Tradition in the Middle Ages
From INTER INSIGNIORES:
(The hyper-linked comments in italics are by John
7. One finds expressed . . . this essential reason namely,
that by calling only men to the priestly Order and ministry in its true sense,
the Church intends to remain faithful to the type of ordained ministry willed
by the Lord Jesus Christ and carefully maintained by the Apostles. The same
conviction animates mediaeval theology (9), even if the Scholastic doctors, in
their desire to clarify by reason the data of faith, often present arguments on
this point that modern thought would have difficulty in admitting or would even
rightly reject. [Are the arguments of medieval
theologians not so seriously flawed that their objections to the ordination of
women are proved untenable?]
Note 9. Saint Bonaventure, In IV Sent., Dist.
25, art. 2, q. 1, ed. Quaracchi, vol. 4, p.649; Richard of
Middleton, ln lV Sent. Dist. 25, art. 4, n. 1, ed. Venice, 1499
fl77r; John Duns Scotus, In IV Sent., Dist. 25: Opus Oxoniense,
ed. Vives, vol. 19, p. 140; Reportata Parisiensia, vol. 24,
pp.369-371; Durandus of Saint Pourcain, In IV Sent., Dist. 25, q. 2,
ed. Venice. 1571, f" 364V.
For the full text, see: INTER INSIGNIORES.
Commentary by the Sacred
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Declaration Inter
28. It is because of this transitory cultural element that
some arguments adduced on this subject in the past are scarcely defensible
today. The most famous is the one summarized by St Thomas Aquinas: quia
mulier est in statu subiectionis.(23) [Is this the only unacceptable statement by
Thomas about women?] In St Thomass thought, however, this
assertion is not merely the expression of a philosophical concept, since he
interprets it in the light of the accounts in the first chapters of Genesis and
the teaching of the First Letter to Timothy (2:12-14). [Does Thomass mistaken interpretation of these
Scripture texts make his position more acceptable? Was it not for his wrong
biological, social and scriptural ideas that Thomas denied ordination to women?
Is the combination of philosophical and theological prejudice not fatal to his
Note 23. St Thomas, In IV Sent. Dist. 19, q. 1, a.1,
qa 3 ad 4-um; Dist, 25, q. 2, a. I, qa 1; cf. q. 2, a. 2, qa 1, ad 4;
Summa Theol., 2a 2ac, q. 177, a. 2.
29. A similar formula is found earlier in the Decretum
of Gratian,(24) but Gratian, who was quoting the Carolingian Capitularies
and the false Decretals, was trying rather to justify with Old Testament
prescriptions the prohibition-already formulated by the ancient Church (25) -of
women from entering the sanctuary and serving at the altar. [Do you mean this was Gratians only
prejudice?! - - - And what about the
institutionalised prejudice of the ensuing codes of Church Law that last till
our own time?]
Note 24. Dictum Gratiani in Caus. 34; q. 5, c. 11,
ed. Friedberg, t. 1, co. 1254; cf. R. Metz, La femme en droit
canonique medieval, in Recueil de la societe Jean Bodin, 12, 1962,
Note 25. Canon 44 of the collection called after the Council
of Laodicea: H. T. Bruns, Canones Apostolorum et Conciliorum . . . t. 1,
Bertolini, 1839, p.78; St Gelasius, Epist. 14, ad universos episcopos per
Lucaniam, Brutios et Siciliam constitutos, 11 March 494, No. 26: A. Thiel,
Epistolae Romanorum pontificum..., t. 1, Brunsbergae. 1868. p.376.
34. From the moment that the teaching on the sacraments is
systematically presented in the schools of theology [What about Thomas Aquinas, whose arguments are
totally wrong?and Bonaventure who doubted,
but did not know that women deacons had been validly ordained? and canon
law writers begin to deal ex professo with the nature and value of the
tradition that reserved ordination to men, the canonists base their case on the
principle formulated by Pope Innocent III in a letter of 11 December 1210, to
the bishops of Palencia and Burgos, a letter that was included in the
collection of Decretals: Although the Blessed Virgin Mary was of higher
dignity and excellence than all the apostles, it was to them, not her, that the
Lord entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven.(30) This text became a
locus communis for the glossatores.(31) [Are the prejudices of the Decretalists, prejudices that
underlie their theological rationalizations, not blatantly obvious?] As
for the theologians, the following are some significant texts: St Bonaventure:
Our position is this: it is due not so much to a decision by the Church
as to the fact that the sacrament of order is not for them. In this sacrament
the person ordained is a sign of Christ the mediator.(32)
Is it not a fact that Bonaventures
true reason for excluding women lies in his considering women inferior to
35. Richard of
Middleton, a Franciscan of the second half of the thirteenth century:
The reason is that the power of the sacraments comes from their
institution. But Christ instituted this sacrament for conferral on men only,
not women.(33) Does his own text not
show that he cannot PROVE the institution by Christ, and that he deduces this
assumption from womens inferiority?
36. John Duns Scotus: It must not be considered to
have been determined by the Church. It comes from Christ. The Church would not
have presumed to deprive the female sex, for no fault of its own, of an act
that might licitly have pertained to it.(34)
Does Scotus not deduce institution by Christ
from the Churchs practice? And does he not admit that an exclusion by the
Church alone would be serious discrimination? Durandus of Saint-Pourcain:
. . . the male sex is of necessity for the sacrament. The principal cause
of this is Christs institution. . . Christ ordained only men...not even
his mother...It must therefore be held that women cannot be ordained, because
of Christs institution.(35) Are
the reasons Durandus gives not totally invalid?
Is it not a fact that such testimonies,
based as they are on prejudice and on invalid theological arguments, cannot be
cited in support of Tradition? Should we not rather listen to St. Cyprian who
said: A custom (consuetudo) without truth (veritas) is
merely an ancient error! (Letter 74.a)
Note 30. Decretal. Lib. V. tit. 38, De paenit.,
can. 10 Nova A. Friedberg, t. 2, colt 886-887: Quia licet beatissima
Virgo Maria dignior et excellentior fuerit Apostolis universis, non tamen illi,
sed istis Dominus claves regni caelorum commisit.
Note 31. e.g., Glossa in Decretal. Lib. 1, tit. 33,
c. 12 Dilecta, Vo lurisdicuani.
Note 32. In IV Sent., Dist. 25, art. 2, q. 1: ed.
Quaracchi, t. 4, p.649: Dicendum est quad hoc non venit tam ex institutione
Ecclesiae, quam ex hoc quod eis non competit Ordinis sacramentum. In hoc
sacramento persona quae ordinatur significat Christum mediatorem.
Note 33. In IVSent., Dist. 25, a. 4, n. 1; ed.
Bocatelli, Venice, 1499 (Pellechet-Polain, 10132/9920), f 177-R: Ratio est
quod sacramenta vim habent ex sua institutione: Christus autem hoc sacramentum
instituit conferri masculis tantum, non mulieribus.
Note 34. In IV Sent., Dist. 25, Opus Oxoniense,
ed. Vives, t. 19, p.140; cf. Reportata Parisiensia, ed. Vives, t. 24,
pp.369-371. Quod non est tenendum tamquam praecise per Ecclesiam
determinatum, sed habetur a Christo: non enim Ecclesia praesumpsisset sexam
muliebrem privasse sine culpa sua actu qui posses sibi licite competere.
Note 35. In IV Sent., Dist. 25, p.2; ed. Venice,
1571, f 364-v: . . .sexus virilis est de necessitate sacrament, cuius causa
principalis est institutio Christi. . . Christus non ordinavit nisi viros. . .
nec matrem suam. . . Tenendum est igitur quod mulieres non possum ordinari ex
For the full text, see: Official Commentary on INTER INSIGNIORES.
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