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Henry of Ghent
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Henry of Ghent


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. 87-90; 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. 7-8, 79, 133, 163.

Information on the author

Henry of Ghent was a lecturer at Paris from l276. He was involved in 1277 in the celebrated condemnation of 219 suspect propositions by Tempier, Bishop of Paris, where he acted as a member of the Bishop's advisory commission. In theology, he is regarded as a member of the Augustinian school hostile to the inroads being made by Aristotelian ideas at the university. Indeed, his doctrine of the necessity of Divine illumination is essential for an understanding of his theology. His elevated notion of the role of the teacher, or the doctor, in communicating the faith makes what he has to say about women in this regard of special significance for his thinking.

Latin Text

Selections (paragraph numbering by John Wijngaards)

§ 1. Circa secundum arguitur quod mulier possit ease doctor huius scientiae. Primo sic: Prov. 4 , 'Unigenitus fui coram matre mea et docebat me'. Id autem quod docebat erat huius scientiae, ut patet ibidem; ergo, etc. Secundo sic: non est minori gratiae prophetare quam docere; immo et prophetarm et docere publice ea quae eis revelantur, I ad Co. 14 (12). Qui prophetat hominibus loquitur ad aedificationem; mulieribs concessum est prophetare, hominibs loquitur ad aedificationem; mulieribus concessm est prophetare, ut Mariae sorori Moysi, Ex.14; Debborae, Judic. 4; Oldae IV Reg. 22; Annae Luc. 1, etc. Contra est illud Apostoli, I Tim., 2, 'Docere mulierem non permitto'"
Summae Quaestionum Ordinarium Theologi recepto praeconio Solemnis Henrici a Gandavo… [Ascensi, (1520), a 11, q. 2, I: 77b.

"Concerning the second point, it is argued that a woman is able to be a teacher of this wisdom. First, as Prov 4:[3] says 'I was the only begotten before my mother and she taught me.' In fact that which was taught was this wisdom as is clear in this case, etc. Secondly as follows: it is not a lesser grace to prophesy than to teach, indeed to prophesy is to teach publicly those things that have been revealed to one, 1 Cor 14[12]. Whoever prophesied, spoke to humans for their edification, and women were allowed to prophesy, as were Mariam, sister of Moses, Exod 14 [15:20]; Deborah, Judg [4:4]; Huldah 4 Kings 22 (2 Kings 22:14]; Anna Luke [2:36] etc. Against this is that statement of the Apostle, 1 Tim 2:12, 'I do not permit a woman to teach'."
a. 11, q. 2 (Summae Quaestionum Ordinarium Theologi recepto praeconio Solemnis Henrici a Gandavo... (In aedibus 1. Badii Ascensii, 1520; reprinted Franciscan Institute: St. Bonaventure. N.Y., 1953) 2 v. 1:77b).

§ 2. Ut ait aliquis possit docere ex officio quatuor in eo requiruntur, duo respectu doctrinae, et duo respectu illorum quibus dispensanda est doctrina. Primum est docendi constantia, ne de facile a veritate cognita doctor se divertat. Secundum est exequendi efficacia, ne per infirmitatem ab opere desistat. Tertium est docentis auctoritas, ut auditores sibi credendo obedient. Quartum est sermonis vivacitas, ut p[v?]itia corrodendo ad virtutes impellat…. Quoniam ergo ad ista[m] quaestionem dicendum, quod contraria his quatuor inveniuntur in mulieribus, popter quod mulier est ex officio docere non potest; et ideo nec doctor esse huius scientiae.
De primis duobus dicit Glossa, Lluc., ulti.Quia constantia praedicandi non habet infirmior sexus; et ad exequendum infirmior est mandatur viris officium evangelizandi. Mulier vero praedicandi seu docendi constantiam non habet de facili a veritate seducitur; et ideo postquam dixit Apostolus, I Tim. 2, 'Docere mulierem non permitto'; post modicum subiunxit quasi pro causa, 'Adam non est seductus, mulier autem seducta in praevaricatione fuit'. Mulier secundo exequendi officium doctoris non habet efficaciam, quia sexus fragilitatem patitur, qui non sufficit in publico discurrere et laborare. Et ideo ibidem etiam cum dixisset, 'Docere mulierem non permitto': etiam addidit, 'Sed esse in silentio'. Mulier tertio doctoris auctoritatem habere non potest propter sexus conditionem qui non habet exequendi libertatem; quia sub alterius debet esse potestate, Gen 3, 'Sub potestate viri eris et ipse dominabitur tui'. Et ideo mulieri officium docendi inhibuisset dicendo, 'Docere mulierem non permitto' immediate adiunxit, 'Neque dominari in virum' . . . . Mulier quarto vivacitatem sermonis non habet in mortificandum, sed magis provocandum peccata; et ideo super illud, 'Docere mulierem non permitto', dicit Glossa, 'Si enim loquitur magis incitat ad luxuriam et irritatur'; et ideo diciture Ecclesiastici, 9, 'Colloquium illius quasi ignis exardescit'. Glossa, In corda auditorum.
ed cit., I: 77b-78a.

"lt is said that in order for someone to be able to teach ex officio, four things are required of him or her; two in respect to doctrine and two in respect of those things by which doctrine is dispensed. First is constancy of teaching, lest a teacher too easily be distracted from the known truth. Second is efficacy of performance, lest he or she cease from working because of weakness. Third is the authority of the teacher, so that the hearers obey, believing hìm or her. The fourth is vivacity of words, so that undermining vices he or she urges on to the virtues. Therefore as far as this question is concerned it is said that the opposite of these four things is found in women because of which a woman is not able to teach ex officio; and therefore neither is she able to be a teacher of this wisdom.
Concerning the first of two points, the end of the Gloss on Luke says: 'because the inferior sex does not have constancy of preaching; and is more infirm as to performance'. The office of evangelizing is entrusted to males. A woman truly does not have the constancy for preaching and teaching and is easily seduced from the truth; and therefore after the Apostle in 1 Tim 2 said, 'I do not permit a woman to teach,' after a bit he added in some sense for the reason for it, 'Adam was not seduced: a woman was seduced and was in transgress.' Secondly, a woman does not have efficacy in performing the office of teaching. because the sex suffers frailty such that (her efficacy] is not sufficient to discuss and work in public. And therefore in the same place when he had said; 'I do not permit a woman to teach', he added besides, 'but want her to be silent.' Thirdly, a woman is not abe to have the authority of teaching on account of the condition of the sex which does not have freedom of performance since she ought to be under the power of another [according to] Gen 3: 'You will be under the power of a male and he will rule you'. And therefore the office of teaching is forbidden to women. After saying 'I do not permit a woman to teach,' immediately he added, 'nor to rule over a male . . .' Fourthly, a woman does not have the vivacity of words leading to mortification, but more provoking to sin; and therefore on that passage, 'I do not permit a woman to teach', the Gloss says, 'if, in fact, she speaks, she incites more to wantonness and is enflamed; and therefore ít is said in Ecclesiaticus 9 (Sir 9' 1 I ) 'Conversation with them inflames like fire'. Glossa, 'In corda auditorum."
Ibid, I:77b-78a.

§ 3. Loquendo autem de docere ex beneficio et charitatis fervore, bene licet mulierem docere, sicut et quemlibet alium si sanam doctrinam habeat; et hoc privatim et in silentio, et non in publico et in facie ecclesiae.
Dicendum ad hoc: quod ista quaestio et sequentes differunt a praecedenti. Illa enim quaesivit de potentia absoluta facti, cuius est posse docere, an solius Dei, an quodammodo hominis et angeli. Istae vero quaestiones quaerunt de potentia iuris et auctoritatis, an scilicet status quarundam personarum permittat quod officium doctoris habeant. Respondendum igitur ad istas quaestiones quantum ad potentiam docendi non de facto, sed de iuris permissione. Planum est enim quod de facto quaelibet homines scientes sive vir sive mulier, sive senex sive iuvenis, sive religiosus sive secularis, sive clericus sive laicus potest docere qui novit. Dicendum igitur ad istam propositam quaestionem et consimiliter ad alias quod docere potest aliquis vel ex officio vel ex beneficio.
ed cit., I: 78a.

"Furthermore, when it is question of teaching for the support and promotion of charity, surely it is suitable for a woman to teach, as it would be for anyone who had sound knowledge; but then privately and in silence, neither in public or in front of the church [community].
I have to say to this this question and the following ones that they differ from the preceding one. Indeed that question asked about the absolute power of doing something, who it is who has the ability to teach, whether God alone: or in some way humans or angels. Truly these questions ask about the power of the law and authority; whether, of course, that status of particular people allows that they have the office of a teacher. Accordingly, it is answered in these questions in regard to the power of teaching not de facto; but by permission of the law.
It is certainty clear that de facto any wise human whether male or female, whether old or young, whether religious or secular, whether cleric or lay, whoever has knowledge is able to teach. Therefore it must be said to this proposed question and similarly to others that a person may teach either ex officio or by charism".
Ibid. I :78a.

§ 4.Dicendum quod prophetia data est mulieribus non ad publicam instructionem, sed privatam, et si ut per eam viros doceat, hoc est ex tratia speciali, quae non respicit sexum distinctionem, secundum quod dicitur, Col. 3 'Induite novum hominem qui renovatur secundum imaginem eius qui creavit illum ubi non est masculus neque foemina. Viris autem data est ad publicam instructionem….' tali enim gratia concessum est mulieribus publice prophetare in Vet. Test. in virorum contumeliam, quia est effoeminati facti erunt, sicut et foeminis concessum publica regimina super viros genere; et similiter in primitiva Ecclesia propter messis multitudinem et metentium paucitatem concessum est mulieribus Marthae et Mariae publice praedicare et Philippi filiabus publice prophetare, secundum quod habetur Act 21.

"It must be said that prophecy was given to women not for public but private instruction, and if through it she taught males, this was a special grace that does not consider the distinction of sex, according to what ís saìd in Col 3 [:10]: 'Put on a new human who is renewed according to his image who created him where there is neither male nor female. To the male, however, is given public instruction '...
Grace was granted to such women publicly to prophesy in the Old Testament as a reproach to males because they had become effeminate not unlike public rule over men was allowed to women; and similarly in the early church it was allowed to the women, Mary and Martha, to publicly preach and to the daughters of Philip to publicly prophesy because of the multitude of the harvest and the shortage of labourers. according to Acts 21 [:9]."

edited by John Wijngaards

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