The Ordination of Women and Tradition

The Ordination of Women and Tradition

Overview of documents on Tradition on our website

(This text is still being finalised)

Rules of Interpretation


Four rules to judge whether a 'tradition' belongs to valid Tradition.

  1. Valid Tradition is scriptural.
  2. Valid Tradition is informed.
  3. Valid Tradition can be latent for many centuries.
  4. Valid Tradition shows development through dynamic growth.

About valid Tradition

Scriptural Tradition Latent Tradition Dynamic Tradition Informed Tradition Valid Tradition

Valid Tradition is based on a correct understanding of the inspired meaning of scriptural texts.

For Tradition to be informed, the carriers of the Tradition must have correctly understood the question and the issues that are at stake.

Underneath prevailing practice there may lie a contrary, but valid ‘latent Tradition’, a Tradition that is faithful to the teaching of the Gospel and transmitted through the centuries without always being explicitly recognised as such.

True Tradition is not static. It grows; not in the sense that it differs substantially from the inspiration received from Jesus Christ and the Apostles, but in the sense that many of its latent implications are gradually realised with the help of the Holy Spirit.


Cultural Prejudice

Throughout the centuries cultural prejudice against women has clouded the judgment of leaders and members in the community of believers.

This prejudice invalidates their opinions, pronouncements and decisions regarding women.

They may not be counted as part of valid tradition.

Read: The Inferior Mix. The Real Reasons Why the Catholic Church Does Not Ordain Women

The practice of not ordaining women in the Church was neither scriptural nor informed because of a threefold prejudiceamong Church leaders who considered women :

The Fathers of the Church rarely spoke about the ordination of women. Those who did were influenced by their prejudices about women.

The same prejudice against women is apparent in the statutes of early ‘Church Synods’

Medieval theologians excluded women from the priesthood on obviously invalid social and philosophical grounds.

From what medieval theologians wrote on the question of ‘women priests’ we can also see that the question was not ‘closed’ and the reasons unclear.

In the Middle Ages the bias against woman was concentrated in the theological role attributed to Eve. Read: ‘Eve in Christian Culture’

For a general view of life for women in the Middle Ages read: “The Mould for Medieval Women”

Read also: “Against Nature and God”, a history of women with clerical ordination and the jurisdiction of Bishops.

Church Law has incorporated the social and religious prejudices against women, from its medieval codification until now.

A horrendous example of the official atttiude is found in the treatment of wives of clergy in the Middle Ages.

Post-scholastic theologians simply repeated the age-old prejudices without critical examination.

Public prejudice manifested itself in the scandalous essays published by men during the socalled “Women’s Quarrel”.


Latent Tradition

The history of the Church demonstrates that we should study the past carefully. Underneath Church practice of the day, there may lie a contrary latent Tradition, a Tradition that is faithful to the teaching of the Gospel and transmitted through the centuries without always being explicitly recognised as such.

Read: The Modern Theology of Tradition, J P. Mackey , 1962, ch. 3&4. A comprehensive survey of theological views on the 'Sensus fidelium' and Tradition.

A ‘latent’ and ‘dynamic’ Tradition implying the possibility of women’s ordination has shown itself in a number of ways:

  1. through women’s administering baptism and matrimony;
  2. in the practice of ordaining some women as priests (see column to the right);
  3. in Mary’s perceived ‘priestly’ functions;
  4. in the devotion to Mary Magdalen who was seen as a woman minister.

On the practice of ordaining women as priests in some parts of the Church, read:

The devotion to Jesus' mother Mary as Priest reveals a latent Tradition. It shows that the faithful were convinced a woman could be a priest.

Related articles:

In the right column we list spiritual writers and theologians who wrote about Mary Priest


The ordination of Women Deacons




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