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Denis the Carthusian
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Denis the Carthusian


Data published by John Hilary Martin, O.P.,‘The Ordination of Women and the Theologians in the Middle Ages’, published in Escritos del Vedat 16 (1986) 87-143, here pp. 126-131; also in , A History of Women and Ordination, Volume 1, The Ordination of Women in Medieval Context, ed. by Bernard Cooke and Gary Macy, the Scarecrow Press, London 2002, pp. 31-160, here pp. 92-100, 153, 154, 155,162

Information on the author

Denis the Carthusian (1402-1471), the Doctor Ecstaticus, is remembered for his mystical theology and not for his systematic writings, which were also considerable. The Rule of his Order discouraged active and pastoral life, and true to that Rule Denis emerged from the cloister only three times in his life, and then only for brief periods. One of them was to accompany Nicholas of Cusa, the German Cardinal, on his legatine visitation of the Rhineland and the Low Countries, 1451-1452. The chronology of Denis' writings has yet to be worked out, but it seems that his Sentences were-written while he was completing his theological studies toward 1425, or shortly thereafter. A. Stoelin has worked out an incomplete chronology, see Sacris Eruditi 5 (1953): 361-401, and has also discussed his mystical theology in "Denys le Chartreux," Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique, Marcel Viller, and others; eds., 17 vols., (Paris: Beauchesne, 1937-1995, 3:434-43. See also Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastique, Alfred Baudrillart and others, eds., 25 vols. to 1995, (Paris: Letouzey and Ané, 1912- ) 14:256-60; NCE 4:764-5. 204.

Denis’s voluminous writing has been edited in 36 volumes, Doctoris Ecstatici D. Dionysii Cartusiani Opera Omnia. The edition is known as the Montreuil-Turin-Parkminster edition because it was published in those three cities from 1896 to 1913.

Latin Texts

selections (paragraph numbering John Wijngaards)

§ 1. "..aliquae feminae tam ex naturali dispositione quam ex donis gratiae, sunt plurimis viris sapientiores, virtuosiores, et ad omnem devotionem ac elevationem in Deum magis dispositae: ergo prae plurimis viris sunt ad ordines etiam sacros magis aptae ac dignae. Et si dicatur, quod sexus femineus est sexus subjectionis; objicitur, quod multae sunt feminae praesidentes, et una earum constituta est totius mundi domina ac regina, Mater Dei incarnati, sacratissima et supermundissima virgo Maria ..."
IV Sent., dist. 25, q. 4, ed. cit., XX (Turin, 1913), 54a.

" . . . some women both from natural disposition and from the gift of grace are more disposed for elevation to God than many males; are wiser, more virtuous in all devotion. Therefore ahead of many males they are likewise more suitable and worthy of holy orders. And if it is said that the feminine sex is the sex of subjugation; it may be objected that the are many feminine leaders, and one of them has been constituted lady or queen of the whole world, the mother of God incarnate, the most holy and most transcendent virgin Mary . . . . "
Commentary on the Fourth Book of Sentences, dist. 25, q. 4-(Montreuil, Turin, Parkminster: Typis Cartusiae S.M. de Pratis, 1896-1913), 44 vols., vol. 20 (Turin, 1913), 54a.

§ 2. Ad haec S. Thomas respondet, et primo ad primum: Ad receptionem sacramenti aliqua requiruntur quasi de necessitate sacramenti, quaedam de necessitate praecepti. Si prima desint, non est homo capax sacramenti, nec rei seu gratiae vel characteris sacramentalis; sine aliis vero potest homo recipere sacramentum, non rem sacramenti seu gratiam. Sexus autem virilis est de necessitate sacramenti primo modo. Ideo quidquid circa mulierem agatur, non recipit Ordinis sacramentum: sicut nec Extremam Unctionem quis suscipit, nisi sit vere infirmus. Nempe quum sacramentum sit signum eorum quae in sacramento aguntur, requiritur non solum res, sed et significatio rei... lbid.

"To this St.Thomas responds in the first place to the first issue: some things are required for the reception of the ritual (sacramentum) as it were out of the necessity of the sacrament, some from the necessity of the laws. If the first is missing, a person is not fit for the ritual (sacramentum), nor of the thing [signified], that is to say, of the grace nor of the character of the sacrament (sacramentum). Without the other, a person is truly able to receive the ritual (sacramentum), but not the thing 'signified' by the ritual (sacramentum) nor the grace. The sex of a male, in fact, is of the necessity of the sacrament (sacramentum) in the first way. Therefore whatever might be done regarding a woman, she does not receive sacrament (sacramentum) of orders just as some one does not receive extreme unction who is not truly sick. Without doubt since a ritual (sacramentum) is a sign of something which is accomplished in the 'ritual (sacramentum), not only the thing signified, but also the signification of the thing is required. . . " Ibid.

§ 3. Quumque in sexu femineo non possit significari aliqua eminentia gradus, quoniam mulier habet statum subjectionis, non est capax ordinis sacramentalis.
ed. cit., XXV: 55.

"And as any eminent grade is unable to be signified by the feminine sex, since a woman has the status of a subject, she is not suitable for sacramental orders." (Ibid., 25:55).

§ 4. Omnis viri caput, Christus est: caput autem mulier, vir: caput vero Christi, Deus [1 Cor 11] . . . Christus secundum utramque naturam, caput est omnium electorum, etiam angelorum: quia ut Deus, creator est omnium... sed ut homo [Christus], dicitur caput omnis viri, ad similitudinem capitis naturalis: primo ratione suae perfectionis... in Christo erat plenitudo omnium gratiarum..., secundo, ratione eminentiae, quia ut caput eminet membris, sic Christus electis... tertio, ratione suae influentiae. Quemadmodum enim caput influit membris vitam et motum naturalem, sic Christus influit... quarto, rationis connaturalitatis. Sicut enim caput est connaturale membris, sic Christus hominibus, quorum naturam assumpsit. Porro, per hoc quod dicitur Christus caput viri, et vir caput mulieris non est intelligendum quod Christus non sit caput mulieris (est enim utroque modo caput mulieris. sicut et viri); sed hace per quamdam coaptationem et convenientiam intelligenda sunt, quoniam magis convenit vir cum Christo, quam mulier.
Enarrationes in Omnes Beati Pauli Epistolas (Opera Omnia, Montreuil, 1901), I ad Cor,, Art. XI, v. 3, vol. XIII: 175-176.

"Christ is the head of all males; while the head of a woman is a male," [1 Cor 11] . . . Christ is the head of all the elect according to either nature, even of the angels since as God, he is creator of all . . . but as human [Christ] is said to be head of all males, in likeness to a natural head. The first reason being his perfection ...the fullness of all graces was in Christ . . . the second by reason of eminence, since as head is eminent over the other members, so Christ is to the elect . . . the third by reason of influence. Whatever way indeed the head influences the life and natural motion of the members, thus Christ influences. . . fourth, by reason of connaturality. As indeed the head is connatural to the members, thus Christ is to humans whose nature he assumed. Furthermore, when it is said that Christ is the head of males and a male the head of women, it should not be understood that Christ is not the head of women (he is indeed head in both ways of women as well as males) but this should be understood though a certain joining together and conformity, since a male conforms more with Christ than a woman." (ibid.)

§ 5. Omnis vir orans aut prophetans velato capite deturpat caput suum [1 Cor 11]. . . Intelligendum est de oratione et prophetatione publica et solemni, non privata atque secreta: sicut quum aliquis orat in persona ecclesiae... Quamvis autem Apostolus non permisit mulierem docere... videlibet publice et solemniter coram omni multitudine, non tamen prohibuit mulieres docere in suis conventibus... ratio autem velationis mulierem est, quia subiectae sunt viris, et quia inter Christum et eas mediant viri.
. . . Itaque vir imago imitativa est Dei quia in eo relucet divina perfectio per modum cujusdam eminentiae".

Enarrationes in Omnes Beati Pauli Epistolas, 1 Cor 11:3 Opera Omnia, [Montreuil, 1901] 13:175-76).

Every male praying or prophesying with his head covered disfigures his head [1 Cor 11,3] . . . This should be understood of public and solemn prayer and prophesy, not of private or secret. As when some one prays in the person of the Church . . . Although the Apostle certainly does not permit a woman to teach. . . namely publicly and. solemnly in front of all the multitudes, he does not, however, prohibit women to teach in their communities . . . The reason for the veiling of women is because they are subject to males and because males mediate between Christ and them.
. . . And thus a male is the imitative mage of God since the divine perfection reflects from him in the mode of a certain eminence."

§ 6. Bigami non ordinentur [Cf., I Tim. 3: 2; Titus 1: 6]. . . . At vero Bonaventura addit de impedimento bigamiae: Sacramentum (inquirens) Ordinis super alia sacramenta abundat in ratione significandi, quia non solum id quod exterius adhibetur suscipienti, significat aliquid, imo et ipse suscipiens signum est. Episcopus etenim ordinans, sacerdos quoque ordinatus, significat Christum. Quae duplex significatio etiam Matrimonio competit, quoniam vir significat Christum uxor Ecclesiam. Quum ergo de sigmficatione primaria Ordinis est, quod ordinatus significet Christum et sponsum Ecclesiae, quod bigamus significare non valet, qui habuit uxorem viduam, aut duas uxores, quoniam Ecclesia unicum habet sponsum, et Christus unicam sponsam; bigamus admitti non debet ad ordines, potissime sacros, in quibus horno Christum expresse disignat. Idcirco istis ordinibus nunquam legitur dispensatum, nec dispensari debet.
. . . non quod de facto bigamus non ordinetur si accedat sed quia perfectio sacramenti deest in ipso, quae nulla ratione potest suppleri per hominem, nec recompensari.
De Sacramentis, Ed. cit., 25: 56-57.

"Those who are twice married should not be ordained [1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6] . . . Moreover Bonaventure adds truly concerning the impediment of Bigamy [in asking whether] the sacrament of Orders is richer than any other Sacrament by reason of signification since not only that which is shown outwardly to the one receiving signifies something, but indeed the one receiving himself is a sign. For the bishop ordaining, as well as the priest ordained, signify Christ. This two-fold signification is suitable likewise to marriage since the male signifies Christ, the wife signifies the Church. Since therefore it is of the primary signification of Orders that the ordained signifies Christ and the spouse of the Church, a bigamist who has a widowed wife or two wives, cannot validly signify since the Church has only one spouse and Christ only one spouse. A bigamist ought not be admitted to orders, most strongly not sacred orders, in which a person expressly represents Christ. For that reason one is never allowed to be dispensed from these laws nor ought they to be dispensed.
. . . Not that a bigamist would not be de facto ordained if he went forward, but because the perfection of the symbol (sacramentum) would be lacking in him since for no reason would this be able to be complemented or recompensed by a human."
Ibid. (Ibid.)

§ 7. "In libro etiam Judicum (IV; 41) legitur Debora prophetissa praefuisse: quod fuit in temporalibus, non in sacerdotalibus, sicut et nunc aliquae mulieres temporaliter praesunt".
Ed. cit., 25: 566.

"In the Book of Judges [4:41] Deborah the prophetess is read to have presided. This was in temporal things, not in the sacerdotal things since even now some women preside in a temporal way."
Ibid. (Ibid., 25:566).

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