Prejudice does not invalidate Tradition
From INTER INSIGNIORES:
(The hyper-linked comments in italics are by John
(Italics in the text by John Wijngaards)
6. . . . . It is true that in the writings of the Fathers
one will find the undeniable influence of prejudices unfavourable to women
[ ], but nevertheless, it should be noted that
these prejudices had hardly any influence on their pastoral activity, and still
less on their spiritual direction [ prejudices that held women to be inferior by nature,
incapable of exercising authority, subject to men in punishment for sin and
ritually unclean . . . ]. is it nor
more relevant to realise that their prejudices precluded them from even
considering the possibility of women priests?
For the full text, see:
Commentary by the Sacred
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Declaration Inter
25. How are we to interpret the constant and universal
practice of the Church? A theologian is certain that what the Church does she
can in fact do, since she has the assistance of the Holy Spirit [ ]. This is a
classical argument found again and again in St Thomas with regard to the
sacraments.(22) Does this not prove the Church can ordain women to the
priesthood since she ordained them to the diaconate?
Note 22. St Thomas, Summa Theol., 2a 2ac, q. 10,
a.12; 3a pars, q. 66, a. 10; q. 72. a.4 anda.l2;q.73.a.4;q.78,a.3 and
a.6;q.80,a.12:q.82,a.2:q.83,a.3 and a.5: -cf. In IV Sent Dist 20, q I,a 4,qa I
ff ; Dist 23, q I,a 4,q a I, etc
26. But what the Church has never done-is this any proof
that she cannot do it in the future?
27. Does the negative fact thus noted indicate a norm, or is
it to be explained by historical and by social and cultural circumstances? In
the present case, is an explanation to be found in the position of women in
ancient and mediaeval society and in a certain idea of male superiority
stemming from that societys culture? [ ] Was it
just a certain idea of male superiority? Was it not rather a denial
of the qualities that make women capable of Holy Orders: perfection as human
beings, incorporation in Christs general priesthood through baptism and
freedom from presumed ritual uncleanness?
28. It is because of this transitory cultural element that
some arguments adduced on this subject in the past are scarcely defensible
today. The most famous is the one summarized by St Thomas Aquinas: quia
mulier est in statu subiectionis.(23) [ ] In St Thomass thought, however, this
assertion is not merely the expression of a philosophical concept, since he
interprets it in the light of the accounts in the first chapters of Genesis and
the teaching of the First Letter to Timothy (2:12-14). [ Is this the only unacceptable statement by
Thomas about women? ] Does Thomass mistaken interpretation of these
Scripture texts make his position more acceptable? Was it not for his wrong
biological, social and scriptural ideas that Thomas denied ordination to women?
Is the combination of philosophical and theological prejudice not fatal to his
Note 23. St Thomas, In IV Sent. Dist. 19, q. 1, a.1,
qa 3 ad 4-um; Dist, 25, q. 2, a. I, qa 1; cf. q. 2, a. 2, qa 1, ad 4;
Summa Theol., 2a 2ac, q. 177, a. 2.
29. A similar formula is found earlier in the Decretum
of Gratian,(24) but Gratian, who was quoting the Carolingian Capitularies
and the false Decretals, was trying rather to justify with Old Testament
prescriptions the prohibition-already formulated by the ancient Church (25) -of
women from entering the sanctuary and serving at the altar. [ ] Do you mean this was Gratians only
prejudice?! - - - And what about the
institutionalised prejudice of the ensuing codes of Church Law that last till
our own time?
Note 24. Dictum Gratiani in Caus. 34; q. 5, c. 11,
ed. Friedberg, t. 1, co. 1254; cf. R. Metz, La femme en droit
canonique medieval, in Recueil de la societe Jean Bodin, 12, 1962,
Note 25. Canon 44 of the collection called after the Council
of Laodicea: H. T. Bruns, Canones Apostolorum et Conciliorum . . . t. 1,
Bertolini, 1839, p.78; St Gelasius, Epist. 14, ad universos episcopos per
Lucaniam, Brutios et Siciliam constitutos, 11 March 494, No. 26: A. Thiel,
Epistolae Romanorum pontificum..., t. 1, Brunsbergae. 1868. p.376.
30. The polemical arguments of recent years have often
recalled and commented on the texts that develop these arguments. They have
also used them to accuse the fathers of the Church of misogyny [ What else
should we call what ] . It is true that
we find in the fathers writings the undeniable influence of prejudices
against women. But it must be carefully noted that these passages had very
little influence on their pastoral activity, still less on their spiritual
direction, as we can see by glancing through their correspondence that has come
down to us [ Tertullian and
Epiphanius said about women? ]. Does this not trivilialise
substantial prejudices that directly undermined a woman's capacity for
31. Above all it would be a serious mistake to think that
such considerations provide the only or the most decisive reasons against the
ordination of women in the thought of the fathers, of the mediaeval writers and
of the theologians of the classical period. [ ] In the midst of and going beyond speculation, more and more clear
expression was being given to the Churchs awareness that in reserving
priestly ordination and ministry to men she was obeying a tradition received
from Christ and the apostles and by which she felt herself bound [ Do the
facts not show that the Fathers, medieval writers and theologians themselves
based their objection to the priesthood of women on the prejudices they
had? Was this
theological opinion really validly ] scriptural and informed?
For the full text, see:
Official Commentary on INTER INSIGNIORES.
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