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Thomas Aquinas on the Ordination of Women

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Thomas Aquinas on the Ordination of Women

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Source: the Translation by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Copyright © 1947 Benzinger Brothers Inc. Electronic versions can be found for the Summa Theologica (New Advent edition) and Summa Contra Gentiles (Jacques Maritain Center edition). Italics in the text by John Wijngaards.

  1. Paul forbids women to teach or to have authority
  2. The female sex cannot represent Christ
  3. ‘Deaconesses’ had no part in the sacrament of Holy Orders

Paul forbids women to teach or to have authority

“It would seem that the female sex is no impediment to receiving Orders . . . . . On the contrary, It is said (1 Tim. 2:12): "I suffer not a woman to teach in the Church, nor to use authority over the man." . . . Summa Theologica Suppl. qu. 39 art. 1.

Note: The words ‘in the Church’ are from 1 Cor. 14:34, "Let women keep silence in the churches."

The female sex cannot represent Christ

“Certain things are required in the recipient of a sacrament as being requisite for the validity of the sacrament, and if such things be lacking, one can receive neither the sacrament nor the reality of the sacrament. Other things, however, are required, not for the validity of the sacrament, but for its lawfulness, as being congruous to the sacrament; and without these one receives the sacrament, but not the reality of the sacrament. Accordingly we must say that the male sex is required for receiving Orders not only in the second, but also in the first way. Wherefore even though a woman were made the object of all that is done in conferring Orders, she would not receive Orders, for since a sacrament is a sign, not only the thing, but the signification of the thing, is required in all sacramental actions; thus it was stated above (32, 2) that in Extreme Unction it is necessary to have a sick man, in order to signify the need of healing. Accordingly, since it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection, it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of Order . . . Summa Theologica Suppl. qu. 39 art. 1.

‘Deaconesses’ had no part in the sacrament of Holy Orders

Some, however, have asserted that the male sex is necessary for the lawfulness and not for the validity of the sacrament, because even in the Decretals (cap. Mulieres dist. 32; cap. Diaconissam, 27, qu. i) mention is made of deaconesses and priestesses. But deaconess there denotes a woman who shares in some act of a deacon, namely who reads the homilies in the Church; and priestess [presbytera] means a widow, for the word "presbyter" means elder. Summa Theologica Suppl. qu. 39 art. 1.

Documents on St. Thomas Aquinas
Women and procreation Inferiority of women Arguments Overview The priest as sign Women and holy orders If Thomas had known

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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