The Non-ordination of Women:
Tradition or Simply an Historical Fact?
Fr Eric Doyle OFM
13th July 1938 25th August 1984
Eric Doyle was a theologian, appointed by the Holy See to represent the Catholic Church at crucial meetings of the Anglican/ Roman Catholic International Consultation during the time when the Vatican had not yet taken its final stand against the ordination of women.
He expressed his scholarly opinion in favour of the ordination of women in the year 1975 when the question confronted Rome suddenly with some urgency.
Rejecting all advice of various international bodies of scholars, Pope Paul VI and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, inexplicably decided against admitting women to the ordained ministries.
Introductory texts on Eric Doyle:
- Biography of Eric Doyle
- What is the Lasting Significance of Eric Doyle's Contribution to the Debate on the Ordination of Women in the 1970s? by Brenda Abbott
Eric Doyles work in the context of Church politics
The following table puts the documentation we provide on our website within their ecclesiastical context.
During the Bishops Synod in Rome, Cardinal Flahiff and the Canadian Bishops Conference ask for a study on womens ministries. Eric Doyle publishes God and the Feminine, The Clergy ReviewVol. 56 November 1971.
1973 - 1974
3 May 1973.
The Vatican appoints a Special Commission on the Function of Women in Society and in the Church (FWSC).
During meetings of the FWSC a group of women members protests about lack of freedom of expression and of open consultation. Our views are being systematically suppressed.
Read the story of Rie Vendrik, one of the participants..
Early in 1975.
The Pontifical Biblical Commission reports that there are no scriptural objections to ordaining women to the priesthood.
The Vatican suppresses the Report, but its contents are leaked and become known.
9 July 1975.
Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury writes to Pope Paul VI, indicating the intention of the Anglican Church to ordain women.
10-14 November 1975.
A Working Group on the Ordination of Women set up by ARCIC (the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Consultation) meets in Assisi.
The two Roman Catholic theologians appointed by the Vatican, Frs. Hervé Legrand and Eric Doyle, both express support for the ordination of women.
The report is suppressed by the Vatican, but published by ARCIC.
Read the paper Eric Doyle submitted at the meeting: The Ordination of Women. The State of the Question in the Roman Catholic Church.
30 November 1975.
Pope Paul VI writes to Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury, distancing himself from the ordination of women.
10 February 1976.
Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury writes again to Pope Paul VI, assuring him of ecumenical bonds in spite of the discussion on women priests.
23 March 1976.
Pope Paul VI writes to Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury, reciprocating his best wishes..
The FWSC reports its findings to the Pope. Critical views are ignored in the report, moreover the whole report is never published.
15 October 1976.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issues Inter Insigniores in which admission of women to the ordained ministries is ruled out.
1977 - 1984
Eric Doyle continued his work as a member of ARCIC. In that capacity he attended the important meeting in Versailles of 1978.
Catholic scholars rejected the opinions expressed in Inter Insigniores. See especially:
- Leonard Swidler & Arlene Swidler (eds.), Women Priests: A Catholic Commentary on the Vatican Declaration, 1977.
- John Wijngaards, Did Christ Rule Out Women Priests?, 1977
- Carroll Stuhlmueller (ed.), Women and Priesthood: Future Directions, 1978.
- Hervé Legrand, Traditio perpetuo servata? The Non-ordination of Women: Tradition or Simply an Historical Fact?, Worship 65 (November, 1991): 482-508.
Eric Doyle too disagreed with Inter Insigniores. He continued to support the ordination of women, the reasons for which he explained in these articles:
- The Question of Women Priests and the argument in Persona Christi, The Irish Theological Quarterly, 50 (1983 - 84) pp. 212-221.
- The Ordination of Women in the Roman Catholic Church, in Feminine in the Church, edited by Monica Furlong, London 1984.
Eric Doyle died soon after these publications, on the 25th of August 1984.
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