The debate based on Sacred Scripture – in brief

Traditionalist Argument one. JESUS himself excluded women from the priestly ministry.

“Jesus Christ did not call any woman to be part of the twelve apostles.” Pope Paul VI Inter Insigniores § 9 – 12.

“In this way Jesus established a permanent norm for the future Church: Jesus simply did not want women to be priests!” Pope John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.


1.1  Not so, not  so! Jesus wanted to liberate women. Excluding women permanently from the priesthood would be totally uncharacteristic of him.

In fact, he made women equal partners in the priesthood which he
imparted through baptism
. This disposes women to share in his full
priestly ministry.

1.2  The reason why Jesus chose 12 apostles was to replace the 12 tribal ‘fathers’ of Israel. In the cultural context of his time, it was natural he chose men for this limited purpose.

1.3  Moreover, it is invalid to argue from something Jesus did not do [= not choosing a woman on one occasion], to his establishing a permanent norm for all time to come.

1.4  And, do not forget, women were present at the Last Supper when Jesus said: “Do this in commemoration of me!” Read: Suzanne Tunc and Marjorie Maguire.

1.5  Last not least, Jesus made women his disciples who ministered in various ways. Women were called to be the first witnesses of his resurrection!! Read Elisabeth Carroll.

Traditionalist Argument Two. Paul forbade women to teach in church.

“Paul excluded women from teaching and presiding in the assembly. Through this, he established a permanent norm – which excludes women from the priestly ministry.” Pope Paul VI in Inter Insigniores § 9 – 12.

“Paul distinguished between his female co-workers and male colleagues in the ministry. ” Pope Paul VI in Inter Insigniores.


2.1  It is not right to blame Paul! Yes, Paul imposed prohibitions on women which were inspired by local custom. For instance, he wanted them to wear a veil during prayer sessions: 1 Corinthians 11,2-16.

In such texts Paul sometimes  ‘rationalised’, that is: he used popular arguments that do not contain doctrinal teaching.

2.2  Christ’s ministerial priesthood derives from us becoming his priests through baptism. Well, Paul taught the fundamental equality of men and women in Christ through baptism: Galatians 3,27-28.

2.3  It is true that some disciples of Paul forbade women to teach. But this was only to meet the specific needs of their community. The prohibition does not apply to the whole future Church as a permanent norm. Read: 1 Timothy 2,1-12 and 1 Corinthians14,34-35 .

Rome admits that such texts do no longer have a normative value, but overlooks the negative influence faulty exegesis has had on Fathers and scholastic theologians.

2.4  No valid distinction can be made between two alleged categories among Paul’s co-workers: those in true ministries and those not. And Paul clearly counted women among his co-workers. Read: Mary Ann Getty and Bernadette Brooten. Scripture texts can mislead if we do not understand them properly.

Traditionalist Argument Three. The Old Testament shows women are incapable of being priests.

The Fathers of the Church and medieval theologians routinely used Old Testament texts to prove women’s inherent incapability of priestly ordination.

God was thought to have created woman as an inferior being: Genesis 2,18-23.
God was thought to have subjected woman to man as a punishment for original sin: Genesis 3,16.
Man was thought to be superior to woman in intelligence and character:Sirach 25,13-24.


Rome admits the inadequacy of such Old Testament exegesis, but conveniently forgets that this faulty exegesis invalidated the judgement of many Fathers and theologians who rejected the ordination of women. Their testimony can therefore not be used to establish a valid Tradition against the ordination of women.

Read also: John H.Otwell, And Sarah Laughed. The Status of Woman in the Old Testament, 1977.

John Wijngaards