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Women are incapable of ordination

Women are incapable of ordination

by S. Mani, in De Sacra Ordinatione, Chapter V ‘On Ordination, what constitutes valid ordination, section I about Women’, Paris 1905, pp. 72 - 76; translated by Mary Ann Rossi

About valid Tradition

I. Historical record on deaconesses

Part 1. Historical origin of deaconesses.

§ 1. S. Paul (Rom., XVI,1) commends to the Romans Phoebe, "who is in the ministry of the church that is in Cenchreae (‘being a deacon of the church . . .’ Greek)." Pliny, Bk.X, epistle 97, To Trajan, recalls two Christian women servants, who were called ‘ministers." More often, deaconesses are referred to, for example, in the Didascalia, in the Testament D.N.J.C, and in the Apostolic Constitutions, in positions to be designated as inferior.

§ 2. However, unless you badly confuse "deaconesses" with "widows", the early beginnings of deaconesses are not at all conspicuous. For among the women consecrated to God, from the beginning of the Church, widows hold first place because of their dignity and their duties, and S. Paul already mentions them as though constituting a rank or ecclesiastical group (1 Tim., V, 9f). The Testamentum D.N.J.C. shows us the earliest teaching in this matter; according to this document, widows are blessed by the bishop with a special rite, they hold a position between deacons and lower clerics, they watch over and examine deaconesses, they assist women while they are being baptized, and they anoint them, etc.; on the contrary, deaconesses are not blessed by the bishop, they hold a lower position, they are named after the subdeacons in the liturgy, indeed they receive the sacred communion only after the male laity, while the widows receive it after the deacons, moreover, deaconesses do not assist women who are to be baptized; nevertheless they carry the sacred communion to women, but only pregnant ones, and on Easter night, for otherwise this gift pertains to the deacon. Whence also widows only are recorded in the epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp and in the so-called ecclesiastical Canons of the Apostles;

§ 3. Little by little indeed the dignity and offices of widows were diminished, and those of deaconesses increased; this change the Didaskalia already shows, but especially the Apostolic Constitutions, where we see that deaconesses are ordained, but not widows, which are said expressly not to be ordained, but to be designated by the grade or rank of widow; and indeed these are ordered to obey the deaconesses;--

§ 4. In the latin Church deaconesses appear more doubtfully; Cornelius, who in his epistle to Fabius Antiochenus describes al the ranks of clergy and of the Roman Church, and expressly mentions widows, includes nothing about deaconesses; two passages of Tertullian, which Morinus and others refer to in order to demonstrate that there was already the ordination of deaconesses, exhibit nothing but doubtful readings; the third Carthaginian Council (in the year 397), which records all the ranks of the clergy and the Church, along with widows and virgins (can. 4, 25) is altogether silent about deaconesses; the councils of the fifth and sixth centuries are the first to record deaconesses, as it will be stated below.

Part 2. The Ordination of deaconesses

§ A. For the Eastern Church, this ordination is described in two ancient Greek manuscripts (9th and 10th centuries), which Morinus edited, and in the third more recent edition by the same person. In these particulars the ordination of a deaconess is very similar to the ordination of a deacon: she is called by the same name; and both are ordained at the altar by the bishop, and at the same place in the liturgy; the bishop lays his hand on both, and the oration (which we call the form) which he recites in the ordination of the deaconess contains, like the ordination of the deacon, an invocation of the Holy Spirit: "Call her (to be ordained) to the work of your ministry, and send into her a rich and abundant gift of your Holy Spirit"; and later: "Bestow the grace of your Holy Spirit also on this your handmaid..."; in each ordination a stole is placed around the neck; the ordained man and woman both receive communion on the altar; the chalice of Christ’s blood is given into the hands of each for drinking.--The Council of Nicaea, can. 19, and the Chalcedonian Council, can. 15, uses for the inauguration of deaconesses the Greek words ‘cheirothesia,’ ‘cheirotoneisthai.’

§ B. For the Western Church, the Roman Order IX (edited by Mabilonius) who describes all ordinations of the Roman Church, points out only ( n. 3) the ordination of deaconesses: "In the same way likewise women deaconesses and women priests [‘presbyterissae’] proceed to the church, and they are blessed on the same day." But the Vulgate Roman Order (edited by Hittorpius) describes the ordination of deaconesses, who are clearly distinguished from the consecration of a virgin or a widow; a "mass for consecrating a deacon" is celebrated; after the Gradual and Alleluia, the ordinand prostates herself, the litany is sung, the bishop invokes the grace of the Holy Spirit upon her, and he places the orarium or stole around her neck; but no mention is made of the imposition of hands on her head.

Part 3. Various requirements for their ordination.

§ 1. Deaconesses were usually selected either from virgins, or from widows consecrated to God, as is read in the Apost. Const., lib.Vi, c. XVII; but they could also be chosen from the wives of bishops,who in both churches were held to continence or from the wives of priests or deacons among the Latins.

§ 2. Not any widow was suited for the diaconate, but only univira [one who had only one husband--Tr.]; for the Church has understood the words of St. Paul (I Tim., v. 9) "the wife of one husband" to be especially about deaconesses; hence the Apost. Const., lib. VI, c. XVII, say: "A chaste virgin is truly selected as a deaconess”; failing that, certainly a widow who was once the wife of one man. Thus also Epiphanius, Exposition of the Faith, n. 21: "Those univirae ought also to be continent, etc."

§ 3. As for the age, St. Paul, loc. cit., requires 60 years of age for widows, which many understood also about deaconesses; the Emperor Theodosius, in a law brought in in 390, required 60 years for these; the Council of Chalcedon, in the canon cited 15, reduces the age to 40 years. Justinian, Novella 6, c.VI, requires "about 50 years"; but Novella 123, c.XIII, has 40 years as enough; finally the Council of Trullo, can. 14, determines the age of 40 years.

§ 4. As for testing and virtues, the Church has always understood for deaconesses the words of St. Paul about widows, loc. cit.: "Having testimony in good works, if she has brought up sons...and if she has persevered in every good work." Whence the Council of Chalcedon, in canon 15 cited, doest not wish a deaconess to be ordained, unless after a careful testing. I pass over the many requisites by power of imperial laws, about which see the commentaries of in the so called Theodosian Law.

Part 4. Various duties of the deaconesses.

§ 1. The duties of the deaconesses were as follows:

  1. They assisted the women who were being baptized, for the sake of their modesty and their moral honesty; Epiphanius, Haeres. LXXIX, n.3; Exposition of Faith, n. 21.
  2. They would anoint the women with holy oil, within the rites of baptism, according to the custom of the Eastern church; Apost. Const., Lib. III, c. XV.
  3. They used to teach catechumens in private, when there was a need; pseudo-Jerome, In epist. B. Pauli ad Rom., c. XVI, vers.1; Ancient Statue of the Church, c. XII.
  4. They ministered to women invalids, or to those undergoing any other constraint; Apost. Const., lib. III, c. XV, XIX.
  5. They were in charge of widows; they attended women who wished to speak to the bishop or deacon, etc., for the sake of reputation; and other such matters of this kind; Apost. Const., lib. II, c. XXVI, LVIII; lib. III, c. VII.
  6. They guarded the doors through which the women entered the church, at least when these doors were different from the men’s doors; Apost. Const. lib. II, c. LVII; lib. VIII, c. XXVIII; Pseudo-Ignatius, Ad Antiochenos, c. XII, n. 2.

These were certainly the duties of deaconesses here and there throughout the whole church.

§ 2. But among the Syrian monophysites, certain other matters beyond those mentioned above, were entrusted to these same women:

  1. They cared for and washed the sacred apparatus; Joannes Telensis, Canonical Resolutions, c. XXXVI.
  2. In the monasteries of sisters, when there is no deacon or priest, they can receive the sacrament from the tabernacle in which it had been put away, and then distribute it to their fellow sisters, and then to children of under five years; Jacobus Edessenus, Canonical Resolutions, c. XXIV; Joan. Telensis, Can. Res., c. XXXIII
  3. They could, with the permission of the bishop, pour water and wine into the chalice; Joan. Telensis, Can. Res., c. XXXVIII.
  4. They could also, in the absense of a priest and deacon, sweep the sanctuary, and light the lamps in the sanctuary; Jac. Edessenus, Can. Res., cit. c. XXIV.

Part 5. The time when deaconesses were not allowed.

§ 1. In the patriarchate of Antioch, at the time of Balsamon, the patriarch of Antioch (d. about 1214), deaconesses were not allowed as he himself attests (In Can. 15 of the Coun. of Chalcedon): "A deaconess today is not ordained, even though some religious women, with misuse, are called deaconesses."

§ 2. In the patriarchate of Constantinople, up to this same time, deaconesses were established, but, because of womanly inconveniences, they had been removed from the altar, by the testimony of the same Balsamon, Responses to the Interrogations of Marcus, resp. 35.

§ 3. In the Syrian Church, the order of deaconesses lasted longer; indeed among the Marionites, it lasts up to the present day, but strongly restricted; for according to the Counc. of Mt. Lebanus in 1736, deaconeeses are no longer found except in monasteries, whose abbesses were ordained to the diaconate, and who exercise the ministries of deacons only towards those women of the monastery placed under them, but with the exception of the distribution of the eucharist (also in the absense of the priest and deacon); nevertheless it is allowed for the bishop to ordain deaconesses, out of necessity, for the various duties pertaining to women.

§ 4. In Gaul, at least in the parts beyond Ligeria to the south, deaconesses hardly existed; for having been brought in rather late, they were swiftly forbidden.; the first Arausican Council in 441, can. 26, forbids the ordination of deaconesses: "Women deacons must not in any way be ordained"; --Coun. Epaonense, under Avitus at Vienna in 517, can. 21 says: "We repeal the consecration of widows, whom they are wont to call deacons completely from every region of ours"; --all of which canons, especially the one of Epaon, were taken up in the second Council of Turo in 567, can. 20.

§ 5. In other parts of the Latin Church, however, the order of deaconesses lasted longer.

  1. Other than the Vulgate Roman Order cited above (p.179), The Pontifical Book, Life of Leo III, n.10, recalls deaconesses with holy duties.
  2. The Council of Worms in 868, can. 73, orders that a deaconess not be ordained before her fortieth year, closely referring to can. 15 of Chalcedon.
  3. Joannes XIX (1024-1033) conceded to the bishop of Silva Candida the faculty of celebrating, in certain circumstances, "consecrations of altars, priests, clerics, deacons, or deaconesses of every Leonian state...;"

§ 6. But since Hugo of St. Victor (d. 1140), and Peter Lombard, contemporary of Gratian, who accurately described anything referring to ecclesiastical orders, and to any consecrations or benedictions, do not record a benediction or ordination of deaconesses, it is clear that the deaconesses no longer existed in this century. Actually at that time, baptism used to be conferred upon children, very rarely upon adults, and almost everywhere in the Latin Church baptism by immersion ceased; whence, as Juveninus notes, without any decree of a council, and as if from the nature of things, little by little, imperceptibly, deaconesses disappeared.

Therefore after these words on the ordination and duties of deaconesses have been said, we shall understand more easily what follows on the incapacity of women for orders.

II. Women, by divine law, are absolutely incapable of the priesthood

By priesthood we understand here most especially the power of offering the sacrifice, which Christ instituted.

Part 1. Certain heretics contended that women were suited for the priesthood and for sacrifice: for example:

a. The Peputians, or Quintillians, according to Epiphanius. This was a certain sect of the Montanists, so called after Pepuza, a certain town in Phrygia: "Epiphanius says, Among them, women are bishops and priests, and they are admitted to other grades, so that no distinction of sex may be observed. For in Christ Jesus there is neither male not female (Gal., III, 28)." They were also called Artotyrites, because in the sacrifice they used cheese (tyron-Gr.) with the bread. --Augustine also records these in his little work On Heresies, n. 27; likewise, under the name Cataphrygians (because in Phrygia they were most delirious), they were also recorded by Ambrosiaster, or the author of the Commentaries (attributed for a long time to AMbrosius) in the Epistles of St.Paul, I Tim., III, 11.

b. Marcus the magician, and his disciples, according to Irenaeus. For this man used to entrust the gift of sacrifice and the oblation of the holy chalice to women, whom he anointed. These too Epiphanius records, in words cited from Irenaeus.

c. The Collyridians, a certain sect in Arabia, in which women, according to Epiphanius, offered sacrifice in honor of the most blessed Virgin Mary.

Part 2. The proposition is demonstrated

A. By the precepts of St. Paul (I Cor., XIV, 34-35): ‘Let women keep silence in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but to be subdued, as the law says. But if they wish to learn something, let them ask their husbands at home; for it is disgusting for a woman to speak in church; also I Tim., II. 11, f.: "Let a woman learn in silence, with all subjection. But I do not allow a woman to teach or to lord it over her husband, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve..." Therefore: 1. In no way is a woman permitted to speak in the church, not only in order to teach, but not even to ask questions so that she may learn. Therefore so much the more is she excluded from that particularly public and especially solemn locution which is in the celebration and oblation of the holy sacrifice, in which the priest speaks to God, in the name of all, after offering various admonitions and instructions to the people. --2. In no way is a woman permitted to preside in the church, but she ought to be subdued and in all subjection.; therefore so much more is she excluded from the very celebration of the sacrifice, which, since it is done in the name of all and for all, includes preeminence especially. --Therefore by divine law, especially by the complementary natural law by which woman is in subjection to man, women are excluded from priesthood and sacrifice.

B. By the tradition of the Church.
--a. Irenaeus, Epiphanius, Augustine, and others hold the aforementioned Pepuzians, Marcosians, and Collyridians, who preach that women are capable of priesthood and sacrifice, as heretics, and they count their opinions as heresies; Epiphanius excoriates them beyond the texts of St. Paul referred to above; Ambrosiaster expressly calls the Cataphrygians heretics. Therefore, according to these teachers, these heretics sin not so much against the teaching, but even against divine law;
--b. Tertullian (on Prescriptions, c. XLI) says: "Those Women heretics, how shameless they are to dare to teach, to argue, to perform exorcisms, to engage in cures, perhaps even to baptize"; and, after he converted to Montanism, (On the Veiling of Virgins, c. IX) : "A woman is not permitted to speak in the church, not to teach, nor baptize, nor bear the oblations, nor to fulfil the function of any manly gift, or of sacerdotal office"; something he states is not allowed for a young woman.;
--c. Never and nowhere in the Church, with thye exception of the heretics mentioned, has the power of offering sacrifice ever been granted to a woman; the female priesthood has always been held as a pagan impiety, as already noted in the Apost. Const., lib. II, c.IX: "If we have not permitted women to teach in the preceding [years]. however could one concede to them the ability to perform as a priest beyond their nature? For it was an error of gentile impiety to create women priests for the female goddesses." St. Epiphanius censured this ecclesiastical tradition already in his own time in this way: "That must be truly diligently observed, that only the office of deaconesses was made necessary for ecclesiastical rank, called by the name of widows, and among those who were old women, called ‘presbytidas’, but never presbyters or priests. For it was not even granted to deacons themselves to perform any sacrament in the ecclesiastical rank...;"
---d. Certainly if by divine law women had been allowed to be engaged in the priesthood and to offer sacrifice, so many holy women would have been elevated to such a dignity that the Gospel records, and especially the most blessed Virgin Mary; and this argument is already put forward by the Apost. Const., loc. cit, and especially St. Epiphanius.

Part 3. The difficulty is resolved from the words episcopa, presbytera, etc., which sometimes appear in ancient documents

1. Very often these words designate the wife of the bishop, priest, etc. Thus in the Council of Turo II (567) canon 13, where it is said: "Let no disturbance of women follow the bishop, having no wife," and can. 19, in which the punishment of excommunication is enjoined "if the priest shall have been found with his ‘presbytera" (wife), or the deacon with his deaconess (wife), or the subdeacon with his subdeacons (wife)." Likewise it is said in the Antissiodorensian Council (578), can. 21. St. Gregory uses the word presbytera in the same sense in the Dialogues when, speaking about a certain presbyter of the province of Nursia [modern Norsia--tr], says: "The priest, from the time of accepting his ordination, loving his wife (‘presbytera’) like a sister but avoiding her like an enemy, etc." He also speaks about presbytera in the Epistles, Bk. IX, epist. VII,, but it is dubious whether these mean the wives of the priests, or older widows, about whom he speaks immediately; --2. Among the Greeks presbyterae (presbutides) signify older widows, so that it completely agrees with the passage of St. Epiphanius cited above; and this is also the more probable sense of this word in the Counc.of Laodicea, can. 11, where it is said, in the translation of Dionysius: "Because it is not fitting for those who are called presbyterae (presbutides) or ‘presidents’, to be ordained in the churches."

III. Women, by divine law, are incapable of the true and proper diaconate

Part 1. The proposition is demonstrated from the Tradition of the Church.

Certainly the true diaconate, which Christ instituted and the Church has understood from its beginnings, essentially embraces ther ministry at the altar, in which the deacon cooperates at the holy sacrifice and assists the priest and helps him in the distribution of the Eucharist; all of this is comprised in what was said in Chapter I. --But nevertheless:

a. Certainly there is alleged no universal written law by which this may be demonstrated; the general custom of the church is sufficient for this, particular councils and many other documents:
1. In the Latin Church it there was never any mention of the ministry of the altar being committed to a deaconess, but only other ministries, such as for the baptism of women considering the modesty of the women, or for private instruction, or for other matters of this kind; thus, e.g., In can. 12 of the Ancient Statute of the Church: " Widows or holy women, who are selected for the ministry of baptizing women, are so instructed for this office in order that they may instruct the inexperienced and rustic women in the proper and pure speech, for the time in which they are to be baptized, how they must reply to the questions of the baptizer, and how to live as one baptized;
--2. Hence, since beginning in the fourth century in certain parts of Galilee, certain priests,in imitation of the Oriental rites, had presumed to admit women to officiating at the altar, bishops and councils did not fail to prohibit this usage severely, as contrary to the apostolic tradition: e.g., can. 2 of the Council of Nemausensis, in 394: "It has also been suggested by certain people that, contrary to apostolic teaching, unknown (sic) to this time, women seem to have been accepted into ministry in some unknown Levit location; ecclesiastical teaching does not allow such a thing because it is indecent; and such an ordination may be brought down as against reason; let no one presume that this ought to be provided for anymore; thus also the four Gallic councils cited above (n. 72, 5)...and also in the year 511, three bishops, Licinius, Melanius, and Eustochius, when they had heard that certain priests were using women in a Levite ministry, so that, within the solemn rites of masses, these women "presume to hold the chalice and to serve the blood of Christ to the people", he gravely condemned these priests, using these words: "The news of this matter and the unheard of superstition has saddened us deeply that such a sect, never found before among the Gauls, seems to have emerged in our times, a sect that the Fathers of the Orient called Pepondian; for Pepodius was the author of this schism, ad he presumed to have women companions with him in the divine sacrifice. Consequently those who wished to continue in this error were excommunicated from ecclesiastical communion.;"
--3. In Apost. Const., lib. VIII, c. XXVIII, it is read: "The Deaconess does not bless, not does she do anything that the priest or deacon does; she only guards the doors; and when women are baptized by priests, she serves, for reasons of modesty." --4. In the so called ecclesiastical canons of the apostles, can. 21, 24, 25, 27, to widows (who as has been said, succeeded the deaconess) there was no ministry entrusted except regarding women: "How can we debate the ministry of women except the ministry in which they are empowered to minister to needy women?"

b. Indeed deaconesses were excluded even longer and more efficaciously from every truly diaconal office, they were even prohibited from exercising those gifts which the Church itself added to the diaconate: e.g., preaching, the administration of baptism, etc., as we see in many documents, e.g., in the text of Tertullian mentioned above (On the Veiling of Virgins, c. IX) (n. 73,n.2); --Apost. Const., lib. III, c. VI, IX; " Therefore we do not wish to allow women to teach in the church; only let them pray and listen to the teachers...Certainly if it had been proper for women to administer baptism, the Lord would have been baptized by his own mother, and not by John; or when he sent us (apostles) to be baptized, he would also have sent the women for the same ministry; but he really enjoined no such thing ever, not did he hand it over in a script, as one who knew truly both the order of nature and the appropriateness of the matter, since he was both founder of nature and legislator of the constitution"

In the same way Innocent III very strictly prohibited abbesses from blessing nuns, from hearing their confessions, and from preaching; cap., Nova, 10, On Penitence and Remissions.

Therefore since this tradition has been kept perpetually, it must be said that not so much by ecclesiastical law, but by divine law, are women incapable of the true diaconate.

Part 2. Difficulties are resolved

A. Jacob Edessenus, Canonical Resolutions, can. 24, says: "No power of any kind belongs to the deaconess on the altar; because when she is ordained, she is ordained for the church, not for the altar; and her power is this only: that she may sweep the sanctuary and light the lamps in the sanctuary, and this only when there is not priest or deacon present; and so that if she should be in a monastery of sisters, she may take the sacraments from the container in the absense of the priest or deacon, and she may give it to her women companions and to the small children assembling together. But it is illegal for her to take the sacraments from the holy table of the altar, or to place them upon it, or to touch it in any way whatsoever." Which canon, according to Assemani, has been referred to in the Pontifical of the Jacobites; and Bar-Hebraeus also wrote it out in his Nomocanone. Therefore the ministry of the altar was also entrusted to deaconesses.

Resp.: 1. As far as the duty of sweeping the sanctuary and lighting the lamps, I do not call that the ministry of the altar, but only sweeping around the altar; for the properly called ministry of the altar, which Christ instituted, and to which he added the grace of the sacrament, that is, as we said above, in which the deacon assists in the holy sacrifice, and helps the priest and aids him in the distribution of the eucharist;
--2.As far as the distribution of the eucharist which is permitted to the deaconesses, it should be noted that they cannot take up the sacrament on the altar, but in the sacristy where it is kept; from there they distribute communion, altogether outside of the mass, and in the absence of a priest or deacon, and only to her sisters or to children; it is therefore a distribution in case of necessity, which does not seem to imply a ministry of the altar properly speaking, as Jacobus Edessenus asserts in the text cited. The other council of Mount Libanus in 1736, as said before, took away from deaconesses any license whatever for distributing holy communion.

B. According to Balsamon, interpreted by Assemani, "formerly orders of deaconesses had been recognized by canons, and they held rank and office around the altar;" whence Assemani holds that deaconesses truly partook in a gift around the altar.

Resp., The Greek text of Balsamon (eixon kai autai bathmon en twi bemati--’and these held a place on the altar’) does not necessarily mean that the deaconesses held an office in the sanctuary or on the altar, but only a place; because it is already noted in the Testament D.N.J.C., lib.1, c. XXIII, where it is said that the bishop offers within ther covering of the sanctuary, together with the priests, deacons, widows of clergymen, subdeacons, deaconesses, readers.

C. John Telensis, Resol. can., can. 38, says about the deaconess: "With the permission of the bishop, she can pour wine and water into the chalice." And Bar-Hebraeus refers to this canon in his Nomocanone.

Resp., in the heretical sect of the Monophysites, to which Joannes Telensis and Bar-Hebraeus were devoted, the bishop was held to be the supreme power in liturgical matters, just as the Roman Pontiff among us; therefore just as the Roman Pontiff, I think, can appoint the laity to pour wine and water into the chalice, so can the bishop among the Monophysites appoint a deaconess for the same duty, especially for the custom of exception. --Lest this response should provoke derision, I shall add that not everything that is done among the heretics can be imputed to the catholic Church, or be thought to be like true law.

D. As we saw above (n.72, 2) the ordination of a deaconess is very similar to the ordination of a deacon, even in the essential parts. This is then a clear sign that the Church, in the places where this ordination was practiced, considered that the power of rank and of sacrament was instituted in this rite by divine law.

Resp., the conclusion does not follow at all from the premises. For once the Church had the intention to inaugurate deaconesses by some sacred rite, it was natural that it should imitate the diaconal ordination; for it is known that the Church imitated in its sacramentals, as much as was right to do, the sacraments of Christ. Further, as for the imposition of hands, the Church very often employs it, even beyond the sacraments; as far as the invocation of grace of the Holy Spirit, it often employs this too beyond whatever sacrament,e.g., in the benediction of an abbot, in the coronation of a king, etc. --Hence from the rite of the ordination of deaconesses, nothing can be concluded as far as the divine institution of deaconesses; but this is not even why Arcadius inveighs against this rite of ordination, as much as (calling it) erroneous and heretical.


--1. Women, by divine law, are incapable of the priesthood, and this proposition seems to be from faith, since surely the contradictory assertion is always held to be heretical;
--2. Women, by the same divine law, are incapable of the true diaconate, instituted by Christ, and of the ministry--properly called-- performed on the altar;
--3. as for lower orders, or some diaconate (or ministry) improperly called, woman does not seem radically incapable of taking these up; and this is so because, according to a more probable opinion by far, these orders belong to an ecclesiastical institution, the Church remains free in the assigning of the matter, form, and subject of these orders; and indeed, as was shown and explained above (n. 72, 2), the Church once admitted some ordination of deaconesses. But, since the Church, in constituting its rites and sacraments, was accustomed to imitate Christ in arranging its divine rites and sacraments, the Church now, and for many centuries already, is accustomed to exclude women from any ministry of rites and sacraments, just as Christ excluded them from any ministry of sacrifice and of sacraments.

Translated from the Latin by MARY ANN ROSSI

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