No doubt about it : this Pope is breaking new ground. Yesterday, December 5, 2014, he dared to tell the International Theological Commission that the Church needs more women to assume the arduous task of the theologian, so as to enrich the Church with their “special capacities”, which however he did not bother to specify. If he had said that the Church needs women priests, the world might have sat up and taken notice. But female theologians ?
In a world where information technology, notably artificial intelligence and robotics, medical research, globalization and, yes, rocket science, are opening up new professional possibilities, that of the theologian must be relegated to what are called the sunset professions. (Does the world need more male or female alchemists ?)
One of the sacred texts that constitute the principal source of theological “research” debatably asserts that there is nothing new under the sun. There has certainly been nothing new in Theology since the Golden Age of Anselm, Albert and Aquinas, Bonaventure, Ockham and Scotus, when newly discovered texts of ancient Greek philosophers provided a certain impetus to theological speculation. Theologians have always been content to rehash the rubbish their predecessors thought advanced our understanding of the Godhead and the Meaning of Life. Mencken famously summed up Theology as “the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing”. It is hard to see what new insights women could contribute to explaining the unknowable, whatever terms they choose.
It does not require advanced studies in Soteriology, Angelology or Eschatology – to name just a few of the arcane sub-divisions of the Queen of the Sciences – to recognize the purpose behind His Holiness’ plea for less sexism in the theological arena. He is simply jumping on a popular band-wagon, hoping that he and the Church will be recognized as keeping up with the times. It is hard to believe anyone really cares. Even women-priests, women Cardinals and a woman-Pope would not make the beliefs, rules and rituals of the Church any less silly than they are.