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Q5. Do the prejudices of Fathers of the Church and theologians invalidate their opinion on the ordination of women?

The question is relevant because the Roman authorities admit that there have been prejudices against women in previous centuries. But they maintain that these do not affect the Tradition against the ordination of women. Click here!

There is no doubt about it that prejudice against women pervaded much of the previous history of the Church

So did such prejudices affect the value of Tradition regarding women? The answer is: yes. Because not everything handed on from one generation to the other, even if it happens in the context of faith, is a genuine Catholic Tradition. True Tradition needs to fulfil certain criteria:

  • True Tradition needs to be scriptural. This means that misinterpreted scripture texts cannot be the core of valid Tradition.
  • True Tradition needs to be informed. Ideas and practices that are based on ignorance or misunderstandings cannot be part of valid tradition.

It is clear that the prejudices of the Fathers of the Church and of theologians were part and parcel of their theological opinion regarding the ordination of women. What they held to be ‘Tradition’ was in fact a spurious human tradition. As St. Cyprian observed: “A custom (consuetudo) without truth (veritas) is merely an ancient error!”

Could we trust their judgment   about women .  .  .  ?

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Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

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