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>Woman is subject to man. [On the Sacrament in General, book 1, chapter 24]

Woman is subject to man

De Sacramentis in Genere, book 1, chapter 24

[On the Sacrament in General, book 1, chapter 24]

Cardinal Bellarmine

From De Controversiis Christianae Fidei by Robert Cardinal Bellarmine SJ, written between 1586 and 1593, re-published at Rome in 1840; here vol. III, pp. 80 and 82.

Translated especially for womenpriests.org from the original Latin
by Dr. Mary Ann Rossi -- credits

Paragraph numbering added to the text for easy reference.

Excerpts from Chapter 24

Luther' s arguments are overthrown

§ 1. From these points it will be easy to respond to Luther’s arguments. First of all, he proposes six Scripture texts on questioning the Mass, by which he tries to show that all Christians are equally priests:

  • The first is 1. Peter. 2. “Like living stones you are built upon the holy priesthood.”
  • The second likewise: “But you are a chosen race, the royal priesthood.”
  • The third likewise: “Thus you will announce the virtues of the one who called you from the shadows into his wonderful light.” Where Christians, called to this, are said to announce, that is, to prophesy, the virtue of Christ. Therefore all Christians can and ought to prophesy, which is the clear gift of the priest.
  • Fourth (Apocalyps 5): “You have made us a priesthood and kingdom for our God.”
  • Tthe fifth (Apocal. 20): “They will be priests of God and of his Christ.”
  • The sixth (2 Cor. 3): “Who has made us suitable ministers of the new Testamentum”..

§ 2. Moreover, he adds certain passages that show that women can speak in public:

  • Joel 2. “Your sons and daughters will prophesy.”
  • Acts 21. “There were four maiden daughters of Philip prophesying.”
  • Exod.15. “Mary prophesied.”
  • Judges 4. “Debora taught Barach.”
  • 4 Kings 22. “Hulda gave counsel to the king of Josia.”
  • Luke1. “The virgin Mary prophesied.”
  • 1 Cor.11. “A woman will pray and prophesy with her head veiled.” Through this passage he believes another passage of the same Apostle is explained: 1 Corinth. 14. “Let women be silent in the Church.” For in the earlier passage he speaks absolutely , in the later one he prohibits women from speaking in the presence of men, or to speak to those willing and capable . . . . . .

§ 3. As for those passages in favor of women, I reply: It is one thing to prophesy, that is, to predict the future, and quite another thing to prophesy, that is, to speak in public, or to interpret Scriptures. The first is not particularly the gift of a priest, or of a minister of the Church, but is a grace given gratis [=freely], which can belong even to men and women who are lay persons.

§ 4. Certainly David, Elijah, Elishah, Isaiah, and very many others, were not priests, and still they prophesied, and this is the kind of prophesying understood in almost all of the quoted passages.

§ 5. Another kind [of prophesying] is specific to priests, and is not suitable for women, for it is the role of women to be subservient, not to be dominant. And it is this reason that blessed Paul adduces (in 1 Corinth.14): “Let women be silent in the Church, for they are not permitted to speak, but they must be subject...”

§ 6. Still God is not prohibited from conceding extraordinarily to women the teaching of men, as once happened to Debora, and two hundred years ago, to St. Catherine of Siena. But these privileges do not make a law.

De Membris Ecclesiae Militantis, book 3, chapter 7

[On the Members of the Militant Church, book 3, chapter 7]

From De Controversiis Christianae Fidei by Robert Cardinal Bellarmine SJ, written between 1586 and 1593, re-published at Rome in 1840; here vol. II, pp. 439-440.

Excerpts from Chapter 7

§ 10. [Political rule is natural.] For, although servile subjection began after Adam's sin, there would have been political leadership even in the state of innocence.

§ 11. And it is proved, first of all, by the fact that a human being naturally was a cicil and social animal, and thus had need of a leader.

§ 12. Secondly, it is proved from creation itself. For God therefore created the woman from the man, and did not create many men at once, but only one from whom all others were born, in order to indicate the order of rank and preeminence that he wanted to exist among people, as Chrysostom observes (Homily 34 on 1 Corinthians).

. . . . .

§ 13. Speaking about the first passage from Chap. 1 of Genesis, I say that this deals with the matter of despotic leadership. For thus man had to rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, and the other animals.

§ 14. As for the second, I say that woman, as much before the sin as after, was both partner and subject to her husband: a partner in generation and subject in being ruled. But the phrase You will be under the power of your husband does not signify any kind of subjection, but rather an involuntary one, along with sadness and fear, of the kind that married women experience for the most part.

§ 15. Thus Blessed Augustine (in book 11 on Genes. ch 37) says: It was no different also before the sin, we may believe, that man dominated woman, and that she would turn to him by serving him; but this [new] servitude [imposed by God's punishment] can rightly be understood to mean a servitude of a particular condition [=of punishment], rather than of choice.

Return to Summary of Bellarmine’s teaching?

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