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Prejudice does not invalidate Tradition

Prejudice does not invalidate Tradition


(The hyper-linked comments in italics are by John Wijngaards)

(Italics in the text by John Wijngaards)

Arms of John Paul II

6. . . . . It is true that in the writings of the Fathers one will find the undeniable influence of prejudices unfavourable to women [prejudices that held women to be inferior by nature, incapable of exercising authority, subject to men in punishment for sin and ritually unclean . . . ], but nevertheless, it should be noted that these prejudices had hardly any influence on their pastoral activity, and still less on their spiritual direction [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: INTER INSIGNIORES.

From the Commentary by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Declaration Inter Insigniores:

Sacred Congregation for Doctrine

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 [Does this not prove the Church can ordain women to the priesthood since she ordained them to the diaconate?]. This is a classical argument found again and again in St Thomas with regard to the sacraments.(22)

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 society’s 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 Christ’s 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) [Is this the only unacceptable statement by Thomas about women?] In St Thomas’s 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). [Does Thomas’s 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 argument?]

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 Gratian’s 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, pp. 59-113.

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 Tertullian and Epiphanius said about women?] . 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 [Does this not trivilialise substantial prejudices that directly undermined a woman's capacity for ordination?].

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. [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?] In the midst of and going beyond speculation, more and more clear expression was being given to the Church’s 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 [Was this theological opinion really validly ‘scriptural’ and ‘informed’?]

For the full text, see: Official Commentary on INTER INSIGNIORES.

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