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Richard Fishacre
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Richard Fishacre

died 1248?

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) 115-177, here p. 101; 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. 52-5,57,119,120,168 here pp. 83-84, 138

Information on the author

Richard Fishacre was a Dominican who taught at Oxford. Probably he finished his Sentences in 1240.

Latin Texts

Selections (paragraph numbering by John Wijngaards)

§ 1. “...hic et sequitur, quot sunt de necessitate huius sacraments de quo sciendum, quod plura. Primum est sexus virilis, unde mulier non est susceptibïlis ordinis. Si queritur de monialibus que dicuntur diaconisse: Respondeo, non sic dicuntur quia communicent cum diacono in ordine, sed tantum in aliquo eius officii, scilicet quia licenciantur ad legendum Evangelium et dictioni aliquo. Quia non licet eis sacra vasa tangere ut diacono. Unde D. 23 (c. 25). Sother Papa episcopis Italie, "Sacratas Deo faminas vel monachas sacra vasa vel sacratas pallas, id est corporales, penes vos contingere, et incensum circa altaria deferre, perlatum est ad apostolicam sedem, quo omnia vituperatio reprehensione plena esse nulli recto sapientium dubium est, quia propter huius sancte sedis auctoritate ne pestis hec latius divulgetur, quod ornnes provincias abstergi citissime mandamus".
In Sentencias Commentaria, vol IV, dist. 24; Balliol Ms. 57 (University of Oxford, Balliol College); Oriel Ms 43 (University of Oxford, Oriel College).

Here and in the following are all the things necessary for this sacrament, which are many. First of all is the masculine sex; and it follows from this that a woman is incapable of receiving orders. If it is asked about those religious women who are called deaconesses, I answer that they are not so called because they share orders with a deacon, but only in so far as they share in some of his offices, viz., because they are allowed to read the Gospel and other readings. Since it is not allowed to them to touch the sacred vessels as a deacon. Thus in distinction 23 [Decretum, dist. 23, c. 25] Pope Soter to the bishops of Italy, `It has been brought to the attention of the apostolic see that women consecrated to God, or nuns, touch the sacred vessels or blessed palls, that is in the presence of your company, and carry incense around the altar. That all this is blameworthy conduct to be fully censured can be rightly doubted by no wise person. Because of this, by the authority of this Holy See, lest this disease spread more widely, we order all provinces to most swiftly drive it out.'

§ 2. Et nota quod femina si ordinetur, nec suscipit characterem, nec est ordinata, et hoc impedimente sexu et constitutione ecclesie. Unde non potest predicare, nec possunt abbatisse benedicere, nec excommunicare, nec absolvere, nec penetentias dare, nec iudicare, nec officium aliquorum ordinum exercere, [D. 23.29) Mulier sacratas; ID. C. 33.5,19] Mulier; Extra., De Sen(tentia) Ex(communicationis), [X 5.39,33] De Moniatibus

Let it be noted that a woman, if she should be ordained, would not receive the character [of orders], nor would she be ordained, and this because of the impediment of sex and the constitution of the church. Therefore abbesses are not able to preach or to bless, or to excommunicate, or to absolve, or to give penances, or to judge, or to exercise the office of any order. See Mulier sacratas [Decretum, dist. 23, c. 29], Mulier [Decretum, Causa 33, q. 5, c. 19], Extra., De Sen(tentia) Ex[communicationis), De monialibus (Decretales, b. 5, tit. 39, c. 34 (Friedberg, 2:903])

§ 3. “Nec etiam beate Marie clavis dedit Christus, sod Petro licet ipsa fuerit apostlolis excellentior.”

Christ did not even give the keys to the blessed Mary but to Peter, although she was more excellent than the apostles.

§ 4. “Cathaprhige tamen contradicunt pro quibus videntur etiam quedam iura dicere quod potest mulier suscipere characterem diaconalem vel presbyteralem, [D. C. 27.1.23] "Diaconissam ante 40 non debere ordinari statuimus, et hoc cum diligenti probatione." Istud ex Concilio Chalcedonis. Item Novellis Justiniam Imperatoris, [D. C. 27.1.30]. "Si quis rapuerit vel sollicitaverit vel corruperit assisterciam, id est monastriam vel diaconissam vel monacham, bona ipsuis, et eius qui huiuscemodi communione contaminati sent, a religioso loco vendicentur in quo tabs mulier habitabat per religiosos episcopos et yconomos et presides provinciales et officiales eorum. Ipsi autem capitals supplicio et periculo subiiciantur." De presbytera, [D. 32.18] "Presbyter quidam commissam sibs regebat ecclesiam cum magno timore Domini, qui ex tempore suscepti ordinis presbyteram suam ut sororem diligens, quasi hostem cavens se proprius accedere non sinebat." » Solutio: Diaconissa dicebatur supra quam fundabitur aliqua benedictio ratione cuius consequebatur officium legendi omeliam in matuitinas vel aliquid aluid quam non licebat aliis monialibus. Reliqua vero presbytera appelabatur, quia erat uxor presbyteri vel etiam vidua matri/curia, id est de rebus ecclesie curam habens ad instar matrisfamilias, [D. 37.18], c, ultimo, "Mulieres quo apud Grecos presbytere vocantur, apud nos autem vidue aut seniores univire et matricurie appelantur, eas in ecclesia tanquam ordinates constitui non debere decrevimus".”

The Cataphrygians disagreed; quoting certain laws which seem to say that a woman is able to receive the presbyteral or diaconal character. 'We decree that deaconesses ought not be ordained before forty years of age, and this after diligent examination.' [Decretum, causa 27, q. I, c. 231 This is from the Council of Chalcedon. Again in the Novellae of the Emperor Justinian, `If anyone raped or seduced or corrupted a female attendant, that is, a female recluse [monastriam] or deaconess or nun [monacham], the goods of that person and of anything else contaminated by this vicious joining with these women are to be sold in that religious place where the said woman had lived by the religious bishop, and the treasurer and the provincial ruler and the officials of the province. They, however, are to be handed over to the penalty and danger of capital punishment.' [Decretum, causa 27, q. 1, c. 30] On a woman priest (presbytera) 'A certain presbyter was ruling the church entrusted to him with great reverence, who from the time of accepting this order, while loving her as a sister but fearing her as an enemy, did not. permit himself to approach his female presbyter [presbyteram].'[Decretum, dist. 32, c. 18]
The solution: A deaconess as described above is one who is fortified by a special blessing by reason of which she is given the office of reading the homily in matins or some other thing which is not allowed to other nuns. Finally the presbytera was so called because she was the wife of a priest or even a widow or a 'matricuria,' that is having care of the goods of the church almost like the mother of a household. See the last chapter [Decretum, disc. 32, c.19] 'We decree that women who among the Greeks are called "presbyterae," who among us, however, are called elder widows, once-married women and little mothers, ought not to be installed in a church as if they were appointed to it (ordinatas)'."

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