The Situation: Women Teaching Men
Recently an issue arose concerning women teaching, and leading a Catholic bible study with both men and women present. When I first attended this bible study I felt uncomfortable with women leading it, especially when there were men who were well capable of leading the study themselves. I didn’t say anything to anyone because I just joined this group, and I didn’t know the people associated with the group too well, so I kept silent. Afterwards I mentioned my discomfort offhandedly to a friend of mine who didn’t attend the study I had attended, however he had attended these studies before, and to my surprise he also felt the same way I did concerning women teaching the scriptures to men in a bible study atmosphere.
A month went by, and I just dropped the issue, because I thought he and I were the only ones who felt this way. Then after morning prayer, which I started leading a few weeks prior, one of the men in the group mentioned he felt similarly about women leading the bible study, and another concern of his about the group which I will not address. So, when I realized that others felt the same way I did I decided to contact one of the “leaders” of the group; I put the word “leaders” because there is no clear hierarchical structure in the group. After sharing my concerns with him, and a suggestion of doing other things, I was questioned about why I felt “uncomfortable” about women leading the study, and a list of other questions. Long story short the text message conversation led to me asking two priests about the official teaching/position of the Church concerning the ability of women teaching men the Sacred Scriptures.
Realizing The Church Has No Official Teaching On The Matter
Well, after going back and forth with a priest, I learned via my research that the Catholic Church has absolutely no official teaching or position concerning women having the ability to teach men. This means that this topic is completely left up to each individual person to use their conscience, and intellect to search out what the Church has taught concerning the topic. Not having an official teaching or position also means, for Catholics, that each individual Bishop has authority to determine the practice in his diocese, and ultimately each priest has authority to determine the practice in their individual parishes. However, even if the Bishop or priest takes a position one way or the other, on the topic of women teaching men, each Catholic must submit and respect the priest or Bishops decision. We as the laity can intellectually disagree with their decisions, because its not a necessary Doctrine or Dogma of the faith, however we must submit to the decision of our spiritual leaders through our will.
Preliminary Findings: Church History and Scripture Unanimous
This situation made me research briefly what the Scriptures and Church Fathers taught concerning this matter. Below you will find scriptural support and an edited version of a message I sent one of the people who were asking me questions concerning my position:
11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. 12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. (1 Timothy 2:11-12 RSV)
33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.35 If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:33-35 RSV)
[My Message With Church History]
[U]ltimately since there is no official Church “teaching” on the matter then it’s…left up to each individual bishop to determine what the practice will be in his diocese. When bishops don’t make the call, then it’s up to each individual priest. Monsignor [Smith] is within his authority to allow his women parishioners to teach in such settings, however I am free to disagree with his decision since it [is] a matter of conscience, and intellectual freedom. Also, I’m going to guess very few Western Catholic Bishops have made any decree [or decision] on the matter, but I know Eastern Bishops have made such decisions in their Eparchies.
Within my conscience I feel deeply that women teaching men on sacred scripture is wrong. I feel this so profoundly that even when I was a Protestant, if a woman got up to preach I would stand up and leave the church. This was based solely on my understanding of scripture, which forbids such teaching.
Intellectually, as a Catholic[,] with the trust and rich Traditions of [the] Apostolic history of the Church, I feel even more strongly concerning this issue, because scripture is clear on it, and Church history is clear on it [as well].
Women having the gift [or charism] of teaching is definitely clear in the writings of the Church Fathers, however they are also clear that women’s role as teachers was limited to teaching women, even in the ancient role of deaconess, which had no apostolic authority or the laying on of hands [holy orders;] they were not allowed to teach or minister to men.
This is one of several clear teachings of the Apostles and their descendants on the matter:
For it is not to teach that you women . . . are appointed. . . . For he, God the Lord, Jesus Christ our Teacher, sent us, the twelve [apostles], out to teach the [chosen] people and the pagans. But there were female disciples among us: Mary of Magdala, Mary the daughter of Jacob, and the other Mary; he did not, however, send them out with us to teach the people. For, if it had been necessary that women should teach, then our Teacher would have directed them to instruct along with us (Didascalia 3:6:1–2 [A.D. 225]).”
The next two passages are referring to deaconesses, and allowing women to teach, and being ordained:
“Appoint, [O Bishop], a deaconess, faithful and holy, for the ministering of women. For sometimes it is not possible to send a deacon into certain houses of women, because of unbelievers. Send a deaconess, because of the thoughts of the petty. A deaconess is of use to us also in many other situations. First of all, in the baptizing of women, a deacon will touch only their forehead with the holy oil, and afterwards the female deacon herself anoints them” (Apostolic Constitutions, 3:16 [A.D. 400]).”
“[T]he ‘man is the head of the woman’ [1 Cor. 11:3], and he is originally ordained for the priesthood; it is not just to abrogate the order of the creation and leave the first to come to the last part of the body. For the woman is the body of the man, taken from his side and subject to him, from whom she was separated for the procreation of children. For he says, ‘He shall rule over you’ [Gen. 3:16]. For the first part of the woman is the man, as being her head. But if in the foregoing constitutions we have not permitted them [women] to teach, how will any one allow them, contrary to nature, to perform the office of the priest? For this is one of the ignorant practices of Gentile atheism, to ordain women priests to the female deities, not one of the constitutions of Christ” (ibid., 3:9).”
[Enlightenment, Modernism, Post-Modernism & Feminism A Root]
Also, the concept of women teaching men is something of the enlightenment, modern, and post-modern eras. The modern rise of feminism has constantly attacked and infiltrated women religious orders. It has also attacked the Church, [by applying] pressure [on] the Catholic Church to change it’s teaching, just [like] how the feminist and modern/postmodern movements were able to pressure the Protestants to accept…contraceptives, [and] later the ordination of women.
The concept of women teaching scripture to men was extremely foreign of days of old, and is primarily a modern and post-modern phenomenon. The women doctors of the faith [in the Catholic Church], to my recollection, never publicly or in small groups taught scripture to men. [They might have rebuked Popes, Bishops, or priests; however the never taught men.]
[My Willingness To Change My Position]
I will admit this, which I told my priest friends. If the Church or my local bishop makes an official decision on the matter, then I will submit to such teachings with my will, even though I will intellectually disagree with it…[Finally, if the Church makes this issue an official Doctrine or Dogma, then I will submit intellectually and of the will to the new teaching. In the meantime I will hold to the following position.]
Ultimately, I am a seeker of Truth, a devout Catholic who submits to the magisterium on all matters, and if I am wrong on the matter I will be more than willing to change my beliefs to conform to the official teaching of the Catholic Church. In the meantime, the evidence I have researched scriptural, and in Church history shows support for the position that woman should not teach men the sacred scriptures.