Saturday, September 8, 2018

Women's Ordination

Today I learned that:
It was only a hundred years ago that canon law decreed that [Catholic] cardinals had to be ordained...[T]he 1917 Code of Canon Law was looking for a way of curbing abuses in the making of cardinals. Some men had little knowledge of theology and others were, well, very young. Before that, the College of Cardinals was made up of both ordained and lay men...Being a cardinal is one of those roles in the church for which, theoretically, you do not have to be ordained.*
One of the arguments I hear against ordaining women is that none of Jesus' 12 apostles was a woman. And, of course, St. Paul argued against the ordination of women:
I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Further, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. But she will be saved through motherhood, provided women persevere in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (New American Bible, Revised Edition, 1 Tim 12-15) **
In the Middle East at the time of Jesus' life, socially and culturally, women having public personas would have been unacceptable. A footnote in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible notes that Paul's prohibition is not an absolute one:
that applies to all circumstances, but one that excludes women from the teaching ministry exercised by ordained clergymen (1 Cor 14:34-35). Paul is not denying the equal dignity of men and women in Christ (Gal3:28) or the propriety of women in praying and prophesying within the context of worship (1 Cor 11:5). Women perform an invaluable service when they teach the faith in other contexts by their words and Christian example. (Tit 2:3-4). According to Church teaching, Paul forbids women to exercise the official function of teaching in the Christian Assembly (Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Inter Insigniores, 4).
The Middle East of 2,000 years ago is hardly the contemporary standard for acceptable behavior when it comes to women's rights or abilities. Even now, there's such a variety of rights being granted to women in the Middle East that it would be difficult to argue for a standard of equal rights. (On a personal note, one of my grandfathers, whose parents emigrated from Syria, himself didn't see the point of my graduating from high school because, to his mind, women didn't need that education. Neither he nor my grandmother had graduated from high school; I'm not sure they made it out of middle school. Fortunately, my father - and mother - strongly disagreed.)

* Keenan, James. “If We Want to Reform the Church, Let's Make Women Cardinals.” National Catholic Reporter, 8 Sept. 2018,
** The New American Bible, Revised Edition. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 8 Sept. 2018,