As the Swiss website kath.ch reports, Sr. Irene Gassmann O.S.B., prioress of Fahr monastery, argues in favor of monasteries as a place for experiments with “female sacramentality.”
While she suspects that an unreflected general opening of ordained offices to women might lead to a “feminized clericalism,” she would prefer monastic communites as a place for experiences with women in sacramental offices “in an unspectacular manner.”
“The monastic vocabulary knows the term ad experimentum, that means to give something a try for a certain period and then to reflect on whether it should be made generally binding.”
A female monastic community could ask the bishop to ordain one of the sisters for the office of Anointing of the Sick. After a few years, probably the permission to preside over the Eucharist could follow. In the same way parishes could ask for ordination for women who take care of the sick anyway, so that the pastoral service does not need to be disconnected from the sacramental experience. Such procedures would be similiar to the original idea of the Rule of St. Benedict: If the abbot – who originally was a layman – needs a priest for the community, he selects one of the monks and asks the bishop for ordination.
Sister Irene sees gender equality in the Catholic Church as a long term development, like “sourdough that has to be kneaded.” Decisions should never be made by men alone, and women should respect men’s fears: “It is important that we women treat men smartly and respect their fears. That we can give them safety: They need not be scared of us.”
“I wish for cooperation on an equal footing. We should not put people in the center – neither women who want to fight for something nor men who want to keep their status. Instead whe should put Christ into the center.”
Together with Einsiedeln Abbey, the monastery of Fahr (photo above) forms the only current Benedictine double monastery in the world. While the abbott of Einsiedeln is the canonical superior of both monasteries, the prioress of Fahr guides the female community largely independently.