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Durandus a Saint-Pourçain. Whether a woman or a child can be ordained?

Durandus a Saint-Pourçain

1270 - 1334 AD

Born in Auvergne, France, Durandus was a Dominican friar who wrote influential books on philosphy and theology. He also lectured theology at Avignon when the Pope resided there. He became successively bishop of Limoux, Le Puy and Meaux. Durandus disagreed with Thomas Aquinas on the function of reason in philosophy and theology.

Text from Durandi a Sancto Porciano In Petri Lombardi Sententias Theologicas Commentarium, Venice 1571, vol. 4, Dist. 25, Quaestio 2, f 364-v. For the original Latin text, click here.

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

Question 2. Whether a woman or a child can be ordained?

The second question concerns the defects which can affect ordination. First, the defect of nature, and second, the defect of guilt. As for the first, we ask whether the defect of nature, namely of sex, or of age should impede anyone from receiving [Holy] Orders: that is, to ask whether women and children can be ordained.

And it is argued that they can. [Contrary Arguments]

1. Because orders seem similar to other sacraments: since a man, as well as a woman, a child as well as an adult, can receive other sacraments, such as baptism, the eucharist, and other such sacraments, therefore, etc.

2. Also, those beings that are of the same species can receive actions of the same agent; now man and woman, adult and youth are of the same species, therefore they can be equally ordained by the Bishop.

3. Also, read what is said as in Dist 27. quaest. 1 on the ‘deaconess’ in the chapter on deaconesses, & Dist.32 , chapter on ‘presbyter’ [references are to the Decree of Gratian].

The oppostite arguments are these: [Arguments against ordination]

4. The office of teaching is conjoined to [Holy] Orders, but it is not fitting for women or children to teach, as to children because they lack reason and as to women because of the prohibition of the Apostle (Tim. 2.) I do not permit a woman to teach in the Church, nor to rule over her husband, etc.

5. Also, it is the duty of the ordained to touch the sacred vessels, but this is not permitted for women [23.dis.cap.1] Therefore a woman should not be ordained.

Response. [= Durandus’s own judgment]

Paragraph numbers inserted by John Wijngaards for easy reference.

6(§1). It is possible for something to prevent someone from taking [Holy] Orders, either because there is some opposition by the necessity of the sacrament, or by the necessity of precept, or by the congruity and honesty of the one receiving [Holy] Orders.

6(§2). The female sex is an impediment to the reception of [Holy] Orders in the first mode; because the male sex is required by necessity of the sacrament, whose principal cause is the institution of Christ, whose right it was to institute the sacraments, both regarding the administering of them as their reception.

6(§3). But Christ ordained only men in the supper when he bestowed upon them the power of consecrating, and after the resurrection when he gave them the holy Spirit saying: whose sins you will remit, etc.

6(§4). Nor did he even promote his own mother (although she was the holiest of women) to any rank of [Holy] Orders.

6(§5). For the Apostle who handed down to us what he received from God, as we find in 1 Corin. 11, implied that women ought not to be ordained nor to have the rank of teacher in the church, which belongs to the ordained, as was touched on in the argument.

6(§6). And it cannot be said that this is only from the disposition of the Apostles, and not from the statute of Christ. Because the taking away from someone of a dignity useful for salvation, and conceded by Christ, cannot be done without prejudice, because this prejudice would also apply to temporal affairs, but the dignity of [Holy] Orders is useful for the promotion of salvation in those who use it rightly. Therefore if it had been conceded by Christ that women could be ordained, that could not be taken away from them without prejudice. Therefore it must be held that women cannot be ordained by the institution of Christ.

6(§7). However, there is a reason of congruence, because through [Holy] Orders a person is placed in a grade of excellence above others who are not ordained, but such a grade would not be fitting for women over men. Rather women are in a state of subjection on account of the weakness of the body and imperfection of reason, therefore, etc.

6(§8). Therefore the female sex impedes one from the reception of [Holy] Orders; because it is opposed by necessity of the sacrament. [skip to 9.]

8. [deals with minors]

To the opposite argument: [Replies to the Contrary Arguments]

9. As to the first [see no 1 above] it ought to be said that there is no similarity between [Holy] Orders and the other sacraments, especially with regard to women, because other sacraments are directed against the deficiency that is common to men and women, such as baptism, eucharist, penance, extreme unction; or for a common action of both, and confirmation which is directed toward the confession of the faith which is held by men as well as by women; but the sacrament of [Holy] Orders establishes someone in a grade of excellence over others and of teaching, which is not fitting for women, as has been said. As to children, see what has been said in the text concerning them.

10. As to the second [see no 2 above] it must be said that this is true when the agent acts from the necessity of nature, but not when he acts voluntarily, or as an instrument of a voluntary agent; just as it is conceming one who ministers the sacraments who acts only according to the form imposed by the principal agent.

11. As to the third [see no 3 above] it must be said that the canons call a ‘deaconess’ not by the Order of the diaconate, but by a blessing, because it is her duty to read the homily in moming prayers, but not the Gospel during mass, nor to minister around the altar during mass as is fitting for a deacon; but the canon calls a ‘presbytera’ a widow who has to guard church property, as is clear from the succeeding chapter on women.


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