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1105 - 1195 AD, Constantinople

See E. Herman, “Balsamon, ” in Dictionnaire du Droit Canonique, R. Naz, ed. (Paris, 1935-1965) (hereafter cited as DDC). vol. 2. cols. 76-83.

Replies to the Interrogations of Mark, repl. 35. “Formerly the order of deaconesses was recognized as in accordance with ecclesiastical law. They themselves had a position [=a specific duty] at the altar. But because of their monthly defilement their office was removed from the cultic sphere and from the holy altar. It is true that deaconesses are [still] being chosen in the venerable church at Constantinople, although they are no [longer] admitted to altar [duties]. In several places they have convents and direct there a community of women according to church regulation.”

The latin in Assemani: “Olim aliquando ordines diaconissarum canonibus cogniti fuere, habebantque ipsae gradum ad altare (Greek: ‘eichon kai autai bathmon in toi bemati’). Menstruorum autem inquinatio ministerium earum a diving et sancto altar) expulit. In sanctissima autem Ecclesia sedis Constantinopolitanorum diaconissae deliguntur, unam quidem communicationem non habentes ad altare, in multis autem habentes conventum, et muliebrem coetum ecclesiastice dirigentes, ” Responsa ad interrogationes Marci (Intern 35), Patres Graeci 138, c. 987. Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis, vol.III, part 2, p. 899.

“Quae in praesenti canone tractantur, omnino exolevere. Diaconissa enim hodie non ordinatur, etiamsi quaedam ascetriae abusive diaconissae dicantur. Est enim canon, qui statuit mulieres in sacrum tribunal non debere ingredi. Quae ergo ad sanctum altare accedere non potest, quomodo diaconatus officium exercebit?” in Canones SS. Apostolorum, Conciliorum commentaria (in canon 15 Conc. Chalced. ), PG 137, c. 442.

Similarly M. Blastares (Greek canonist in the first half of the 14th century), Syntagma Alphabeticum G cap. XI, PG 144, c. 1174. (“Quale autem ministerium diaconissae tunc temporibus in clero implebant, omnibus fere hodie ignotum est. Sunt qui dicunt, quod mulieribus baptizandis ministrabant.... Dicunt autem alii, quod ad sanctum altare ingredi iis permissum erat, et diaconorum officia prope illos exsequi. Verum prohibuerunt postea Patres eas illuc ascendere, et illo ministerio defungi, propter involuntarium catameniorum fluxum. ”

Canon XI. Presbytides, as they are called, or female presidents, are not to be appointed in the Church.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XI. Widows called presidents shall not be appointed in churches.


In old days certain venerable women (presbutides) sat in Catholic churches, and took care that the other women kept good and modest order. But from their habit of using improperly that which was proper, either through their arrogancy or through their base self-seeking, scandal arose. Therefore the Fathers prohibited the existence in the Church thereafter of any more such women as are called presbytides or presidents. And that no one may object that in the monasteries of women one woman must preside over the rest, it should be remembered that the renunciation which they make of themselves to God and the tonsure brings it to pass that they are thought of as one body though many; and all things which are theirs, relate only to the salvation of the soul. But for woman to teach in a Catholic Church, where a multitude of men is gathered together, and women of different opinions, is, in the highest degree, indecorous and pernicious.

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