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Rufinus, wrote his 'Summa Decretorum' between 1157 and 1159 AD. It became a normative source for later Church lawyers

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Rufinus, wrote his Summa Decretorum between 1157 and 1159 AD. It became a normative source for later Church lawyers.

  1. Deaconesses
  2. Women may not distribute holy communion
  3. Women and menstruation
  4. Women to stay out of Church after child birth

Translation from the latin by John Wijngaards


Rufinus comments on the contradiction between the 15th Canon of the Council of Chalcedon (which allows deaconesses once they are 40 years old) and ‘Ambrose’ (=Ambrosiaster) who rejects deaconesses altogether:

“I consider it sufficiently amazing how the Council decrees that deaconesses should be ordained after 40 years, while Ambrosius states that ordaining deaconesses goes against authority. For he says in his commentary on the Letter to Timothy at the verses ‘Women should be modest, etc.’: ‘The Cataphrygae use these words to prove that deaconesses should be ordained, which is against authority.’ (Read Ambrosiaster).
But it is one thing for women to be ordained through the sacrament for an office at the altar, in the way deacons are ordained, and this is forbidden; quite another matter to be ‘ordained’ to some other ministry of the Church, what is permitted in this text.
However, today this kind of deaconesses are not found in the Church. Perhaps, abbesses are ordained in their stead.”

On Causa 27, question 1, chapter 23

Women may not distribute holy communion

With regard to communion for the sick, which Gratian reserved totally to priests, Rufin says that in case a priest is ill it is allowed to have the sacrament being taken by a boy. However, a woman would not come into question.

“Unless the priest falls ill. For in that he case he may send communion to the sick through a boy, if there is great urgency.”

On distinctio 2, de cons. chapter 29

Women and menstruation

Rufinus also speaks of the terrible affliction of menstruation.

“That blood is so execrable and impure, as already Julius Solinus has written in the book about the miracles of the world, that through its contacts fruits do not mature, plants wither, the grass dies, the trees lose their fruits, the air becomes dark, if dogs eat it they are afflicted with rabies..... And intercourse at the time of the monthly period is very risky. Not only because of the uncleanness of the blood has the desire to be restrained from contacting a menstruating woman: from such an intercourse a spoilt foetus could be born.”

On Distinction 5, beginning

Women to stay out of Church after child birth

Rufinus contradicts Gregory the Great who allowed a woman to enter a church immediately after childbirth, by saying that this permission has now been abolished in the practie of the Church.

“This permission to the woman has now been abolished because of the contrary practice of the Church and mostly because of what we read in the penitentiary of Theodorus, that if a woman has presumed to enter a church before a predefined time, she has to do penance by fasting on bread and water for as many days as she would have needed to stay away from Church”.

On Distinction 5, chapter 2

Rufinus also denies the woman any powers in court cases, either as a judge, or as a witness, or in any other function.

Source: Ida Raming, The Exclusion of Women from the Priesthood, Scarecrow Press, Metuchen 1976, pp. 50-54.

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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