Priesthood and ordination of women


May 28, 2022

Priesthood of women, ordination of women - commonly used definition of the issue of admitting women to the clergy.

The broader and strict meaning of the term

Starting from the definition of the word "priest", meaning a person who mediates between people and a superhuman being (deity) by performing certain cult activities, the issue of allowing women to perform these activities could be considered in many religions. Women held some priesthood functions in ancient religions (Egypt, Babylonia, Rome, Greece), and now in primitive religions (e.g. in West Africa and Oceania), Shintō and Buddhism. Only men were priests in Judaism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism. This is related to the role of women in terms of the doctrine and tradition of individual religions. The issue is not related to Islam, since the priesthood is not present in it. In the strict sense, ordination and ordination of women concern the Christian Churches: ordinations concern historical Churches, and ordination - post-Reformation Churches that do not recognize the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Problems of ordaining women in the first centuries

In ancient times, it was customary for a woman to remain under the authority of her husband or father. It had an impact on the organization of the first Christian communities. Jesus Christ chose only men to be among the Twelve. St. In his letter to the Corinthians and Timothy, Paul recommended that women should not teach in meetings (cf. 1 Tim 2: 8-15; 1 Cor 14: 34-35), but in the Letter to the Romans he mentions Junia without any problem (Rom 16, 6) as one of the clergy in Rome as an "apostle". According to the tradition of the Catholic Church, ordination includes three degrees: diaconate, presbyterate and episcopate (bishopric). Priests in the strict sense are priests and bishops. Deacons play auxiliary functions in the Church. Among the Montanists, women could even perform priestly or bishop functions. At the same time, the Church fathers consistently denied women the right to the priesthood. The appointment of female priests was condemned, inter alia, in in 360 at the Synod of Laodicea (canon 11). This canon was not used everywhere, since in 494 Pope Gelasius I, in a letter to the bishops in the South of Italy, ordered them to stop the practice of ordaining female priests. The Chronicle of Widukind from the 10th century mentions the death of a storm during the Utriusque Sexus Sacerdotes ("priests of both sexes"), but it is uncertain whether it was actually Catholic priestesses. The writer Joan Morris in her book Lady was a bishop cites examples of ancient and early medieval paintings of women celebrating the Eucharist, but the intentions of the authors of these works are unknown. Likewise, the presbyter and episcopal inscriptions quoted by Morris may well apply to the wives of priests and bishops, since in that context they were used prior to the imposition of celibacy. Prof. Gary Macy of the Jesuit University of Santa Clara is one of the few to maintain that women were ordained in the Middle Ages. Already in the times of the apostles, an institution of deaconesses appeared in the Church - and existed for many centuries. Catholic historians and theologians disagree as to whether they were in fact sacramental ordinations to the diaconate (the first degree of ordination) or just an ordination to the ministry. The tasks of deaconesses included, inter alia, auxiliary liturgical functions, pastoral care of women, preparation of catechumens and charity work. Deaconesses assisted the bishop with the baptism of women and brought communion to the sick. In the Orthodox Church of Constantinople, they helped, at least initially, in distributing communion. In the Western Church, the practice of appointing deaconesses ceased around the 8th century,