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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Balthasar and women

I'm reading a November 2013 article in The Tablet by Karen Kilby on Pope Francis' belief that we need a "theology of women" ... Second sex?. Being a Balthasar scholar, she mentions him too in the article. Here's just a bit of it ...

[...] Hans Urs von Balthasar, said to be the favourite theologian of John Paul II and also supported by Benedict XVI.

In Balthasar's thought, masculinity is associated with activity, femininity with receptivity. Receptivity is a good thing we are all called as Christians to be fundamentally Marian, receptive towards God, and so there is a certain sense in which women have the advantage in the Christian life. But Christ did not just happen to be male insofar as he was to represent God (the active party) to the world (the receptive party), he had to be a man. And so a priest, to represent Christ to the (essentially female) Church, also has to be male.

Balthasar's presentation of the sexes has drawn criticism from a range of voices. What Francis' view on it would be is hard at this stage to know does he think we need something genuinely different from the kind of vision of women that John Paul II and Balthasar were developing, or just that these lines of thought need to be better expressed and disseminated?

There are in any case, it seems to me, reasons to hesitate about the idea of the Church needing a new "theology of women". The very notion of such a theology is in danger of suggesting that the female sex is a problem to be solved, something "different" that needs accounting for. There is a danger that the quip I once heard from a young physics student "Funny chaps, women" will be the subtext of any such theology ....


Further reading (I haven't read these yet myself but the titles look interesting) ... Sex, Death, and Meloframa: A Feminist Critique of Hans Urs von Balthasar and A Man and Three Women. Hans, Adrienne, Mary and Luce, both by Tina Beattie

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