained ministry in the Church at this time.

I think the urgent need of the Church is Unity.  No doubt, theologians should reflect on reform but only  the persons called  to the service of Unity in the Catholic Church may perhaps fully understand the burden of their calling which takes in the perspective of the entire universe with the diversities in the Churches. Jesus Christ did explicitly desire this Unity !

Personally I think it is the right time to focus on reflections on married clergy which would itself take care of the pyramid. Then other reflections /reforms could follow if still inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Consecrated virginity is both an ancient and new vocation, searching for its Identity and Mission in Today’s Church and World. Maybe one of the reasons why Vatican II re-introduced this vocation in the church was to reduce the gap between Religious Institutes and the Laity, while maintaining the richness of this vocation. It is upto consecrated virgins today to see in which direction it should move without losing  the Spousal and Service dimensions  and also to ensure the OrdoVirginum is not identified with the laity and subordinated to clergy and religious.

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