The Ordination of Women, the State of the Question in the Roman Catholic Church

by Eric Doyle OFM
Canterbury 1975

Paper submitted to the Working Group on the Ordination of Women, convened by the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Consultation (ARCIC), Assisi 1975


It is my task to present the position of the Roman Catholic Church concerning the question of the ordination of women. If this task meant no more than to state the official position of this Church, then it would be sufficient to read out one sentence from the Codex Iuris Canonici, canon 968, par.1. However, this would clearly be unsatisfactory for two reasons. The first is the extent of the discussions now taking place at different levels in the Roman Catholic Church on this very question; the second is the ecumenical dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

With regard to the first reason it has to be noted that the entire biblical, traditional, theological and anthropological basis of the official position has been submitted to critical study by a significant number of Roman Catholic theologians. No approach to this question by a Roman Catholic theologian today can ignore the fact that over the past few years three views have emerged in this Church on this question: that against the ordination of women, that in favour of the ordination of women and that which maintains there to be nothing in principle against the ordination of women but holds it to be inopportune for the foreseeable future.

With regard to the second reason we must remember as Roman Catholics that the Anglican Communion may well have women priests in the near future. It is not satisfactory just to state baldly the official position of our Church because this would contribute nothing to the ecumenical endeavour and it would be, in fact, a pointless exercise. The ecumenical movement is a vast communal preparation for holy communion and mere statements of official positions contribute nothing towards this preparation. Furthermore, we must remain totally open to the possibility that the Anglican Communion may well be right and acting in complete conformity to the will of God in incorporating women priests into the Church’s ministry.

There are, of course, quite a number of theologians in the Anglican Communion who are opposed to the ordination of women. The arguments they put forward are identical for the most part with those given by their counterparts in the Roman Catholic Church. Opinions and positions on this as on many another question cut right across the confessional boundaries. It will not be out of place, therefore, if direct reference is made to some of the arguments employed by Anglican theologians who are against the ordination of women. We have in mind here particularly Professor Eric Mascall whose influence is considerable. His pamphlet Women Priests?, first published in September 1972 by the Church Literature Association, has since been reprinted five times.

We are dealing with a delicate question. There are very few, if indeed any, other questions in the Church which evoke more emotional, not to say irrational, responses than the ordination of women. The question is also complex because it is closely tied up with a number of other important theological issues, one’s attitude to which influences profoundly the position adopted on women priests. These issues concern: ecclesiology, the nature of the ministry, the task of theology, the meaning of Tradition and traditions, the place of women in the Church and in society at large and so on. Consequently, we have striven to proceed in great peace and with calm theological reflection throughout the course of this paper. Above all we have tried to do justice to the arguments on all sides. In particular we have devoted a special paragraph to a consideration of the relevant New Testament texts, precisely because it is often maintained by those opposed to the ordination of women that the scriptural evidence is given scant treatment and is dismissed too quickly by those who are in favour of the ordination of women.

The paper is divided into five main sections. The first describes in general terms the context in which the question as we see it is to be understood. A number of preliminary points are also established which are essential to our treatment of the question. The second section presents the position on the ordination of women as this is to be found in the Codex Iuris Canonici. Following this, brief analysis is given of the arguments contained in commentaries on the canonical position by a canon lawyer, a moralist and a dogmatic theologian. The third section contains in some detail an account of the arguments theological, biblical, anthropological, psychological and ecumenical against the ordination of women. The fourth section presents theological reflections on the arguments against the ordination of women. The fifth and final section is concerned with the state of the question in the Roman Catholic Church in the light of the foregoing reflections.

Franciscan Study Centre Eric Doyle OFM.
The Feast of St John Damascene
December 1975




I.1 The New World: The period that has no name

I.2 Development of ecclesiology in the Roman Catholic Church

I.3 The Sources of renewal: The Gospel and the signs of the times

I.4 The Question of Women and Ordination


II.1 Canon 968, par.1

II.2 Commentaries on canon 968, par.1

II.3 Relevant biblical texts

II.4 The Early Tradition

II.5 Some General Conclusions


III.1 The argument from Tradition

III.2 The revolutionary character of Christianity

III.3 The order of creation and redemption

III.4 Psychological differences

III.5 Ecumenical considerations

III.6 Further arguments


IV.1 The sufficiency of the arguments against the ordination of women

IV.2 The newness of the question today

IV.3 Examination of the arguments against the ordination of women

IV.4 Conclusion from the examination of these arguments


V.1 Further remarks on canon 968, par.1

V.2 The state of the question in the Roman Catholic Church

V.3 The priesthood: a ministry of the Church


Introductory Remarks

I.1 The new world: The period that has no name

During a casual table conversation quite recently in Canterbury about the problems raised for the Church and society as a whole by the phenomenon of sex change, I was asked what answer the Church would give to a person who, having undergone a sex change from female to male, requested ordination to the priesthood. As may be imagined, the question left me slightly puzzled. What indeed would or could the Church say in such a case? Now I have no intention of entering here into the maze of delicate problems involved in this question as that would serve no useful purpose at present. I have begun by relating this anecdote merely to emphasise an important fact: the fact, namely, that we live in a world which in a number of significant respects is vastly different from any other that has gone before us in Western society and particularly one that is very different from the world the Lord Jesus entered and lived in and into which He sent His first preachers, the Apostles.

We have in mind here of course the advanced technological world of the West and those countries in other parts of the globe, for example, Japan, which have been most deeply influenced by it. This world has entered a period of history which as yet is without a name. Here in Europe we are familiar with a tripartite division of our past into Antiquity, the Middle Ages and Modern Times. If, for the sake of argument only we accept this division (there are a number of convincing arguments against it), we must now recognise that we have already entered the fourth: the period that has no name. Along with the United States of America, Japan and the other parts of the earth where western technological culture has taken root, we find ourselves in a period which can be described with no greater precision than ‘Period X’, whatever we may guess the title to be which future historians may decide or be forced to use for it.

Among the many features which distinguish it from all that has gone before we wish to select two: awareness of the future and the world between man and nature. Firstly, awareness of the future. Man in biological space-time has come to understand himself as open to all kinds of possibilities which it is in his power to actualise. This understanding has brought with it an awareness of the future which, in its turn, carries within itself the certain knowledge that the future can be controlled in a number of significant ways. It has grown increasingly at a time when mankind has never known more about the past, both cosmic and biological, both cultural and historical. We have a sense of responsibility for the future and above all a sense of accountability to the future for the decisions we make now.

Secondly, western man has constructed a world of his own between himself and nature. We no longer see at first sight a world of divinely established and unchangeable order, but rather a world made by man which can be pulled down and re-fashioned at will. We can change nature and we can change ourselves and our environment for better or for worse.

An important conclusion which the presence of this new world has brought home to the theologian is that he needs to be cautious in the use of arguments based ‘on the nature of things’. We do not suggest that such reasoning has been totally neutralised, but we would submit that it has become problematic. The fact, for example, that both personality and sexuality can be changed by artificial (?) as opposed to natural (?) means, certainly gives pause for thought. Moreover, the interpretations of phusis or natura given by Martin Heidegger as expressing being in such a way as to include becoming as well, is further reason, so it seems to us, for caution in the use of arguments based ‘on the nature of things’(2).

I.2 Development of ecclesiology in the Roman Catholic Church

From the point of view of the development of doctrine this century is undoubtedly the age of the Church. The last decade has been crucial in the Roman Catholic Church’s self-understanding and in her understanding of her relationships with other Christians, the World Religions, atheism and with the structures of the world as such. The Ecumenical Council and in particular the Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium did not mark the end of a process which can be traced back to the late eighteenth century. On the contrary these were important moments in a process that is still going on and which will continue to go on for many years to come. It is a process of continuing renewal which contains as part of its very structure a questioning process which has given rise to many new questions and others which, though not new, have not been asked in quite the same way before. As a result some of our most cherished ‘beliefs’, opinions and practices have come up for very close scrutiny indeed. This questioning process marks a return to the inquiry of the quaestio away from the pedagogy of the thesis – to use Fr Bernard Lonergan’s description – and thus it has altered a method which has been in possession since the late seventeenth century in the theology of the Roman Catholic Church.(3) We have learnt from this process to make important distinctions such as that between unity and uniformity, that between diversity and division, that between essential and accidental in the faith and worship, life and mission of the Church. Self-understanding through questioning is a structural element in the renewal of the Church taking place in our time.

I.3 The Sources of Renewal: the Gospel and the signs of the times

In every renewal the Church draws on a twofold source: the Gospel and the signs of the times, that is, on the Word and the world in which the Church finds herself. The Gospel is not to be taken here only to mean the written content of Holy Scripture. The authority of the Church and the apostolic succession cannot be reduced to the canonisation of the apostolic writings. The Gospel embraces at once the Verbal presence of Christ – the Bible, the Sacramental Presence of Christ – pre-eminently the Blessed Eucharist, the Mystical Presence of Christ – the Church of all times from the apostolic period to the present. Thus it is that Scripture and Tradition may never be separated. In her consciousness of this threefold Presence of the Christ Who is the Risen and Glorified Kurios in the world, the Church has the primary source of every renewal.

Secondly, the Church must recognise the signs of the times because her mission is to make the Lord of the Church the Lord of the world. Since the Ecumenical Council the Church has been taking a long look at the world as it is now: man’s world of advanced technology, of political upheaval and economic uncertainty, of growing awareness of human autonomy, of senseless violence and longing for peace, of demand for equal rights and opportunities between men and women, of loneliness and confusion, of religious hunger that cloaks itself under a thin veil of agnosticism. She has learned to listen carefully to the babel of voices clamouring from every side in order to discern which may contain a message from the Holy Spirit.

I.4 The Question of Women and Ordination

It is in the context of the new period of history which has no name, of the growth in the Church’s self-understanding and of the two sources of perennial renewal – the Gospel and the signs of the times – that the question of the ordination of women is to be examined. It is beyond any doubt that among the signs of the times is to be counted the movement for the emancipation and equality of women. As one writer has described it:

The emancipation of women in Western society, with its slow but inevitable repercussions on the culture of other sections of the globe, constitutes one of the most important sociological phenomena of the second half of the twentieth century. Women are progressively gaining access – very often not without encountering keen resistance – to the professions and educational disciplines of all kinds, to every political office, to all walks of cultural life(4).

It must be admitted that the Church has not failed to give recognition to this movement in her official documents and to acknowledge its importance in principle. The Vatican Council in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, speaking of the fundamental rights of the human person, deprecates as contrary to the will of God every form of discrimination “whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, colour, social condition, language or religion”(5). In expressing its regret that fundamental personal rights are not yet being universally honoured, the Constitution points out: “Such is the case of a woman who is denied the right and freedom to choose a husband, to embrace a state of life, or to acquire an education or cultural benefits equal to those recognised for men”(6). Furthermore, while the domestic role of the mother must be preserved it is not to be used to underestimate the legitimate social progress of women(7). According to the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity it is precisely because women have taken an ever more active share in the whole life of society that they should have greater participation in the various areas of the Church’s apostolate(8). Among the closing speeches of the Council a special message was addressed to “women of all states – girls, wives, mothers, and widows...consecrated virgins and women living alone [who] constitute half of the immense human family”(9).

Pope Paul VI has made a number of very positive references to the movement for the emancipation of women. Worthy of special mention is his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus published in February 1974, concerning the right ordering and development of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Pope takes care to emphasise the active and responsible role of the Virgin Mary in the mystery of salvation and to stress how precisely in her activity, rather than in her passivity and submissiveness, she is the model of modern woman(10). However, it is not only her relationship to woman that the Pope is concerned with in his Exhortation. Mary is also a model for men: “the Blessed Virgin does not disillusion any of the profound expectations of the men and women of our time but offers them the perfect model of the disciple of the Lord”(11). In a speech delivered on 18th April 1975 the Pope pointed out that Christian women have an irreplaceable part to play in the establishment of peace on this earth and in the construction of a more just society(12).

As a result of the gradual emancipation of women it was to be expected that sooner or later speculation would begin about the possibility of women priests. During the last few years the topic has received close attention and a considerable amount of publicity.

The purpose of this contribution is to examine the question of the ordination of women in the light of the Roman Catholic faith, tradition and practice. There are a number of preliminary remarks to be made in connection with the question which are essential to our treatment of the subject.

Firstly, we are dealing with a question of possibility. The question is: Can women be ordained to the sacred ministry of the Church? Ministry is understood here to embrace the diaconate, the priesthood and the episcopate. If they can be ordained then all subsequent questions will be concerned with practical issues and details. We are treating, therefore, a matter of principle.

The second preliminary remark is that this question is a theological one and not an exclusively sociological question. It involves the faith and the tradition of the Church at various levels and in different ways. We are not in agreement, therefore, with Fr Richard A. McCormick who was reported recently in the press to have stated that this is not a theological issue. It appears that he took the Archbishop of Cincinnati to task for maintaining that the question involves a serious theological issue.(13) In our view this cannot be denied but it does not mean that there are theological arguments only against the ordination of women. No doubt Archbishop Bernardin of Cincinnati was concerned chiefly with the theological arguments against women priests, but this is no excuse for excluding theological considerations from the question altogether. There are theological arguments also in favour of the ordination of women! Theology has certainly not the only word on the issue and doubtless it will not have the last word either. That it has something to say about it appears to be self-evident.

In a paper published over ten years ago under the title: The Position of Women in the new situation in which the Church finds herself Fr Karl Rahner maintained:

there can be no real point or prospect of achieving anything by pursuing this question [women and holy orders] at this point in the history of the Church’s understanding of her own faith and of her practice outside the specialist circles of those engaged in scientific theology. Nor is it of any avail to point to the developments in theology and in actual practice with regard to this question which have taken place among Evangelical Christians. For these do not in fact recognise any official priesthood based on sacramental consecration such as provides the basis for the fundamental distinction between clergy and people(14).

This text calls for two comments. Firstly, much has happened in the decade since Rahner wrote those words. The question has been discussed at very many levels “outside the specialist circles of those engaged in scientific theology” and women have been ordained in the Episcopal Church. The fact that the question is discussed outside theological circles shows it to be a topical, live and important issue and is an added reason why the question should be pursued with vigour by professional theologians. Indeed developments over the past ten years may be the explanation of Fr Rahner’s slightly different view expressed in 1972. He wrote then:

In this connection, of course, the question might be raised whether today or at least tomorrow, in the light of the secular social situation, a woman could be considered just as much as man for leadership of a basic community and therefore could be ordained to the priestly office. Having in mind the society of today and even more of tomorrow, I see no reason in principle to give a negative answer to the question(15).

Fr Rahner was not opposed to the ordination of women ten years ago. The point we are emphasising is that he appears to have shifted his position on its opportuneness. He noted in passing in the previous article that in many instances those who put forward the theological arguments to support the impossibility of women priests “are unconsciously and without realising it working from positions deriving from an age which is no longer with us and with which we no longer need to identify ourselves”(16).

Our second comment on Fr Rahner’s earlier text concerns his statement about the significance of what has taken place among evangelical Christians. To say that it is of no avail to point to the developments which have taken place among these because they do not recognise any official priesthood, is too general a statement. Professor J-J von Allmen, the Calvinist theologian, criticises Catholic theologians who assume that this view of the ministry is held indiscriminately by all Protestants(17). Professor von Allmen’s view is that the ministry is of the esse of the Church and requires more than baptism for its reception and practice. Von Allmen, incidentally, is opposed to the ordination of women.

Our third preliminary remark concerns the meaning of ministry. According to the Catholic faith we profess the existence of a true, official priesthood which owes its origin to divine institution. It is exercised in various orders: bishops, priests and deacons(18). It is distinct from the common priesthood of the faithful “in essence and not only in degree”(19). Its powers are conferred by a special sacrament and its ministers are distinguished by a special character(20). We are treating the question, therefore, in terms of this doctrinal position of the Catholic Church, namely, the qualitative distinction within the People of God between the baptismal priesthood and the ministerial priesthood conferred by a true and distinct sacrament in the Church: Holy Order. We cannot here examine the development of the meaning of Church office and its application. We should remember, however, that the concept of ecclesiastical office has never been defined precisely. It has been used not only in a juridical sense but also in a liturgical sense(21). Further, we cannot enter into the dialogue over Church office(22) nor can we attempt any assessment of what percentage of women who might feel called to the priesthood, would want to accept the priesthood as it is now practised in the Western Church(23), though it seems clear that women priests would bring a new dimension to the priestly ministry(24). These are issues which would require long and detailed treatment which would take us beyond our terms of reference.

The fourth preliminary remark is that mankind is created in the image of God:

God created man [adam] in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them(25).

Commenting on this text G. von Rad points out:

Sexual distinction is also created. The plural in v. 27 (“he created them”) is intentionally contrasted with the singular (“him) and prevents one from assuming the creation of an originally androgynous man...The idea of man according to P finds its full meaning not in the male alone but in man and woman(26).

Woman, therefore, is understood to describe those persons who together with men constitute humanity upon this earth and who together are created in the image of God(27).

The fifth and final preliminary remark concerns the priesthood as a grace. It must be emphasised that the priesthood is not a right. Men do not have a right to be ordained; they are called by God’s grace and are set apart to proclaim the truth of the Gospel and to serve and lead the People of God. Thus the question of the ordination of women must not be reduced to a sordid issue about equal rights. The issue of equal rights is applicable to other questions, but not to this. This does not mean that in our view the question of the ordination of women is to be separated from the general movement of women’s emancipation – theology does not pursue its task in a vacuum and women’s emancipation is not only a movement about rights but also about grace. The question, then, is not whether women have the right to be ordained, but whether they can be ordained or whether they can receive the grace of vocation to the priesthood.


The Position According to the Codex Iuris Canonici

II.1 Canon 968, par.1

The canonical position of the Roman Catholic Church about the subject of sacred orders is stated clearly and succinctly in canon 968, par.1 of the Codex Iuris Canonici: “Sacram ordinationem valide recipit solus vir baptizatus”(28). This canon sums up the entire tradition from Gratian onwards, who himself received a tradition in the matter that had been developing for centuries(29). In their commentaries on this statement of the Code canonists, moral theologians and dogmatic theologians have expressed total unanimity. In evidence of this unanimity we now cite one author from each category.

II.2 Commentaries on canon 968, par.1

The canonist Felix M. Capello SJ, maintains that women are incapable of receiving the priesthood and the diaconate in virtue of divine law: “Mulieres iure divino sunt procul dubio incapaces tum presbyteratus tum veri diaconatus a Christo institui”(30). In another work he lists as incapable of receiving sacred orders: angels, separated souls, viatores not baptised by baptism of water and women(31).

The moralist, M. Zalba SJ, states that women are excluded by divine law from sacred orders: “Iure enim divino excluduntur feminae ab ordinatione”(32). He argues that this is sufficiently clear from Holy Scripture (he cites 1 Cor 14: 34-35; 1 Tim 2:12) and from the constant tradition and practice of the Church(33).

The dogmatic theologian A. Tanquerey holds that by divine law only men can validly receive the sacrament of orders: “Iure divino soli homines viatores sexus masculini possunt valide recipere sacramentum ordinis”(34). To support this he refers to 1 Cor 14: 34-35 and 1 Tim 2: 11ff.; from tradition he mentions St Irenaeus, St Epiphanius, St Augustine and the Constitutiones apostolicae. He points out that the Pepuzians, Marcosians and Collyridians, all of whom had women priests, were considered heretics by St Irenaeus, St Epiphanius and St Augustine(35).

The canonical position, therefore, is stated to be in virtue of divine law by these and all other manualists and commentators until very recent times on the basis of a number of scriptural texts and an argument from the constant tradition of the Church. Neither of these arguments can be simply dismissed because they have been invoked with such unanimity right up to the present time. They cannot be brushed aside merely by saying that the authors involved – back to Paul the Apostle – were men of their time conditioned totally by the thought patterns and outlook of their age. This argument is a little too superficial, not entirely correct and unsatisfactory to those who oppose the ordination of women. Thus we need to make some brief assessment, at least, of the scriptural and traditional data used by these authors and commentators in order to judge the force of the reasoning on which the canonical position has been based.

II.3 Relevant biblical texts

It is beyond question that women were involved in the evangelising work of the early Church by preaching and catechising, though chiefly with women and only loosely connected with the official and liturgical gatherings of the communities.

In Romans 16: 1-6 St Paul gives the names of a number of women who have worked with him: Phoebe, διάκονος of the church at Cenchreae; Prisca (Priscilla: cf. Acts 18:2; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Tim 4:19) who was a fellow worker in Christ Jesus; Mary and the mother of Rufus. Phoebe was evidently a deaconess. The word used to describe her: διάκονος , is a very general term which tells us little or nothing about what her functions were. The ministry of women in the early Church is shrouded in obscurity. CH Dodd suggests: “We may assume that whatever the ‘deacons’ were at Philippi [cf. Phil 1:1] that Phoebe was at Cenchreae. In the (probably post-Pauline) First Epistle to Timothy (3:8-13), deacons are a recognised order and something is said of their qualifications for office, but nothing of their functions. But we may fairly suppose that the order of deacons which emerges in the second century, with special charge of the more secular side of the Church’s affairs, had its origins in Paul’s own time; and that it then included women as well as men”(36). According to Franz J Leenhardt diaconos in Rom 16:1 designates an office, an established function, since it has οΰσαν as a participle and της εκκλησίας as its genitive(37).

Moreover, Evodia and Syntyche (Phil 4: 2-3) fought at Paul’s own side in the active service of the Gospel(38). Lightfoot suggests that Evodia and Syntyche may possibly like Phoebe have been deaconesses in the Philippian church(39). The social position and influence of women in Macedonia was higher than in most parts of the civilised world as may be gathered from the Acts of the Apostles(40). Lightfoot continues: “Whether I am right or not in the conjecture that the work of the Gospel was in this respect aided by the social condition in Macedonia, the active zeal of the women in this country is a remarkable fact, without a parallel in the Apostle’s history elsewhere and only to be compared with their prominence at an earlier date in the personal ministry of our Lord”(41).

In 1 Cor 11:2-16 St Paul argues on the basis of Gen 2:18-23 that man is the head of the woman. This may mean in fact that the husband is the head of the wife. Paul sets up “a chain of originating and subordinating relationships...God, Christ, man, woman. From this proposition practical consequences are deduced”(42). A man who takes part in public worship – who prays and prophesies in the assembly – must do so with uncovered head; a woman who takes part in public worship must do so wearing a veil. This passage in 1 Cor is clear testimony that women prayed and prophesied in public worship and Paul obviously approves of it as a general practice at Corinth. There is very little to support EB Allo’s view that Paul was here treating of exceptional cases(43). On the necessity of women being veiled during worship MD Hooker has written: “According to Paul, however, it is man, and not woman, who is the glory of God, and who will therefore naturally play the active role in worship: if now woman also, in contrast to Jewish custom, takes part in prayer and prophecy, this is because a new power has been given her...Yet now woman, too, speaks to God in prayer and declares his word in prophecy; to do this she needs authority and power from God. The headcovering which symbolises the effacement of man’s glory in the presence of God also serves as the sign of the έζοσία which is given to woman”(44). On this understanding the veil has become the symbol of a woman’s right to pray in public and to prophesy. It is not a sign of her subjection to man (to her husband?) but of her authority to pray and prophecy. It has been argued, moreover, that in 1 Cor 11:2-16 the primary issue is the hair-style of the wives at public worship. Paul did not in fact require that women wear veils, he was principally concerned to regulate their relationship to their husbands as they prayed and prophesied in the assembly(45).

Against this background of women’s ministry in the early apostolic Church and of their undoubted right to pray and prophesy publicly in the assembly, we may turn to the content of the texts specifically cited above in paragraph II.2 in support of the exclusion of women from ordination to the priesthood. It may be said in general that biblical studies and critical exegesis have neutralised the authority of these texts as arguments against the ordination of women.

1. 1 Cor 14:33b-35

As in all the churches of the saints, [34] the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, even as the law says. [35] If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. (RSV)

Too much undoubtedly has been made of this text. Before we examine its content some technical remarks need to be made. In the western text of this epistle vv.34 and 35 are placed after v.40(46). This may be their proper place or they may have been added later as a marginal note dependent on 1 Tim 2:11ff. That they may be a later interpolation need not lead one to suppress them as has been done by some commentators(47). If we keep exegesis distinct from biblical theology we are obliged to accept in terms of the latter that these verses are contained in Holy Scripture and are, therefore, the inspired word of God. This does not mean that they must be taken simply as they stand and made to apply to all times and places. Faith in the inspiration of scripture does not forbid the use of critical exegesis and the application of hermeneutical principles.

It is well nigh universally admitted that v.33b: “as in all the churches of the saints”, should be linked to v.34(48),though Barrett is an important exception. He maintains that in the churches (v.34: έν ταις έκκλησίαις) follows awkwardly, presumably because of in all the churches (v.33b: έν πάσαις ταις έκκλησίαις ). He prefers therefore to take v.34 as a new beginning(49). It seems to be beyond question that Paul here forbids women at Corinth to instruct publicly – an interpretation of which the verb λαλειν in v.34 is patient(50). Two possibilities are suggested by Barrett in his commentary on these verses: the first is that Paul did not write these verses but that they were added later at a time when good order in the congregation was considered to be more important than the freedom of the spirit. The second is that Paul had been informed of pressure from women which was causing disorder in the congregation at Corinth. So he gave orders for the women to be silent in the same way as he orders in v.30: “If one of the listeners receives a revelation then the man who is already speaking should stop”(51).

The background here is again Gen 2:18-23 and the issue is a distinction of functions without any implication of lesser dignity for the woman(52). However, had Paul taken Gen 1:26-27 as the background then he may well have reached different conclusions. In any case it has been argued satisfactorily that Paul did not make a rule here of universal application for all times(53).

2. 1 Tim 2:11-15

Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. (12) I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. (13) For Adam was formed first, then Eve; (14) and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (15) Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. (RSV)

This text forbids women to teach or give instruction in the Christian congregation and to wield authority over men. The reason given is that Adam was created first and it was Eve who fell into sin. Woman will be saved, however, through childbearing which according to Gen 3:16 is her God-given role and through holiness, faith and love. This passage is based on a very questionable exegesis of Genesis, but it cannot be denied that it is contained in scripture(54). On his interpretation of 1 Tim 2:15 S Jebb suggests that bearing children will save woman from being tempted to ‘lord it over’ the men. Thus woman may be saved from falling into the error of usurping authority by her childbearing function(55). Jebb admits that this teaching would not be acceptable today, but he goes on to point out that “perhaps it is a useful reminder that women have distinctive functions, needs and emotions and that some women will not find complete fulfilment apart from motherhood”(56). On the other hand, ADB Spencer maintains that Paul develops an analogy in vv.13-14 between Eve and the women at Ephesus on the grounds that they were both easily led astray. Difficulties arise in relation to this text only when women everywhere are identified with the women at Ephesus. No such generalisation was made by Paul(57).

After this brief examination of the texts employed in the past by authors of canonical, moral and dogmatic manuals, the following points are to be noted:

1.It is not satisfactory merely to cite these Pauline texts in support of the exclusion of women from the priesthood.

2. In neither 1 Cor 14 nor 1 Tim 2 does Paul formally exclude women priests. He gives no explicit teaching on the matter.

3. In recent years women in the Roman Catholic Church have been authorised to instruct publicly. It is acknowledged practice in many missionary territories for nuns to conduct services on Sundays at which they read the scriptures, preach and distribute communion. They do this with ecclesiastical approval and it is certainly a share in the Church’s ministry. The practice, however, is undoubtedly a departure from the literal interpretation of 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2.

II.4 The Early Tradition

The Order of Widows already mentioned in the New Testament(58) flourished at the beginning of the third century. Clement of Alexandria lists the order after bishops, priests and deacons. It was still in existence at the end of the fourth century, though it had begun to languish towards the middle of that century. The general picture which emerges is that the members of this order were given to prayer and charitable works. There is no evidence that any widow was ever ordained by the laying on of hands(59).

The order of Deaconesses is traced back to the New Testament (see 1 Tim 3:11), though its origins are obscure(60). This order flourished in the third and fourth centuries, above all in the East at Constantinople and Antioch, but also, though to a lesser extent, in the West. Deaconesses exercised extensive pastoral and liturgical functions including the anointing of sick women and the distribution of communion(61). In the West there were still deaconesses up to the eleventh century. The Leofric Missal, used at Exeter in the second half of the eleventh century contains a prayer “Ad diaconissam faciendam: Exaudi, domine, preces nostras, et super hanc famulam tuam .ill. spiritum tuae benedictionis emitte, ut caeleste munere ditata et tuae gratiam possit maiestatis adquirere, et bene uiuendi aliis exemplum praebere. Per.”(62). There is evidence that the Order survived in the East until the thirteenth century(63). It seems that among the reasons for the disappearance of this Order is the desuetude of adult baptism in the East and West.

Of great importance in the present context is the rite of ordination to the female diaconate. Deaconesses were ordained by the imposition of hands. The sources inform us that the candidates received from the bishop the χειροτονία or the χειροθεσία– the technical term for ordination (64). In the fifteenth canon of the Council of Chalcedon it was laid down that a woman may not be ordained (χειροτονεισθα) under forty years of age(65). The technical term is used here as it is in the Constitutiones apostolorum. This rite cannot be reduced to a mere blessing; it was an ordination in the formal and strict sense. Two texts will suffice to prove this. In the Apostolic Canons we read:

Thou shalt lay thy hands upon her in the presence of the Presbyters, the Deacons, and the Deaconesses, saying, “Though who didst fill Deborah, Hannah and Huldah with the Holy Spirit, though who in the Temple didst appoint women to keep the holy doors, Look upon thy servant chosen for the ministry (διακονία), and give to her the Holy Spirit that she may worthily perform the office committed unto her(66).

The second text is contained in the Constitutiones apostolorum:

Concerning a deaconess, I Bartholomew make this constitution: O bishop, though shalt lay they hands upon her in the presence of the presbytery, and of the deacons and deaconesses, and shalt say: O Eternal God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of man and of woman, who didst replenish with the Spirit Miriam, and Deborah, and Anna, and Huldah; who didst not disdain that thy only begotten Son should be born of a woman; who also in the tabernacle of the testimony, and in the temple, didst ordain women to be keepers of Thy holy gates, - do Thou now also look down upon this servant, who is to be ordained to the office of a deaconess, and grant her Thy Holy Spirit, and “cleanse her from all filthiness of flesh and spirit,” that she may worthily discharge the work which is committed to her to Thy glory, and the praise of Thy Christ, with whom glory and adoration be to Thee and the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen.(67)

These texts are considered decisive: deaconesses became part of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and they were fully integrated into the liturgical and pastoral ministry of the Church(68).

This order, however, was never considered as pertaining formally to the priestly office nor were deaconesses ever allowed to exercise strictly sacerdotal functions. The Apostolic Canons which are an important witness to the existence of this order formally exclude deaconesses from priestly functions: “The Deaconess does not bless or carry out any of the functions of priests and deacons, but she keeps the doors and assists the priests when they baptise for the sake of the proprieties”(69). Women are explicitly excluded from the priestly office by Tertullian(70), St Epiphanius(71), St John Chrysostom(72) and Pope Gelasius I(73). St Epiphanius in fact dissociates specifically the order of deaconesses from the priestly ministry(74). The early orthodox tradition, moreover, shows itself unanimously opposed to the practice in certain heretical sects, like the Pepuzians and the Collyridians, of ordaining women to the priesthood.

The question naturally presents itself now about the precise nature of this order. On the one hand it was conferred by a formal laying-on-of-hands and its members were included in the ecclesiastical hierarchy; on the other its members were dissociated from the priestly ministry. According to Daniélou it is to be considered a minor order(75). This conclusion, however, is by no means self-evident. The origins of this order go back to New Testament times and we have already noted CH Dodd’s supposition: “that the order of deacons which emerges in the second century, with special charge of the more secular side of the Church’s affairs, had its origins in Paul’s own time; and that it then included women as well as men”(76). In our opinion a good case can be established that deaconesses were ordained in the formal sense. This would need to be done, however, in close connection with theological reflection on the permanent diaconate and on the nature of the ministry of the Church. The fact that the liturgical functions of deaconesses were curtailed does not militate against this case. Though curtailed, these functions were never totally excluded when the order flourished in the fourth century – deaconesses distributed communion to women and children on diverse occasions, they anointed women after baptism and they anointed the sick. It is not to whom they administered these sacraments that is relevant, but the fact that they administered them at all. In any case, liturgical functions neither define totally nor encompass completely the ministry of the diaconate. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy which were committed to the deacon, constitute an essential part of the Church’s ministry and work.

The arguments used by orthodox writers against the ordination of women vary in their convincing power and they are by no means of equal strength and value. We may dismiss without injustice those arguments drawn from a very questionable exegesis of Genesis and arguments based on the weakness, loquacity and illogicality of the female sex, such as are put forward by St Epiphanius(77). Experience shows that all these defects are to be found equally in the male sex. By far the most important argument is based on the actual example of Christ. This example is taken as a clear indication of Christ’s intention in the matter. It cannot be established with certainty what is post hoc or propter hoc in the argument nor how far cultural conditioning was operative at the conscious or subconscious level. But this must be kept in mind. St Epiphanius explains that had Christ intended women to be priests He would surely have ordained His mother who had the privilege of carrying in her bosom the Son of God. The fact is, however, that she was not made a priest nor even was she chosen to baptise her Son – that was committed to John the Baptist(78).

The intention of Christ understood to be manifested by His actual practice and the explicit exclusion of women from the priestly ministry are the strongest arguments in the early tradition to support the canonical position explained above in paragraphs II, 1 and 2.

II.5 Some General Conclusions

1. Jesus showed Himself extraordinarily unconventional in His attitude to women. It will be recalled how surprised the disciples were in Sychar when they found him speaking to a woman: “At this point his disciples returned, and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘Why are you talking to her?’...” (John 4:27. RSV). Women followed Jesus and ministered to Him: His aunt Salome, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalen and Johanna – see Luke 23:55; 24:1, 10; John 19:25. In no sense could Jesus be considered a misogynist or anti-feminist.

2. At a pivotal point in the history of God’s dealing with humanity stands a woman: Mary, the mother of Jesus; her fiat belongs to official, public saving history in the divine economy. She is presented in the Gospel of St Luke in the line of the fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham so that all generations will call her blessed (1:46-55). She is depicted by the most venerable and ancient tradition as Image and Archetype of the Church and she was the object of theological reflection long before she was an object of devotion in the Church(79). Yet she was not included in the number of the Twelve nor was she ever considered to have been given a share in the priestly ministry of the Church.

3.There is no evidence that any woman was included among the Twelve Apostles and there was no woman present at the Last Supper. It cannot be disputed, however, that Mary the mother of Jesus and other women were present with the Apostles at Pentecost. This weakens somewhat CS Lewis’s argument – he writes that Our Lady was not present at Pentecost(80).Those who met in one room when the day of Pentecost came round (Acts 2:1) were the group mentioned in Acts 1:13-14: “And when they reached the city they went to the upper room where they were staying; there were Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Jude son of James. All these joined in continuous prayer, together with several women including Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers”.

4.We have unquestionable evidence in the Pauline corpus that women took part in the work of evangelisation and that they prayed and prophesied aloud in the Christian assembly. In the synagogues of the Jews women were obliged to keep silent. On the findings of modern exegesis and on the basis of Paul’s frequent and warm commendations of women associated with him in his missionary task, it is totally unjust to accuse him of being a misogynist.

5.Christianity contributed enormously to the emancipation of women in the ancient world(81). However, no women priests are to be found in the churches of Macedonia.

6.Neither the Order of Widows nor the order of Deaconesses can be considered to have exercised strictly sacerdotal powers. There is no case of approval of women’s offering the Eucharist in the orthodox tradition. Where this took place outside that tradition in heretical sects it was universally condemned(82).

7.There is good proof of prejudice against women and of anti-feminism in a number of early Christian writers: Tertullian and St Epiphanius(83).

8.The most important argument in the early tradition is based on the actual example of Christ. This may be summarised by the following text from the Didascalia apostolorum:

We do not allow women to teach (διδάσκειν) in the Church, but only to pray (προσεύχεσθαι). In fact our Master and Lord Jesus having sent us, the Twelve, to teach the People and the nations never officially sent women to preach, although they were readily available to him: actually we had with us Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James and Salome. But if it had been necessary for women to teach (διδάσκειν) he would himself have commended them also to (κατηχείν) instruct the people(84).


The Arguments Against the Ordination of Women

We come now to examine the principal arguments as we have encountered them which are put forward to exclude women from the priesthood.

III.1 The argument from Tradition

The strongest argument, it seems to us, is the constant Tradition of the Church. This argument has not been demolished by the more enlightened and exegetically correct interpretation of those passages which we have examined briefly above. We cannot discuss here the question of the relationship of Scripture and Tradition. We must emphasise, however, that critical exegesis cannot of itself alter the essentials of a doctrine taught by the Church. In Roman Catholic theology a doctrine is not rendered ‘unscriptural’ merely because no text can be found in the Bible which explicitly teaches the doctrine. If a scriptural basis in this grossly literalist sense were essential then there would be grave problems with sacramental theology and with that most beautiful expression of the theology of grace, Mariology.

To ordain women to the priesthood would be directly contrary to the tradition of East and West. The maleness of the priesthood is therefore an essential characteristic; it is simply part of the nature of things in the Church. The question of ordaining women has been treated in the Church since very early times and it has always been answered in the negative. When the practice of ordaining women was introduced it was universally condemned. The nature of the priesthood as male is a datum of revelation which the Church receives in the Tradition from Christ.

The Scholastics are an important factor in this Tradition, though the arguments they present vary very considerably and are far from compelling. St Bonaventure’s reasons for the maleness of the priesthood – most of which are to be found in St Thomas – are singularly unconvincing. To demonstrate that the male sex is necessary for the reception of orders he presents four principal arguments(85). He argues firstly that an order cannot be conferred on someone not possessing the natural fitness of receiving it. A person cannot be ordained who does not have the natural aptitude to receive the tonsure. A woman does not have this natural fitness because she ought always to have her head covered. It is fitting by nature for men only to pray with uncovered head. He refers here to 1 Cor 11:4 and concludes that the male sex is necessary for ordination. Secondly, in order to be ordained it is necessary to bear the image of God because in this sacrament the person(86) in some way becomes God or divine in that he is given a share in divine power. The male by reason of his sex is the imago Dei according to 1 Cor 11:7. St Bonaventure accepts the literal understanding of this text that a woman is not the image of God but the glory of man(87). Thirdly, a woman is unable to receive spiritual power according to 1 Tim 2:12. Finally, all the orders are a preparation for the episcopate and the bishop is the spouse of his church. A woman could not be the spouse of the Church and so cannot be ordained. St Bonaventure concludes that women cannot receive orders de iure or de facto(88).

St Thomas enumerates the female sex among the diriment impediments to sacred orders(89). Because a sacrament is a sign it requires not only the res but also the signification (significatio rei) as, for example, in the sacrament of extreme unction it is necessary to have a sick person in order to signify the need of healing. Therefore because it is not possible to signify eminence of degree in the female sex – woman is in a state of subjection – it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of orders(90).

John Duns Scotus argues a little more convincingly. He maintains that the necessity of maleness for the priesthood is derived from the will of Christ(91). The reason why Paul does not permit women to teach is because Christ Himself did not permit it. In fact Christ did not grant any share in the sacrament of orders to His Mother(92). He traces back the exclusion of women from the priesthood to Christ’s intention precisely because he argues that the Church would never have presumed on its own authority to deprive the entire female sex of participating in the sacrament of orders(93). Finally, women cannot receive orders, Scotus writes, because a woman is not permitted at least since the Fall to hold any position of eminence over men. He bases this on Gen 3:16: “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (RSV); “sub viri potestate eris, et ipse dominabitur tui” (Vulgate)(94).

III.2 The revolutionary character of Christianity

Christianity showed itself to be of a revolutionary character in regard to the equality of men and women in the Church. Galatians 3:27-28 teaches this equality in the Church: “For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. There is equality of men and women as the People of God; this text of Galatians refers to equality through the sacrament of baptism. It may not be used as an argument that men and women without distinction may be ordained to the priesthood. This is not the intention of the text(95). Therefore even with the clear evidence we have of the revolutionary nature of Christianity precisely on the question of the emancipation of women, the Church has never allowed women priests.

III.3 The order of creation and redemption

Even when the texts of 1 Cor 11 and 1 Tim 2 have been explained according to critical exegesis, there remains still the biblical evidence according to which the order of creation is upheld – not abolished – in the order of redemption. The order of creation establishes a particular relationship between men and women and indicates a difference of roles which is derived directly from their biological differences. This difference is reiterated in the Christian dispensation as is made evident by Ephesians 5:21-33 for husbands and wives and by 1 Cor 11 and 1 Cor 14 for the relationship between men and women in general. There is no question of inferiority here, it is merely a difference of roles which excludes a woman from orders.

Furthermore, the Word of God became a man and it is a function of the priest to represent the presence and saving activity of Christ. A woman could not be alter Christus in this sense; she could not assume such a representative role. To allow such a radical change of Christian symbols would be to create a new religion quite other than that of Christianity as it has in fact been revealed to us and come down to us. To ordain women to the priesthood would have disastrous effects at those depths of the human psyche where it corresponds to religious symbolism.

III.4 Psychological differences

Maleness is considered an essential feature of the representative character of the priesthood in the Christian Church:

A male priests represents both sexes in a way which a woman does not in organised society and Church. Woman represents both sexes in a way man cannot, in the life stream. Woman can be regarded as nature’s priest, while man is a priest of the Church. The logic of it is this. Man more easily detaches his relation to his fellows of both sexes from personalities; there is an impersonal and universal element in his outlook which makes possible this detachment…Further, representation is a role men exercise more naturally than women, for it requires a degree of abstraction and generalisation foreign to her feminine wisdom. Representation is a masculine idea; so is equality; so is democracy. Woman represents nobody; she is herself and her relationships are personal, concrete, direct. Humanity needs this feminine life style, for men tend to become subject to illusion. Lastly men and women on the whole will not value women as representatives; they estimate women in their own personal right(96).

III.5 Ecumenical Considerations

Unilateral action in a matter of this magnitude would do irreparable damage to the cause of Christian unity. No power short of that of a truly Ecumenical Council of the whole of Christianity should dare to assume responsibility for altering a practice which has so long a tradition behind it. These considerations touch most closely at the moment the Anglican Communion(97). Certainly this Communion cannot be indifferent to the official position of the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the Old Catholic Church of the Utrecht Union. The wisest possible action for the foreseeable future would be to encourage further prayer, study and dialogue and to postpone the ordaining of women to the priesthood until such time as a World Christian Ecumenical Council can be convoked.

III.6 Further arguments

1. The movement and demand for the ordination of women is the result of feminist pressure for equal rights. Hence it is not so much the product of a pastoral concern as the outcome of a temperamental desire born of the spirit of the age to wrench the priesthood from its straight jacket of male monopoly.

2. The comparative study of religions shows that monotheistic religions have male priesthoods only. Demant maintains: “One definite conclusion, however, emerges from the vast and complex evidence: it is that none but male priesthoods belong to the monotheisms, in which the godhead transcends the created order and, as their lord, stands behind nature and history and society, as well as acting in them. This is entirely the case with Judaism, Islam and Christianity”(98).

3. There would be enormous practical complications created by the ordination of women to the priesthood. Would there be separate seminaries for the training of female candidates to the priesthood? Would co-education and co-formation be the only arrangement economically feasible? With a celibate priesthood would it be prudent to assign women priests and men priests to the same parish? Would the celibate priesthood demand that some parishes be staffed by men priests only and others by women priests only? In the case of a married priesthood, how would a priest’s husband – in the case of his not being a priest – cope with the practical difficulties that would arise through the pregnancy of his wife? With a married priesthood would it be required to advise strongly that women priests marry men priests? Would the Church be able to support ‘priestly’ families? Again, with a married priesthood, where both parents were priests, would this not have a disastrously overwhelming ‘sacral’ influence on the children leading to certain rebellion against religion?


Theological Reflections on the State of the Question

IV.1 The sufficiency of the arguments against the ordination of women

The case against the ordination of women rests on arguments biblical, traditional, theological, psychological, and ecumenical. Taken separately these appear limp and unconvincing. But when taken as a whole they deserve respect and merit serious consideration. It is not helpful just to dismiss them as no more than the outcome of prejudice, male chauvinism, misogynism and as the products of a social and cultural conditioning that is already dead and fast becoming deadly. We have presented these arguments, especially those based on texts in the Pauline corpus and the early tradition of the Church with the seriousness and attention which a paper of this kind would allow. We are now bound to ask, however, whether these arguments, even when taken together, provide sufficient grounds for a doctrinal position which holds it to be in virtue of divine law made known in the revelation of God through the practice of Jesus Christ that a woman cannot be ordained to the priesthood and never will be able to be ordained throughout the entire future history of the Church? In our view these arguments are neither sufficient grounds nor adequate justification for so definitive a doctrinal position. To justify so radical a conclusion would require far more positive evidence than the mere facts that women were not included in the Apostolic College and that women priests have thus far never been accepted in the orthodox and catholic tradition of the Church. Furthermore, it is of some significance that Christ is not recorded in the scriptures to have excluded positively and formally women from the priesthood. It is argued, of course, that their exclusion is contained implicitly in the texts from the Pauline corpus which we have briefly examined above. However, it is certain that this was not the formal question with which St Paul was dealing and, moreover, it is debatable whether the precise matters being dealt with in these texts are of universal application. It cannot be argued that the whole spirit of scripture is against the ordination of women. Those who hold the case against the ordination of women to the priesthood are obliged to accept the findings of modern exegesis of the texts usually cited in support of their case. Any purely fundamentalist interpretation can no longer be taken seriously – a point which should be noted by those Anglicans who are against the ordination of women as well as by Catholics who are of the same opinion.

IV.2 The newness of the question today

It cannot be maintained that there is a consensus and free unanimity in the Roman Catholic Church on the question of the ordination of women. Until very recently it has been accepted that only a male can be validly ordained. Since this position was a priori in possession it followed as a matter of course that women could not be ordained and reasons had to be found to explain why these were excluded. Now, however, questions have arisen about the principles on which this a priori position is based. To ask the question today: Can women be ordained to the priesthood? is to ask the question in a way so differently nuanced from how it has been asked ever before, that it is patently a new question. The difference is due to theological, biblical, sociological, psychological and ecumenical reasons which make it clear that the question about the ordination of women cannot be ripped from the wider context of the emancipation of women in the Church and in society at large. With completely new theological, biblical, sociological, psychological and ecumenical data which have undermined and in some cases completely destroyed many of our most cherished assumptions about what is “the nature of things”, it clear that we are asking a new question based on a new understanding of the dignity and value of women in the Church and world. Therefore to answer this new question: Can women be ordained to the priesthood? with the reply: No, because only men can be ordained, is grossly to beg the question. Where the question about women priests has been raised in the Roman Catholic Church it has been found that there is division of opinion. The positive opinion may not be set aside as an ephemeral issue brought about by the spirit of the age on the rather slick belief that he who espouses that spirit will speedily find himself a widower! There is the possibility that the opinion in favour of women priests has come about under that inspiration of the Holy Spirit Who is the Spirit of all times in the history of the Church.

This latter possibility is not really countenanced by Professor Mascall in his pamphlet Women Priests?(99). He warns his fellow Anglicans who favour the idea of women priests “not to misunderstand the suggestions (in some cases even the demands) emanating from certain Roman Catholic circles for the ordination of women to the priesthood”. He alleges that some of these are without a theological basis and are no more than “typical of a temperamental desire to destroy all inherited structures of the Church and to assimilate the Catholic religion to the trends and outlooks of the contemporary secularised world”. There is no indication which theological circles in the Roman Catholic Church Professor Mascall has in mind. It is a pity that he did not document so alarmist a statement. He goes on to concede that “some of these…manifest a praiseworthy wish to give the Church’s life a wider and firmer foundation than that of post-Tridentine scholasticism”. He notes, however, “that it is a common practice in the Roman Catholic Church to question the truth of a statement or the legitimacy of a practice in order to elicit the fundamental reasons for the truth or the real grounds of the practice”. By way of example he gives St Thomas’s raising the question whether God exists! While it is perfectly true that recent decades have seen a return to the inquiry of the quaestio and a rejection of the arid method of the pedagogy of the thesis(100), this has not resulted in Roman Catholic theology in mere re-statements in new terms with new arguments of all traditional positions, of all inherited beliefs and practices. Professor Mascall must be aware of the large amount of literature in favour of the ordination of women produced in the Roman Catholic Church over the last few years, the vast majority of which is of a very high theological calibre indeed(101). Any acquaintance with this literature will convince the reader that there are more than “stirrings” in the Roman Catholic Church on this question. There is now a definite theological movement in favour of the ordination of women in this Church and if Professor Mascall is to mention the Roman Catholic Church at all in his pamphlet, he is under some obligation to do so in a way that would represent more fairly the views of those theologians who have argued in favour of the ordination of women with as much seriousness and conviction as J-J von Allmen and CS Lewis have argued against the ordination of women(102).

There is a particularly unconvincing statement made by Professor Demant in his essay Why the Christian Priesthood is male(103). He writes:

In fact the practically complete absence in the tradition of any positive justification of an exclusively male priesthood is in itself a strong reason for regarding it as an essential element. Justifying arguments often imply suspicion of doubt. So the lack of theological argumentation for an exclusively male priesthood may indicate that to ask ‘why’ is just as senseless as to ask ‘why’ God created a world. Its meaning can be expounded, but a reason cannot be given. It is therefore quite legitimate to say that the exclusion of women from Holy Orders is just part of the nature of things, in this case of the nature of the Christian Church.

We need to note first of all that in the tradition positive justification was given for the exclusion of women from the priesthood and it was apparently acceptable at the time it was given. Tertullian, for example, forbids women to be ordained on the authority of 1 Cor 11 and 1 Tim 2(104). These same texts were cited as the basis of St Bonaventure’s chief arguments against the ordination of women. Besides these, further justifying arguments are provided by the Scholastics. Are we then to conclude that these imply suspicion of doubt? It seems to be a very slippery way out to recognise theological arguments as weak and unconvincing and, at the same time, to maintain that they are not really necessary. It may be maintained, moreover, that it is not senseless to ask ‘why God created the world?’, because there is a most profound and sublime reason, namely, that God is love and He wills to manifest and share His glory. Love is always self-explanatory. In virtue of this reason the meaning of the world as created – that it is the object of a sovereignly free love – can be expounded. Professor Demant would want to dispute, no doubt, the use of the word ‘reason’ here. But before this could be done he would have to explain in what way he is using it. In any case it needs to be remembered that there is no real parity between the doctrine of creation as taught in the tradition and the practice of an exclusively male priesthood in that tradition.

IV.3 Examination of the arguments against the ordination of women

The Roman Catholic Church has never stated explicitly in any doctrinal declaration of the universal magisterium that women are debarred from the priesthood. If, therefore, it is a legitimate function of theology to mediate between a religion and a culture(105), then we may employ it in this function to examine the reasons put forward against the ordination of women.

1.To ordain women would be contrary to the Tradition of the Church. In the sense that women have never been ordained to the priesthood by the authority of the Church, this statement is true. However, it appears to us to be much more accurate to say: To ordain women would be contrary to the practice of the Church. This is no verbal quibble but an important distinction because the word tradition carries a sense of far greater weight and authority than the word practice. It is the opinion of Begley and Armbuster that it is historically more accurate to speak of a non-tradition concerning the ordination of women rather than a tradition against it”(106). We have already seen that it is not satisfactory merely to quote texts from the Pauline corpus to support the exclusion of women from the priesthood. The very most that can be said, in order to do justice to all sides is that the arguments from Scripture are inconclusive. With regard to the early tradition there is a reasonable case for maintaining that deaconesses were ordained sacramentally. But once more because this is disputed the argument cannot be considered as conclusive on either side. To justify the use of the word tradition would require a far greater number of earlier witnesses explicitly against the ordination of women than are to be found and would require a much more cogent argumentation than the argument of silence and the actual practice of Christ.

2. The revolutionary character of Christianity in regard to the emancipation of women never envisaged women priests. It cannot be denied that Christianity contributed enormously towards the emancipation of women and that Jesus showed Himself extraordinarily unconventional in his attitude to women. Yet no woman was included among the Apostles and Mary was given no share in the priesthood. We have to remember that Judaism at the time of Christ saw the essential function of woman as a home-maker(107), a view still held by orthodox Judaism today. It seems obvious that the reason why no woman was included in the Apostolic College was due precisely to the subordinate role of women in Judaism. An argument used for the authenticity of the accounts concerning the empty tomb is that women are recorded to have discovered it, when women were considered invalid witnesses according to Jewish law(108). It is unthinkable in such circumstances that Jesus should have said to women: “and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 RSV). One cannot conclude therefore that because Jesus did not commission women to bear witness to his life, death and glorification, though He did show an extraordinary unconventional attitude towards women in contemporary Jewish society, then He must have meant them to be excluded forever from the priesthood. He could not have sent women into Jerusalem and Judea as His witnesses because their word would have counted for nothing. Furthermore, according to Josef Jungmann the reason why the institution of deaconesses was never fully developed was that “the state of culture in the period of Christian antiquity was not favourable to the employment of women in the Church’s ministry”(109). It would have been indeed remarkable given these general circumstances if there had been women priests even in Macedonia(110).

What point precisely is being made by those who emphasise that Mary was not ordained to the priesthood is never made clear. Her role in salvation history was quite different and the fact that she was not a priest is entirely irrelevant to the question at issue. What is of far greater significance is that Phoebe was διάκουος of the church at Cenchreae.

With regard to Gal 3:28 it is certain that this text is concerned with equality between men and women in the Church through baptism(111). M Boucher summarises the New Testament teaching on the role of women as follows: there is a theory of subordination in marriage (Col 3:18; 1 Pet 3:1-6; Tit 2:4-5; Eph 5:22-24) and in the congregation (1 Cor 11:3-16; 1 Cor 14:33-35; 1 Tim 2:11-15) and a theory of equality (1 Pet 3:7; 1 Cor 11:11-12; Gal 3:28)(112). She goes on to point out that two main lines of interpretation of these apparently divergent theories have emerged. There is what may be called the traditional interpretation which holds that the theory of women’s subordination in human society was taken over from the synagogue in the primitive church and at the same time the primitive church arrived at the new doctrine that all persons are equal before God. Among the supporters of the traditional interpretation is H Schlier who emphasises that equality between men and women is “in Christ Jesus”. He understands this as a restriction on interpretation of v.28: “if one recognises this restriction on the statement in v.28, one is wary of drawing direct inferences for the order of Church office or for political society. Church office does not rest directly on baptism, but on commission and political society is never identical with the body of Christ”(113).

There is however a second interpretation of this text given by K. Stendahl which maintains that Gal 3:28 is not without relevance to the question of the ordination of women(114). He maintains that this text is a theological statement “directed against what we call the order of creation, and consequently it creates a tension with those biblical passages – Pauline and non-Pauline – by which this order of creation maintains its place in the fundamental view of the New Testament concerning the subordination of women”(115). It is his view that the equality of male and female cannot be confined to the coram Deo realm and that the teaching of this text demands a social implementation of religious equality:

It would be peculiar if the church, which wants to belong to Christ and to witness to him saw it as its duty to turn this biblical picture (the new equality between men and women) upside down by saying to its faithful: “In worldly affairs you may accept emancipation – and before God there is neither man nor woman – but in the church’s life and its worship it is not so”. Then one would have to go on to say “In the world slaves are emancipated by now, but in the church that should not be so…etc. etc.”(116).

If the Roman Catholic Church can regret that fundamental personal rights are not yet being universally honoured as “in the case of a woman who is denied the right and freedom to choose a husband, to embrace a state of life, or to acquire an education or cultural benefits equal to those recognised for men”(117) this is because she has received a word in revelation that certainly teaches the equality of men and women in the Church. There is no hierarchy of persons in the Church but a hierarchy of functions. In terms of this basic equality of men and women in the Church it is entirely in order to ask whether women are debarred from ordination on the grounds of being women, that is, are debarred from a function in the Church on the grounds of their sex? There is a strong probability on the evidence of scripture itself that they are not so debarred.

3.The order of creation is upheld in the order of redemption.

This argument is based principally on Gen 2:18-25:

Then the Lord said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him”… So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man”. (RSV)

To take this text as it stands in the literal sense is to ignore the findings of exegesis and biblical theology. But even if it is understood exactly as it stands and is taken to be teaching the order of creation, it is impossible to see how it can be used as an argument against the ordination of women. The text is concerned with marriage. In his commentary on it G von Rad writes:

The story is entirely aetiological, i.e. it was told to answer a quite definite question. A fact needs explanation, namely, the extremely powerful drive of the sexes to each other. Whence comes this love “strong as death” (S. of Sol. 8. 6) and stronger than the tie to one’s own parents, whence this inner clinging to each other, this drive towards each other which does not rest until it again becomes one flesh in the child? It comes from the fact that God took woman from man, that they actually were originally one flesh. Therefore they must come together again and thus by destiny they belong to each other. The recognition of this narrative as aetiological is theologically important. Its point of departure, the thing to be explained, is for the narrator something in existence, present, not something “paradisiacal” and thus lost!(118).

The text of Ephesians 5:21-23 cannot be applied to the relationship of man and woman in general. The Apostle is there treating specifically of the relationship between husband and wife(119). The submission of the Church to Christ is an example for wives to follow and the love of Christ is an example for husbands to follow. The profound mysterion is the relation Christ-Church, that is, the saving will of God through Christ the Lord of all things(120). Likewise 1 Cor 11:2-16, 1 Cor14:33b-35 and 1 Tim 2:11-15 are more than probably concerned with married women. But what of single women, celibate women, in the Church? If they desire to know anything, they cannot ask their husbands at home (cf. 1 Tim 2:15). Thus, even if we accept a literal interpretation of these Pauline texts on the relationship of husband and wife (though such interpretation is by no means certain and beyond question), we may still legitimately ask whether single women, women religious and celibate women are debarred from ordination to the priesthood. The fact that married women and married men have different functions based on biological differences is self-evident and completely irrelevant to the question of the ordination of women.

It seems that too much by far is being made of the fact that the Word became a man. The formal element surely in belief in the incarnation of the Logos is that the Son of God became man. The Prologue of St John’s Gospel proclaims that the Word became flesh: ό λόγος σάρξ έγέυετο. According to the creed of Nicea our Lord Jesus Christ was made man: homo (not vir) factus est; ενανθρωπήσανία – not ανήρ, not ανδρός, which signify man in contrast to woman. It was defined at the Council of Chalcedon that our Lord Jesus Christ is perfect in humanity: perfectum in humanitate (τέλειον τον αυτον ενανθρωπότητι; he is true man (not male): hominem verum (ανθρωπον αληθως). It is not formally as of the male sex that Jesus Christ is our Mediator but as a true member of our race. This is not to argue that it is irrelevant that He is male; the fact is He is a man. But He is also a Jew of the near eastern ancient world. These facts, however, do not justify the conclusion that no woman can become a priest. The Church has never been formally preoccupied with His sexuality.

If we turn now to the understanding of the priest as alter Christus it is surely not the case that the priest represents Christ precisely as male, but precisely as our Mediator, Redeemer and Lord. Obviously the fact of His maleness is not being questioned, but again, it is not formally the issue. If a layman or laywoman baptises, if a laywoman anoints, they surely do so in persona Christi. Priests carry out their office publicly in the name of Christ(121) and they act in the person of Christ the head(122). The priest is sent by a new title; those who are not ordained act in the name of Christ as baptised – there is no member of the Church who does not have a part in the mission of the whole body(123). Therefore, whosoever participates in the mission of the Church does so in the name and person of Christ the Mediator. The ordained priesthood, differing in essence and not merely degree from the universal priesthood of the faithful, perform their priestly mission by a new title, but in the name and person of Christ the head, not Christ the Male.

4.There are psychological differences between men and women. Arguments based on psychological differences between the sexes need to be treated with caution. While there are differences, no doubt, at this level, it is difficult to understand how they can be used as reasons to exclude women from ordination to the priesthood. If it is true that “man more easily detaches his relation to his fellows of both sexes from personalities” and that “there is an impersonal and universal element in his outlook which makes possible this detachment”, it may be asked whether this has any more relevance to the question of women priests than it has (or had?) to the question of women doctors, lawyers, social workers, probationer officers, psychologists, monarchs, heads of state, politicians, justices of the peace, magistrates, local preachers and, for that matter, priests in the Church of Sweden? If we can speak of psychological differences between the sexes as of universal application, then these very differences may well be invoked as an argument in favour of the ordination of women. The argument that women are different from men anatomically, physiologically and psychologically merely emphasises that women would be women priests and not limp copies or pale imitations of men priests.

We have deliberately used conditional sentences in the preceding paragraph because it has become increasingly difficult to define precisely what is “typically feminine” at the psychological level. Women are equally capable of detaching their relationships to their fellows of both sexes from personalities. There is quite an amount of good literature to show how questionable such vague generalisations as those made by Professor Demant turn out to be(124). Women have been conditioned to accept limitations of role and value both in society and in the Church and “deification” and “rhapsodisation” of ‘The Feminine’ bear the brunt of responsibility for this. There is something almost pathetic about the description of woman as “nature’s priest” – as if this could be an argument for debarring a woman from being a priest of the Church(125). One strongly suspects that mythology and primitive nature-religions are exercising an immoderate influence on a process of thought that is able to arrive at such startling conclusions.

There is an obligation on men in western society and especially on men of the Church in western society to let women be women, that is to love them in society and in the Church with the charity of which St Paul speaks in 1 Cor 13 and with the love with which God created the world: He let it be and letting-be is an essential characteristic of all love worthy of the name.

It is very probable at the moment that such a radical change as the introduction of women priests would have traumatic effects at the depths of the human psyche where it corresponds to religious symbolism. Robert P Hobson in his splendid essay Psychological Considerations(126) concludes by saying:

If it is true that the question of the ordination of women touches upon powerful, unconscious motives, then this innovation might have profound effects which are difficult to predict.

This possibility cannot be ignored, but it must be remembered that in principle what is emotionally resisted and psychologically unacceptable, is not thereby rendered theologically unsound. There will have to be a much wider and far deeper change in consciousness in society in general and in the Church in particular. Practical action will be as necessary as theoretical statements if these latter are not to be totally devoid of credibility. A greater involvement of women in the Church’s life and mission at every level from the Roman Curia to the local parish is imperative. More extensive and serious involvement of women in the daily life of the Church will have the result of preparing us psychologically for a fully integrated female priesthood in the ministry of the Church.

One final word is to be added here about ‘God and the Feminine’. It cannot be overemphasised at present that God is the source of womanhood and motherhood. God is neither male nor female; therefore the terms “Father” and “Son” indicate that the perfections of fatherhood and sonship are to be found pre-eminently in God. The terms “Mother” and “Daughter” may also be used of God to indicate that the perfections of motherhood and daughterhood are to be found pre-eminently in God. All that Mary, the Mother of God, is by nature and by grace has its source in the God Who created and chose her. This is reason enough to encourage the use of feminine terms of God alongside the masculine ones with which we are so familiar. However much CS Lewis may have felt that such use would be to embark on a different religion, his fears were not shared by Scripture, Clement of Alexandria, St Ephraem, St Anselm and the Lady Julian of Norwich(127).

5.There are difficulties against the ordination of women from the ecumenical point of view. Undoubtedly there are problems on this score and there may well be some strain on ecumenical relations during the next few years. However, the problems do not seem to be insuperable. Unilateral action, though it may be deplored, should not be allowed to stand in the way of continuing dialogue on women priests, especially among the Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics and the Old Catholics of the Utrecht Union. What is required at once is the setting up of an international, interconfessional commission to study the question from all sides and at every level and to present its findings to the respective authorities of each Church and Ecclesial Communion. Besides this, discussion should be initiated in the Church in every parish and religious community and the views expressed and attitudes manifested should be passed on to a central organising body in every diocese in the Church and thence sent on to the appropriate higher authorities.

6.Further Arguments. A. The objection of feminist pressure. The opening up of the question about the ordination of women may not be set aside by branding it as no more than the outcome of feminist pressures and the Women’s Liberation Movement. It cannot be denied that it belongs to the wider movement for women’s emancipation in the Church and in society. This, however, does not render the question suspect nor rule it out of discussion. The movement for women’s emancipation is a locus theologicus particularising the grace of freedom and equality brought to humankind through the Gospel of God. This locus deserves serious and attentive study. The Church, therefore, is obliged to listen carefully and to discern to the best of her ability what the Holy Spirit is saying to her in the women’s emancipation movement and especially in the discussion about women priests. She must remain open to the possibility that it is the will of God that women be ordained to the priesthood and that He has given the grace of vocation to the priesthood to women as well as to men. Finally, on this point, it is surely a sign of God’s grace and blessing on the Church and world that there are many women in the Church who long to serve God and proclaim the Gospel as priests. These are not consumed with a hellish zeal to tear the priesthood from male monopoly; they are fired with a holy desire to have a share as priests in the divine mission of the Church. Can it be held with dogmatic certitude that it is ontologically impossible for a woman to have the grace of a vocation to the priesthood?

B. Monotheisms have none but male priesthoods. It is not clear what point is being made in the assertion that none but male priesthoods belong to the monotheisms. The problem of the origin of monotheism is an involved and much disputed problem. The Vienna School of Ethnology, especially in the work of W Schmidt, claimed to have established the existence of a primitive monotheism(128). As a result of the researches of R Pettazoni, however, this conclusion is now modified. It seems that early belief in ‘High Gods’ is not yet monotheism and, furthermore, it appears that all monotheisms have been ‘founded’(129). Monotheistic phenomena are to be found outside the great religions, though it is not always easy to distinguish monism, henotheism and monotheism(130). Thus, was Zoroastrianism and are the Parsis – the modern Zoroastrians – monotheistic? Moreover, nothing can be concluded from Islam since it does not have priests, nor a sacramental system. Israel began with a practical monotheism which became gradually a theoretical monotheism and the priesthood of Israel was male. The Christian religion is monotheistic and its priesthood is, as a matter of fact, male. Christianity was born of Israel and the two are intimately linked. What can be concluded about the ordination of women from the monotheisms in the history of religions, it is impossible to discover.

C. Practical complications. It is unfair to raise questions about practical difficulties because these are no argument at all against principles. Practical issues can only be met in a realistic way once principles have been decided. What ‘would happen’ at the practical level in this matter no one is in any position to predict.

IV.4 Conclusion from the examination of these arguments

After examining these arguments it is not too outrageous to suggest that the practice of not ordaining women to the priesthood is no more than an accidental feature of the Christian religion. What is judged to be accidental in the history of the Church’s self-understanding, is not thereby considered erroneous or without significance. At one time indeed accidentals may have been of the highest importance. But unlike what is essential, the accidental can become irrelevant and outmoded.

To judge the exclusion of women from the priesthood as among the accidentals of the Church’s self-understanding and practice does not imply that the Apostles failed to divine or to implement the intention of Christ in this matter any more than they can be said to have failed to implement His teaching concerning the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This doctrine, as is well known, had a very stormy history. St Bernard and St Thomas Aquinas were totally opposed to it for what seemed to be unassailable theological reasons. It is our view on the question of women priests that we are now in the midst of a development of the practice of the Church in virtue of which there is a growing awareness that an exclusively male priesthood belongs to the accidentals of the Christian religion. This development, however, will be considerably speedier than any in ages past due to the efficiency of the media of communication.


General Conclusions

V.1 Further remarks on Canon 968, par.1

While on a first reading it appears that this canon intends primarily to exclude women from the priesthood, this is not the only interpretation of which it is patient. In his dissertation presented to the Faculty of Theology in the University of Innsbruck in 1962 under the title: Theological Reflections on the Thesis: Only the male is the subject of ordination(131), Fr H van der Meer SJ, after a theological investigation of the entire question, concluded that this canon is more concerned to emphasise the absolute necessity of baptism as a prerequisite for ordination, than to exclude women from the priesthood. The canonists, in fact, base their case of diriment impediment on the civil law usage debarring women from political office(132).

Joan Range in her study of the legal exclusion of women from church office singles out four aspects of the tradition which Gratian inherited, as relevant to the position of women in the Decretur(133). The first is the development of clerical celibacy which removed women from proximity to priests, deacons and bishops:

The difficulty of maintaining clerical celibacy if there are no women living in close proximity to clerics is an obvious one and one to which the Church’s law still addresses itself. If these women also share in the clerical ministry, the difficulty is compounded. An obvious solution is to eliminate the presence of women; this involves their exclusion from a share in the ministry, if they so share(134).

The second aspect of the tradition inherited by Gratian is the schism between East and West whereby the traditions of the Eastern half of the Church were in fact excluded. The third is the nature of the sources he used which could not be submitted to critical and contextual examination. By means of historical and critical analysis we are enabled to ask new questions about the authority of these sources. The fourth is the fluid understanding of the sacraments at that time. Gradually, against the background of the Hildebrandine Reform, the Investiture Struggle and the relationship of the sacerdotium to the imperium, “church power in both its administrative and its sacramental dimension became clericalised”(135). The exclusion of women from power in the Church, according to Range, was derivative from the exclusion of non-clergy and was based on the lay/cleric distinction much more than on the man/woman distinction(136). What is also important is Gratian’s belief that women are unequal to men because woman is naturally subject to man and she is guilty of having introduced sin into the world.

Since 1962 when Fr van der Meer presented his thesis, there has been an impressive number of studies published concerning the canonical position on the subject of orders. Negative and positive views have been defended, the majority of authors show themselves to be in favour of the ordination of women(137).

These studies concerning canon 968, par.1 make us aware that the canonical position is by no means outside the area of question and discussion once the historical situation in which it originated and developed is submitted to critical study and research. The fact that a canonical provision grew up in a historical situation is not in itself, of course, a reason for rejecting it. Canon Law, however, is based on theology and in particular on doctrinal and pastoral ecclesiology. When theology in any of its branches begins to undergo development, it has direct and immediate repercussions on the Church’s law. Canon lawyers are then obliged to examine the sources and the presuppositions of their science in the respective areas in the light of new and perhaps unexpected developments.

V.2 The state of the question in the Roman Catholic Church

The official position on the question of women priests, therefore, is contained in canon 968, par.1. The commonly accepted interpretation of this canon has been that the male sex is a condition requisite for validity of ordination to the priesthood. This position has not changed at the official level, nor is any alternative interpretation of this canon officially recognised. The position, however, has been questioned at the theological and pastoral levels and there is a growing body of theological opinion which maintains that there is no serious doctrinal argument against the ordination of women and that God did not exclude women from the priesthood. Therefore, it must be recognised that the question about women priests is an open question both theologically and pastorally in the Roman Catholic Church(138).

V.3 The Priesthood: a ministry of the Church

We have seen that the biblical data, the teaching of early Christian writers, the reasoning of the Scholastics, the anthropological, psychological and ecumenical arguments against the ordination of women, cannot be considered conclusive. Indeed, they appear to be weak and unconvincing. The results of our examination and the reflection which have been made during the course of the paper have established already a good case for the ordination of women. Now, in conclusion, we wish to present what seems to us to be the most positive argument in favour of the ordination of women. This is: the priesthood is a specific form of the ministry of salvation of the Church. To emphasise the significance of this understanding of the priesthood, the following theses need to be kept in mind:

1.The Church is the Sacrament of salvation and she has been endowed with authority and spiritual power by God to bring salvation to the world.

2. Salvation is mediated in history in many ways, sacramental and non-sacramental. The Church commissions people officially to participate in her ministry of salvation, sometimes in virtue of sacramental consecration, sometimes without sacramental consecration.

3. The ordained ministry is part of the broader ministerial activity of the People of God. “The theology of ordained ministry is, then, a derivative of ecclesiology, not vice versa”(139).

4. The ministerial priesthood is not exhaustively defined by its cultic and sacramental functions, though these are an essential part of it. It includes also as part of its structure: the preaching of the word, teaching, leading the community and consolidating its unity. Not every priest, however, is expected to fulfil every function the ministerial priesthood embraces.

5. ‘Charismatic’ qualities should be emphasised more than juridical requirements for the ministerial priesthood. This does not mean that the latter are to be ignored, but they must take second place today.

6. The place of women in the life and mission of the Church has already been influenced in theory and to a small extent in practice by the emancipation of women in society. The ministry of the Church is undergoing a transformation which has already shown it to be necessary that the man/woman partnership should be integrated into the mission of the Church in the modern world and that there is a distinct place for women in the priestly ministry.

If we dissociate the priesthood from all ideas of eminence and accept its clericalisation as a historical conditioning, then we will not begin with the sex of the person as the first requisite condition for ordination, but with the religious, spiritual, intellectual and human gifts and qualities which are indispensable for the competent and fruitful exercise of this ministry in the person and name of Christ.


(2) An Introduction to Metaphysics. Trans. by Ralph Manheim. Yale University Press, New Haven and London 1960, 14: ‘Physis means the power that emerges and the enduring realm under its sway. This power of emerging and enduring includes “becoming” as well as “being” in the restricted sense of inert duration’.

(3) See A Second Collection. Papers by Bernard JF Lonergan SJ. Edited by William FJ Ray SJ and Bernard F Tyrell SJ, London 1974, 57.

(4) ‘Men and Women in Partnership in the Church and in Society’ in Pro Mundi Vita, Special Note 21, 1. Cf. also Derrick Sherwin Bailey, The Man-Woman Relation in Christian Thought, Longmans, London 1959; Pierre Grelot, ‘Le couple humain selon la sainte écriture’ in Vie Spirituelle: Supplement, t.57, 1961, 135-198; Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Maris et Femmes d’après Saint Paul, Cahiers Théologiques 29, Delachaux et Niestle, Neuchâtel-Paris 1951.

(5) The Documents of Vatican II. Edit. by WM Abbott SJ, London-Dublin 1966, par.29, 227-228; cf. also par. 9, 207; par, 60, 267.

(6) Ibid, 228.

(7) par. 52, ibid, 257.

(8) par. 9, ibid, 500.

(9) Ibid, 732-34.

(10) To honour Mary. Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus of His Holiness Paul VI, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis 1974 [Catholic Truth Society: Do 462], 63: “The modern woman will note with pleasant surprise that Mary of Nazareth while completely devoted to the will of God, was far from being a timidly submissive woman or one whose piety was repellent to others”.

(11) Ibid, 64.

(12) Membris Commissionis a studiis de muneribus mulieris in Societate et in Ecclesia itemque Membris Consilii praepositi anno internationali “de muliere” celebrando in Acta Apostolicae Sedis LXVII, 30 Aprilis 1975, n.4, 264-267; see 267: “Dans la famille, comme éducatrices, et dans tous les secteurs de la société, les femmes chréteinnes ont un apport irremplaçable à fournir à la paix du monde et à la construction d’une société plus juste et plus fraternelle. Sans cet apport spécifique – nous en sommes convaincu et l’expérience des peuples est là pour le confirmer – le progrès ne sera pas pleinement humain”.

(13) See The Tablet, 1 November 1975, 1069.

(14) Theological Investigations VIII: Further Theology of the Spiritual Life, 2. Trans. by David Bourke. London-New York 1971, 82. This chapter was delivered as an address at the Convention of the Union of German Catholic Women in June 1964.

(15) The Shape of the Church to come. Trans. with Introduction by Edward Quinn, London 1974, 113-114.

(16) Theological Investigations VIII, 82.

(17) Jean-Jacques von Allmen, ‘Est-il légitime de consacrer des femmes au ministère pastoral?’ in Verbum caro 65 (1963), 5-28.

(18) Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium, par. 28, in Documents of Vatican II, 52-53.

(19) par. 10, ibid, 26-27.

(20) Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: Presbyterorum ordinis, par. 2, ibid, 533-536.

(21) Donald E Heintschel, The Medieval Concept of an Ecclesiastical Office, Washington DC 1956; Jean MR Tillard, What Priesthood has the Ministry? A Paper commissioned by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, Grove Books, Bramcote Notts, 1973.

(22) Günther Grassman, ‘Die Entwicklung der ökumenischen Diskussion über das Amt’ in Ökumenische Rundschau 22 (1973) 454-468.

(23) Ann Kelley and Anne Walsh, ‘Ordination: A Questionable Goal for Women’ in The Ecumenist, vol.11, no.5, July/August 1973, 81-84; Rosemary Radford Ruether, ‘Male Clericalism and the Dread of Women’, ibid, 65-69; Elisabeth Gössmann, ‘Women as Priests? in Concilium, vol.4, no.4, April 1968, 59-64.

(24) See John J Begley SJ-Carl J Armbuster SJ, ‘Women and Office in the Church’ in The American Ecclesiastical Review, vol. CLXV, n.3, November 1971, 146: “Moreover, it is a re-ordering of that ministry and consequently cannot be imagined, much less judged, in the forms and structures of the present totally masculine ministry. Ministry by women means a new ministry, not a feminine figure in a clerical pants-suit”.

(25) Genesis 1: 27 (JB)

(26) Genesis – A Commentary. Trans. by JH Marks, SCM Press Ltd, 1961, 58.

(27) Eric Doyle OFM, ‘God and the Feminine’ in The Clergy Review, New Series, vol. LVI, no. 11, November 1971, 872-873.

(28) See Lucy Vasquez OP, ‘The Position of Women according to the Code’ in The Jurist, 1974; 1 / 2, 128-142, esp. 137.

(29) Joan A Range ASC, ‘Legal Exclusion of Women from Church Office’ in The Jurist, 1974; 1 / 2, 112-127; 113: “It can be correctly said, then, that the position on what women may or may not do regarding sacramental ministry finds in Gratian an expression which sums up a tradition that had been developing since the early centuries of the Christian tradition and a position that would go substantially unchallenged until the twentieth century in terms of Church law”.

(30) Summa Iuris Canonici...II, Romae 1945, 254. Hermaphrodites are also excluded whether real or doubtful, cf. ibid, 255.

(31) Tractatus Canonico-Moralis De Sacramentis IV: De sacra ordinatione, Romae 1947, 244.

(32) Theologiae Moralis Compendium II, Biblioteca de Autoribus Cristianos, Matriti 1958, 717.

(33) See also S Giner Sempere, ‘La mujer y la potestad de orden’ in Revista Española de Derecho Canónico 9 (1954) 841-869.

(34) Synopsis Theologiae Dogmaticae III, Desclée et Socii, Parisiis, Tornaci, Romae 1950, 735.

(35) See Franciscus a P Solá SJ, De sacramentis ordinis et matrimonii in Sacrae Theologiae Summa IV, Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, Matriti 1956, 701-702. The Pepuzians (from Pepuza in Phrygia) belonged to a Montanist sect. They had women bishops and priests on the basis of Gal 3: 28. They were also called Artotyritae because they used cheese with the bread at Mass (Üñôïò, ôõñüí) and Cataphrygae from the region where they lived. The Collyridians were a sect in Armenia. Women among them used to offer sacrifice in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Marcus Magnus commended certain women to sacrifice.

(36) The Epistle to the Romans, London 1949, 235.

(37) The Epistle to the Romans. A Commentary. Trans. by Harold Knight, London 1964, 379. This is the only mention of a woman exercising the function of the diaconate; according to Leenhardt 1 Tim 3:11 is problematic, see ibid, 379.

(38) See J Michael Hughes, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, Hodder and Stoughton 1964, 192.

(39) JB Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians..., London 1903, 158.

(40) Ibid, 55-56; see Acts 16:13; 17:4, 12.

(41) Ibid, 56-57.

(42) CK Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, London 1973, 249. There is a transference from Gen 1:26 to Gen 2:18-23; see ibid, 252. Cf. also J Moffat, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, London 1959, 150-154.

(43) Saint Paul. Première Épître aux Corinthiens, Paris 1956, 371-372: “L’Apôtre paraissait cependant supposer que des femmes prophétisaient en public...Paul envisageait au ch. XI des cas exceptionels; car toute loi a ses exceptions”.

(44) MD Hooker, ‘Authority on her head: An Examination of 1 Cor. XI. 10’ in New Testament Studies, vol.10, April 1964, n.3, 410-416; see 415-416.

(45) JB Hurley, ‘Did Paul Require Veils or the Silence of Women? A Consideration of 1 Cor 11:2-16 and 1 Cor 14:33b-36’ in Westminster Theological Journal, vol.35, n.2, 1973, 190-220.

(46) Barrett, First Corinthians, 314-330; Allo, Première aux Corinthiens, 372; Hans Conzelmann, Der Erste Brief and die Korinther, Göttingen 1969, 290: “Freilich ist für die Annahme einer Interpolation kein Argument die Versetzung von v.34f. hinter v.40 in DG; sie ist eine sekundäre Erleichterung...”

(47) For example Schmiedel, Bousset, J Weiss; see J Huby SJ, Saint Paul. Première Épître aux Corinthiens..., Paris 1944, 344-345: “Quelques auteurs rejettent les vv.34-35 comme interpolés et suppriment ainsi le problème...”.

(48) Allo, Première aux Corinthiens, 372: “Tout le monde est maintenant d’accord sur ce point”.

(49) Barrett, First Corinthians, 330; cf. 314.

(50) WF Arndt – FW Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament..., University of Chicago Press 1974, 464-465.

(51) Barrett, First Corinthians, 331-332. He points out that the first is supported by the fact that v.36 links up well with v.33 and that the second may have some support in that it seems to refer to a specifically Corinthian practice or argument such as could suggest the reply of v.36. Cf. also 333.

(52) A Feuillet, ‘La dignité et la rôle de la femme d’après quelques textes pauliniens: comparaison avec l’Ancien Testament’ in New Testament Studies, vol.21, n.2, 1975, 157-191.

(53) According to Hurley, ‘Did Paul require veils?’, 190-220, 1 Cor 14:33b-35 should be understood as a portion of the discussion begun at v.29 and as forbidding women to join in the judging of the prophets. He did not require that they be always silent in the assemblies.

(54) JND Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, London 1963, 67-70.

(55) ‘A Suggested Interpretation of 1 Tim 2 (15)’ in The Expository Times, vol.81, n.7, 1970, 221-222.

(56) Ibid, 222.

(57) ‘Eve at Ephesus (Should women be ordained as pastors according to the First Letter to Timothy 2:11-15)’ in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, vol.17, n.4, 1974, 215-222.

(58) Kelly, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, 115: “The imperative verb (katalegesthó) literally means ‘be enrolled’; it is the technical term for being placed on a recognised list or ‘catalogue’, and it makes it absolutely clear that there was a definite order of widows”.

(59) J Daniélou, ‘Le Ministère des Femmes dans l’Église ancienne’, in La Maison-Dieu, n.61, 1960, 76-84.

(60) Ibid, 84-89; F Forget, ‘Diaconesses’ in DTC IV, P.1, 685-703; S Many, Praelectiones de sacra ordinatione, Paris 1905, 188-194. On the early tradition see Didascalia apostolorum. Edit. RH Connolly, Oxford 1929, chaps. IX, XV, XVI.

(61) Forget, ‘Diaconesses’, 689-690; Peter Hünermann, ‘Conclusions regarding the Female Diaconate’ in Theological Studies, June 1975, vol.36, n.2, 325-333; ER Hudson, ‘Women and the Diaconate’ in The Clergy Review, vol. LVI, n.11, November 1971, 886-890; ‘Women in the Office of Deacon’ in Restoration of the Office of Deacon as a Lifetime State. A Report to the US Bishops in Worship, vol.45, n.4, April 1971, 186-198, esp. 194-197.

(62) The Leofric Missal as used in the Cathedral of Exeter...AD 1050-1072. Edited with Introduction and Notes by FE Warren, Oxford 1883, 226b.

(63) Forget, ‘Diaconesses’. 696-698.

(64) Ibid, 693-694; Daniélou, ‘Le Ministère des Femmes’, 86.

(65) CJ Hefele, Histoire des Conciles II, 2 Partie. Trans. by H Leclercq, Paris 1908, 803-804.

(66) In J Daniélou, The Ministry of Women in the Early Church. Trans. by Glyn Simon, the Faith Press, Bedford 1974, 22.

(67) Ante-Nicene Christian Library... Edited by A Roberts and James Donaldson, vol. XVII: The Clementine Homilies. The Apostolical Constitutions, Edinburgh 1870, 239. On Miriam see Ex 15:20; Deborah, Jug 4 & 5:7; Hannah, Sam 2:1-10; Huldah, 2 Kg 22:14.

(68) Hünermann, ‘Conclusions regarding the Female Diaconate’, 328; Forget, ‘Diaconesses’, 693.

(69) Daniélou, The Ministry of Women, 23.

(70) Liber de Virginibus velandis IX, PL2, col.901-902: “Non permittitur mulieri in ecclesia loqui (1 Cor XIV, 34; 1 Tim II, 12) sed nec docere, nec tinguere, nec offerre, nec ullius virilis muneris, nedum sacerdotalis offici sortem vindicare”.

(71) See the texts quoted from St Epiphanius’s work against the Collyridian heresy by Daniélou, ‘Le Ministère des femmes’, 90-93.

(72) The Priesthood. A translation of the ‘Peri Hierosynes’ of St John Chrysostom by WA Jurgens, New York 1955, 17, n.92: “The things I have just mentioned can be performed by many of the faithful; not only men, but even women. But when it is a question of the care of the Church and of so many souls, let the whole female sex retreat from such a task – and likewise the majority of men”.

(73) Gelasii Papae I, Epistola IX, PL 59, col.55-56: “Nihilominus impatienter audivimus tantum divinarum rerum subiisse despectum, ut feminae sacris altaribus ministrare ferantur; et cuncta quae non nisi virorum famulatui deputata sunt, sexum cui non competit exhibere...”.

(74) Forget, ‘Diaconesses’, 693, quoting St Epiphanius, Haereses, PG 79, 3: “Quant à l’ordre des diaconesses, s’il existe dans l’église, il n’y est cependant pas établi pour la fonction du sacerdoce ni aucun ministère de ce genre”; cf. Daniélou, ‘Le Ministère des Femmes’, 92.

(75) Daniélou, ‘Le Ministère des Femmes’, 86: “Nous sommes en présence d’une ordination des diaconesses, qui en fait un véritable ordre mineur”.

(76) See above n.35

(77) Quoted in Daniélou, The Ministry of Women, 25: “Who are there that teach such things, apart from women? In very truth, women are a feeble race, untrustworthy and of mediocre intelligence. Once again we see that the Devil knows how to make women spew forth ridiculous teachings, as he has just succeeded in doing in the case of Quintilla, Maxima and Priscilla”.

(78) Forget, ‘Diaconesses’, 695, quoting Haereses, PG 79, 3: “Si les femmes étaient appelées dans le Nouveau Testament, à exercer le sacerdoce ou à remplir un autre ministère canonique (η κανονικόν τι εργαζέσθαι), c’est à Marie, avant toute autre que la fonction sacerdotale eût du être confiée. Mais Dieu en a disposé différement, en ne lui donnant même pas le pouvoir de baptiser”. The same argument is found in the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles 15: see Daniélou, ‘Le Ministère des Femmes’, 89-90.

(79) Otto Semmelroth SJ, Mary Archetype of the Church. Trans. by Maria von Eroes and John Devlin. Introduction by Jaroslav Pelikan, Dublin 1964, 7-8, 24.

(80) Therefore his essay ‘Priestesses in the Church’ in Undeceptions. Essays on Theology and Ethics. Edit. by Walter Hooper, London 1971, 193, needs to be corrected: “But she is absent both from the Last Supper and from the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost. Such is the record of Scripture”.

(81) Lightfoot, Philippians, 55: “In most modern treatises on civilization, from whatever point of view they are written a prominent place is given to the ameliorization of woman and the abolition of slavery as the noblest triumphs of Christianity”.

(82) See, for example, S. Augustini, De Haeresibus Liber Unus, 26-27, PL 42, 30-31, and notes 68-73 above.

(83) Tertulliani De cultu foeminarum, Lib.1, c.1, PL 1, 1305: “Tu es diaboli janua, tu es arboris illius resignatrix, tu es divinae legis prima desertrix, tu es quae eum persuasisti quem diabolus aggredi non valuit”.

(84) Quoted in Daniélou, The Ministry of Women, 11.

(85) In Quartum Librum Sententiarum, d.XXV, a.II, q.1: Utrum ad susceptionem ordinis requiratur sexus virilis in Doctoris Seraphici S Bonaventurae...Opera Omnia...Tomus IV, Ad Claras Aquas 1889, 649-651.

(86) St Bonaventure uses the word homo here, ibid, 649: “quia in hoc Sacramento homo quodam modo fit Deus sive divinus, dum potestatis divinae fit particeps”.

(87) The editors inform us in a footnote, ibid, 649, that five of the MSS have the words non mulier after imago Dei: “sed vir ratione sexus est imago Dei [non mulier]...”. They decided evidently against their inclusion in the body of the quaestio, a decision which renders it considerably less offensive.

(88) Ibid, 649-650.

(89) Supplementum Tertiae Partis, q.39, a.1, in Doctoris Angelici Divi Thomae Aquinatis...Opera Omnia...VI, Parisiis 1873 Vivès), 40b-41b.

(90) Ibid, 41a: “Unde etsi mulieri exhibeantur omnia quae in ordinibus fiunt, ordinem tamen non suscipit, quia cum sacramentum sit signum, in eis quae in sacramento aguntur, requiritur non solum res, sed significatio rei, sicut dictum est in extrema unctione requiri quod sit infirmus, ut significetur curatione indigens. Cum igitur in sexu femineo non possit significari aliqua eminentia gradus, quia mulier statum subjectionis habet, ideo non potest ordinis sacramentum suscipere”. See also Divi Thomae Aquinatis...Summa Theologica I-II, Romae 1886, q.177, a.2, 1152: Utrum gratia sermonis et sapientiae et scientiae pertineat etiam ad mulieres. He argues in the negative on the basis of 1 Cor 14, 1 Tim, Gen 3, Eccles. 9

(91) Lib. IV Sent. d.25, q.2,4 in Joannis Duns Scoti…Opera Omnia XIX, Parisiis 1894 (Vivès), 140 a-b.

(92) Ibid, 140a: “quia nec matrem suam posuit in aliquo gradu Ordinis in Ecclesia”.

(93) Ibid, 140a: “Non enim Ecclesia praesumpsisset totum sexum mulierem privasse sine culpa sua, actu, qui posset sibi licite competere, qui esset ordinatus ad salutem mulieris et aliorum in Ecclesia per eam, quia hoc esse videretur maximae injustitiae, non solum in toto sexu sed etiam in paucis personis”.

(94) Ibid, 140b: “Nam Natura non permittit mulierem, saltem post lapsum, tenere gradum eminentem in specie humana, siquidem est dictum in poenam peccati sui Genes. 3. Sub viri poestate eris”.

(95)Commentaries do not mention the sacrament of orders, cf: MJ Lagrange OP, Saint Paul, Épître aux Galates, Paris 1950, 92-93; GS Duncan, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, Hodder and Stoughton 1966, 122-124; E de Witt Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, Edinburgh 1971, 203-208.

(96) VA Demant, ‘Why the Christian Priesthood is Male’ in Women and Holy Orders. Being the Report of a Commission appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Church Information Office, London 1966, 110-111.

(97) See Mascall, Women Priests?, 5-8; Leonel L Mitchel, ‘Woman Priests and the Episcopal Church’ in Review for Religious, vol.34, 1975, 511-524; GR Dunstan, ‘Ecumenical Considerations’ in Women and Holy Orders, 74-95.

(98) Demant, ‘Why the Christian Priesthood is Male’, 100.

(99) pp.4-5.

(100) See above n.2.

(101) Cf. For example: Sister Vincent Emmanuel Hannon SUSC, The Question of Women and the Priesthood. Can Women be admitted to holy orders? Geoffrey Chapman, London 1967; Begley-Armbruster, ‘Women and Office in the Church’, 145-157; Hünermann ‘Female Diaconte’, 325-333. See the works listed in n.136 below.

(102) Professor Mascall gives extensive quotations from both these authors: see Women Priests?, 14-23.

(103) See Women and Holy Orders, 97.

(104) See above n.69.

(105) Lonergan, A Second Collection, 60, 62, 97.

(106) ‘Women and Office in the Church’, 152.

(107) Raphael Loewe, The Position of Women in Judasim, SPCK, London 1966, 49-54.

(108) The Significance of the Message of the Resurrection for Faith in Jesus. Edited with an introduction by CFD Moule, Studies in Biblical Theology: Second Series 8, SCM Press Ltd., 1970, 9: “Further, it is difficult to explain how a story that grew up later and took shape merely in accord with the supposed demands of apologetic came to be framed in terms almost exclusively of women witnesses, who as such, were notoriously invalid witnesses according to Jewish principles of evidence”; cf. also Raymond E Brown, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, London/Dublin 1973, 122, n.204.

(109) The Early Liturgy to the Time of Gregory the Great. Trans. by FA Brunner CSsR, London 1966, 62; see also J Donaldson, Woman: Her position and influence in Ancient Greece and Rome and among the Early Christians, London 1907.

(110) See above nn.39 and 80.

(111) WA Meeks, ‘The Image of the Androgyne: Some uses of a symbol in Earliest Christianity’ in History of Religions, vol.13, n.3, 1974, 165-208.

(112) ‘Some Unexplored Parallels to 1 Cor 11:11-12 and Gal 3:28: The New Testament on the Role of Women’ in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, vol.21, n.1, Jan 1969, 50-58.

(113) Der Brief an die Galater, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck-Ruprecht 1965, 175, n.4, translated by Madeleine Boucher, ‘Some Unexplored Parallels’, 51.

(114) The Bible and the Role of Women: A Case Study in Hermeneutics. Trans. by Emilie T. Sander, The Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1966.

(115) Quoted by Boucher, ‘Some Unexplored Parallels’, 51.

(116) Stendahl, The Bible and the Role of Women, 40, quoted by Begley-Armbruster, ‘Women and Office in the Church’, 148.

(117) See above, I.4.

(118) Genesis – A Commentary. 82.

(119) EF Scott, The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, London 1958, 235-244; EK Simpson – FF Bruce, Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians and the Colossians…, Grand Rapids, Michigan 1965, 128-134.

(120) J Cambier SDB, ‘Le grand mystère concernant le Christ et son Église. Éphesiens 5, 22-23’ in Biblica, vol.47, n.1, 1966, 43-90. n.2 1966, 223-242.

(121) Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, par.2, in The Documents of Vatican II, 534.

(122) Ibid, 535.

(123) Ibid, 534.

(124) See Bridget O’Toole, ‘Deified or Reified – The Problems of Women’ in The Clergy Review, vol. LVI, n.11, November 1971, 878-886 and the literature therein mentioned especially: Eva Figs, Patriarchal Attitudes, Faber and Faber 1971; Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch, MacGribbon and Kee 1970; Kate Millet Sexual Politics, Rupert Hart-Davis 1971; Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex, Jonathan Cape 1091.

(125) See above n.95.

(126) Women and Holy Orders 73.

(127) See Is 49: 15; 66: 13. For the rest see the texts given in Doyle, ‘God and the Feminine’, 875-876.

(128) See Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion. Trans. by Rosemary Sheed, London and New York 1958, 38, 112; FM Bergounioux, OFM – J Goetz SJ, Prehistoric and Primitive Religions, Faith and Fact Books, London 1965, 61-158, esp. 69-81.

(129) HR Schlette, ‘Monotheism’ in Encyclopaedia of Theology. A Concise Sacramentum Mundi. Edited by Karl Rahner, London 1975, 979-980.

(130) Ibid, 980.

(131) This thesis was written under the direction of Fr Karl Rahner.

(132) Fr van der Meer has since published his thesis under the title: Priestertum der Frau? Eine theologiegeschichtliche Untersuchung. Quaestiones disputatae 42, Freiburg i. Br. 1969.

(133) ‘Legal Exclusion’, 112-121.

(134) Ibid, 115.

(135) Ibid, 119.

(136) Ibid, 120-121.

(137) See for example: J Funk SVD, ‘Klerikale Frauen? in Õsterreichisches Archiv für Kirchenrecht, 4, 1963, 271-290 (argues in favour of celibate women deacons); C Meyer, ‘Ordained women in the early Church’ in Chicago Studies, 3 1965, 285-308 (evidence in favour of a true ordination of deaconesses in the early Church is not to be dismissed lightly – modern theologians and canonists have been guilty of a selective presentations of the facts in arguing against the truly sacramental ordination of deaconesses); AM Carr OFMConv, ‘Women Barred from Ordination’ in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 10, 1965, 70-71 (the provision of canon 968, par.1 is not a de fide doctrinal statement – the Church has never taught explicitly or directly that women are debarred from ordination); L Cristiani, ‘Des femmes dans les Saints-Ordres?’ in Ami du Clergé, 44, 1965, 648-649 (Christ did not intend women to be members of the apostolic succession, women are excluded from ordination); Agnes Cunningham SSCM, ‘Women and the Diaconate’ in American Ecclesiastical Review, 11, 1971, 158-166 (the Church ought to re-introduce deaconesses with threefold ministry: liturgical-sacramental, catechetical and prophetical); ER Hudson, ‘Women and the Diaconate’ in The Clergy Review, 11, 1971, 886-890 (argues that women should assume new ministerial tasks by accession to the diaconate); AM Carr OFMConv, ‘Women in Sacred Orders’ in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 7 1971, 69-70 (presents reasons for the acceptance of women as deaconesses – today’s world demands that serious consideration be given to this question); FP Chenderlin SJ, ‘Women as Ordained Priests’ in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 5 1972, 25-32 (at this point the indications are against the ordination of women); GR Evans, ‘Ordination of Women’ in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 10, 1972, 29-32 (takes up the arguments presented by Fr Chenderlin SJ, and shows that they are far from conclusive); S Alvarez-Menendez OP, ‘De utraque potestate ordinis et iurisdictionis sive laicis sive feminis de iure condendo concedenda vel minus’ in Angelicum, 3-4, 1972, 367-415 (as the law now is lay people are not capable of holding either power or orders by divine law, although they can and do have a certain power of jurisdiction); FP Chenderlin SJ, ‘Women Priests – More Thoughts but no Second Thoughts’ in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 2 1973, 13-22 (does not find the case presented by GR Evans convincing and adds further reasons against the ordination of women); J Beyer, ‘Il ministero delle donne nella Chiesa’ in Vita Religiosa, 8-9, 1973, 585-590 (presents the question as open in regard to women priests and bishops and awaits theological examination of the question); G O’Collins SJ, ‘An Argument for Women Priests’ in America 129, 5, 1973, 122-123 (argues that there is no basis in the New Testament for debarring women from ordination – the Church should follow the trend of the times wherein almost all professions and positions of leadership are open to women); M Martinell, ‘Women and Ministries in the Church’ in The Clergy Review, 9, 1974, 610-620 (accepts the view that theological arguments against the ordination of women are weak, their exclusion from orders is based on inherited and deep seated social presuppositions about the place of women in the Church, this also explains why Ministeria quaedam has opened the ministries of reader and acolyte only to men); C Stuhlmüller, ‘Women Priests – Today’s Theology and Yesterday’s Sociology’ in America 131, 19, 1974, 385-387 (the whole question of opening up all levels of ministry and orders to women needs to be seriously reconsidered without a priori debarring them from the priesthood); JR Sheets SJ, ‘Ordination of Women: The Issues’ in American Ecclesiastical Review, 1, 1975, 17-36 (concludes that in the sacramental sign in orders there is a congruence of symbolism or intentionality which makes the female sex inappropriate for the exercise of this order); JC Kubeck, ‘The Church, Woman and the Priesthood’ in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 2, 1975, 56-61 (argues that women have never been ordained to the priesthood and never will be); J Masson SJ, ‘De mulieris loco et officio in mundo et in Ecclesia. Reflexiones post recentiorem Synodum Episcoporum’ in Periodica, 1-2, 1975, 61-74 (deals with the standing women seek in the Church with regard to function, authority and status; the author points out that the Synod referred to these problems only occasionally and this may have been because of the report given by Bishop Bartoletti, the president of the Pontifical Commission on Women established in 1973 and because of promised future developments).

(138) We are fully aware that Pope Paul in his speech on April 18th 1975 to the United Nations Committee for International Women’s Year (see above n.11) stated that if women do not receive the call to the apostolate of the Twelve and thus to the ordained ministries, they are invited, nevertheless, to follow Christ as disciples and co-workers. He went on to add that we cannot change what our Lord did, but we can recognise and promote the role of women in the mission of evangelisation and in the life of the Christian community: “Si les femmes ne reçoivent pas l’appel à l’apostolat des Douze et donc aux ministères ordonnés, elles sont cependant conviés à suivre le Christ comme disciples et collaboratrices. Nous ne pouvons pas changer le comportement de Notre-Seigneur ni son appel aux femmes; mais nous devons reconnaître et promouvoir le rôle des femmes dans la mission d’évangélisation et dans la vie de la communauté chrétienne” (Acta Apostolicae Sedis LXVII, 30 Aprilis 1975, n.4, 266). Again, in his homily after declaring St Teresa of Avila Doctor of the Universal Church in 1970, the Pope pointed out that this was not done without reference to St Paul’s words in 1 Cor 14:34: “the women should keep silence in the churches” (RSV), because these words retain their meaning today that women are not destined to exercise hierarchical functions of teaching and ministry in the Church. However the declaration of St Teresa as Doctor of the Church does not militate against this apostolic precept because the title does not involve any hierarchical function of teaching: “e questo fatto non èsenza il ricordo della severa parola di San Paulo: “Mulieres in Ecclesiis taceant” il che dire, ancora oggi, come la donna non sia destinata ad avere nella Chiesa funzioni gerarchiche di magistero e di ministero. Sarebbe ora violata il precetto apostolico? Possiamo rispondere con chiarezza; no. In realtà, non si tratta di un titolo che comporti funzioni gerarchiche di magistero…” (Acta Apostolicae Sedis LXII, 30 Septembris 1970, n.9, 593). – We are bound to stress with respect that on neither of these occasions did the Pope make a formal statement of the content of the Catholic Faith in this matter. This would require a far more solemn instrument than a homily or a speech to an audience. In particular the Pope cannot be thought to have given an official pronouncement on the authentic meaning of 1 Cor 14:34. Such a pronouncement would have to take into account the findings of modern exegesis.

(139) Nathan Mitchell, ‘Ministry Today: Problems and Prospects’, in Worship, vol.48, n.6, June 1974, 337.

Other Important Readings by and about Eric Doyle OFM

Read also: Traditio perpetuo servata? The Non-ordination of Women: Tradition or Simply an Historical Fact? by Hervé Legrand, Worship 65 (November, 1991): 482-508.

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