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

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.

Women were considered ‘beautiful creatures’, but totally inferior to men.

  • 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 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!

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 was cultural prejudices that propped up the exclusion of women from the priestly ministry. Church authorities have simply not woken up to this fact.

Why we challenge the teaching authority Frequently asked questions Next?
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What are the ‘rights’ of Catholics in the Church?
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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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