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Jesus had a Loving Attitude to Women

Elizabeth Price, Letter to The Catholic Times, Dec.9th 2001.

Professor John Wijngaards (Catholic Times, November 26) gives a very convincing answer to Fr Anthony Winn’s letter of November 11. Supposedly due to length he does not answer a question in Mr Cowie’s letter of the same date. “Why (if women were ordained deacons in the early Church) is the practice not promoted today?”

Professor Wijngaards was elected vicar general of the Mill Hill Fathers in 1976. Prior to that he had been asked, in preparation for a nationwide research seminar in Bangalore, to study the ministries of women. This research led him to publish a book - The Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church - Unmasking a Cuckoo’s Egg Tradition - and to set up his website: www.womenpriests.org.

The latter is a massive resource of his translations from early Greek and Latin texts which have laid forgotten, maybe for centuries, in various Church libraries. Far from being minor, unimportant or dissident, one could say this website is a comprehensive library of “lost” writings of the traditional magisterium available on this modern medium of communication for all to study in their own homes.

The answer to Mr Cowie’s question becomes clear. Nowhere in Christ’s teaching is there any gender-based discrimination. All are asked, if they love God, to keep the commandments, elaborated on by the Sermon on the Mount. His parables use men and women as examples. Demonstrations of faith in both men and women are equally commended. Finally, he gives Mary Magdalene the injunction to tell the news of the Resurrection. This equality of women was rapidly and rudely expelled from Church thinking by a culture brought in by pagan Greek and particularly Roman converts who treated women very much as subservient second class appendages of their husbands, having no rights of their own, being of inferior intellect and moral fibre to men, making them quite unsuitable for any public teaching office.

There was also tremendous superstition about menstruation which made women unclean (so much so that they were not allowed into Church at that time). Professor Wijngaards points out that these views, like the cuckoo nestling, pushed out Christ’s even handed loving attitude to women, and became fiercely defended by its foster parents, the Church magisterium.

I quote from Aquinas, a large part of whose teaching is not Christ’s at all but Aristotle’s (there are hundreds more similar quotations like it from other prestigious medieval theologians): “Yes, with regard to its particular nature (that is, the action of the male semen), a female is deficient and misbegotten. For the active power of the semen always seeks to produce a thing completely like itself, something male. If a female is produced, this is because the semen is weak or because the material (provided by the female parent) is unsuitable, or because of the action of some external factor such as the winds from the south which make the atmosphere humid. But with regard to universal nature the female is not misbegotten but is intended by Nature for the work of generation.”

Regarding them as misbegotten and inferior, of course women were deemed unsuitable for ordination. These theologians’ view that women should not be ordained are still quoted, but the strange misapprehensions on which their views are based are conveniently forgotten.

Catholics must be totally loyal to the teaching of Christ, but misinformation of this sort which has been ingested as ‘truth’ in tradition must be exposed for what it is and eliminated, and with it the damage it still causes. For Prof Wijngaards’ valiant and scholarly work in this regard, the Church will I hope be properly grateful in the near future!

Study of hitherto forgotten parts of traditional teaching must be commendable, for it is upon its partial, more publicly remembered and quoted passages, that present teaching is based. Is this justice, let alone real Christianity?

Mrs Elizabeth Price,
Vice Chairman, Catholics for a Changing Church,
Maid stone, Kent

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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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