Tradition in the Middle Ages

Tradition in the Middle Ages


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

Arms of John Paul II

7. One finds expressed . . . 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. The same conviction animates mediaeval theology (9), even if the Scholastic doctors, in their desire to clarify by reason the data of faith, often present arguments on this point that modern thought would have difficulty in admitting or would even rightly reject. [Are the arguments of medieval theologians not so seriously flawed that their objections to the ordination of women are proved untenable?]

Note 9. Saint Bonaventure, In IV Sent., Dist. 25, art. 2, q. 1, ed. Quaracchi, vol. 4, p.649; Richard of Middleton, ln lV Sent. Dist. 25, art. 4, n. 1, ed. Venice, 1499 f’l77r; John Duns Scotus, In IV Sent., Dist. 25: Opus Oxoniense, ed. Vives, vol. 19, p. 140; Reportata Parisiensia, vol. 24, pp.369-371; Durandus of Saint Pourcain, In IV Sent., Dist. 25, q. 2, ed. Venice. 1571, f" 364V.

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

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.

34. From the moment that the teaching on the sacraments is systematically presented in the schools of theology [What about Thomas Aquinas, whose arguments are totally wrong?and Bonaventure who doubted, but did not know that women deacons had been validly ordained? and canon law writers begin to deal ex professo with the nature and value of the tradition that reserved ordination to men, the canonists base their case on the principle formulated by Pope Innocent III in a letter of 11 December 1210, to the bishops of Palencia and Burgos, a letter that was included in the collection of Decretals: ‘Although the Blessed Virgin Mary was of higher dignity and excellence than all the apostles, it was to them, not her, that the Lord entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’(30) This text became a locus communis for the glossatores.(31) [Are the prejudices of the Decretalists, prejudices that underlie their theological rationalizations, not blatantly obvious?] As for the theologians, the following are some significant texts: St Bonaventure: ‘Our position is this: it is due not so much to a decision by the Church as to the fact that the sacrament of order is not for them. In this sacrament the person ordained is a sign of Christ the mediator.’(32) Is it not a fact that Bonaventure’s true reason for excluding women lies in his considering women inferior to men?

35. Richard of Middleton, a Franciscan of the second half of the thirteenth century: ‘The reason is that the power of the sacraments comes from their institution. But Christ instituted this sacrament for conferral on men only, not women.’(33) Does his own text not show that he cannot PROVE the institution by Christ, and that he deduces this assumption from women’s inferiority?

36. John Duns Scotus: ‘It must not be considered to have been determined by the Church. It comes from Christ. The Church would not have presumed to deprive the female sex, for no fault of its own, of an act that might licitly have pertained to it.’(34) Does Scotus not deduce institution by Christ from the Church’s practice? And does he not admit that an exclusion by the Church alone would be serious discrimination? Durandus of Saint-Pourcain: ‘. . . the male sex is of necessity for the sacrament. The principal cause of this is Christ’s institution. . . Christ ordained only men...not even his mother...It must therefore be held that women cannot be ordained, because of Christ’s institution.’(35) Are the reasons Durandus gives not totally invalid?

Is it not a fact that such testimonies, based as they are on prejudice and on invalid theological arguments, cannot be cited in support of Tradition? Should we not rather listen to St. Cyprian who said: “A custom (consuetudo) without truth (veritas) is merely an ancient error!” (Letter 74.a)

Note 30. Decretal. Lib. V. tit. 38, De paenit., can. 10 Nova A. Friedberg, t. 2, colt 886-887: Quia licet beatissima Virgo Maria dignior et excellentior fuerit Apostolis universis, non tamen illi, sed istis Dominus claves regni caelorum commisit.

Note 31. e.g., Glossa in Decretal. Lib. 1, tit. 33, c. 12 Dilecta, Vo lurisdicuani.

Note 32. In IV Sent., Dist. 25, art. 2, q. 1: ed. Quaracchi, t. 4, p.649: Dicendum est quad hoc non venit tam ex institutione Ecclesiae, quam ex hoc quod eis non competit Ordinis sacramentum. In hoc sacramento persona quae ordinatur significat Christum mediatorem.

Note 33. In IVSent., Dist. 25, a. 4, n. 1; ed. Bocatelli, Venice, 1499 (Pellechet-Polain, 10132/9920), f 177-R: Ratio est quod sacramenta vim habent ex sua institutione: Christus autem hoc sacramentum instituit conferri masculis tantum, non mulieribus.

Note 34. In IV Sent., Dist. 25, Opus Oxoniense, ed. Vives, t. 19, p.140; cf. Reportata Parisiensia, ed. Vives, t. 24, pp.369-371. Quod non est tenendum tamquam praecise per Ecclesiam determinatum, sed habetur a Christo: non enim Ecclesia praesumpsisset sexam muliebrem privasse sine culpa sua actu qui posses sibi licite competere.

Note 35. In IV Sent., Dist. 25, p.2; ed. Venice, 1571, f 364-v: . . .sexus virilis est de necessitate sacrament, cuius causa principalis est institutio Christi. . . Christus non ordinavit nisi viros. . . nec matrem suam. . . Tenendum est igitur quod mulieres non possum ordinari ex institutione Chrisu.

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

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