Ecclesia offers the Eucharist.
Rupertsberg MS, fol. 86r.
With the declaration of St. Hildegard of Bingen as the fourth female Doctor (Teacher) of the Church last year, my thoughts have turned repeatedly to the question of how women have exercised teaching and other institutional authority within the Church, and to how the examples of the past might shape the future of the Body of Christ. As western society has moved decisively over the last century to break down the structural inequalities of patriarchy that had for so long held women inferior to men, the silence that the Church still seems to command of women in its own institutional structures deafens ever more with the cries of injustice. Indeed, several commentators noticed the seeming disconnect between Pope Benedict’s canonization and valorization of Hildegard, on the one hand, and the nearly simultaneous criticism of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the other. How can the Church authorize one of her most stridently critical prophetic voices as one of her most important teachers of the faith, and yet continue to bar entry into its modern magisterium to the women who serve that faith today?