The Ordination of Women and Tradition

Overview of documents on Tradition
on our website

Rules of Interpretation


Four rules to judge
whether a ‘tradition’ belongs to valid Tradition.

  1. Valid Tradition is scriptural.
  2. Valid Tradition is informed.
  3. Valid Tradition can be latent for many
  4. Valid Tradition shows development through dynamic growth.

About valid Tradition

Scriptural Tradition

Latent Tradition

Dynamic Tradition

Informed Tradition

Valid Tradition
Valid Tradition is based on a correct
understanding of the inspired meaning of scriptural texts.
For Tradition to be informed, the carriers of the Tradition must have correctly understood the question and the issues that are at stake.

Underneath prevailing practice there may
lie a contrary, but valid ‘latent Tradition’, a Tradition that is faithful to the teaching of the Gospel and transmitted through the centuries without always being explicitly recognised as such.

True Tradition is not static. It grows; not in the sense that it differs substantially from the inspiration received from Jesus Christ and the Apostles, but in the sense that many of its latent implications are gradually realised with the help of the Holy

Cultural Prejudice

Throughout the centuries cultural prejudice against women has
clouded the judgment of leaders and members in the community of believers.

This prejudice invalidates their opinions, pronouncements and decisions regarding women.

They may not be counted as part of valid  tradition.

Read: The Inferior Mix. The Real Reasons Why the Catholic Church Does Not Ordain Women

The practice of not ordaining women in the Church was neither
scriptural nor informed because of a threefold prejudice among Church leaders who considered women :

The Fathers of the Church rarely spoke about the ordination of women. Those who did were influenced by their prejudices about

The same prejudice against women is apparent in the statutes of early ‘Church Synods’

Medieval theologians excluded women from the priesthood on obviously invalid social and philosophical grounds.

From what
medieval theologians wrote on the question of ‘women priests’ we can also see that the question was not ‘closed’ and the reasons

In the Middle Ages the bias against woman was concentrated in the theological role attributed to Eve. Read:
‘Eve in Christian Culture’.

For a general view of life for women in the Middle Ages read: “The Mould for Medieval Women”.

Read also: “Against Nature and God”, a history of women with clerical ordination and the jurisdiction of Bishops.

Church Law has incorporated the social and religious prejudices against women, from its medieval codification until now.

A horrendous example of the official attitude is  found in the treatment of wives of clergy in the Middle Ages.

Post-scholastic theologians simply repeated the age-old prejudices without critical examination.

Public prejudice manifested itself in the scandalous essays published by men during the socalled “Women’s Quarrel”.

Latent Tradition

The history of the Church demonstrates that we should study the past carefully. Underneath Church practice of the day, there may lie a contrary latent Tradition, a Tradition that is faithful to the teaching of the Gospel and transmitted through the centuries without always
being explicitly recognised as such.

Read: The Modern Theology of
J P. Mackey , 1962, ch. 3&4. A comprehensive survey of theological views on the ‘Sensus fidelium‘ and Tradition.

A ‘latent’ and ‘dynamic’ Tradition implying the possibility of women’s ordination has shown itself in a number of ways:

  1. through women’s administering baptism and matrimony;
  2. in the practice of ordaining some women as priests (see column to the right);
  3. in Mary’s perceived ‘priestly’ functions;
  4. in the devotion to Mary Magdalen who was seen as a woman minister.

On the practice of ordaining women as priests in some parts of
the Church, read:

The devotion to Jesus’ mother Mary as Priest reveals a latent Tradition. It shows that the faithful were convinced a woman could be a priest.

Related articles:

In the right column we list
spiritual writers and theologians who wrote about Mary Priest