- Joined: 18/01/2007
Re:Deacon Mcmanaman's Account of Why Women Are Not Ordained
Thank you for your reply! My reply includes links to various documents. The links are highlighted with a violet hue.
Dear Therese: I say this with a great deal of respect for you, but you are just so wrong, and your theology and theological background is just too weak for you to be dealing with this issue with real crediblity. I feel I could write and write and write, but I don't have time. But let me say this. It is not that a woman cannot be an icon of Christ. Of course she can. We are called to be icons of Christ. Yes, dear friend. I absolutely 100% agree with your statements that a woman can be an icon of Christ and that we are called to be icons of Christ. It is because of this that I find the Vatican's arguments against women in priesthood to be so deeply troubling. When it abandoned the old and obviously offensive reasons for excluding women from priesthood, the Vatican had to come up with a new explanation. So now it is teaching that women can't be priests because we do not have the capacity to be full icons of Christ.
This modern attempt to justify exclusion made one of its first appearances in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's document Inter Insignores. In it we read:
the priest is a sign, the supernatural effectiveness of which comes from the ordination received, but a sign that must be perceptible18 and which the faithful must be able to recognise with ease. The whole sacramental economy is in fact based upon natural signs, on symbols imprinted on the human psychology: 'Sacramental signs,' says St.Thomas,' represent what they signify by natural resemblance.'19 The same natural resemblance is required for persons as for things: when Christ's role in the Eucharist is to be expressed sacramentally, there would not be this 'natural resemblance' which must exist between Christ and his minister if the role of Christ were not taken by a man: in such a case it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ. In other words, women can't be priests because the image of Christ is not perceptible in women (contrast with what Jesus says in Matthew 25 or what Mother Teresa says -- 'I see the face of Christ in everyone I meet'. I personally have no difficulty seeing Christ in anyone I meet! The Vatican can no longer rely on the old reasons to justify exclusion of women. As St. Cyprian says: 'a custom without truth is merely ancient error.' Ancient errors made about women that affected our ability to be sacramental ministers in the Church? Throughout the history of the Church, we witness in the writings of many spiritual leaders, bishops, theologians, canon lawyers and even Popes, a prejudicial attitude towards women. Unfortunately, I am not making this up. It is irrefutable! The fact that this is so is:
Throughout most of Church history, the exclusion of women was justified on a threefold prejudice against women:
- evidenced in historical records
- acknowledged in several Apostolic Letters written by Pope John Paul II (eg, Letter to Women, June 29, 1995: 'Unfortunately, we are heirs to a history which has conditioned us to a remarkable extent. In every time and place this conditioning has been an obstacle to the progress of women. Women's dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves, and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity. Certainly it is no easy task to assign the blame for this, considering the many kinds of cultural conditioning which down the centuries have shaped ways of thinking and acting. And if objective blame, especially in particular historical contexts, has belonged to not just a few members of the church, for this I am truly sorry. May this regret be transformed, on the part of the whole church, into a renewed commitment of fidelity to the Gospel vision.'
This threefold prejudice underlies all medieval thinking and makes it impossible to imagine that women too could be priests. The theological reasons given are rationalizations to justify the prejudices. (See the links found on this page, Liberated from Prejudice, for more information.) The priesthood was and is still considered to be an important role. Because men were the more perfect form of human being, only they could take the sacred role. How could women -- inferior to men intellectually, physically, emotionally -- be priests? Because of their inferiority, women were not only forbidden from being near the altar, there were limitations imposed on how or when we could do such simple things as touching sacred linen. I am not making this up! This sadly is part of our history. Plentiful evidence of this abounds! eg, As found in the 1917 Code of Canon Law
- women were thought to be physically, intellectually and emotionally inferior to men: Only men were believed to be fully in God's image (different what we now believe today, ie that both women and men are in God's image.) Women were actually considered to be a form of 'misbegotten men'. The misbegotten state was attributed to reasons like a cold wind blowing on the day of conception, the mother living for too long in a cold, damp client for too long during pregnancy, etc. The belief was that had the conditions been ideal at conception, during pregnancy, etc, the only product that could have turned out was a 'man.' Until the 18th century, the scientific belief persisted that the full material needed to produce a child was contained in the sperm only. Women's contribution to procreation through contribution of the egg was not understood until very recently. Until this realisation, belief was that women were merely the vessels where the child grew until birth. Putting it in colloquially -- the womb was considered to be like an oven where the 'men cakes' were baked. If things turned out perfectly, a male child would be the product of birth. The birth of a female child was explained away by problems with the 'oven', the weather, or other untoward events affecting either conception or gestation.
- women were considered to be the source of sin (Eve).
- women were considered to be ritually unclean when menstruating. Uncleanliness was thought to defile holiness. As unclean creatures, women were kept far from the altar and sacred services.
: eg, Capitulary of Bishop Theodulf of Orleans (760-821):
eg Sicardus of Cremona (1181):
- Canon 6. While a priest is celebrating Mass, women should in no way approach the altar, but remain in their places, and there the priest should receive their offerings to God. Women should therefore remember their infirmity, and the inferiority of their sex: and therefore they should have fear of touching whatever sacred things there are in the ministry of the Church.
Women are not allowed to touch any of the sacred vessels used in the liturgy: 'Reverence with regard to sacred utensils is shown both in what one does and in what one does not do. With regard to not doing, utensils may only be touched by men and not even be touched by religious sisters.' On Distinctio 1 de cons. eg Hugucio (1188)
- The birth of a girl carries a double curse: 'There were two commandments in the (Old) Law, one pertaining to the mother giving birth, the other to the delivery itself. With regard to the mother giving birth, when she had given birth to a male child, she was to refrain from entering the Temple for forty days as an unclean person: because the foetus, conceived in uncleanliness, is said to remain formless for forty days. But if she gave birth to a female child, the space of time was doubled, for the menstrual blood, which accompanies birth, is considered to such an extent unclean that, as Solinus states, fruits dry up and grass withers at its touch. But why was the time for a female child doubled? Solution: because a double curse lies on the feminine growth. For she carries the curse of Adam and also the (punishment) ‘you will give birth in pain’. Or, perhaps, because, as the knowledge of physicians reveals, female children remain at conception twice as long unformed as male children.' Mitrale V, chapter 11
eg Thomas Aquinas.
- Man rather than woman is an image of God: 'On account of three reasons the man is said to be an image of God and not the woman. First of all: just as there is one God and from him everything arose, so one man was created from the beginning from whom all the others arose. Therefore to this extent he has a similarity with God namely that as everything proceeded from this one God so all other human beings proceed from this one man. Secondly just as from the side of Christ when he was sleeping in death on the cross the origin of the Church flowed namely water and blood through which are signified the sacraments of the Church through whom the Church subsists and has its origin and becomes the spouse of Christ, so from the side of Adam when he was sleeping in paradise was formed his spouse because from there was taken a rib, from which Eve was formed. Thirdly: just as Christ is head of the Church and governs the Church so the husband is head of his wife and rules and governs her. And through these three causes the man is stated to be the image of God and not the woman, and therefore the man must not be like the woman a sign of subjection, but a sign of freedom and preeminence. However, in a fourth way both the man and the woman are said to be an image of God, wherefore we have the expression ‘Let us make man’ that is ‘let us make him in our image and our likeness’ that is capable of the divine essence through reason, through the intellect, through memory, through genius and this is said both about the woman and the man.' On Causa 33, quaestio 5, chapter 13
eg, St. Bonaventure (1217-1274):
- Women are biologically inferior.
- Women are socially inferior.
- A woman is subject to man by nature, because human reason, though common to both men and women to some extent, predominates in the male.
- Women are created as dependent on men.
Christ got his flesh from a woman, who is "full of grace", the only person in the entire bible that an angel addressed by a title: "Hail, full of grace". Not "Hail Mary", but a title "full of grace".
As an aside, you may be interested to learn about the traditional devotion to Mary as the first priest of Christ which has existed in our Church throughout most of its history. More about it is found here: Mary First Priest of Christ. It was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that the Vatican began to impose prohibitions against this devotion.
The fact that women are not ordained has nothing to do with the woman and what she can and cannot be. Agreed! There is nothing about women that prevents them from being priests. It is prejudice that prevents it!
It is primarily about what Christ has decided.
Is it? The Vatican's own Pontifical Biblical Commission says there is nothing in scripture that precludes the ordination of women. So now the Vatican forbids discussion. As someone said earlier, if the Vatican had confidence about its case, it would be encouraging people to freely and vigorously discuss.
You have not explained why Christ chose only men--fumbling, frail, sinful men. I don't agree that Christ chose only men.
Why did he do that? He knew what was acceptable and not acceptable, and he didn't care. He healed on the sabbath, he tore a strip off the Pharisees, he warned of their hypocrisy, etc. He chose men who he knew would betray him. Why did he do so? Christ loves all of us and teaches about redemption!
It is not that women are inferior. Women are not inferior.
Dear friend, I absolutely 100% agree with you. But see above. Like it or not, this is part of the foundation our current problems in the Church are based on. I wonder if there are reasons we are not taught much about Catholic Church history!
The Church never taught that women are animals who just menstruate. An individual person can say whatever he wants. That's not Church teaching, even if he is a priest or bishop. The early heretics were bishops. They did not represent the Church.
The teaching was that women were unclean because they menstruate. Unclean beings were not permitted to come near the altar.
Men only are ordained because that's what Christ chose.
Are you so sure that the choice of the twelve apostles is the 'stopping point' in assessing what Christ chose.
He did not choose men only because men have something women do not.
- The first evangelist appointed by him was a woman -- the Samaritan woman.
- The only people to annoint him in Scripture were woman.
- The first person he appointed to announce the Good News of the Resurrection was a woman, Mary Magdalene. In the eastern Church, she is still known as the Apostle to the Apostles!
- We are told there were only twelve male apostles there. Yet study the scriptures -- it is clear that apostles and disciples were present. Based on Jewish Passover practices and what we know of Jesus, it is inconceivable that women would not have been there!
If one argues that Jesus chose only men, then one must also look at the qualities of those men: Jewish mostly poorly educated married fishermen. They would have had dark skin, beards, circumcisions, children, etc. They would not have been Philippino, Ukrainian, Dutch, Spanish, English or any of the many other many kind of men who make up the priesthood today.
It has nothing to do with men or women as such.
I agree! But the Vatican and those who support exclusion of women have turned it into such!
It has everything to do with his will.
He chose men.
That's what you are saying presumably because you agree with the Vatican! As I have pointed out, he also chose women. For whatever reasons that undergird fear of women, those who have been making the rules in the Church are refusing to acknowledge that Christ also chose women!
And it goes back to the article that is at the beginning of this discussion forum.
Christ is the bridegroom, his Church is his bride. (Someone earlier in this thread pointed out the problems that arise when there are attempts to literally apply this to the sacrament of the Eucharist. Metaphors are not meant to be taken literally.)
You keep focusing on "women" as if it has something to do with the female sex, that the female sex is thought to be inferior. It cannot be denied that throughout the first 20 centuries of Christianity, the alleged inferiority of women was one of the main planks in the argument that tried to justify exclusion of women from priesthood.
It doesn't and it isn't. It has to do with Christ's decision to choose only males. Please answer this question: "Did Christ make a mistake?" It depends what you consider to be a mistake.
On the one hand, one could look at the story of the Syrophonecian woman who because of her persistence convinced Christ to expand his ministry. Initially, he seemed to understand that he had come only for the Jews. She was not Jewish. He refused here. She persisted and because of this, he included her in his ministry. Was his initial refusal a mistake? Or was he modelling to men of the Church today that sometimes people have good points to make and that it is ok to expand the way.
I personally do not agree with your argument that Christ chose only men. Besides the women I have pointed out, throughout the New Testament, we are reminded that it is written from the perspective of men. For instance, in the story of the feeding of the five thousand, we are told there were five thousand people there 'not counting women and children.' Hidden clue: not all of the details are necessarily always provided in the text.
"Was Jesus unjust and discriminatory?"
No. He showed himself to be a man capable of listening to and incorporating new ways of seeing into his way of being. Considering the story of the syrophonecian woman, can the same be said about our male Church leaders with respect to women today? Instead of listening and having conversation, they block their ears, forbid discussion and come out with lines like, 'Case closed. There is nothing more to say!'
You also say your mission is to make the Church see the face of Christ in women. I'm sorry, my dear, but you are far too proud and you really lack a sense of your own limitations.
This is considered to be an ad hominem argument. Courteously I point out to you that when one starts attacking the character of the other participating in conversation, it is a sign that s/he is grasping for straws. Making derogatory remarks about one's partner in conversation does not go to the substance of what is being discussed. By virtue of the first part of your next comment, I think you understand all this.
I don't mean to be offensive, but you are like the adolescent who complains about the ignorance of his or her parents. Then, years go by, she has her own children and then she realizes that no, it was not her parents who were ignorant, it was the arrogance of youth that blinded her way back when she was only 13.
However, as you continue, you persist with the ad hominem. We gather here in CIRCLES in the spirit of Christian dialogue. That means derogatory statements about others should be left out of conversation.
Please get off this track and don't waste your life barking up this wrong tree. Just read the great female doctors of the Church, the great saints, and join the Church in her mission of turning towards the secular world--not towards her--and bringing souls to Christ.
I do read the great female saints and doctors of the Church and they inspire me. St. Teresa of Avila in particular shares some outstanding guidance about who we are as Christians and how we are to live our lives as such. One of her more famous poems is one I love:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
She says that I am Christ's body. Was she right or wrong? Is it wrong for me to interpret this prayer as though it could apply to me... a woman?
Do you see Christ in women?
with love and blessings,