A thorough and documented description, argument and conclusion, together with extensive replies about the Question
Whether Women are Human Beings?!
Grund= und probierliche Beschreibung …. Belangend die Frag Ob die Weiber Menschen seyn oder nicht?, Anonymous author 1618. Reprinted in 1619, 1671, 1673, 1720. German text recently published in Archiv für philosophie- und theologie-geschichtliche Frauenforschung, vol. IV, ed. Elisabeth Gössmann, Iudicium Verlag Munich, 1996, pp. 101-124.
English translation © John Wijngaards
Numbering of the sections and purple commentary between brackets added by John Wijngaards
A thorough and profound description/ argument and conclusion, together with extensive replies
Concerning the question
Whether Women are Human Beings or not?
Put together mostly from Sacred Scripture, the remainder from other authors and experience itself / The German not earlier seen in print: but now available for everyone’s good instruction.
Dedicated to the female sex / in their defence as they deserve / comically written and published in the form of a conversation.
By a special lover of love and of modesty, anno 1617.
Printed in the year 1618
To the well intentioned reader
As is known, quite often disputations and similar treatises have appeared in print regarding the question whether women are human beings or not.
Without doubt from these booklets arguments are drawn, translated into German, and quoted at random to the annoyance of the female sex.
These arguments are here presented in logical order and provided with replies that refute and disprove them.
So that both men and women can read the same
with special benefit [to each].
May it go well with you!
[Translator’s note: We publish this text because it illustrates the theological prejudices against women operative during the period of which the Congregation for Doctrine states: “Since that period (the Middle Ages) and up to our own time, it can be said that the question [of women’s ordination] has not been raised again, for the practice has enjoyed peaceful and universal acceptance” Inter Insigniores § 7.]
- [Setting the scene.]
- [Scripture does not say women are human.]
- [Mary is a human being but only by way of exception.]
- [Women have no human intelligence.]
- [Women are forbidden to hold any public office.]
- [Women are not capable of full human speech.]
- [Women are forbidden to speak in church.]
- [Women’s intelligence is just animal shrewdness.]
- [Women were not created in God’s image.]
- [Woman was only created to be man’s helper.]
- [Only the man received authority from the Creator.]
- [Only man was directly created by God.]
- [Christ compared women to dogs.]
- [Men striving for sanctity should not talk to women.]
- [Christ said that women cannot be saved.]
- [Women were not circumcised.]
- [Women’s sins are just ‘animal sins’.]
- [Women suffer pain at childbearing, like animals.]
- [Spiritual people should stay away from women.]
- [The story of Popess Joan is spurious.]
- [Sin is not reckoned to women because they are not human.]
- [Women do not rise on the last day.]
- [When a woman dies, she returns to nothingness.]
- [Women are illiterate.]
- [It means nothing that the risen Christ appeared first to women.]
- [Christ knew that women can’t keep secrets.]
- [Women cannot be valid witnesses.]
- [St Thomas was put off by the testimony of the women.]
- [The Apostles rejected the testimony of women.]
- [Women should not be baptised.]
- [Scripture reserves baptism to men.]
- [Women were not present at the Last Supper.]
- [Christ did not want to have anything to do with women.]
- [Women have to wear veils because they are impure.]
- [To be perfect you have to give up contact with women.]
- [Females are born as abnormalities.]
- [The abnormality of women shows up in their menstruation.]
- [Sirach teaches that women are evil.]
An Entertaining Discussion on whether Women are Human Beings or Not?
- Brother Andy, also known as Woman’s Enemy, who belongs to the Benedictine Order.
- Father Eugene, who bears the nickname Woman’s Friend, who is an elderly Jesuit.
Good morning, Reverend Father Eugene, how are you? Do you still fancy women so much? I understand that even in your old age, if your status stood not in the way, you would gladly marry.
Thanks my dear Andrew, you excel in cracking jokes, just watch that you won’t regret it. And I can honestly see no reason on my part why I should be your enemy. Religious people like us are usually easily upset in conscience, aren’t we? Ha, ha!
Well, I know plenty of good reasons why women should upset us! I could tell you a lot about it – and how could it be different?
I’d love to hear them. Come, let’s enter this bookshop here on the side, as if we wanted to inspect a small booklet while people leave the Church after Mass. There we can discuss the matter to our heart’s content.
The shop assistant will watch us and may chase us out!
How does he know what we are saying to each other, let’s say: about this little booklet? You don’t need to be afraid on that score!
OK, I don’t want to keep you longer than necessary. There is this argument against the widespread error as if women are human beings. As I said, it’s extremely common! And I give you to consider: in the whole of Sacred Scripture, nowhere do we read, either explicitly or implicitly, that women are human.
Ha, ha, ha! That would be strange, indeed! Seek and you shall find. Seek to spome extent, I mean, for though I didn’t come prepared, I remember enough texts to show that it can be found both explicitly and implicitly. (1) Explicitly: In the Old Testament (Ex 13): “Dedicate to me (God says) every firstborn delivered by any mother among the children of Israel, both among people and cattle.” In the New Testament, do the Gospel Stories not call Christ the Son of a Human Being – “born of a woman, Mary (Gal 4).” (2) Implicitly: In the Old Testament, “Abigael, a woman of great intelligence” (1 Sam 25). “An intelligent wife is a gift from the Lord” (Prov 19). Also in Heb 2: “Christ has taken Abraham’s seed” — the seed of a human being, not of an angel, as the Apostle argues. And now it is the seed of the woman which “treads on the head of the serpent” (Gen 3). And Peter the Apostle says (1 Pet 3): that there were souls (that is in the language of Sacred Scripture, human beings with intelligence) in the Ark of Noah (which also held Noah’s wife, Gen 7). Not to mention so many other texts!
I can’t dispute that argument, but it has little power to prove the matter under discussion. For example, you mention Mary, Christ’s mother, but that is not to the point, for three reasons which I will briefly indicate. To begin with, Mary is a human being, but not by nature, only through grace, for the angel said to her: “You are full of grace.” We never find such an expression mentioned about other women. What do you say to that?
That Mary, God’s Mother, was a human being she had by nature, just like other people. Through grace she became a blessed human being, even the most blessed under women.
In the second place we find this dissimilarity: Mary, the blessed Mother of Christ, may rightly be called a human being because she gave birth without the help of a man. Only if other women were to give birth without men, could we call them human beings, but not before.
Mary gave birth without a man (1) not as if she had this power in her of her own accord, but through the working of the Holy Spirit. (2) She didn’t give birth to an ordinary human being, but to the Messiah and Saviour of the world. That’s why it’s not necessary that the same happens to other women.
In the third place, how is it that Christ says that among all born from women, no one is greater than John the Baptist? Why did he not say this of himself, since he is much greater than John the Baptist? I can see no other reason except that He, Christ, was born from a human being, but John was born from a woman.
Here there is really no talk of nature or origin according to the flesh, but of anyone’s achievement and external status. Among all those born of women no one is greater than John the Baptist, who was raised to such a high dignity by God that he could point out the incarnate Saviour by hand, prepare the way for him and be his angel and precursor. In the second place, Christ (while seeming less in his external, despised status) is still greater than John because, whereas he is and remains the Messiah and Saviour of the world, John is only his servant.
[§4. Women have no human intelligence.]
Medieval theologians often belittled women’s intelligence. See Gratian, Durandus and Scotus.
What you quoted before, namely that women have intelligence, proves nothing. Consider that also angels and devils have intelligence and yet they are not and never will be human beings.
By intelligence, first al all, human beings differ not from angels or other spirits, but from dumb animals under which you would have to reckon women if they possessed no intelligence. (2.) Moreover, it has much less to do with an angel’s intelligence than with a human intelligence, which, since human beings consist of both soul and body, is more earthly and impressionable. In these texts only human intelligence is meant. That is why also women have to be considered human.
[§5. Women are forbidden to hold any public office.]
This prohibition came from Roman Law and was adopted by the Church.
What? Intelligence? If women were to possess a really noteworthy intelligence, why are they forbidden to hold any office that requires authority?
Dear friend, don’t you think (1) that more is required for holding an office than just intelligence, namely public status, experience, a strong constitution, constancy in words and deeds, and more such qualities, that agree more with a man and are given to him in preference to a woman? (2) Women are forbidden to hold any office when there are suitable men who can hold them. When suitable men are missing, as examples show, women are not held back from offices, especially worldly responsibilities. Yes, we see that often God achieves more through women than he could have achieved through men. This is clear from [the life of] Empress Irene, Margaret of Denmark who is also called Semiramis, Catherine Cornelia, queen of Cyprus, Elisabeth, queen in England, etc. etc. It remains therefore true that women, as truly intelligent creatures of God, are truly human beings by nature. That is why they can speak, be prudent and clever, as only human beings can.
What? Speak, you say? This point being in their favour carries no weight. Think about it, even some birds can be taught to speak. Moreover, also Bileam’s donkey spoke (Num 22). But they were no human beings because of this spark of intelligence.
There is a huge difference. (1) With regard to birds, they don’t speak by nature, but only when their tongue has been loosened and guided by human hand. (2) Moreover, the few words they manage are incomplete and unintelligible. (3) Should this kind of speaking not be deemed to be of the same nature as when a dog jumps up and barks on hearing its name, rather than ascribe it to intelligence? For both these cases belong rather to the external senses which human beings have in common with animals and are due to habit. (4) Bileam’s donkey can be explained in this way that it was made to speak by a special intervention of God who wanted Bileam thrown down. But we are discussing another kind of speaking, the kind that comes from nature and that arises from intelligence. Otherwise the members of the human body that were created to be means and instruments of speech, are useless.
[§7. Women are forbidden to speak in church.]
For the scriptural background, read 1 Cor 14,32-34 and 1 Timothy 2,12.
On the other hand, speaking without intelligence is like not speaking at all, as you will readily admit. But women speak without real intelligence, as is clear from the Apostle Paul’s order that women should be silent (1 Cor 14). From this follows that women’s speaking counts for nothing and they should not be regarded human.
Yes, (1) to speak correctly or with intelligence means commonly to speak understandably, clearly and with circumspection as indicated by reality. Who does not speak in that way, his/her speech counts for nothing and is as a useless blast on the trumpet. Accordingly, to say the right thing with intelligence regarding important matters, as in religious discussions and other debates, or otherwise in the praiseworthy exercise of devotion and other virtues, means: to express and present everything intelligently and for the proper edification of those present. But, although women mostly fall short in all this as also men do, women do not otherwise lack this proper, intelligent form of speech. (2) The Apostle Paul orders women to keep silent not as if they were not capable of intelligent speech or would overreach themselves, but in order to establish and maintain proper order in the churches of Corinth, to avoid that anyone who is not called to this, would just follow her own likings and preach. And it would, also in a worldly sense, be an abuse if a woman were to publicly take over in the presence of men and would want to preach to them. Apart from this, I am convinced that we should not be ashamed to learn something good and wholesome also from women. (3) It is however known that unfortunately women, especially evil ones, often do not speak the right thing, that is, they don’t speak about the things which it is right to speak about, or in the proper manner.
There’s something left in this argument that needs discussion. You have, against my opinion, put forward that women should be considered truly intelligent human beings because they are prudent and clever. But, my dear Father, excuse me for saying as a friend: that does not support their having a human nature. For with regard to prudence and cleverness, we have Christ’s teaching (Mt 10): “Be clever as serpents and simple as doves”. And in Prov 10 we read: “You lazy man, learn from the ants”. Only, yes only knowledge of God makes human beings, but women have their knowledge, the little they possess, from men. That is why they claim the title of human being in vain.
The cleverness (1) of snakes, ants and other animals does not spring from their mind, but is an instinct of nature, that is: a spur or a drive of nature provided to maintain life and avoid mishaps. This instinct lies inborn in all living creatures, but may not be compared to the prudence of a human being. (2) Knowledge of God saves human beings, but, properly speaking, it does not make them human. For humanness comes from nature, of which God self is Lord and Creator. (3) It does not matter where women get their knowledge from or how little of it they possess, as long as they don’t lack it. For there is no doubt that with regard to such a weak vessel it is true: “My power is strong in the weak” (2 Cor 12).
[§9. Women were not created in God’s image.]
See, for example, Tertullian, Ambrosiaster and Church Law.
Enough about that! Hear this further argument: Only that person is a human being who is created in God’s image. Woman, however is not created in God’s image, but as Imago imaginatae imaginis, that is: an image copied from an image of God, namely the man. And as man reflects God’s honour, so woman reflects man’s honour.
If man has been created in God’s image, the same will apply to woman. The reason: she is Imaginis imaginatae Imago, as you say, an image of the imaged image of God, the man. Compare this with the following: if a painter or sculptor has produced an image of himself, but then wants to have more copies of it for convencience’s sake, if he makes the copies from the first copy, will they thereby cease to be his image? The same applies here. That is why God himself says: “Let us make the human being, an image like unto us” (Gen 1). And (in Gen 2): “It is not good that the human being should be alone, I will make him a helper.” Secondly, the argument turns against you when you call woman the honour of man. According to the teaching of the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 11), would a not-human being be an honour for a human being?
[§10. Woman was only created to be man’s helper.]
See scriptural background for Genesis.
In this matter you have to remember two things, the first of which is this. You are right in recalling the establishment of marriage. Woman is called man’s helper and is given to him to give birth [to children]. But as little as the pen is the writer, or the needle the seamstress, so is woman no human being, but only his helper.
Precisely from that it can be proved that women are human beings. For (1) they are called man’s helper, and even that they are there for him, or as the words literally say, they are simile sibi, that is: like himself. By this they are distinguished not only from all the tools and instruments that help man in his work, but also from housekeepers, servants and other people who also assist him, but who after their assistance and service leave him to go where they want. To this belongs also the fact that Adam himself called woman she-man (Gen 2). Secondly, woman is made companion to man for the propagation of the human race (that is, of other human beings). Yes, as you too will not be able to deny, she is only lent to him and entrusted to his diligent care. Therefore the previous comparison you made is not to the point. There is a palpable difference bwteen a woman on the one hand and a pen or needle on the other.
To raise the other point, God says to Adam: “You will dominate the birds in the air, the fish in the sea and all animals on earth”. That is why woman too is subjected to man as [any other] bestia [=wild animal], and must those people be out of their mind who contend that a woman should be called a human being.
That reminds me precisely of what Moses, the man of God, said. His exact words are these: “Let us make human beings, an image in our likeness, who dominate the fish in the sea, etc. And God created the human being in his image, and he created them man and woman, and God blessed them an said: ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subject them and dominate the fish in the sea, etc.’ ” (Gen 1). First, it is clear from this that both man and woman enjoy domination over the earth and its animals according to God’s intention and his explicit will. Secondly, if God had entrusted and given such dominion on earth to Adam before woman was created, how could God have reckoned woman among the bestiae and animals that had already been created and that were passing before Adam’s eyes (Gen 2)? The term bestia [=wild animal] and others like it may well be applied to wicked, unnatural women, but we are speaking here of nature, and of the name human being that flows from it.
The Latin word homo [= human being] derives from humus [= soil]. That’s why a woman cannot be or be called a human being, because she arose not from the soil, but from a bent rib.
First, the derivation of the Latin word homo from humus has been solemnly affirmed in the warning which God speak to the first human being: “You are soil and to soil you will return.” (Gen 3). At the same time, however, as I proved before, the wife, an image copied from the first image Adam, is nonetheless herself also an image of God. Here too, woman built from a rib (that is earth and taken from earth), is earth herself and a human being. She also dies in the same way as the man. (2) The fact that woman was not directly created from earth, does not only diminish her excellence in any way, it rather increases and enlarges it since she had her origin from more noble material that had previously been part of a human body. (3) Moreover, among scholars arguments based on the derivation of a word, especially when they are unsure and controversial, are looked upon as small-minded and fragile. Also, Julius Caesar Scaliger, who ranks in our time as the grandmaster of etymologists, derives this word homo not from humus but from a Greek word which means: ‘at the same time’, ‘in one heap’, or ‘together’ — which shows that the human being was created as a couple, as man and wife.
Christ himself does not refer to the Canaanite woman as a human being, but calls her a dog.
She is called a dog, not in itself and for its own sake as if she were a dog or another brute animal in nature, but in comparison to the Jews who were at the time the true children of God, on account of the covenant of grace which God had concluded with them.
More about that argument later! What me strikes just now is that the Holy Apostles (Jn 4) were shocked when they saw their master speak to a woman [= the Samaritan woman]. Surely no mystery lies in this!
First, with regard to the woman with whom the Lord Christ spoke, there were good reasons for the disciples to be shocked. In a word, she was a suspect sinner in evil repute. (2) The mystery that lies hidden here is the overwhelming mercy of God that is offered through his beloved Son to all human beings who accept his word in ear and heart. As men or women they may have sinned as severely as they could, [God is merciful] if only they do penance. This counts not against women, but for them.
The Lord Christ says (Mt 24): “Woe to women who are pregnant or who suckle.” If ‘woe’ applies to them, how can they be saved.
Remember (1), the question we discuss is not whether they can be saved but whether they are human. But I notice that you want to say that only human beings will be saved. (2) The reply is that two kinds of woes are found in Scripture, a temporal and an eternal one. Christ meant to refer to the temporal troubles which pregnant and sucking will experience especially at the time of the terrible destruction of Jerusalem. This may not be applied to the eternal woe, which is related to eternal damnation. (3) But with regard to the temporal suffering of Christian women, it is not only not harmful to them, but beneficial for their salvation, as the Apostle Paul teaches (1 Tim 2) when he says: “Woman will be saved through childbearing” (which cannot happen without suffering, pain and fear, Jn 16), so she remains in faith and love and in her sanctification throughout the childbearing process!
[§16. Women were not circumcised.]
Original sin does not come from the mother, for the Law commanded that every male person should be circumcised. Well, women are not circumcised, therefore they are not human.
It is wrong (1) to assume that original sin does not come from the mother as much as from the father. For David says in Psalm 51: “I am born from sinful seed and my mother conceived me in sin”. (2) And as to what you want to prove from women not being circumcised, is far-fetched. For outside the Jewish commonwealth there were numerous men who had not been circumcised and yet were affected by original sin and passed it on to their children, moreover also the Jews possessed original sin before circumcision came to them.
When women sin, they don’t sin as human beings, but as other animals do.
Sinning (1) is and remains sinning whoever sins. (2) You could as well say this about men that when they sin, they don’t sin as human beings but as other animals, that is: they act as and put themselves in the position of non-intelligent animals which do not know God nor keep him before their eyes. I wish to God they would not often, with their beastly behaviour, outdo the wild animals themselves!
You mentioned earlier, quoting the Apostle Paul, that the wife will be saved through childbearing, and from that you want to make women human beings, but you fail miserably. The reply is obvious, namely, animals too give birth with pain but that does not make them human beings.
On this you must note: (1) Since this punishment during delivery was imposed by God on the first woman on account of the fall, something which is not said about animals without intelligence, women have drawn this pain on themselves. (2) Women should be considered human beings on account of their childbearing not because they give birth with pain, but rather because they give birth in a human way and they give birth to human beings. (3) If animals too at times give birth with pain, this cannot be compared with the pains of a woman who is a so much more noble and tender creature.
[§19. Spiritual people should stay away from women.]
On the fear of woman’s bodiliness, read Tina Beattie.
Before we start on another argument, I would like to know – as it were by the way – whether your defence of women does not go against your religious Order, the praiseworthy Society [of Jesus], as it goes against my Order. For I have at times reflected: shouldn’t we both, to safeguard our concience, be talking against women rather than in favour of them?
(1) We are talking here confidentially, so that we don’t imply more than what we are actually talking about. (2) It is the custom among scholars to argue in favour of both parties in a debate. (3) Who could blame us for being concerned about women when the Lord Christ himself in Scripture often pays attention to them. Yes we should pay attention to them, especially in a philosophical discussion, since we ourselves as much as other people derive from them. We are men and only that.
I agree, but what do you say about the slander by heretics that Pope John VIII was a woman? From that it would follow that women are human beings. But I don’t accept it.
Oh stop! Please, don’t talk about it. By that [story] an indelible stain has been cast on us Catholics. Need we be surprised that even the Baptist historians have not ceased blabbering on about it? For me I find that Bellarmine, Baronius and others have provided sufficient contrary evidence, so why bother about those outsiders?
So far our little discussion on the side. But is it not so that all the evil that women have done according to Scripture is praised in them, and all guilt is put on men, as on the human beings. The shameful incest of Lot’s daughters is justified by their father, Rebecca deceives Isaac to get his blessing for Esau, Thamar is commended for her fornication, the whore Rahab betrays her own people and this is reckoned her to justice. Jael strangles Sisera and is called blessed for it. Finally, even Christ himself has not allowed the woman caught in adultery to be punished. These women have not been penalised for their crimes.
Hold on, dear Andrew, or you’ll keel over! For (1) it is wrong that in the Scriptures women are praised for the evil they have done. Also, it’s wrong that all guilt is laid on the men. For even when some of the crimes committed by women have affected men, the women were not excused for whatever evil there was in them, rather they were held accountable as much as if they had been committed by men. For example, Lot’s vice is squarely imputed to the man, that is him as father, because he allowed himself to get drunk and consciously let himself be seduced to incest, but the daughters are not excused for the fact that they so caused the old man to fall. Rebecca deceived Isaac, but not for some evil purpose but showing a praiseworthy prudence, through which divine providence was visibly at work. And what next? Was Thamar praised for her fornication? Not al all. Also, Rahab is applauded (Heb 11) not for having been a whore and traitor, but because of her faith and it was her faith that was reckoned her to justice. Jael is praised because of the heroic deed done to Sisera. Finally, Christ did not want to punish the woman caught in adultery and he would not justify other private persons to punish her. The reason was: it was neither his job nor theirs, but belonged to the secular authorities.
You can say what you like, dear Eugene, I still can’t accept that women are human beings. For if you find the previous argument weak, what do you think of this one? Women and their daughters are not human beings because they do not rise [on the last day]. Why, my friend, will we not marry at the resurrection? Precisely because there will be no women in heaven, since we will all be like God’s angels. And what are the dear angels of God? They are certainly all men and not women!
You lay the answer on my tongue! (1) At the resurrection we will not marry, reason – because we will be like God’s angels. The Lord himself gives this reason and he teaches at the same time that this will not stand in the way of the resurrection of either men or women. (2) You are mixing up the condition of our life on earth with the condition of our life after the resurrection, as far as saved married people are concerned. For then neither men nor women will be interested in marrying or other things of the flesh, but they will altogether enjoy themselves in God’s sight, worshipping and praising him. (3) It is ridiculous that you make angels men, that is, in your opinion, they are just ordinary human beings.
Will women rise? Where is it written? Yes, we read about the daughter of the headmaster (Mt 9) that the Lord Christ raised her up, but this was to earthly life. You must notice that the Lord himself says on that occasion: “The girl is not dead. She is asleep.” For if she had been dead, he would not have raised her. Since she was only asleep however, it wasn’t strange that she could rise again.
You are asking (1) whether it is written in Scripture that women will rise [on the last day]? How can Peter then say (1 Pet 3) that women (with the men) are heirs to the grace of life? They will inherit the grace of life together with the men. Well, then they will rise and not remain in death. (2) But that you, dear Andrew, explain the words of the Lord who calls the death of a girl a sleep in Matthew’s gospel in this way that she had not really been dead, is almost blasphemous and does not become a religious person as you are. Think about it!
Explain it to me as you like, dear Eugene, for I cannot understand how the Lord would otherwise have raised her up again. That is also what the servant of the headmaster means when he came to his boss and told him that his daughter had died. For he added: “Why bother the Master any further?” For he knew that, once a woman has died, it was useless to call on Christ’s assistance.
Pay attention. (1) Don’t you remember at least this much from your being a Christian? The Lord raised her up through his omnipotent power. That was a easy for him as waking her up from sleep. (2) The witness of the servant unnerves your previous contention that the girl was not truly dead, but only asleep. (3) The ground why that servant did not want to bother the Lord any further seems more his politeness, but it arose from the fact that he considered the Lord only a human being. Don’t you think so too?
I know in that case what to believe. Since we are both gut Roman Catholics, it will hopefully not too far that we also produce some relevant facts from our Church’s legends. We read about the saintly Bishop Germanus that he miraculously raised up a donkey but nobody will conclude from that that the donkey will rise [to eternal life]. Therefore it does not follow from the fact that the little daughter was raised to life, that women will rise again [on the last day].
For us Catholics, indeed, (1) that story is indisputable and no one should take exception to it. Unfortunately we experience that heretics do not behave like that, rather they burst out in derision. We should be aware of that. (2) Also, we should notice a dissimilarity between Christ and Germanius. For Germanius did not raise the donkey through his own power, as Christ raised the little girl. (3) When we say that the fact of the girl’s raising by the Lord points to his raising all women at the last day, then we are speaking of an example of the true and final resurrection, namely that of intelligent creatures.
[§24. Women are illiterate.]
When we start from the essentials of our Christian Catholic doctrine, who is so blind and brainless that he does not see and understand that women are surely not human beings. For women don’t get involved in words and scriptures, but only in deeds.
Now you’re really joking, Andrew! For in that case they are good Catholics, don’t you think?
It is an article of Christian faith in which women give themselves a lot of credit! In the same way, as far as I know, they appeal to the article of the resurrection of Christ, when they say: “Are we not human beings since Christ after his glorious resurrection revealed himself first to women?” To that we need to answer that, when Christ was born, he showed himself first to the ox and the ass, yet the ox and the ass were never human beings.
The revelation of the Lord (1) only has meaning for intelligent creatures for whose good he came into the world. (2) It is unbecoming and laughable to say that the new born Saviour, a small child unable to speak, showed himself to the ox and ass. Being seen by an ox and an ass, and showing oneself to them are two different things.
As to laughing, that surely should not be at my expense, especially concerning women. You have overlooked something in your answer, Father Eugene: for you should have indicated the reason why Christ showed himself first to women. Since you did not do so, will I take the trouble to make up for it. It happened especially to ensure that his resurrection would be spread around and communicated as soon and as efficiently as possible. For whatever a woman knows, she passes on immediately not only to neighbours and close friends, but soon the whole community, yes the whole town hears of it.
There are many reasons why Christ revealed himself first to women. (1) I myself consider the best reason that it happened because the women were the first to seek the Lord. The men, such as the apostles, had hidden themselves and barred themselves in. They did not have the courage to make such an early start as seeking the Lord on the third day after his prophecy and promise. (2) You ascribe it to the loquacity and feebleness of women. This would certainly have been useful to the Lord if he had lacked other means. (3) You must remember that these were saintly and devout women (whom we Catholics honour so much on that account). They announced the resurrection to the disciples not with noise and fuss, but with the highest devotion and modesty.
[§27. Women cannot be valid witnesses.]
Prejudices like this came from Roman Law, which was accepted later in secular and Church Law.
Right! They announced the resurrection. Just what I was going to point out. For it is commonly known that women are to be rejected as witnesses and to be counted as useless. Therefore the Lord did not use them as witnesses, but only for propaganda.
Not for propaganda, (1) that was the task of the Apostles in due course, but only to pass on the message to the disciples so that these could come and see things for themselves, or at least remember the Lord’s promise. (2) But that women are not accepted as witnesses in secular courts, is not relevant here. There is good reason for it, but that does not reduce them to being less than human. The same was indicated earlier, namely why women cannot be appointed to public offices.
Look at Thomas, the doubter. Precisely for that reason he did not believe the other disciples and accept that the Lord was risen, because they had heard it only from women and not from men.
It contradicts (1) the statement of the disciples who say: “We have seen the Lord” (Jn 20). They don’t say: “The women told us about him and his resurrection.” (2) Yes, they had heard the same thing earlier from the women, but this time they had seen it for themselves, as they tell Thomas. (3) How can you blame the women, if Thomas did not believe them? It was due to his lack of faith and his distrust of other people.
How did the Apostle then believe at first that the women were mad when these said that the Lord was risen? Well, it is such a strange and unusual event to hear something from women that is intelligent and true!
The Apostles considered the words of the women fools’ talk and monkey business (as Lk 24 shows), but who was to blame for this? The women and their message, or rather the Apostles themselves? For example, when heretics consider everything the Roman Catholic Church commands to be idolatry and us idolators, as their writings and speeches manifest, is that the fault of the Catholic Church, or their own fault? I believe it is their own fault. The same applies here. (2) Notice also that St. Peter (whose see has been inherited by our Father the Pope, as no one will deny) persuaded by their message, dressed and ran quickly to the tomb, and saw for himself that he was not there and risen. We can learn from this that if he had reckoned women foolish and feeble, he would have disregarded their message and omitted a good action. (3) It was mainly due to their lack of faith and fearfulness that the Apostles gave so little credence to the women. That is why, though they held the women otherwise to be trustworthy, they could not so easily agree to them in this case until they themselves had seen and experienced it. And what wonder is it that they did not believe the women, since they did not believe the Lord, their master and the truth itself when he had so often foretold and promised such a resurrection, yes, when he even showed himself to them after he had risen from the dead?
The women have also no claim on the holy sacraments. If women [in the Old Testament] were not circumcised, they should also not be baptised, for baptism was instituted to replace circumcision. What has been done to them so far, has been purely to avoid upsetting them.
Such a thing I have never heard a Catholic religious say, and I don’t believe that even the Holy Father the Pope has such an unfriendly attitude to women as you have! The holy sacraments certainly are meant for women. For (1) just as in the Old Testament they were considered circumcised, through their men as mentioned earlier, so should also in the New Testament baptism not be denied to them. (2) That they themselves are baptised and in their own flesh in the New Testament we owe to a very wise dispensation of God who has a wider view in the New Testament which is not only directed at the Jews but also at the pagans. (3) Your opinion is also contradicted by the fact that in the whole of Christendom women are baptised as much as men, and this not only to avoid upsetting them, as you maintain, but necessarily and on account of God’s command: “Go and teach all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
But what is the sentence that follows on it? It says: “Qui baptizatus [= male form in Latin], i.e. the man who believes and is baptised”, and not “qui fuerit baptizata [= female form in Latin], i.e. the woman who is baptised”. It also does not say: “salva erit [= female form in Latin], i.e. she will be saved”, but “salvus erit [= male form in Latin], i.e. he will be saved”. In this place you have to pay attention to the letters that are used.
I am almost ashamed to reply to that! I wish there was a schoolboy here who could speak for me! (1) As to the pronoun quis, ‘who’, it means as much as “a human being whoever he or she may be”, that is: it refers to both genders. It applies without difference to both men and women. Since in Christ there is no longer man or woman, as we have already seen from the Apostle Paul. (2) As to the words baptizatus (baptised) and salvus (saved), these are formulated as masculine in the Latin language. But in the Greek language, as in our own mother tongue [German] this does not apply. (3) Therefore it is utterly ridiculous that you maintain we should pay attention to the letter here, and not to the example and the mind.
[§32. Women were not present at the Last Supper.]
For the scriptural background, read Tunc and Maguire.
The same is true with regard to the holy sacrifice of Mass or the sacrament of the altar, as some call it. Christ celebrated this with his disciples as with men and human beings. He did not allow women to approach the table. Otherwise he would have had to start washing the feet of the women, if he did not want to seem ill-mannered.
What are you saying now?! Andrew, you must have watched all the business of women since you bring out so many things about them. I thought I was the only one who was so interested in them, so that I could take care of them and protect them! Ha, ha, ha! For though the Lord Christ does not invite women to the table at the service of Holy Mass, even less washed their feet beforehand, he has all the more wanted to commend them to us, in order that we nourish them too [through holy communion], and not only the men, as has been the custom for many hundreds of years, and also sprinkle holy water on them, on their heads, and other limbs and also their feet. And why should the abbess not wash the feet of her nuns, and the abbott that of his monks?
[§33. Christ did not want to have anything to do with women.]
The Gospels show just the opposite.
To make a speedy end of it, my dear Eugene, what must I make of the word in Jn 2 which Christ speaks to his mother: “Woman, what have I to do with you?” If he does not want to have anything to do with his mother, how much less with other women.
It is quite right, Andrew, that, as is becoming to a Catholic Christian, you ask your question about the worthy mother of God with more circumspection. For she may not be treated as just any ordinary woman. If Christ the Lord did not want to be told what to do, it was not to oppose his mother, but because it was not yet the time to perform a miracle (as he as omniscient Saviour alone knew). Even so he decided to help the young couple concerned and to please his mother.
[§34. Women have to wear veils because they are impure.]
Read the scriptural background for this, and how women were considered unclean.
St Paul also says that women should be veiled because they are impure. It follows from it that women cannot be saved because nothing impure can enter the Kingdom of God. And if they are not saved, I do not consider them human beings.
The reason (1) why the Apostle tells women to be veiled is not really that they are impure, because it is a question here of public worship. He tells them to be veiled for the sake of good order, and to show their obedience, or as the text literally says, because of the angels, who, as Chrysostom explains, are their witnesses of obedience or disobedience. (2) That women are sometimes held to be impure, belongs to the many defects and weaknesses we have to put up with in life. (3) Such defects and shortcomings in women as happens to them in life, do not detract from their salvation, as little as their bearing children as we saw before.
Christ himself said: “Who wants to be perfect should give up on woman”. That’s why he took no wife, and that’s why the holy Apostles got rid of their wives, and advised other men to do the same.
It has to be understood conditionally that Christ tells those who want to be perfect to leave their wife; if, namely, the woman would oppose a man who wants to be perfect. Because he also says that one should equally leave one’s parents (Mt 19 and elsewhere). (2) He did not marry himself because it contradicted his mission and his task in the world. (3) The fact that the Apostles left their wives and so wanted to set an example to others, should not be extended beyond the task they had to accomplish in this world and the context of their own time. We are speaking here about the ordinary life of people, not about the clergy in our own time.
[§36. Females are born as abnormalities.]
This is what Thomas Aquinas taught, and was his main reason for excluding women from ordination.
I am keeping you too long, Father Eugene. Otherwise I could give you many more arguments by which I can prove that women are no human beings. It’s no use that you contend that every creature gives birth to its own kind, and that is why women must be human beings because, as mentioned earlier, they do give birth to human beings. Also, it’s no use that someone may be so bold as to tell a person to his face: “What? Was your mother a pig or a dog?” For then we can reply: “My mother was a woman, and nothing more.” And note, when a woman produces a daughter, she gives birth to the same kind, for she has given life to something equal to her a monstrum [= abnormality].
Experience shows (1) that every creature gives birth to a being according to its own kind. (2) Small wonder that women get impatient when they are taunted as not being human, and then become personal! (3) The giving birth is the same, whether the child is a son or a daughter, because she can only give birth as she conceived from the man.
[§37. The abnormality of women shows up in their menstruation.]
About this taboo, read Ranke-Heinemann.
The giving birth may be the same, but the birth is not. For when, as mentioned, the birth is a girl, it is a monstrum, as the mother herself. And there is nothing new, as far as the sons are concerned, that women also give birth to human beings who are not of the same kind as they are. For from a horse or a mule, only a donkey is born, from horse shit (excuse the expression) beetles, from sweat lice, from dust fleas, and so on. From a philosphical point of view, one knows that a human being has a pure nature. But woman is poisoned. The experience is found in her monthly flow, how harmful it is. I need not say more about this.
Monstrum is in one word: erratum naturae propter materiae inconstantiam, that is: a defect in nature because of an irregularity of matter, as known from Aristotle. Well, be so cheeky to point out such an erratum, a defect in nature, in women as they are born every day in the unhindered course of nature? Sometimes also monstrosi partus (miscarriages) of female gender are born, but the same happens with those of male gender. (2) As to the unequal birth among cattle or insects, who does not notice that these do not at all fit the birth of women? (3) If a human being has a pure nature, from a philosophical point of view, so has woman. As stated in this connection, also her monthly cleansing.
[§38. Sirach teaches that women are evil.]
My final summary: however poisonous an animal can be, a woman is more poisonous, yes more devilish and more malicious than the devil himself. That’s why Sirach says: “It is better to live among lions and dragons than with an evil woman”. Although one can find quite a few of them who politely hide their malice from people under conventional modesty, their inborn character and nature remains in secula seculorum [in all eternity]! For if one is good, a thousand will be against her. But if one is as keen as the others on venomous malice, then no letter or seal of a Lord will be of use, for women do not really want to leave the last word to anyone else. So they will not be able to refrain from asking another question. Namely, if they are no human beings, but beasts, to what animal should they be compared, so that they follow its example?
Euripides gives them an answer to this. They resemble hyenas, that is they are like: corpse-eaters, gluttons and wolves. If the women desire to know for what reasons they are compared to this, then they should be told: this corpse-eater, glutton, wolf has the head of a cat, the stomach of a wolf, and the tail of a fox.
From cats women have it in their nature to swallow, lick, stick near the stove, purr, prune, scratch and scrape, claw with sharp nails, hiss, spit, seethe, and show a venomous mood.
From their wolf’s stomach women have it in them never to be satisfied, the grabbing, embezzling, pilfering and robbing, growing lazy, greedy, harsh and bitter, having a big mouth and green eyes, being wild till pinned down.
From the fox women draw every ploy, trick and deceit, the nestling in strange nests, the being no good except for the bladder, and that’s why they can neither be cooked nor roasted. And just like the fox which is only useful when skinned, so quite a few women are only of use when they die.
You are a Benedictine [= someone who blesses]. OK. Beware that you don’t become for pious women a Maledictine [= someone who curses]. Use that kind of language only about evil women. I myself do not doubt, yes I agree, that evil women should be painted in such or similar colours and be exposed to the whole world.
But please, what we have discussed so far in great confidence and for the sake of the spirit, take with you in good trust. And, please, in the future leave out your teasing as if I love women – realise what you are saying! I have done my best to make clear what I find good or evil in this matter. See my right hand, and my trust. Goodbye!
End of this discussion
Please, credit this document
as published by www.womenpriests.org!
This 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.
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.