Critique of Manfred Hauke

Monday, June 02, 2003



I've been out of town for over a week, and haven't had much time to blog recently. I received an email from a critic of my arguments for women's ordination. The critic admitted that he had not studied the issue in depth much himself, but he believed that Father Manfred Hauke had already answered all arguments for women's ordination.

I read Manfred Hauke's book, Women in the Priesthood? A Systematic Analysis int he Light of the Order of Creation and Redemption (Ignatius Press, 1988) about a year ago. I had a pen in hand and wrote notes on nearly every page. What I post here is my critique of Hauke's work.

Hauke starts in the Preface with his biggest false premise saying that the issue of women deacons is irrelvant to his discussion: "The scope of the work is restricted to the topic of the possible ordination of women as priests. The question of admitting women to the diaconate can only be touched on in an excurses, since it would require a detailed study of its own."

Since he writing for Catholics, the problem is that Canons 1008 and 1009 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law and Canon II from the Decree on Holy Orders at the Council of Trent inextricably tie deaconate and priesthood together as one sacrament (a person is ordained only once, taking "steps" toward priesthood). "CANON II.--If any one saith, that, besides the priesthood, there are not in the Catholic Church other orders, both greater and minor, by which, as by certain steps, advance is made unto the priesthood; let him be anathema."

The one part of the book that Hauke surprisingly treats well is a summary of feminist immanence theology beginning on page 65 and continuing through p. 73 and much of Part One of the book. He also rightly lays out some of feminist immanence theology's implications to orthodox theology. However, rather than helping us see how the two theologies can form a synthesis with no loss of Sacred Tradition, he just asserts that the transcendent always includes the immanent. In effect, he is saying we feel God's closeness well enough in traditional patriarchal theology, and we do not really need any further development. Is this really the sense of the faithful when considering the transcendent nature of God?

Hauke then goes on from there with over 400 pages of nonsense that is constantly contradictory, and continually confuses panentheism and pantheism - even explicitly saying they are the same - which is nonsense. Karl Rahner or Paul Tillich are not pantheists, but they were panentheistic.

For example, on p. 158, Hauke claims: "In Ramakrishna, then, we can see, in virtually three-dimensional fullness, how pantheism (or "panentheism") leads to apersonalism." The parenthetic clause makes an identification of the two separate schools of thought. Hauke correctly defines pantheism on p. 143 as follows: "Pantheism holds that God and the world are identical, and thus it remains at the level of immanence."

Panentheism is something altogether different, and it could very well be argued that Saint Thomas Aquinas was a panentheist par excellence. The panentheist does not see the world or the universe as identical to God. Rather, God is the pure and self-subsistent essence (I AM WHO AM) that holds each and every contingent being in existence. God is spirit in the world, the goad and goal of all that exists, and the ground of all being, but God is not dependent on the world for her own existence.

Pantheism sees God as spirit in the world, but in a very different sense than the panentheist. For the pantheist, the world has a spirit just as many people speak of the body possessing a soul. The world makes up a living organism and we are all parts of the divine essence.

On the other hand, panentheism holds that the spirit in the world that is God is self-subsistent. We are not parts of God, and the universe itself is not a single living organism. Rather, there is a spirit in the world that transcends the universe itself, but is everywhere fully present just beyond our level of perception. God is both infinitely transcendent and infinitely immanent.

What Hauke is attempting to do is to downplay the need for a feminist "immanence theology" by implying that such a theology leads naturally to pantheism, which has rightly been rejected by Christianity. Hauke is attempting to make feminism synonymous with paganism. However, what is ignored is that panentheism is an acceptable Christian position (I would even argue THE Christian position). Furthermore, panentheism demands an immanence theology that is held in dialectic tension with a well developed transcendence theology. In this sense, the feminist critique of classical transcendence theology is both valid and necessary!

Hauke repeats over and over that the subordinate role of women does not imply inferiority. This discussion begins on p. 114, and on p. 115, Hauke states the following: "It should also be remembered that, even in the realm of natural ethics, the position of authority is not to be understood as dominance in a negative, oppressive sense but must rather be seen as implying a relation of care and service toward the subordinated."

The image brought to mind is a parent to a child, where authority in its ideal application would involve protection, service, and paternal guidance and counsel. The feminist critique is that this obviously makes women children in relation to men, which is absurd, and therefore wrong.

Hauke also presents reasoning on the "xx" and "xy" chromosonal difference between men (man includes woman but woman doesn't include man) which is just bizarre theology. This is an attempt to root his theology in nature, but it stretches credulity to take this seriously. For those who buy his argument, consider how weakly he treats the issue of the significance of the existence of hermaphrodites. Also, there is a strong implication that sexual stereotypes are genetically determined, rather than culturally conditioned. I do not believe that Gal 3:28 or Guadium et Spes 29 permit us any longer to take this track when applying theology to the individual human person.

As Hauke moves from his study of nature into a study of the order of creation using a Scriptural analysis of the problem, he somehow completely misses the boat on the feminist argument that sexism is a result of the Fall - rather than the original order of creation. Rather than engaging this argument, he simply asserts it is incorrect.

He admits of female images of God in the Bible, and somehow denies their significance by saying they were "subsumed" in male transcendence. Good thing the Catechism came out later and said we can call God our Mother. I just sit there going "What?"

From the order of creation, Hauke moves into the order of redemption. Here, the deficiencies of Hauke's work are a little harder to discern without reading the text very critically.

He inadequately treats the fact that Junia is called an apostle, though he acknowledges that all early sources in the Church considered Junia a "lady apostle" as demonstrated by Bernadette Brooten. Despite the overwhelming evidence that it was not until the middle ages that Junia was considered man, Hauke insists that the texts could have referred to a man, and the early fathers of the Church were simply mistaken.

He finally concedes that even if Junia were a "lady apostle", she could not have teaching rights due to 1 Cor 14:35. I would argue that 1 Cor 11:5, where women are seen prophecying in the Church. Hauke admits that this verse runs counter to his argument, and suggests that women prophets only recited liturgical responses. I find this theory absurd given the charismatic role of the prophets and prophetesses described by Paul.

Hauke almost ignores Phoebe (since deaconesses don't really matter to him). He is completely silent on the use of "presbyteress" in the original Greek of 1 Tim 5:1-2. This latter is significant since the Church sees v. 17 of the same chapter as refering to presbyters (same word, same chapter - same context). Most signicantly, he ignores the role of women speaking as prophetesses in 1 Cor 11:5, and builds the longest and most overstated case I ever seen that 1 Cor 14:34-35 come directly from Christ.

What is subtle is so much nonsense gets you caught up wondering if he is right about these two verses until you realize he's just repeating himself over and over. Then he concludes the section on 1 Cor 14:34-35 with a brief comment that he can't prove he's right because there are some legitimate problems with his work - noteably the aforementioned fact of prophetesses speaking in church!

Then when he finally does devote a few pages around page 440 to women deacons, he admits that deaconesses did everything male deacons do today - but somehow - since they only ministered to women in limited settings, they were not considered ordained. I actually use Hauke as a reference to show the conservatives they are mistaken when they say the deaconesses spoken of in Canon 15 of the Council of Chalcedon were not truly ordained!

For example, on pp. 440 - 444, Hauke admits the following about deaconesses:

- They were made deaconesses through the laying on of hands by a bishop (which appears to be a sacramental gesture mirroring male ordination)
- They were made deaconesses through a prayer closely resembling male deaconate, substituting women of the Old Testament for the names of male prophets in the prayers for a male deacon.
- They were called "ordained" in canon 15 of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, which is an infallible council
- They wore the diaconal stole, though it may have been covered by a veil
- They assisted at or even performed baptisms for women as a primary duty
- They visited the sick was also primary duty
- They sometimes read from the epistles and even the gospels at services for women
- They sometimes distributed communion, even at the main Sunday mass
- They occasionally preached at communion services for women
- They occasionally taught women
- They burned incense at the main Sunday Mass
- They were sometimes, though not always counted as clerics

Though their ministry was largely restricted to women and perhaps children, I fail to see how the role of the deaconesses is not functionally similar to a male permanent deacon today!

Hauke's treatment of the subject of women's ordination from the later sources of the middle ages is non-critical. Rather than reading the sources with an awareness of potential patriarchal and even sinfully sexist bias, Hauke seems to be "proof-texting" to demonstrate that all his earlier conclusions are consistent with the doctors of the church. What is ignored is a critical engagement with understanding the reasoning of these sources.

Hauke says little to nothing about the prevailing attitude of the likes of Aquinas, who considered women to be "misbegotten males", or the attitudes of so many Church leaders that women were the "weaker", "inferior" or "irrational" sex, and perhaps even "temptresses" modeled on Eve. Most contemporary theologians reject these notions today, at least implicitly, and therefore, the conclusions of men who stated such things in the middle ages should be read with a grain of salt.

Overall, I find Hauke's presentation very unconvincing. Despite an abundance of source material, he draws conclusions that are unwarranted, refuses to make necessary distinctions (especially between pantheism and panentheism) and ignores some of the key arguments for women's ordination. Nevertheless, the work is an important contribution tot he debate and progressives who take the issue seriously should spend some time grappling with Hauke's arguments.

If you found this topic interesting, you will probably want to read my Petition to the Holy Father for Women Priests, and you may also be interested in the related topic of God as our Mother or the other closely related topic of Why We Need Married Priests.

Peace and Blessings!

Readers may contact me at


posted by Jcecil3 9:43 AM

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