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Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition

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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/03/23 05:59:35 (permalink)
For the first three centuries of the church’s existence, the Eucharist was celebrated mostly in homes. The presider was sometimes the bishop, if he was available. But often it was the head of the house — quite often a woman. There is abundant archeological evidence that there were women priests in the early church. In a basilica in Rome there is a mosaic of a woman. The inscription reads “Theodora Episcopa” which means “Bishop Theodora” and the word for “bishop” is in the feminine gender. Does this mean that it is an essential of the catholic faith that women should be ordained to all levels of the clergy? No. From our primary source, the scriptures, there is only clear evidence of women being ordained to the diaconate. Though there are tangential references in the New Testament that seem to refer to women presiding at the Eucharist, there is no clear proof in scripture that women in apostolic times were ordained beyond deacon. Of course, at the same time there is absolutely no biblical evidence that they were not. A papal commission appointed to study this issue found no scriptural basis for denying ordination to women.
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/03/28 03:04:43 (permalink)
Dear friends,

The following collection gathered by Rev. Dr. Elaine McCoy (Aug 21.06 The Historical Fact of Women in the Priesthood) will help our advocacy for women's ordination. Within our faith tradition and sacred Scripture, we discover evidence of a history rich in the call and participation of women in all dimensions of ministry. 

~s~
~~~~~
  • Mary of Magdala, the first witness of the resurrection, was commissioned by Jesus to be the apostle to the apostles. (John 20:1-18)
  • Pope Hippolytus, who lived from 170 to 236 AD, addressed the role of women in early Christianity in which Jesus made a resurrection appearance to certain women such as Mary Magdalene, and "sends them out on the apostolic mission as the first gospel messengers." (Brock, pp. 43-49) 'Lest the female apostles doubt the angels, Christ himself came to them so that the women would be apostles of Christ and by their obedience rectify the sin of the ancient Eve... Christ showed himself to the [male] apostles and said to them...'It is I who appeared to the women and I who wanted to send them to you as apostles.’
  • Gregory of Antioch (d. 593) (Brock, 15), in Oratio in Mulieres Unguentiferas XI, PG 88, 1863-64 portrays Jesus as appearing to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the tomb and saying to them: 'Be the first teachers to the teachers. So that Peter who denied me learns that I can also choose women as apostles.'
  • Phoebe, the deacon, was praised by St. Paul for her leadership of the church of Cenchreae. (Romans 16:1-2)
  • Mary, the mother of John Mark, led a congregation. (Acts 12:12)
  • In Romans 16:7, St. Paul identifies Junia as a senior in the faith to himself and labels Junia and her husband, Andronicus, as outstanding apostles. It is the only time that Paul refers to anyone other than The Twelve or himself as apostle.
  • St John Chrysostom, 4th century bishop, recognized Junia as a member of the apostolic circle. (The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, 11:555 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956)
  • The Louvre possesses the mummy tag of an Egyptian woman, Artemidora, a Christian living between circa 250 and 350 AD. The tag describes her as 'presbyter' -- in other words, priest. (Irvin, Calendars)
  • A  3rd or 4th century burial site for Epikto, on the Greek island Thera calls her 'presbytis' which means "priest or presbyter". (Eisen, pp. 123-4)
  • In the Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome, the fresco Fractio Panis [see the next post for more about this] shows a group of women 'conducting a Eucharistic banquet.' Catholic theologian, Dorothy Irvin believes that the red background and location of this fresco indicates a date circa 100 AD.  She notes the slope of the shoulders, feminine postures and jaw lines, earlobes, breasts and upswept hair-do’s with forehead curls attest to the femininity of all those seated around the table. (Irvin, Calendars)
  • A fifth century inscription carved on the sarcophagus of Leta Presbitera describes "Leta Presbitera" and states 'Of blessed memory Leta the Presbyter lived 40 years, 8 months, 9 days whose husband prepared her burial she departed in peace the day before the Ides of May.' Ides 15th –1 = May 14th. (Irvin, Calendars)
  • A Sicilian 4th or 5th century inscription calls Kale the "presbytis" or elder. (Irvin, Calendars)
  • A fourth century floor mosaic covering the tomb of Guilia Runa is located in the cathedral at Annaba acknowledges 'Guilia Runa, woman priest.' This cathedral was made famous by St. Augustine of Hippo. (Irvin, Calendars)
  • In the catacomb of St. Januarus in Naples, Bitalia, a woman priest is depicted attired in a red chasuble and celebrating the Eucharist.  She has two cups on a white cloth in front of her, one is wine, one is water to mix with the wine as is still done today. Above her are two open books with markers and on each of the four pages the name of an evangelist is written. (Irvin, Calendars)
  • On the ceiling in the Chapel of the Veiling in the Catacomb of St. Priscilla is a fresco, dated about 350 A.D. It depicts a woman deacon in the centre vested in a dalmatic.  Her arms are raised in the orans position for public worship. On the left side of the scene is a woman being ordained a priest by a bishop seated in a chair. She is vested in an alb, chasuble, and amice, and holds a gospel scroll. The woman on the right end of this fresco is wearing the same robe as the bishop on the left and is sitting in the same type of chair. She is turned toward the figures in the center and left watching the woman deacon and priest. 'These attributes,' comments Dorothy Irvin, 'indicate that she is thought of as a bishop, while the baby she is holding identifies her as Mary… Women’s ordination, however, was based on succession from the apostles, including women such as Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary from Magdala, Phoebe, Petronella, and others about whose status among the founders of the church there could be no doubt. (Irvin,' Calendars)
  • Bishop Theodora, mother of Pope Paschal 1, is depicted in a group portrait standing next to St. Praxedis and the Blessed Virgin Mary in a mosaic in a side chapel of the church of St. Praxedis in Rome. (Morris, 4-6, Eisen 200-205). Theodora, about 820 A. D. and St. Praxedis who lived seven hundred years earlier are depicted as standing together, wearing their episcopal crosses. They witness to a conscious connection between women church office holders and Mary, Mother of Jesus. (Irvin, Calendars)
  • 'While the preponderance of evidence for female deacons is in the East,' scholars Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek conclude in their scholarly book on women in Holy Orders that 'the evidence for women presbyters is greater in the west.' (Ordained Women in Early Church, p. 3)
  • Giorgio Otranto, director of the Institute of Classical and Christian Studies, University of Bari, Italy believes evidence of women priests is found in an epistle of Pope Gelasius I (late 5th c.)  In 494 AD, he wrote a letter to the bishops of three regions of southern Italy complaining about the practice of women presiding at the liturgy: 'Nevertheless we have heard to our annoyance that divine affairs have come to such a low state that women are encouraged to officiate at the sacred altars, and to take part in all matters imputed to the offices of the male sex, to which they do not belong.' In summary, Otranto concludes, 'we may infer from an analysis of Gelasius's epistle that at the end of the fifth century, some women, having been ordained by bishops, were exercising a true and proper ministerial priesthood in a vast area of southern Italy, as well as perhaps in other unnamed regions of Italy.' (Otranto, Notes on the Female Priesthood in Antiquity, Section 2.  See our own http://www.womenpriests.org/traditio/otran_1.asp)
  • The Irish Life of Brigit describes the episcopal ordination of St. Brigit of Kildare by Bishop Mel of Ardagh in fifth century Ireland. Brigit was consecrated by Mel, who, 'being intoxicated with the grace of God there, did not know what he was reciting from his book, for he consecrated Brigit with the orders of a bishop.' (Davies , p.33)
  • The evidence in the Celtic Church indicates that women and men were equals in preaching the Gospel, presiding at Mass and at the other sacraments. In the sixth century, three Roman bishops at Tours wrote a letter to two Breton priests Lovocat and Cathern, expressing their outrage that women were allowed to preside at Eucharist. 'You celebrate the divine sacrifice of the Mass with the assistance of women to whom you give the name conhospitae* …While you distribute the eucharist, they take the chalice and administer the blood of Christ to the people… Renounce these abuses…! -*conhospitae: mixed houses or double monasteries where men and women lived together and raised their children in the service of Christ. (Ellis, pp.142-144)
  • In double monasteries, men and women worked as equals. However, the overall authority within a double monastery was often held by an abbess. St. Brigit selected Conleth to help her administer Kildare. They governed 'their church by a mutual, happy alliance.' (Meehan, p.14)
  • The tradition of a Christian seeking a spiritual guide, mentor, soul friend or anam cara (Gaelic) was a prevalent Celtic custom. Women as well as men served as spiritual friends. This custom eventually influenced the entire Church and led to the institutionalizing of private confession. These are stories of spiritual seekers coming to Saint Ita and Saint Samthann to reveal their sins and to receive forgiveness and guidance. (Meehan, p. 15)
  • In the tenth century, Bishop Atto of Vercelli wrote that because of the needs of the church, devout women were ordained to lead worship and to preside over the church. Church historian Gary Macy writes, 'For over 1200 years the question of the validity of women’s ordination remained at least an open question. Some popes, bishops and scholars accepted such ordinations as equal to those of men, others did not.' (Gary Macy, Theological Studies, Sept., 2000. p. 3)
  • St. Therese of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church, wanted to be a priest. She cut up her mother’s wedding dress after her father’s death to make a chasuble. (See Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul)
  • St.Therese of Lisieux said, in 1897: 'God is going to take me at an age when I would not have had the time to become a priest... If I could have been a priest, I would have been ordained at these June ordinations. So what did God do? So that I would not be disappointed, he let me be sick. In that way I could not have been there, and I would die before I could exercise my ministry.'  Therese spoke those words to her sister, Celine Martin. Celine also testified (at the 1910 beatification diocesan tribunal) that 'the sacrifice of not being able to be a priest was something Therese always felt deeply...[H]er regret...was caused by a real love of God, and inspired high hopes in her.
  • The thought that St. Barbara had brought communion to St. Stanislaus Kostka thrilled St. Therese.  She said: "Why must I be a nun, and not an angel or a priest? Oh! What wonders shall we see in heaven! I have a feeling that those who desired to be priests on earth will be able to share in their honour of the priesthood in heaven.'
  • In her Story of a Soul (Day, p. 87) Therese stated [in a prayer to Christ]: 'If I were a priest, how lovingly I would carry you in my hands when you came down from heaven at my call; how lovingly I would bestow you upon people's souls. I want to enlighten people's minds as the prophets and doctors did. I feel the call of an Apostle. I would love to travel all over the world, making your name known and planting your cross on a heathen soil.'
    • Joan of Arc : From Heretic to Saint : Our Role Model of Holy Disobedience  When St. Joan of Arc was asked whether she was subject to church authorities, she replied 'Yes. But our Lord must be served first.' (See Marina Warner, Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism cited in Ellsberg, pp.136)
  • There were holy women in religious orders who were at some point excommunicated (Bd. Mary McKillop, Bd. Anne Marie Javouhey and Bd. Theodore Guerin). Read their stories in Robert Ellsberg, Blessed Among All Women. Some women faced opposition and even persecution in their struggle to live their vocations -- 'especially if this involved any kind of innovation'-- from male authorities who 'were only too eager to inform them that their visions or desires contradicted the will of God.'
  • Some, like the Beguines, a new model of religious life in Medieval times were suppressed and effectively written out of history.
  • Mary Ward, founder of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was imprisoned and condemned as a 'heretic, schismatic and rebel of the Holy Church.' (Ellsberg, 299) [For more about Mary Ward, see our own Holy Women Through the Ages]
  • Others like Angela Merici prevailed. But more than a few could share the motto applied to St. Angela Merici, founder of the Ursuline order: 'A Woman Faced with Two Alternatives. She Saw and Chose the Third.' (Ellsberg, pp. 16-17)
  • Prophetic women, like Catherine of Siena and Birgitta of Sweden confronted the corruption and abuses of the institutional church. Acting on her 'authority as God’s messenger' Birgitta insisted that the pope leave the comforts of Avignon and return to his proper seat in Rome. One time, she denounced the pope as ‘a murderer of souls, worse than Lucifier, more unjust than Pilate, and more merciless than Judas.' The pope did not respond to her calls for reform of the church, but he did approve the Rule of her new religious order, The Brigettines, or Order of the Most Holy Savior. (Ellsberg, p. 135.)
Source: A Brief Overview of Womenpriests in the History of the Roman Catholic Church - Bridget Mary Meehan, Olivia Doko, and Victoria Rue http://www.romancatholicwomenpriests.org/WomenPriest_History_June_2006/WomenPriestHistory-June2006.pdf
Sophie
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/03/28 07:32:58 (permalink)
In the Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome, the fresco Fractio Panis [see the next post for more about this] shows a group of women 'conducting a Eucharistic banquet.' Catholic theologian, Dorothy Irvin believes that the red background and location of this fresco indicates a date circa 100 AD. She notes the slope of the shoulders, feminine postures and jaw lines, earlobes, breasts and upswept hair-do’s with forehead curls attest to the femininity of all those seated around the table. (Irvin, Calendars)


Dear friends,

Although I had heard of it, the fresco Fractio Panis (thought to be from sometime around 100 AD) was something fairly new to me when I began my association with womenpriests.org. Discovered in the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome, the fresco's details raise a number of questions about the role of women in the early Church and also the Church’s understanding of Eucharist. In a womenpriests.org library article, The “Fractio Panis” and the Eucharist as Eschatological Banquet, author Damien Casey helps us in our investigations about women priests. When you open the article, I am certain you will enjoy the opportunity to examine the photographs of portions of the fresco and to learn more about:
  • Women in the early Church
  • Sacrifice and Sacrificial Metaphors
  • Eschatological Abundance (don't let the word scare you away!)
  • Interpreting the Frescos; and
  • The loss of eschatological imagination

Please enjoy! The article is worth a visit even if just to view the photographs alone. The link to it is here: http://www.womenpriests.org/theology/casey_02.asp

With love and blessings,
~Sophie~
post edited by Sophie - 2007/03/28 16:50:24
Sophie
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/03/29 01:35:26 (permalink)
Dear friends,

As we know, in the Early Church it was not a general practice to ordain women as priests.  Yet, as we are now beginning to understand, there have been remarkable exceptions to this general rule. In a number of countries women were ordained priests.  If you have a chance, for instance, to explore the fresco Fractio Panis (see above,) you will see the evidence found in both archeological inscriptions and historical records.

Our Team has prepared an article that explores more about this.  It looks at things like:

Besides including a a photograph of the tombstone for the Catholic woman priest Leta in South Italy, 4th century AD, there are also links to articles about:

The link to the article is here:  http://www.womenpriests.org/traditio/past_ovr.asp.  If you have any questions, please let me know.

With love and blessings,
~Sophie~
Sophie
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/04/01 02:43:00 (permalink)
 

Dear friends,

Another remarkable exception to the early Church general practice of not ordaining women priests is found in Italy.  Evidence  shows that from the 2nd to 6th centuries AD, women priests functioned in the South of Italy and Sicily.  Our Team has put together the following very brief article that tells about burial records of:
  • Guila Runa, woman priest -- see the photograph of her 4th century tombstone
  • Leta Presbitera who practiced sacerdotal ministry in the early Christian community of Tropea.  A photo of her tombstone is included.

The article is short and it is here: http://www.womenpriests.org/called/south.asp It includes links to more information which, if you like, I welcome you to examine now.  I will be highlighting it a little further on in our journey.  Any questions, please let me know!

With love and blessings,
~Sophie~
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/04/10 03:34:39 (permalink)
God promised Abraham that the Messiah would come through his lineage. Jacob (Israel), the grandson of Abraham, had twelve sons from whom the twelve tribes of Israel were born. So the Apostles (twelve Jewish men) were selected by Jesus as a sign of God’s promise to Abraham. They were symbolic of Jacob’s twelve sons and God’s promise that salvation was to come through the Jews.
 
Although the twelve Apostles were Jewish men, the Catholic hierarchy has focused upon the “gender” of the twelve and has ascribed to it a permanent meaning in establishing the priesthood. The number (twelve) and the nationality (Jewish) are considered transient, however, the gender (male) has the real significance. The sex of the twelve is interpreted as Jesus’ command that women are not welcome as priests in his church. Women shall not preach, women shall not have authority over men, and women shall remain silent. The fact that Jesus never said this or that Jesus never prevented a woman from preaching doesn’t matter. We know that Jesus had many female disciples following him, proclaiming him as the Messiah, and financially supporting him. So the clergy would have us believe that Christ’s message to women is -- I’ll take your money but I won’t entrust you with preaching the word of God, with conferring absolution, with consecration of the host, etc. Such work is to be reserved for men only. Not because men are better, just because.
 
It is interesting how easily the Jewish nationality of the disciples is dismissed. Jesus didn’t use the ancestors of German men, he didn’t use the ancestors of Italian men, and he didn’t use the ancestors of Polish men. He used Jewish men. Since he knew that the original plan would not work and his church would include all nations, why not use a representative sampling of different races and nationalities? Why not set the example from the beginning? Yes, Jesus ultimately did command the apostles to go and teach all nations, but did he say anything about the gender of who should teach or for that matter about the gender and nationality of who should be allowed serve as priests? Perhaps the selection of twelve Jewish men had a transient purpose after all.
 
And what of those who followed after Jesus ascended into heaven, are we to ignore that they were the product of a society that harbored social and cultural prejudices against women. In looking at the history of how women were treated in Jewish society, can we really disregard such prejudices in shaping the decisions of both the male and female disciples? Whatever their attributes as saints, they were nonetheless influenced by a society harboring backward thinking about women. After all, as we know they persisted in backward thinking about slavery. But today’s clergy would have us stick our heads in the sand and pretend that none of this was a factor in shaping their decisions and teachings. Yes, the Holy Spirit does guide the church, but as we have seen time and again, in matters concerning how we treat one another, even the holiest human beings can be stubborn, and not listen.
 
The specious arguments against ordination of women have no real substance in the context of the actual teachings of Christ, so the Vatican’s argument comes down to - only men can be priests because we (the church hierarchy) believe God wants it that way. And why? Because it’s the way we’ve always done it. So there! And we’re not going to listen anymore.
 
Such arguments are a reflection of primitive thinking devoid of reason. It is the kind of thinking that prevents primitive societies entrenched in irrational and harmful traditions from ever advancing. It is the kind of thinking that prevents our church from correcting its errors.
 
Today there are civilized people who are enlightened enough to recognize and try to correct discrimination against women. However the church remains obstinate and persists in its discriminatory practices. There are even those who advocate women adopting a subordinate role in their homes instead of promoting an equal partnership with their husbands. And, all the while these same people claim that women should have equal opportunity and be afforded leadership positions in business and government. Do they not see the hypocrisy in this or are they simply giving lip service to something they cannot change as a means of appearing progressive?
 
It is disgraceful that our church lags so far behind in the treatment of its female members. Instead it is our secular world that strives for justice and equality for women. What is even more disturbing is that the church, unable to produce valid reasons for denying ordination to women, has resorted arguments like “just as only women can have babies, only men can be priests” Clearly one statement has no relation to the other. God’s design in biological reproduction is in no way a reflection of God’s design in ordination to the priesthood. By the Church’s own admission, women have all the necessary qualities to be a priest however they cannot be ordained because of their gender, a quality which supplies no detriment to executing the role of a priest. But the reason we are told is that it is “God’s Will.” It is suggesting that God gives men and women the same talents and graces to be priests and then decrees that only men may use them. The idea is absurd and God is not absurd.
 
It is time for the Vatican to face the truth. There is no valid reason to exclude women from the sacrament of Holy Orders. The practice needs to change and the sooner the better.
 
In the Old Testament the focus was on the sons of Abraham. In the New Testament the gender bias is broken. The focus is no longer on the sons of Abraham alone but now includes the daughters of Abraham as well as the sons and daughters of all nations. Christ conquered sin and was the conduit from old prejudice to new liberation. He reestablished our relationship as sons and daughters of God, all equally cherished, and nurtured and accepted by our Creator. Yet in the Catholic Church when an unmarried man of good character asks to dedicate his life to service in the priesthood, he is accepted. When an unmarried woman of good character asks to dedicate her life to service in the priesthood, she is turned away. What father would hand his son a serpent if he asked for bread? As Christ said, even the wicked fathers know how to give their sons good things. Would that same father do any less for his daughter? A father with any common decency would not, so how much more can we expect from the perfect parent. Our God of love is the perfect parent who would never engage in such discriminatory practices. No less is expected from the men who claim to represent God on earth.
Therese
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/04/10 03:46:50 (permalink)
God promised Abraham that the Messiah would come through his lineage. Jacob (Israel), the grandson of Abraham, had twelve sons from whom the twelve tribes of Israel were born. So the Apostles (twelve Jewish men) were selected by Jesus as a sign of God’s promise to Abraham. They were symbolic of Jacob’s twelve sons and God’s promise that salvation was to come through the Jews.

Although the twelve Apostles were Jewish men, the Catholic hierarchy has focused upon the “gender” of the twelve and has ascribed to it a permanent meaning in establishing the priesthood. The number (twelve) and the nationality (Jewish) are considered transient, however, the gender (male) has the real significance. The sex of the twelve is interpreted as Jesus’ command that women are not welcome as priests in his church. Women shall not preach, women shall not have authority over men, and women shall remain silent. The fact that Jesus never said this or that Jesus never prevented a woman from preaching doesn’t matter.

 
The points you raise in your entire post are well taken! They are well said! Thank you for sharing.  While still reflecting, one of the first things that jumped to mind as I read your post is the fact that of all the geneologies recorded in the Bible, Jesus's is the only one that includes women.
 
Each one of the women has some 'irregular' features about her -- not things which in his social time one would want to advertise.  eg, Mary herself, pregnant out of wedlock.
 
His lineage alone suggests something different.  So yes -- twelve tribes of Israel -- but not necessarily men!
 
I look forward to hearing more from you!
Therese
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/04/10 18:57:42 (permalink)
  Yes Jesus's recorded lineage of matriarchy has some prostitutes and foreign women in it: Ruth, Tamar, Rahab, among them.  No wonder Jesus had no silly women put down "evil Eve- bad women" prejudices , only the ability to include, validate, see the good and potential in others.  Jesus praises and validates and honours the honesty and willingness to learn and preach to others of the Samaritan woman. He cures the "unclean" hemorraging woman and does not condemn her.  Equality and validation of women was also Jesus's agenda.  Any reasonable reading of the New Testament immediately makes this truth evident.
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/04/11 03:17:13 (permalink)
Hi Therese,
 
It is interesting that the bible traces the lineage of Jesus through Joseph, who was not his biological father. It is evidence of the ancient bias against the significance of the female contribution. It also appears to be evidence of the ignorance of the genetic contribution of the female in procreation.  
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/04/20 01:50:19 (permalink)
Dear friends,

An important theme in our continuing exploration of the case for women's ordination is that of Tradition.  The Church has always believed that its true Tradition is not fully expressed in external statements or practices only. Tradition also contains “the gospel which our Lord did not write, but taught by word of mouth and implanted in people’s hearts, and part of which the evangelists later wrote down, while much was simply entrusted to the hearts of the faithful.” 

Our starting point: the perspectives of Jesus Christ himself.  That all the faithful share in Christ's priesthood has enormous implications for women.  In the following article from our library, The Priesthood of All the Faithful, the author helps open some doors to deeper understanding.  In it,  the author examines:
  • Christ's abolition of the Old Testament priesthood that was based on so called sacred realities -- sacrality (presumed holiness)-- of times, places, cultic objects, priestly descent.
  • Christ's institution of a priesthood in whose basic dignity all the baptised share.

The article's conclusion (this isn't a spoiler!):


The sacramental sign of the priesthood is the human personality of the ordained priest, whether man or woman. Sacred Scripture itself does not explicitly teach that women can be ordained. But it does seem a logical inference from the nature of Christ's priesthood, that women could and should partake in the sacramental priesthood.

You'll note some additional links at the bottom of the page.  Though I welcome you to explore them now, they will be coming up in our conversation again. The link to the article is here: http://www.womenpriests.org/scriptur/baptism.asp

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

with love and blessings,
~Sophie~
 
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/04/20 23:28:26 (permalink)
Pope Pius XII, preaching to newlyweds on September 10, 1941:

The good Pope speaks of man and woman entering marriage on a 'perfectly equal footing' because of their equal creation in God, but then goes on to accentuate the position of the husband as the head of this new visible society called the family. The Pope stresses the need for such a male head as a result of the sin of Eve. The Pope says:



In holiness, by means of grace, both spouses are equally and immediately united to Christ. In fact, St. Paul said that as many as have been baptised in Christ and who have put on Christ are all sons [sic] of God; there is neither male nor female, because all are one in Christ Jesus. Not so, however in the church and in the family which are visible societies....


1941: We hear the Pope differentiate between what is in Christ (the invisible)....and what is in society.  He makes a point that the two do not coincide.  He talks about the perfect 'equality' of men and women in the eyes of God but reminds us that in the visible world, this doesn't apply.

Astonishing that many persist in clinging to the belief that either Rome does not discriminate against women or that Rome's discrimination was just ancient and old?  Do people not want to see?  Are they afraid of Truth? Rome's discrimination against women is clearly ancient, recent, and present. And it will be with us for some time yet to come.

A character who struck me in Mel Gibson's The Passion was Satan -- the androgynous figure walking all along, observing and speaking to Jesus.

As I sit here and type, I reflect:

Sexism in the Church is part of that figure: the darkness that has been walking with pilgrims all along the Way -- infiltrating, infiltrating -- distracting the attention of many from what is the Truth found in Christ.

So sending a word up to Pius:

Your Holiness Pope Pius XII: women and men are equal and immediately united in Christ. This holds true in both invisible and visible societies. I am certain you know this by now.  Help Rome catch up! Provide spiritual leadership and inspire the work of your successors. Poke them and prod them to fix up misstatements of and wrong actions that degrade the Truth. Help get them on the right track.  Inspire them to learn from your mistakes. Help them see the Light. Get a little (maybe we need big) holy fire burning under their chairs. And please pray for our work as the eyes, voices, hands and feet of Jesus in the world.

You must agree: Somebody's got to clean up this mess.
In peace,
Therese
post edited by Therese - 2007/04/21 06:18:53
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/05/01 03:48:55 (permalink)
Dear friends,

We step back once again to consider women priests from the point of view of Tradition.

The fact that all the faithful share in the common priesthood of Christ means, as a necessary implication, that we all share in Christ's ministerial priesthood.  The Gospel of Luke uniquely presents Mary, Jesus's mother and one of the faithful, as a new priest in Christ. 

In the following article, The Apostolate of Mary, Dr. Wijngaards examines:
  • imparting the Holy Spirit
  • Mary's ministry
  • Mary and the Eucharist

Mary's internal share in Christ's priesthood to such an eminent degree argues a fortiori to woman's capability of exercising external priestly functions. Luke's interest in the ministry of women makes his description of Our Lady's ministry a scriptural source of hope, reflection and expectation of great possibilities.

The link to Dr. Wijngaards' article is here:  http://www.womenpriests.org/scriptur/mary.asp  If you have any questions, please let me know.

with love and blessings,
~Sophie~
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/05/01 07:36:53 (permalink)

One of the Church’s arguments against ordination of women is based upon an analysis by Pope Innocent III    …at the beginning of the thirteenth century, ‘Although the Blessed Virgin Mary surpassed in dignity and in excellence all the Apostles, nevertheless it was not to her but to them that the Lord entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of heaven.’
 
Why would God give the Virgin Mary excellence above the Apostles then exclude her from the apostolic ministry? This seems like a contradiction to the parable of the man who buried his talents. More likely it was a matter of confinement of her role by prejudicial social structures.
 
Considering subsequent apparitions (e.g. Fatima and Lourdes) they are largely from a very proactive Mary. She brings God’s message to us and both physical and spiritual healing. This is the very definition of an Apostle.
 
Also Jesus gave the keys of the Kingdom to Peter after he recognized Jesus as the Christ, son of the living God. If the keys could be subsequently passed on to the other male disciples, why could they not be passed on to female disciples as well? Did Jesus say…. make sure you don’t give the keys to any women.
 
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/05/01 16:16:31 (permalink)
   Jesus was passing the keys of the kingdom to women apostles and disciples too as when he resurrected he chose to appear first to a woman disciple, woman apostle.  Jesus fully entrusted her to preach his new gospel, of his resurrection to the others, to the world.
     Throughout his  ministry Jesus kept passing the priestly, minister tasks equally to women disciples and to women of the public, like Phoenician woman and Samaritan woman.
      There are not just 12 disciples of Israel but MORE disciples, and it is not limited to only 12 tribes of Israel but ALSO GENTILE WORLD,including Samaria. 
       Vatican keeps twisting the truth here, insisting 12 only, like Jesus did not preach beyond Israel.  We respect Jewish religion, Jesus was Jewish, but we also respect Gentiles and Jesus DID have more Apostles and Disciples and did not stop at 12 only.
  Tell the truth Rome. we have Paul, Junia, Mary Magdalene, Susanna and Joanna and  probably unnamed others  and we do include more than Jews in our ministry .
   You can not limit the keys of the kingdom to only the chosen 12 the chosen tribes of Israel and deny the Gentiles and the women.  Good grief, how deceptive and dishonest the Vatican is, just to exclude women from priesthood.  Apalling and disgusting dishonesty perpetrated by Rome!   Maria
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/05/02 22:01:47 (permalink)
   More than 12 Apostles or Disciples,  more than the 12 tribes of Israel,  Gentile world too and  women Apostles and Disciples  too : Mary Magdala, Junia, Susanna, Joanna,   chosen by Jesus, plus Paul was called to be Apostle too by Jesus
 
   
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/05/02 22:04:31 (permalink)
    "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.  To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable."  ------ Helen Keller ,  1880-1968  Blind and Deaf American Scholar and Writer.
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/05/06 05:07:01 (permalink)
In “Peace on Earth” Pope John XXIII identified three characteristics of the contemporary world: the working classes have gradually gained ground in economic and public affairs; women are now taking a part in public life; in the modern world human society has taken on an entirely new appearance in the field of social and political life.(4) All three trends are embraced in one principle set forth by Pope John: “Thus in very many human beings the inferiority complex which endured for hundreds of thousands of years is disappearing, while in others there is an attenuation and gradual fading of the corresponding superiority complex which had its roots in social-economic privilege, sex or political standing.”(5) Thc importance of this principle lies in its acknowledgment that phenomena evident in social, economic and political life of people today are part of an evolution in human consciousness coextensive with the history of humankind. This insight is compatible with the emphasis that “The Church in the Modern World” places upon the task of the Church to scrutinize the signs of the times and to interpret them in the light of the Gospel. For, it continues, “. . . we can already speak of a true social and cultural transformation, one which has repercussion on man’s religious life as well."(6) If the position of women is subject to true social and cultural transformation, then it follows that that development has implications for the religious life of the Church, the people of God.
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/05/06 05:10:57 (permalink)
As Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) said in his commentary on Dei Verbum:

Not everything that exists in the Church must for that reason be also a legitimate tadition; in other words, not every tradition that arises in the Church is a true celebration and keeping present of the mystery of Christ. There is a distorting, as well as a legitimate, tradition.... Consequently, tradition must not be considered only affirmatively, but also critically. " A traditional practice that seemed appropriate in the past may no longer be appropriate in a new cultural context. A traditional conviction, when subjected to critical examination, may be recognized as based on cultural attitudes rather than on divine revelation. It may become clear that it was not really a tradition of authentic Christian faith. The Church has never taken antiquity to be the sole criterion of an authoritative Tradition.

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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/06/22 19:52:26 (permalink)
Women and Church
Finding 'Herstory'
Margot Patterson, Rome
Cover Story: National Catholic Reporter
Issue Date:  June 22, 2007

-- Christine Schenk
A woman leader is shown alongside men in this funerary sarcophagus from the Vatican's Pio Christiani Museum. The museum has many third-and forth-century sarcophagi of early Christians that include depictions of prominent women, some shown in the same teaching positions as Jesus.

Finding 'Herstory':
Pilgrims in Rome examine women's leadership roles in the early Christian church
By MARGOT PATTERSON
Rome

The second-century fresco in the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome shows seven people dining, a chalice and seven baskets before them. The guidebook sold at the catacombs says of the fresco: “The scene represents the eucharistic banquet, as we can clearly see.”

The text doesn’t mention it, but the figures in the fresco appear to be women. If the scene shows the eucharistic banquet, were women presiding at Eucharist in the second century?

Feminist scholars increasingly seem to think so. Greater attention to the role of women in the early Christian church indicates that women played an important role in the growth of Christianity and sometimes acted as hosts or cohosts in the house churches where early Christians met for worship and a communal meal.

Archaeological, epigraphic and textual evidence from the first centuries of Christianity suggest that women not only helped spread the Good News as missionaries, financial supporters and patrons but in some cases served in ministry, acting as deacons, presbyters and even, on occasion, episcopoi, or overseers, in the new religion.

For the Catholic church, which says the priesthood is reserved for men because Jesus chose only men as his apostles and only men can image Jesus, this is touchy material. For women wanting to become priests in the Catholic church or who want other women to have the opportunity to be ordained, it’s heady stuff. Grist for their cause.

“Right there from the beginning, the early church was gender-balanced,” says Christine Schenk, a Sister of St. Joseph who is executive director of FutureChurch, an organization that advocates the ordination of women and married men in the Catholic church.

In March, FutureChurch sponsored a pilgrimage to Rome to look at evidence of women’s leadership roles in early Christianity. The 13 women and one man who attended were exposed to a crash course in the differences between “herstory” and history. They looked at depictions of women in funerary art; heard about the power of the blood taboo, which Jesus broke when he touched the hemorrhaging woman in the Gospels; toured Christian churches; built on the remains of early house churches; and learned about the influence wealthy women in the Roman Empire exercised in the adoption of Christianity.

Along the way, they were exposed to the ambiguities of history -- both his and hers.

“When you get to the bottom of the well, it’s muddy,” says Janet Tulloch, a cultural historian at the University of Ottawa who accompanied the group and offered daily lectures on what was visited.

Scholarly evidence

Tulloch began her PowerPoint presentation on the Catacombs of Priscilla with “Fractio Panis,” the name for the fresco of the seven women at banquet, now one of the most controversial images in early Christian art. From there, Tulloch flashes on the projection screen another fresco from the same catacombs -- this one a picture of a woman, two men and a third male figure. The woman stands upright, her hands outstretched in prayer. Nothing marks the scene as a depiction of the biblical story of Susanna and the elders, but that is how it’s been interpreted. The guidebook notes that another aspect of the same scene is on the opposite wall; “on the right, the perfidious old men place their right hands on Susanna’s head as if accusing her. On the left, Susanna is seen again, this time with another person, and both are in orant stance. This could be interpreted as the scene of Susanna and Daniel giving thanks to God, after her innocence has been proven.”


-- Christine Schenk
The fresco "Fractio Panis" in the Catacombs of Priscilla shows seven people dining. Scholars are divided about the gender of the participants and whether the figures are sharing Eucharist or simply participating in a funerary meal.

All of this is conjectural, as Tulloch points out. There’s nothing that proves or even particularly suggests that this is the story of Susanna and the elders, except that tradition has had it so. It could equally well be scenes from an actual woman’s life. Scholar Nicola Denzey has suggested that the painting of a woman with two men’s hands upon her head may show the ordination of a female deacon.

Tulloch doesn’t take a position one way or the other. She’s skeptical of the view that it is a scene of Susanna and the elders and likes Denzey’s reading of the scene but is more persuaded by another scholarly interpretation that describes the scene as a woman being shamed.

Throughout the trip, Tulloch and Schenk provide complementary and sometimes different takes on the topics under discussion. In the Church of St. Praxedis, Schenk points to the beautiful ninth-century mosaic of St. Theodora with the word episcopa written above her and says the female bishop appears beside images of Mary of Nazareth and Sts. Praxedis and Pudentiana in a female version of apostolic succession. Tulloch looks doubtful and suggests that Theodora may be shown beside Mary of Nazareth and the two female saints simply to associate her with other holy women.

Tulloch is more convinced of Christian women serving as co-ministers in Rome, either brother-sister duos or husband and wife pairs. She mentions references in the New Testament, a fresco in the Catacombs of Callixtus, banquet scenes from the fourth-century Catacombs of Sts. Marcellino and Pietro showing mutual blessings, accounts in the early sixth century of chaste unmarried couples in Breton being admonished for living together and jointly serving the Eucharist.

Probably the most compelling and comprehensive evidence for women’s role as officeholders in the early church appears in a book by Sacred Heart Sr. Carolyn Osiek and Kevin Madigan called Ordained Women in the Early Church: A Documentary History. The two met at Catholic Theological Union where they were teaching. Osiek, now a scholar at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University, and Madigan, now at Harvard Divinity School, compiled literary and inscriptional evidence of women officeholders and found 61 inscriptions and 40 literary references to female deacons in the Eastern church and four inscriptions and two literary references to female deacons in the Western church.

The larger number of female deacons in the Orthodox church than in the Latin church reverses itself when it comes to the number of female presbyters.

Presbyters, or elders, were the precursors of today’s priests and acted as the bishop’s representative in the countryside in the early centuries of Christianity. Madigan and Osiek found 29 references to women holding the role of presbyter in the Western church (including a reference to a female episcopa in Rome) and 10 references to women who were presbyters in the Eastern church.


-- Christine Schenk
The room in which the fresco "Fractio Panis" appears.

The distinction between presbyter and priests points to a key issue that Osiek and Madigan discuss -- the difference between ancient and modern concepts of ordained ministry and clergy. At one time, stewards and widows were considered members of the clergy, but were not ordained. In some cases, deaconesses were ordained but did not have a sacramental role.

The texts Madigan and Osiek present are not themselves controversial. “What is controversial is to what extent this ordained ministry of women went,” Osiek said in an interview.


"Here lies the minister and bride of Christ, Sofia the deacon, a second Phoebe. She fell asleep in peace on the 21st of the month of March ...” -- The Greek inscription found in 1903 on a fourth-century tombstone on the Mount of Olives. The Phoebe referred to is a deacon mentioned by St. Paul in Romans 16.

While some “maximalist” historians might contend that the ordination of women as deacons was integral to the Eastern church, many others would argue that the ordination of deaconesses was restricted and arose to deal with specific needs and circumstances and was neither enduring nor widespread, which to a great degree, Osiek acknowledged, is true. Female deacons ministered to female Christians -- anointing their bodies for baptism and officiating at the ceremony in which adults were immersed nude in water. In an era of greater segregation of the sexes, female deacons paid pastoral visits to sick women and acted as a liaison between women and their bishop and deacons.

By the sixth century, church offices for women were declining. One reason Madigan and Osiek cite in their book is the decline of baptism by immersion and the emergence in its place of infant baptism; female deacons ceased to be necessary. The rise of cultic sacramentalism demanding cultic purity was another factor. Across a variety of cultures, they write, men have excluded women from the sacred because of the fear of contamination associated with menstruation and childbirth. “Cultic purity becomes associated with men; impurity with females.”

Though her work has been taken up by champions of women’s ordination, a cause she supports, Osiek is wary of identifying the case for women’s ordination with the historical evidence of women’s ministry in the early church. “Ordained ministry rises out of needs,” she said. “I think it’s rather dangerous to say you have to have a precedent because if you say if it happened then it can happen now, does that mean if it didn’t happen then, it shouldn’t happen now?”

Feminism and Christianity

The FutureChurch pilgrims train flashlights, binoculars and cameras on the mosaics, frescoes and ruins. Not all members of the pilgrimage have come so thoroughly equipped for studying the sights on the tour, but many have. They are keen to see all that they can see, and when Janet Tulloch or Chris Schenk adds to or in a few instances corrects the explanation of the official guide to the sights, the pilgrims hang back. They shine their flashlights in the corridors of the dimly lit catacombs and squint at the frescoes. In the Catacombs of Priscilla, they share an informal liturgy of song and prayer complete with a quasi-eucharistic meal, breaking off morsels of bread from rolls taken from breakfast and serving the bread to each other with a murmured invocation. All of them believe it is high time for the church to ordain women, that there is no good reason why it should not. Some are impressed by the evidence they’re seeing of women’s leadership roles in the early church. But the cause of women’s ordination is important to them on other grounds.

“It’s just wrong to take one segment of the human community and to say that one segment is elevated over another. I don’t need to go back 1,900 years to prove that men and women are equally gifted and able to minister to people equally,” said JoAnn Schwartz, a nurse from Kentucky.

A couple of women feel that they are called to the priesthood. Nancy Fusillo, a nurse practioner in Florida, recounts meeting with her local priest when she was 19 to tell him of her vocation. “I’m sure I’m not the only woman on the planet to have felt that call,” she said.


-- Chris Warde-Jones
The interior of the Chapel of St. Zeno, covered in ninth-century mosaics commissioned by Pope Paschal I. This view shows the cealing and the left wall, which depicts Sts. Agnes, Prassede and Pudentiana.

The folders given to every member of the FutureChurch pilgrimage bulge with articles about women in the church -- Catherine of Siena; Clare of Assisi; Perpetua and Felicity; and Prisca, the co-worker with Paul who, with her husband, Aquila, founded house churches in Corinth, Ephesus and Rome. Prisca is named six times in the New Testament, and four of the six times her name is mentioned before that of her husband, which is unusual, a signal of her prominence.

Wealthy women were key to the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire just as women of means played an important role in supporting Jesus’ ministry. Mary of Magdala, Joanna and Susanna underwrote Jesus’ mission to Galilee, Schenk pointed out. And it was Jesus’ female followers, not his male apostles, who were at the crucifixion and burial of Jesus; it was to them that the resurrected Jesus first appeared.

“Most of us grow up thinking it was just Jesus and 12 men. The deepest and most important part of the proclamation that Jesus is risen was entrusted to women,” said Schenk.

Biblical women have been excised from the lectionary, the approved book of scripture readings used in worship, which is one reason FutureChurch is launching a campaign called “Women and the Word” to coincide with the 2008 world synod of bishops in Rome on preaching. The FutureChurch campaign seeks to give a greater role to women in the readings, to expand women’s preaching opportunities, and to spur the synod to invite women biblical scholars to its meetings.

On the bus to Ostia where the group is going to look at Roman ruins, an old synagogue and a Mithraeum, a temple dedicated to the Persian god of light, to get some idea of the rich syncretic stew that Christianity took root in, I ask Schenk if there is a conflict between feminism and Christianity.

“I think for some people feminism and Christianity are in conflict. For me, my Christianity gives me strength for my feminism. In a lot of ways, I wouldn’t know how to separate them,” Schenk said.

Issues of authority

The FutureChurch Rome pilgrims are persuaded by the information they’re been given but are not unanimous in their assessment of it. One woman says she’s “stunned” by the amount of material showing women’s role as deacons, presbyters and bishops in the early church; another says she expected more concrete evidence, less material still in the research stage. A third notes there’s not that much evidence there to look at. Their reactions to the material do not seem that different from the scholarly views of it.


-- Chris Warde-Jones
Scholars have different view on who this fresco from the Catacombs of Priscilla, traditionally considered to depict Susanna, should be interpreted.

“The general problem in assessing evidence from late antiquity is of course that Christianity was such a localized phenomenon. Thus, what is ‘true’ in one place is not in another, and it makes it difficult to universalize textual and archaeological evidence,” said Charlotte Radler, an assistant professor in the Department of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University in California. There is scholarly consensus that there were women deacons in the early church, she said; there is less agreement on how deaconesses were viewed, whether they were ordained or not.

“The $64,000 question is how widespread was this practice?” Philip Rousseau, a professor of early Christian history at The Catholic University of America, said of female ministry in the early church.

“What you’re dealing with is not really priesthood in the sense we understand it. What you’re really dealing with is female authority,” Rousseau said. “There is a party, a body of opinion that is in favor of ordaining women, that is quite anxious to prove that this was the practice of the early church. This is a problematic matter. Why should it matter? If you can argue for it on other grounds, why look for this evidence?”

Like Carolyn Osiek, Rousseau sees contemporary arguments for women’s ordination that invoke historical precedent as questionable, both irrelevant and unconvincing.


-- Christine Schenk
JoAnn Schwartz and her daughter, Lauren, break bread with the other pilgrims in the Catacombs of Priscilla.

“Trawling one’s net in the rather thin evidence from the second century can be a dubious enterprise,” he said. “The evidence is not precise and focused in the way we want it to be. It’s not objective enough. It’s not plentiful enough. There are some texts that seem to suggest that women are conducting the Eucharist, but are they? Is that what the text says? Even if the texts say that, how representative is that? However sympathetic one is, if one is also honest you have to say there are hints and possibilities, but you’re never going to clinch it.”
Rousseau pointed out that it’s only since the 20th century that society has been willing to contemplate the idea that women command authority equal to men. To look for evidence for it in the second century seems to him “very optimistic indeed.” And he said discussions of women’s ministry in the early church sometimes trivialize the issue.

“The ideal that it all boils down to whether women were priests or not is to narrow the question and by narrowing the question to limit one’s self to a very small body of extremely vague evidence. The larger issues constantly being discussed were about female virtue, about female authority, about female leadership, about purity, chastity, virginity. The complicating matter is that they’re also concerned with the issue of male authority. Does a male virgin command more authority than a married male? The answer often is yes in early Christianity.”

Rousseau noted that the elevation of virginity is tied to the relationship between flesh and spirit, a topic much alive in the Greek philosophical world and one whose influence on Christianity appears as early as the Gospels. “The idea is that the virgin, or at least the chaste person, is subjecting the material side to the spiritual, to the transcendent, to the interior. ... The whole question of virginity was something that concerned men just as much as women. There were more men who had time to worry about these things. It’s connected with what you think virtue is, how you define virtue in the ancient world,” Rousseau said.
From the third century onward, enthusiasm for sexual renunciation intensified, said David Hunter, who holds the Msgr. James A. Supple Chair of Catholic Studies at Iowa State University. An acculturation of Christianity took place in the Roman Empire, Hunter said in an interview, and in reaction to the perception of a decline in Christian standards, some Christians began to look to certain elites who could represent or symbolize the sanctity of the whole community. Both ordained “priests” and celibates -- especially female virgins -- began to exercise this function.


-- Chris Warde-Jones
Kathy Sheehan and Nancy Fusillo participate in an informal liturgy in the Church of St. Praxedis.

“Because celibacy was so prominent among women in the third and fourth century, there was increasing pressure among men, especially for the clergy, to adopt the same kind of spiritual stature as women had,” Hunter said. “Some of the papal documents from the late fourth century that mention the celibacy requirement are quite explicit about that. They say that if even women are adopting celibacy, if the priest and bishop are exhorting people to celibacy, they should be living that kind of life themselves.”

Today, the valorization of celibacy over marriage that took place in the early centuries of Christianity is no longer true, or at least not as true. The church itself has given greater dignity to marriage, while popular opinion often regards celibacy as either impossible or unnatural. And in an era when women have entered professional fields in great numbers and attained distinction, the argument that they possess less authority is more problematic, at least in the West.

At the same time, clerical authority is under assault today, said Rousseau, who noted that clerical authority is tied to celibacy and as respect for one diminishes so does respect for the other. “Sexuality is a real problem for the Catholic church,” Rousseau said. But there’s a deeper, more fundamental issue, he added. “What’s the theology of authority? Where does authority derive from? What do you expect it to look like? What gives you authority in the Christian community?”

Pilgrims on the path

At the last supper together for the FutureChurch Rome pilgrims, Katherine Paul leaned toward me and said she has an idea of how I should begin my article about the trip. Start with St. Egeria, she suggested. “She went seeking, and that’s what we were doing too,” Paul said.

St. Egeria is one of only four women from the time of the early church whose writings are extant. The Spanish nun went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 381 and left an account of her journey to the Holy Land.

In a group of strong, outspoken women, Paul, 62, is among the most forthright. She was a pastoral associate for nine years, a hospice chaplain for two years and in 2000 became a pastoral administrator in Oakley, Mich. New rubrics regarding worship and a new bishop cramped her style and ministry and when in 2005 the bishop said all preaching by laypeople had to cease, Paul resigned as pastor.
“I am a living image of the effects of the misinterpretation of women through all these centuries,” she said.

Her anger and bitterness at leaving a ministry she loved are almost palpable. “I happen to be part of a church that still looks at me primarily in terms of my physical attributes rather than my gifts,” she said.

She compared the church’s attitude to women to someone telling a woman cooking a Thanksgiving meal for her family, “You can do the cleaning, you can do the shopping, you can do the cooking, but as soon as the meal starts: ‘Out of here.’ ”

Now, though, Paul returned to the idea and image of pilgrimage. Every pilgrimage is about two things, she said. Who is God for me, and who am I for God?

The first involves the more spiritual aspect: How is it one understands and interprets God? The second is a more activist side. “What am I to do with this?” is a variant on the question of “Who am I for God?” Paul said.

The more prosaic form of the second question arises in individual conversations with the FutureChurch pilgrims and comes up after dinner at a debriefing session where the group reviewed some of the original expectations and desires they’d discussed their first evening in Rome. They discuss next steps -- if and how members of the tour want to disseminate what they learned about women’s leadership in early Christianity to their churches back home. A few talk about their experience of St. Mary of Magdala’s feast day, a celebration FutureChurch has encouraged. All of it seemed to be about creating openings that women can use to publicize the prominence of women in Christian history and the injustice of their exclusion from leadership.

For this group, the question of who they are for God -- and, just as important, for other women -- seems paramount and clear. The bishops of the church may not be listening to them, but that hardly seems to matter. Convinced of the justice of their cause, they’re determined. What would it mean to ordain women? How would it work logistically? Is ordination feasible in a world where women’s status varies widely from one society to another? These are questions the FutureChurch pilgrims do not ask. There is authority in conviction, and it is in that keen, even blinkered sense of rightness that they draw their strength.



Interpreting history

Before she became a scholar, Janet Tulloch was an artist working with religious images, the meaning of which she didn’t understand, she said. To do so, she got a master’s degree in religion and sacred art and a doctorate in religious studies. She works today with visual and archaeological evidence, attempting to reconstruct social behavior from artifacts 1,700 years old in some cases. Museums today are full of artifacts that have been catalogued but not interpreted, she said. Much of it is important to women’s history.
Tulloch speaks with both passion and precision about her work. Whereas male historians have tended to interpret female figures in the catacombs symbolically, as images of the soul, for instance, Tullochs thinks it is more likely they are depictions of actual women -- that is, family members of the deceased. For one thing, women performed the purification rites in Roman and early Christian society. The dead were thought to be contaminated, and before the ground was broken for burial their bodies had to be purified. Banquets were an important aspect of the funerary rite, which women frequently led. It wasn’t until around the sixth century that priests began officiating at burials.

Women in the ancient world could and did command considerable influence depending upon their circumstances. “Wealth trumped gender in the ancient world,” Tulloch said. “One of the reasons why women could get power in the ancient world was if they had money.”

-- Margot Patterson
National Catholic Reporter, June 22, 2007

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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Tradition 2007/07/12 05:42:32 (permalink)
The real tradition of women and church leadership
by Sandra Dufield
SojoMail 1-25-2006
 
In claiming church tradition doesn't allow women to be ordained priests, Vatican and Catholic officials would do well to consider the history of their tradition.
According to Dorothy Irvin, a Catholic theologian and archaeologist, the traditional Christian church had women priests and the archaeological evidence of this is preserved for us to see today.

In the Church of St. Praxedis in Rome there's a mosaic depicting four women leaders. One woman, Theodora (ca. 820 A.D.), has the title Episcopa above her head, which means a bishop who is a woman.

In a cathedral at Annaba, in what is now Algeria, is a mosaic covering the tomb of a woman. Along with her name, Guilia Runa, is her title "presbiterissa," which means female priest. The same title is on women's tombs in Rome. Two read, "Veronica presbitera daughter of Josetis" and "Faustina presbitera."
Additionally, a fourth-century fresco in Rome's Catacomb of Priscilla shows a woman being ordained. She's wearing an alb under her chasuble, which is first worn at ordination. Only priests and higher church leaders could wear it. Next to her, with his right hand on her shoulder, is a bishop, identified by his chair and his pallium, also worn during ordination.

Although tradition is a key argument used to oppose women's ordination, another cites the fact the 12 disciples were all male. It contends if Christ wanted women to be church leaders, some of his twelve would have been women.
While initially convincing, the rationalization crumbles when another pivotal distinction of the day is considered: ethnicity. The disciples were also all Jewish. Does this mean when we choose church leaders today, only those with primary Jewish ancestry can be considered candidates?

Every argument the Vatican and other denominational officials give to block women's ordination can be biblically and theologically challenged. Saying "no" to women priests and pastors is nothing more than the "good old boy" system at work in a sacred institution, and remnant survivalism of the sub-Christian thought that leached into the early church influencing the way men and women were perceived.

Elements of gnostic and ancient pagan thought systems saw women as flawed, problematic, and more susceptible to malfeasance than men. The early church failed to adequately challenge and eradicate these permeating cultural distortions and in time scripture was interpreted through the contaminated lens of women's ontological inferiority.

This is reflected in the statements of great early church leaders such as Thomas Aquinas, "Woman is defective and misbegotten"; Gratian, "Woman is not made in God's image"; and St. Augustine, "What is the difference wither it is in a wife or a mother; it is still Eve the temptress that we must be aware of in any woman.... I fail to see what use women can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children."

While the inferiority argument is considered heretical in the church today, the unbiblical prejudicial constructs it upheld still exist. Replaced and repackaged with expressions like "equal in essence, but unequal in function" and "different roles," the dismissal and diminishment of women has a modern home in the modern church.

Very early church tradition had women serving in all areas of ministry. Women's restriction in the church did not derive from tradition, but from the gradual importation of sub-Christian thought from outside the church, into the church.
Until the Vatican and other denominational leaders acknowledge women's call to full discipleship and reinstitute the tradition of women's ordination, they will continue to perpetuate constructs of the heretical thought that diminished and dismissed half the redeemed based on an innate fleshly distinction: femaleness.

Sandra Dufield is a freelance writer living in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania.
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