Home » Prejudice distorted doctrine

The ordination of women belongs to the type of ‘doctrine’ liable to distortion by cultural perceptions

Throughout the centuries, the formulation of Christian  doctrine has been influenced by the prevailing culture of the time. Culture shift has affected even core doctrines such as those regarding the Trinity, the  Incarnation, etc.

But the ‘doctrines on the margin’ have often been totally hijacked by dominant cultures.

  • social order — democracy was forbidden, kings were thought to rule ‘by divine right’, the class system was upheld in church, colonialism was endorsed by popes.
  • the created world — Galileo was condemned as a heretic (!) for believing the earth goes round the sun, astrology was honoured, the six-day creation taught as inspired teaching.
  • liturgy — Roman everyday dress became ‘sacred vestments’, bishops were treated as feudal lords, Latin was considered God’s own language.
  • sexuality — Gnostic fears led to a negative approach, Roman & German civil laws shaped church wedding rules.

Women were excluded from exercising priestly functions on cultural grounds.

less intelligent
emotionally unstable
unreliable
not capable of exercising any real leadership.

This inferiority was seen confirmed by the view that women were not complete human beings.

Since the function of the female ovum was unknown, procreation was ascribed to the male sperm which alone, it was thought, contains new life.

This was the reason why theologians like Thomas Aquinas ruled out
ordaining women.

Women – it was thought – also suffered from a terrible
‘malady’, namely their monthly periods.
This made them unsuitable for service at God’s holy altar.

Menstrual fluid was held to be dirty, awful and even dangerous for
others who touched it. The taboo was strong in the Roman world and prevailed  through the Middle Ages until the 20th century.

Women were stopped from entering church during their periods or
from receiving holy communion. At times they received communion on a cloth spread out over their hands. They certainly were too ‘unclean’ to approach the altar as priests!

To cap it all, women were held responsible for causing men to sin.

Eve was blamed for seducing Adam, and all women were deemed to
suffer the punishment of God’s curse on Eve, namely that she would always be subject to men.

It is cultural prejudice that has throughout the millennia propped up the exclusion of women from the priestly ministry. Church authorities have simply not woken up to this fact.

Discussion: Is Women’s Ordination a Feminist issue?

“This is a typically feminist
issue.
Women are making more and more strident demands in our days! This
is OK in the work place, perhaps, but surely not in
church!”
“Sorry, my friend!

This is a theological
question. It affects the life and health of the whole Church!

It is true
that the struggle for women’s emancipation has helped to draw attention to
women’s position in the Church. But the roots lie in history.

Through cultural bias in the past the true equal status of women in the
Church has been obscured!”

“YOU women want to change doctrine to
suit yourselves.
We choose to be faithful to our sacred unchangeable
traditions.
The Church cannot change its doctrine just to be
‘politically correct’ or to please some
feminists!”
“Wrong!

We do not need a change of doctrine.

What
needs to change is your theological prejudice. We need to remove the
layer of biased interpretation that has obscured, and still obscures, the real
meaning of sacred scripture and tradition.

Prejudice has often distorted ‘doctrine’. The Vatican arguments are wrong. The Magisterium has proclaimed errors in the past. We have a duty to speak out. The faithful reject the exclusion of women.

John Wijngaards