Responsive image
Nederlands/Vlaams Deutsch Francais English language Spanish language Portuguese language Catalan Chinese Czech Malayalam Finnish Igbo
Japanese Korean Romanian Malay language Norwegian Swedish Polish Swahili Chichewa Tagalog Urdu
The Ordination of Women and Tradition

The Ordination of Women and Tradition

Overview of documents on Tradition on our website

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.

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’

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.

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

A latent Tradition was also revealed in the devotion to Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene functioned as a counter heroine who expressed the faithful's conviction that women too could minister.

Documentation of the devotion



Book reviews


Readings on Latent Tradition


The ordination of Women Deacons

During the first millennium women were routinely ordained deacons in the Catholic Church. The practice was most common in the eastern part of the Church. It was sacramental and sanctioned by ecumenical Church Councils.

1. The Women Deacons received a sacramental ordination

* Differences discussed

2. Women Deacons fulfilled many tasks in the ministryl

3. Church Councils sanctioned the ministry of Women Deacons

4. History confirms the impact of Women Deacons

No Women in Holy Orders? The Ancient Women Deacons, by John Wijngaards,
Canterbury Press 2002.

Many ancient ordination rites have been preserved:

See the original Greek text of some manuscripts.

Further reading:

See also:


Please, credit this document
as published by www.womenpriests.org!

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

You are welcome to use our material. However: maintaining this site costs money. We are a Charity and work mainly with volunteers, but we find it difficult to pay our overheads.

Visitors to our website since January 2014.
Pop-up names are online now.

The number is indicative, but incomplete. For full details click on cross icon at bottom right.

Please, support our campaign
for women priests
Join our Women Priests' Mailing List
for occasional newsletters:
An email will be immediately sent to you
requesting your confirmation.