Can Women In The Catholic Church Teach Men?

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:

Scripture

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,[a] if she continues[b] 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:

“The Didascalia

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.]

Conclusion

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.

The Quintessential Problem With Protestantism!

The following is my final paper for the course Systematic Theology at Regent University in the Summer of 2013:

Introduction

The issue of authority in Christendom has caused divisions amongst the Church. Most notably one can see the divide in Protestantism with its many different theologies, and denominational backgrounds. The many theological differences amongst Protestants show a lack of authority by Protestants to determine what constitutes proper teaching, and theology. Though Protestantism has struggled to unite theologically for nearly 500 years, the Catholic Church has always been One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic for nearly 2000 years. The Catholic Church has always been united,  and of one mind when it comes to determining what constitutes proper teaching and theology because it was given authority to determine such matters by Christ Himself, and Christ promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide the Church and reveal the truths of the scriptures.[1] This paper will determine if the Catholic Church truly has the sole authority to determine proper teaching and theology. This paper will analyze different sources including the Bible, the Church Fathers, and over 14 different scholarly sources that affirm that the Catholic Church has the sole authority to determine the constituents of proper teaching and theology. Lastly, the paper will include the main criticism against the claim that the Catholic Church has the sole authority.

The Problem with Division in the Church

            For the reader to identify the problem of division in the Church the reader must first understand Christ’s desire for the Church on the matter of unity.  The Nicene Creed succinctly explains the doctrines of the Christian faith. In the last pericope of the Creed, it states, “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”; thus summarizing the Christian belief in a Church with four specific attributes, the first being a one or undivided Church.  In John 17 Christ prayed for His disciples that they “be one” in unity with each other in the same way that Christ and the Father are one.[2] In versus 20-23 Christ prays to the Father not just for His apostles but “for those also who believe in [Him],” so that they be one in unity as well.[3]  In Ephesians, Paul writes to the Church in Ephesus to diligently preserve the “unity of the Spirit,” and he continued by saying that “there is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father.”[4] To Christ and the apostle’s unity of the Church is a sign of the Christian faith, and a sign to the world that God the Father sent Christ His Son, to love them, just as the Father loved Christ.[5]

Though Christ intended the Church to stay united so the world may believe in Him and the One who sent Him, sin caused “division and discord among Christians-so much so that it is a scandal and seriously obstructs the work of converting the world to Christ.”[6] In fact, Origen said the following, “Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.”[7] Throughout Church history, divisions, schisms, heresies and disputes have plagued the Church all due to sin, and the Protestant Reformation caused more fractures, divisions, schisms, heresies and disputes in just 500 years than the previous 1500 years before the Protestant Reformation, as evidenced by the thousands of divisions explained in the following paragraph.

Today one need not look further to see the fruit of the division of Protestant Reformation than to look out the window while driving around any town to see the thousands of different Christian denominations in the world. According to a 2010 Pew Forum analysis from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there are an estimated 41,000+ non-Catholic Christian denominations in the world; which does not reflect the unity Christ prayed for to the Father.[8] With so many different denominations, and a lack of apostolic authority to condemn heresies, there is a strong likelihood of heretical beliefs like non-Trinitarian theology running rampant in mainline Protestantism. In fact the acceptance of heresy by the otherwise-faithful, with virtually no rebuke or correction coming from other Protestant Christian leaders, is not a hypothetical situation, but a reality that is currently taking place around the world.

For example, T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House in Dallas is considered a Christian leader in Protestant circles, but he does not believe in the Trinity. In fact for most of his pastoral career he blatantly rejected Trinitarianism until a recent interview was conducted in 2012.[9] Though T.D. Jakes stated in the interview that he now believes in the Trinity, his own words reveal the truth behind his understanding of the doctrine; later in the same interview T.D. Jakes stated he prefers the term “manifestations” instead of “persons” when describing the three persons of Trinity.[10] According to the Fifth Ecumenical Council, the Council of Constantinople II, one of the canons of that council states that if anyone does not “confess (there is) one nature or substance of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and one power and one might, and that the Trinity is consubstantial, one Godhead being worshipped in three substances, or persons, let such a one be anathema.”[11] The Fifth Ecumenical clarifies that the individuals in the Trinity are not “manifestations” but “three substances, or persons.” The Catholic Church’s authority clearly defines what constitutes heresy concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, and Jakes’ belief in the Trinity as “manifestations” and “persons” clearly does not fall in line with true Trinitarian doctrine. The Catholic Church’s authority on doctrinal matters are clear, but is not recognized by many Protestants. The Protestant rejection of the Catholic Church’s authority on doctrinal and theological matters allows people like T.D. Jakes to go relatively unchallenged, thus allowing people who believe in heresies to be embraced as Christian leaders in Protestant circles.

The question must be asked; why are such heresies not corrected universally within Protestantism? The answer stems from the fact that Protestant leaders have no authority to declare another Protestant leader to be wrong on matters of doctrine, theology, morals and dogma because of their lack of apostolic and magisterial authority. The only entity with such authority and unity is the Catholic Church.

The Solution to the Division

            The Catholic Church is the only entity that can solve the problem of division within Christendom, because the Catholic Church solely has the authority to proclaim proper theology and doctrine.[12] The Catholic Church can make the claim of determining what constitutes proper teachings and theology because the Catholic Church received its authority from Christ Himself, which the Apostles passed down to their successors in an unbroken line of bishops tracing back to Christ Himself.[13] Christ came to the world to reconcile all men to Him, and the reason why he created the Church was to continue His work of redemption for all mankind.[14] For nearly 2000 years, the Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has brought the faithful teachings of Christ and Apostles to the entire world via the visible organized society of the Church.[15] The teachings of Christ have been protected, and revealed to humanity by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, which is tasked with teaching God’s people the true faith infallibly on matters of faith and morals.[16] When Christians around the world realize that the Catholic Church has the sole authority to determine such matters then Christendom can once again come together as one unified Church.

Proof the Church Has Authority

For nearly a millennia the Church was united as one united Church, and even when the Orthodox Christians split from Rome in 1054 AD, the Orthodox maintained apostolic succession and authority, but as time progressed the Patriarchs of the Orthodox Church’s fell into a similar trap as the Protestant denominations, and are now unable to agree on certain theological issues, thus creating divisions among the Orthodox Churches. The only Church on earth that has remained united on matters of doctrine, theology, morals and faith is the Catholic Church. Canon Law of the Catholic Church speaks clearly on the infallible unity of the Magisterium of the Church. Canon Law states in Canon 740 §1 that the Pope “possesses infallibility in teaching,” and in §2 Canon Law states “the college of bishops also possesses infallibility in teaching.” This unity stems from the authority and primacy of Roman See, also known as the seat of Peter. According to St. Innocent I in a Letter to the African Bishops written in 417 AD the saint stated that the Roman See was where all the authority belonged, and that only the Bishop occupying seat of Peter could determine what was wrong and right; in fact without the guidance of the Bishop of Rome no decisions could be finalized.[17]

In the Council of Ephesus, the third ecumenical council, in 431 AD, one of the canons of the council stated that Peter, as the “head and Prince of the Apostles, the pillar of faith, and the foundation on the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the savior and the redeemer of the human race. Nor does anyone doubt that the power of forgiving and retaining sins was also given to this same Peter who, in his successors, lives and exercises judgment even to this time and forever.”[18] This canon was not created by the Catholic Church, as some opponents of this doctrine might state, but was affirmed and defined to reflect the truth of the Word of God in the gospel of Matthew where Christ clearly gave Peter the keys of heaven, and the power to forgive and retain sins; later after Christ’s resurrection He gave this same power to the Apostles in John 20:23.[19]  According to Paul in his letter to Timothy, the Catholic Church is not only the household of God but the pillar and ground of truth, thus setting the tone that the Catholic Church has authority in and of itself.[20] To support this claim the Church father St. Cyril of Jerusalem said that Paul was specifically speaking about “Holy Catholic Church” when he mentioned that the Church was the pillar and ground of truth in his letter to Timothy.[21] Again and again the authority and power of the See of Rome was affirmed by Church Fathers, Ecumenical Councils, and even Scripture. History, tradition and most importantly the Spirit of truth support the claims that the Catholic Church has sole authority to determine proper doctrine and theology, which the Protestant churches clearly lack.

The Role of Theologians In Relation to Magisterium

            Only the Magisterium can determine proper theology, teachings, dogma and matters of faith because of the authority in which it alone carries, but the question of what role theologians have in relation to the Magisterium arises from members of the laity, and non-Catholic Christians. According to the Catholic Church’s “International Theological Commission” in a document entitled “The Ecclesiastical Magisterium and Theology” it summarizes the roles theologians have within the Catholic Church. According to the document, theologians have an integral part in communicating, and clarifying the official doctrines of the Magisterium to the People of God.[22] The document states theologians have the “task of interpreting the documents of the past and present Magisterium, of putting them in the context of the whole of revealed truth, and of finding a better understanding of them by the use of hermeneutics…”[23] Theologians also share the task with the Magisterium of seeking out the truths of the Word of God and Sacred Tradition to gain “a deeper understanding of the Word of God and also to teach that Word by virtue of a canonical mission.”[24] Though theologians have this responsibility, they do not have the same authority as that of the Magisterium. Theologians derive the authority only from their “scientific qualifications” and “canonical mission” to find the truth.[25] Theologians and the Magisterium work together to protect and spread the truths of the Christian faith, but ultimately the Magisterium, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the authority given to it by Christ, determines what truths best explain the teachings of God from the Word and Sacred Tradition.[26]

Theologians play an important role in the Catholic Church, but sometimes they take their role of communicating the truth and teachings of the Magisterium beyond the scope of their “authority”. For example several theologians played an important role of reforming the Catholic Church at the Vatican II Ecumenical Council. After the council these same theologians began publishing a journal called “Concilium” to help explain the reforms that took place at the council, which is the proper role of theologians, but the journal went from explaining the reforms to acting as a secondary magisterial body with the same authority that is only reserved for the Magisterium.[27] Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, was originally a part of the journal, but broke away with two other bishops to start their own journal called “Communio” when they realized the theologians behind the journal “Concilium” were going beyond the scope of their authority.[28] An article written by Fr. Robert Barron, a Catholic theologian and priest, explained why these three bishops broke away from the journal. The article stated that the bishops “said, the board of “Concilium” was claiming to act as a secondary magisterium, or official teaching authority, alongside the bishops.”[29] It further reads concerning the role theologians that, “[t]heologians certainly have a key role to play in the understanding and development of doctrine, but they cannot supplant the bishops’ responsibility of holding and teaching the apostolic faith.”[30] This example perfectly illustrates the proper roles theologians have in relation to the Magisterium and in the Church, and the importance of theologians. Though the Catholic Church has sole authority to determine theology and doctrines, many Protestants believe otherwise.

Criticisms

      Many Protestants criticize the Catholic Church’s claim to have sole authority to determine doctrine and theology. In fact many Protestants claim that “[t]he Bible and nothing but the Bible…is the sole theological source; [that] there are no revealed truths save the truths contained in the Bible…[that] the Bible is the sole rule of faith: by it and by it alone should all dogmatic questions be solved; it is the only binding authority.”[31] The Westminster Confession states “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture…”[32] If the assertion that the Bible alone, or “Sola Scriptura”, is the only source of authority, and that the “whole counsel of God..is either expressly set down in Scripture…or deduced from Scripture” then the doctrine should be located somewhere and identified via scripture. The problem with this Protestant doctrine is that nowhere in the scriptures does it state that scripture alone is the sole authority.[33]  In fact the scripture teaches the opposite is true; the Apostles states several times in the New Testament that Christians must keep the “traditions” that were taught to them by the Apostles.[34] The question then arises what are these traditions the Apostles were speaking about, well one definition states that, “[t]radition hands down to us both the Bible and the oral teaching, and these two together form one (double) source; but that which is not originally written down by those who preached is still to be discerned by a close scrutiny of Holy Scripture.”[35] Catholics believe that Holy Scripture is not greater than Sacred Tradition, and Sacred Tradition is not greater the Holy Scripture; that both are equally valid and authoritative when interpreted and confirmed through the authority of the Magisterium. Without the authority of the Magisterium, Christianity would fall into chaos, which can be evidenced by looking at the state of Protestantism today.

The Conclusion

            Without the sole authority of the Magisterium, Christianity would look nothing like what Christ prayed for concerning His Church, that they be united and of one mind as stated in John 17. The Protestant Reformation divided the Church not just into 41,000+ denominations, but into thousands of different theological positions and beliefs, which is contrary to what Christ prayed for concerning the Church. The Catholic Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, and when analyzed through history and tradition it becomes clear that the unity and truth of the Catholic Church and the Magisterium is evident. Quoting one of the most famous converts to the Catholic faith, Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman said the following concerning the studying of history when seeking the truth about the Catholic Church, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant,” and this quote could not be truer. As one studies the Church, and history one will realize that the Catholic Church alone has sole authority to unite the Church, and determine what constitutes proper doctrine, teachings, dogmas, theology, morals and faith.

Protestantism has no authority whatsoever to determine authoritatively such matters, and it has no authority to squelch errors, heresies, and false teachings because no single leader, teacher or protestant ecclesial body can claim that the teachings of another Protestant are incorrect. This is the reason why prominent Christian leaders can believe and teach heresy without challenge or correction. Protestantism encourages chaos and lack of unity. The remedy to the problem of division with the Church, as explained above, is the unity and authority of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church alone has the authority and power to unite the Church.


[1] John 14:16-26

[2] John 17:11

[3] John 17:20-21

[4] Ephesians 4:3-6

[5] John 17:21,23

[6] Baker, Kenneth. Creed, Commandments. Vol. 1 of Fundamentals of Catholicism. San Francisco, Calif.: Ignatius Press, 1982. Pg 104.

[7] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Par 817

[8] “Appendix B: Methodology for Estimating Christian Movements,” http://www.pewforum.org, June 21, 2013, accessed June 21, 2013,http://www.pewforum.org/uploadedFiles/Topics/Religious_Affiliation/Christian/ChristianityAppendixB.pdf.

[10] Ibid

[11] Denzinger, Henry The Sources of Catholic Dogma [Enchiridion Symbolorum]. 30th ed. Translated by Roy J. Deferrari. St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1955. Pg 85 Par 213.

[12] Gaillardetz, Richard R. Teaching with Authority: a Theology of the Magisterium in the Church. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Pr, 1997. pg 221

[13] CCC, Par 861-862

[14] Baker, Kenneth. Creed, Commandments. Vol. 3 of Fundamentals of Catholicism. San Francisco, Calif.: Ignatius Press, 1983. Pg 95

[15] Clarkson, John F., John H. Edwards, William J. Kelly, and John J. Welch, trans. The Church Teaches: Documents of the Church in English Translation. St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1955. p67

[16] CCC, Par 890

[17] Clarkson, John F., John H. Edwards, William J. Kelly, and John J. Welch, trans. The Church Teaches: Documents of the Church in English Translation. St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1955.  Pg 68-69

[18] Ibid, Pg. 69

[19] Matthew 16:18-19

[20] 1 Timothy 3:15

[21] Peter Gorday, ed., Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2000), 178.

[23] Ibid

[24] Ibid

[25] Ibid

[26] Ibid

[28] Ibid

[29] Ibid

[30] Ibid

[33] Ibid

[34] Ibid

[35] Van Boornik, Dr. N. G. M., Rev. S. Jelsma, and Rev. A. Van De Lisdonk. A Handbook of the Catholic Faith: The Triptych of the Kingdom. 1953. Image Books. Edited by Rev. John Greenwood. Reprint, Garden City: Image Books, 1956.  Pg 150
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