A young Irish theologian has published a new book of theology which looks at Joseph Ratzinger’s/Benedict XVI’s thoughts on the place and role of the women of the Bible in Christian faith and theology.
‘The Female Line in the Bible: Mary and the Recovery of the Women of
Scripture in Ratzinger’s/Benedict XVI’s Theological Journey’ has just
been published by Dr Mary Frances McKenna.
In it, she explores Ratzinger’s idea of a female line in the Bible
which he argues runs from Eve to Mary and is in parallel to the male
line, from Adam to Jesus.
The book shows Ratzinger to be “a surprisingly innovative theologian” who works within the Tradition of the Church.
It is “a practical example of his specific approach to and method of biblical interpretation.”
According to Dr McKenna, “The female line idea offers a basis for new
insights into salvation history and anthropology as well as a new angle
for dialogue with feminist theology.”
She suggested that it also offers an approach to address old
theological issues anew such as Wisdom’s role in the New Testament and
provides a fresh starting point for an inter-denominational
understanding of Mary.
All these topics are discussed in relation to the approach of other
leading theologians including Hans Küng, Mary Daly, Catherine Mowry
LaCugna, Elizabeth Johnson, Sandra M. Schneider, Elizabeth Schüssler
Fiorenza, Janet M. Soskice, JP Meier, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Walter
Kasper, Raymond E. Brown, Henri de Lubac among many others.
Speaking to CatholicIreland.net, Dr McKenna explained how Ratzinger’s approach to the female differs from that of Pope Francis.
“Pope Francis’ style is radically different from Pope Benedict, a
style that could be described as pastoral in contrast to that of the
theologian Pope,” she said.
However, she emphasised that where they are at one in their concern
to ensure that Mary plays an essential role in the Church and every
Christian’s life, she added.
“The Church has struggled to comprehend the role of Mary in Christian
faith and theology for 2,000 years, and Mary remains a touch point of
great controversy not just between the Christian denominations but also
within the Catholic Church itself.”
“So while Benedict main concern is to contribute to the evolution of
the Church’s understanding of the essential, indispensable role of Mary
for Christian faith and theology, and Francis seeks Christians to reach
out to and venerate Mary, their aim is one and the same, to bring Mary
to Christians and Christians to Mary,” Dr McKenna suggested.
She stated that Ratzinger/Benedict insists that the women of the Bible are not extras in Christian faith.
“Where feminist theology seeks to reconstruct Scripture to highlight
the feminine, Ratzinger/Benedict returns to Scripture and to the many
strong women of Israel.”
She also offered another insight into the pope emeritus, observing
that “Ratzinger/Benedict is a theologian who, although firmly anchored
in the river of Tradition, has the ability to draw out from that
Tradition new insights on Christian faith which gives it new life.
An example of this is his resignation as pope which opened the way
for the wave of enthusiasm for Pope Francis who is now sowing the seeds
of faith in hearts that had been closed to the Church.
The All Hallows graduate added that she hoped his “important
contribution to post Vatican II theology would spark new energy in
theology “opening up fruitful pathways in modern research as well as in
the Church’s dialogue with secular society.”
The front cover of the book is illustrated with an icon of the mother
of God from Kazan in Russia, which depicts Mary as the Hodegetria, or
the one who shows the way.
“For me, it illuminates the reality and meaning of the female line in
the Bible,” she said and expressed her thank to Abbot Mark Patrick
Hederman and the Benedictine community at Glenstal Abbey in Co Limerick
for allowing her to use it for the cover of the book.