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Women Forbidden to Teach

Forbidden to Teach

From INTER INSIGNIORES:

(Italics in the text by John Wijngaards)

Arms of John Paul II

19. However, the Apostle’s forbidding of women ‘to speak’ in the assemblies (cf. 1 Cor. 14:34-35,1 Tim. 2:12) is of a different nature, and exegetes define its meaning in this way: Paul in no way opposes the right, which he elsewhere recognizes as possessed by women, to prophesy in the assembly (cf. 1 Cor. 11:5); the prohibition solely concerns the official function of teaching in the Christian assembly. For Saint Paul this prescription is bound up with the divine plan of creation (cf. 1 Cor. 11:7; Gen. 2:18-24): it would be difficult to see in it the expression of a cultural fact. Nor should it be forgotten that we owe to Saint Paul one of the most vigorous texts in the New Testament on the fundamental equality of men and women, as children of God in Christ (cf. Gal. 3:28). Therefore there is no reason for accusing him of prejudices against women, when we note the trust that he shows towards them and the collaboration that he asks of them in his apostolate.

For the full text, see: INTER INSIGNIORES.

From the Commentary by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Declaration Inter Insigniores:

Sacred Congregation for Doctrine

61. On this point too it is clear from the history of the apostolic period that there is no foundation for this explanation. However, in the case of the apostles, should one not take into account the way in which they themselves shared these prejudices? Thus St Paul has been accused of misogyny and in his letters are found texts on the inferiority of women that are the subject of controversy among exegetes and theologians today.

62. It can be questioned whether two of Paul’s most famous texts on women are authentic or should rather be seen as interpolations, perhaps even relatively late ones. The first is 1 Cor. 14:34-35: ‘The women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate as even the law says.’ these two verses, apart from being missing in some important manuscripts and not being found quoted before the end of the second century, present stylistic peculiarities foreign to Paul. The other text is 1 Tim. 2:11-14: ‘I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over men.’The Pauline authenticity of this text is often questioned, although the arguments are weaker.

63. However, it is of little importance whether these texts are authentic or not: theologians have made abundant use of them to explain that women cannot receive either the power of magisterium or that of jurisdiction. It was especially the text of 1 Timothy that provided St Thomas with the proof that woman is in a state of submission or service, since (as the text explains) woman was created after man and was the person first responsible for original sin.

64. But there are other Pauline texts of unquestioned authenticity that affirm that ‘the head of the woman is the man’ (1 Cor. 11:3 cf. 8-12; Eph. 5:22, 24). It may be asked whether this view of man, which is in line with that of the books of the Old Testament, is not at the basis of Paul’s conviction and the Church’s tradition that women cannot receive the ministry.

65. Now this is a view that modern society rejects absolutely, and many present-day theologians would shrink from adopting it without qualifying it. We may note however that Paul does not take his stand on a philosophical level but on that of biblical history: when he describes, in relation to marriage, the symbolism of love, he does not see man’s superiority as domination but as a gift demanding sacrifice, in the image of Christ.

For the full text, see: Official Commentary on INTER INSIGNIORES.

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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.

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