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Tradition and the Fathers

Tradition and the Fathers


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

Arms of John Paul II

6. A few heretical sects in the first centuries, especially Gnostic ones, entrusted the exercise of the priestly ministry to women: this innovation was immediately noted and condemned by the Fathers, who considered it as unacceptable in the Church.(7) [Did the Fathers not rather condemn Gnosticism? Was the leadership of Gnostic women not just a side issue?]

6, cont. 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. [Is is not rather the case that the Fathers’ prejudices fatally undermine the validity of their voice in Tradition?]

7. But over and above considerations inspired by the spirit of the times, one finds expressed-especially in the canonical documents of the Antiochian and Egyptian traditions-this essential reason namely, that by calling only men to the priestly Order and ministry in its true sense, the Church intends to remain faithful to the type of ordained ministry willed by the Lord Jesus Christ and carefully maintained by the Apostles.(8) [Does the evidence not rather prove that opposition to women’s teaching was based on cultural prejudice, covered with quotes from misinterpreted Scripture texts?]

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

23. Only within some heretical sects of the early centuries, principally Gnostic ones, do we find attempts to have the priestly ministry exercised by women. It must be further noted that these are very sporadic occurrences and are moreover associated with rather questionable practices. [Does the focus on Gnostic heresy rather than the priesthood of women not invalidate the whole argument?]

24. We know of them only through the severe disapproval with which they are noted by St Irenaeus in his Adversus Haereses, (17) [What severe disapproval?] Tertullian in De Praescriptione Haereticorum,(18) [What to expect from this bigot?] Firmilian of Caesarea in a letter to St Cyprian,(19) Origen in a commentary on the First Letter to the Corinthians,(20) [Is he a valid witness to Tradition?] and especially by St Ephiphanius in his Panarion.(21) [Do his arguments against ‘women priests’ not reveal prejudice rather than solid theological grounds?]

32. This is what had been expressed in the form of an apocryphal literature by the ancient documents of Church discipline from Syria, such as the Didascalia Apostolorum (middle of the third century)(26) and the apostolic constitutions (end of the fourth or the beginning of the fifth century),(27) and by the Egyptian collection of twenty pseudo-apostolic canons that was included in the compilation of the Alexandrian Synods and translated into many languages. (28) [Do these socalled ‘Church Orders’ not rather speak about the prohibition of teaching for women -- quoted out of context and with reference to misinterpreted Pauline texts?]

33. St John Chrysostom, for his part, when commenting on chapter twenty-one of John, understood well that women’s exclusion from the pastoral office entrusted to Peter was not based on any natural incapacity, since, as he remarks, ‘even the majority of men have been excluded by Jesus from this immense task.’(29) [Does this remark not precisely show his prejudice since he excluded ALL women and only the majority of men, a prejudice confirmed in his other writings?]

Note 17. 1, 13, 2: PG 7, colt 58()-581; Harvey edition 1, 144-122.

Note 18. 41, 5: CCL 1 p.221.

Note 19. In the Letters of Saint Cyprian, 75: CSEL 3, pp.817-818.

Note 20. Fragments published in Journal of Theological Studies, 10 (1909), pp.41-42 (No. 74).

Note 21. Panarion, 49, 2-3: GCS 31, pp.243-244: 78, 23 and 79, 2-4; GSC 37, pp.473, 477-479.

Note 26. Chap. 15: ed. R. H. Connolly, pp.133 and 142.

Note 27. Lib.3, c.6,nn. 1-2;c.9,3-4;ed. F.X. Funk, p.191.

Note 28. Can. 24-28;-Greek text in F. X. Funk, Doctrina Duodecim Apostolorum, Tubingen, 1887, p.71; T. Schermann, Die allegemeine Kirchenordnung. . ., t.1, Paderborn, 1914, pp.31-33;-Syriac text in Octateuque de Clement, Lib. 3, c. 19-20, Latin text in the Verona ms., Bibl., capit, LV, ed. E. Tidner, Didascaliae Apostolorum, Canonum Ecclesiasticorum. Traditionis Apostolicae Versiones Latinae, Berlin, 1965 (TU 75), pp.111-113. The Coptic, Ethiopian and Arabic versions of the Synodos have been translated and published chiefly by G. Homer, The Statutes of the Apostles or Canones Ecclesiastici, Oxford University Press, 1915 (=1904).

Note 29. De Sacerdotio 2, 2: PC 48, 663.

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

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