Not that I blame him, of course. There is, after all, a time and a place for everything, and last Wednesday’s weekly audience was perhaps not the place for this discussion.
After mentioning the daughters of Philip, who “prophecied”–an act which he defines as “the faculty to speak publicly under the action of the Holy Spirit”–he goes on to elablorate:
We owe to St. Paul a more ample documentation on woman’s dignity and ecclesial role. He begins with the fundamental principle, according to which, for the baptized “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), that is, all united in the same nature, though each one with specific functions (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:27-30).
The Apostle admits as something normal that woman can “prophesy” in the Christian community (1 Corinthians 11:5), that is, pronounce herself openly under the influence of the Holy Spirit, on the condition that it is for the edification of the community and in a dignified manner. Therefore, the famous exhortation “the women should keep silence in the churches” must be relativized (1 Corinthians 14:34).
The much-discussed problem on the relationship between the first phrase — women can prophesy in church — and the other — they cannot speak — that is, the relationship between these two indications which are seemingly contradictory, we leave for the exegetes. It is not something that must be discussed here.
He skirts around another tricky passages too, that of Phoebe the “deacon” or “minister”:
In other passages, the Apostle mentions a certain Phoebe whom he calls “diakonos” of the church of Cenchreae, the small port city east of Corinth (cf. Romans 16:1-2). Although at that time the title still did not have a specific ministerial value of a hierarchical character, it expresses a genuine exercise of responsibility on the part of this woman in favor of that Christian community.
There will be many who will read the transcript of this audience and eagerly desire that the Holy Father will find a “time and a place” for the discussion of these points somewhere in the future. My Lutheran friends, who have been wrestling with just these biblical passages in the last couple of decades, would be very interested, because it is upon the interpretation of such scriptural passages that they will make their decision about the ordination of women.
For the Catholic Church, the refusal to ordain women has always and continues to be the example of Jesus in choosing only men to constitute “The Twelve”. Thus it is membership in the twelve and not the title “apostle” which the Church counts as foundational as the pattern for the priesthood. Twice in the same paragraph, the Pope emphatically underlines the Church’s “obvious” position on this:
Of course, as we know, Jesus chose 12 men among his disciples as fathers of the new Israel “to be with him, and to be sent out to preach” (Mark 3:14-15). This fact is obvious but, in addition to the Twelve, pillars of the Church, fathers of the new People of God, many women were also chosen and numbered among the disciples.
Women to whom the Church may have given the title “apostle”, such as Mary Magdalene “the apostle to the apostles” (a title the pope discusses) and the “apostle” Junia (Rom 16:7, whom he doesn’t discuss), do not stand as patterns for the priesthood, but for a special role of Christian witness.
Nevertheless, this Audience highlights the many, many Christian women upon whom the development of the infant Church to a great extent depended.
Most notable is his brief discussion of the Virgin Mary:
who with her faith and maternal endeavor collaborated in a unique way in our redemption
. That looks to me like an endorsement of the title “Co-Redemptrix”. How do you read it?