Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Neglected History of Women in the Early Church

A number of prominent leaders, scholars, and benefactors of the early church were women and—despite neglect by many modern historians—the diligent researcher can still uncover a rich history.


One of the best-kept secrets in Christianity is the enormous role that women played in the early church.
Though they leave much unsaid, still, both Christian and secular writers of the time attest many times to the significant involvement of women in the early growth of Christianity.
Celsus, a 2nd-century detractor of the faith, once taunted that the church attracted only “the silly and the mean and the stupid, with women and children.” His contemporary, Bishop Cyprian of Carthage, acknowledged in his Testimonia that “Christian maidens were very numerous” and that it was difficult to find Christian husbands for all of them. These comments give us a picture of a church disproportionately populated by women.

Why? One reason might have been the practice of exposing unwanted female infants—abandoning them to certain death. Christians, of course, repudiated this practice, and thus had more living females.
Also, in the upper echelons of society, women often converted to Christianity while their male relatives

remained pagans, lest they lose their senatorial status. This too contributed to the inordinate number of women in the church, particularly upper-class women. Callistus, bishop of Rome c. 220, attempted to resolve the marriage problem by giving women of the senatorial class an ecclesiastical sanction to marry slaves or freedmen—even though Roman law prohibited this.
These high-born Christian women seized upon the study of the Bible and of Hebrew and Greek. The circle of Roman women who studied with Jerome in the late 300s showed such scholarship that he thought nothing of referring some church elders to Marcella for the resolution of a hermeneutical problem. By the early 400s, Augustine could declare that “any old Christian woman” was better educated in spiritual matters than many a philosopher.

The women’s spiritual zeal exploded into social service. Fabiola founded the first Christian hospital in Europe. Many other church women encountered severe opposition from their families for spending their wealth so generously in helping the poor. Such selfless ministry became a trademark of Christian women.
In a letter to his wife, Tertullian gives us a glimpse into some of the ministries of church women in his time. He charges her, in case of his own death, to not marry a pagan.
“Who would be willing to let his wife go through one street after another to other men’s houses, and indeed to the poorer cottages, in order to visit the brethren? Who would like to see her being taken from his side by some duty of attending a nocturnal gathering? At Easter time who will quietly tolerate her absence all the night? Who will unsuspiciously let her go to the Lord’s Supper, that feast upon which they heap such calumnies? Who will let her creep into jail to kiss the martyr’s chains? Or bring water for the saints’ feet?”
Women As Witnesses of Jesus

It is no surprise that women were active in the early church. From the very start—the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus—women were significantly involved. In fact, women were the major witnesses of his crucifixion and resurrection. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that a significant group of women had followed Jesus in his Galilean ministry, and that they were present at his execution—when the male disciples were conspicuously absent.
All three describe the women’s presence at Jesus’ burial. Luke declares that the women who had followed Jesus from Galilee still followed along as Christ was carried to the tomb. Mark details the care with which Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses noted where He was laid, while Matthew tells how they kept watch over the sepulchre after the men had left. John tells of the group immediately beneath the cross, three women and one man. John alone preserves the garden interview between Mary Magdalene and the Risen Christ.
The proclamation of the astounding Easter event was entrusted to these women. The angel reminded them that they had already been instructed by Jesus about His death, burial and resurrection. The women remembered and hurried off to tell the men. Their witness remains an integral part of the gospel to this day. The early church considered Mary Magdalene an “apostle to the apostles,” and Luke relied heavily on the testimony of women as he wrote both Luke and Acts.
The involvement of women continued in the first few decades of the church, attested by both biblical and extra-biblical sources. A number of women served as leaders of the house churches that sprang up in the cities of the Roman Empire—the list includes Priscilla, Chloe, Lydia, Apphia, Nympha, the mother of John Mark, and possibly the “elect lady” of John’s second epistle.
In the 2nd century, Clement of Alexandria wrote that the apostles were accompanied on their missionary journeys by women who were not marriage partners, but colleagues, “that they might be their fellow-ministers in dealing with housewives. It was through them that the Lord’s teaching penetrated also the women’s quarters without any scandal being aroused. We also know the directions about women deacons which are given by the noble Paul in his letter to Timothy.”
Was that perhaps the role of Junia? She was mentioned by Paul in Romans 16 as “of note among the apostles.” Some have debated the meaning of this verse, but early tradition holds that Junia was a woman and was considered an apostle. John Chrysostom wrote: “Indeed, to be an apostle at all is a great thing; but to be even amongst those of note; just consider what a great encomium that is … Oh, how great is the devotion of this woman, that she should even be counted worthy of the appellation of apostle.”

Until the Middle Ages, the identity of Junia as a female apostle was unquestioned. Later translators attempted to change the gender by changing the name to the masculine Junias. But such a name is unknown in antiquity; and there is absolutely no literary, epigraphical or papyrological evidence for it.
Paul also mentions Phoebe in Romans 16, “a deacon of the church at Cenchreae.” He calls her a prostatis or overseer. This term in its masculine form, prostates, was used later by the Apostolic Fathers to designate the one presiding over the Eucharist. And Paul uses the same verb, the passive of ginomai (to be or become), as he uses in Colossians 1:23: “I was made a minister.” In the passive, the verb sometimes indicated ordination or appointment to an office. Thus one might legitimately translate Paul’s statement about Phoebe: “For she has been appointed, actually by my own action, an officer presiding over many.” The church in Rome is asked to welcome her and assist her in the church’s business.
The four daughters of Philip appear in Acts 21:9 as prophetesses. Eusebius viewed these daughters as “belonging to the first stage of apostolic succession.”
Another prophetess attested to by extra-biblical tradition is Ammia, who prophesied in Philadelphia during New Testament times, and was received with reverence throughout Asia Minor. The first preserved mention of her dates to about 160 A.D.
2nd-Century Church Women
Just as the letters of Paul abound in references to his female associates in ministry, the Apostolic Fathers also mention women as stalwarts in the faith. Twice Ignatius sent greetings to Alce, whom he calls especially dear to him. He also greeted Tavia and her household; perhaps she was another house-church leader.
Polycarp mentioned the sister of Crescens, who deserved special commendation when she and her brother arrived in Philippi to deliver the letter. The Shepherd of Hermas, written about 148 A.D., gives instructions that two copies should be made of the work and one given to Grapte, “who shall exhort the widows and orphans.” The other copy was to be given to Bishop Clement to share with the elders. It appears that Grapte and Clement represented the female and male leaders respectively.

But Christians were not the only ones prompted to write about the female followers of Jesus. About 112 A.D., the Roman governor Pliny the Younger detailed his efforts to cope with the nascent church in Bithynia. He had found it necessary to interrogate the leaders, two slave women called ministrae, or deacons. These women apparently followed in the tradition of Phoebe.
Spurious Works
Certain female leaders are described as fully historic personages, while others are embedded in legend. Catherine of Alexandria, for instance, reportedly lived in the 2nd century, though the earliest reference to her is in an 8th-century work. The patron saint of scholars and philosophers, she allegedly debated 50 philosophers and won them all to Christ. As a result, she was condemned to death and ultimately perished on the wheel (hence the name of the “Catherine wheel,” a rotating firework).
Her story may have been drawn from that of Hypatia, the noted pagan philosopher also of Alexandria, also of the 2nd century. Hypatia did in fact meet her death at the hands of an enraged Christian mob, and her historicity is beyond doubt. The Catherine story may well be drawn from that of Hypatia, but it demonstrates a willingness in the church to project a woman as a spiritual and intellectual leader.
Spurious works, even if their authorship is in doubt, can still have value in demonstrating certain attitudes. Two epistles erroneously attributed to Ignatius preserve an appeal from Mary of Cassobelae that three members of the clergy, Maris, Eulogius and Sobelus, be appointed to serve in her community so that it might not be devoid of those fit to preside over the Word of God. She begs Ignatius to not deny her request simply because the three are young and two of them newly ordained. Rather, she argues from the Scriptures that youth is no deterrent to a significant ministry for God. Pseudo-Ignatius replies: “Thy intelligence invites us, as by a word of command, to participate in those divine draughts which gush forth so abundantly in thy soul … Thy numerous quotations of Scripture passages exceedingly delighted me, which, when I had read, I had no longer a single doubtful thought respecting the matter… Thou art perfect in every good work and word, and able also to exhort others in Christ.”

He promises to comply with her wishes, citing the fame which had accrued to her earnest dedication to Christ at the time of her visit to Rome during the bishopric of Linus (beginning of the 2nd century). The letter is probably no earlier than the 4th century, but it demonstrates an attitude that was able to gain currency in the early church. A woman of outstanding spiritual gifts purportedly gives direction in the appointment of clergy, and is applauded for the inspiration she affords. The personages may be fictitious, but the appreciation of feminine spirituality is real.

The Legend of St. Thecla
The legend of St. Thecla has endeared itself to modern women as well as to their earlier counterparts. It is the bestknown of the numerous apocryphal stories of early Christian heroines. According to the 3rd- century text of The Acts of Paul, Thecla, a noblewoman, was converted while listening to the preaching of the apostle. Forsaking her old life, she followed Paul and endured persecution, tribulation and great peril. The story resembles the ancient pagan romances in the repetition of hair’s-breadth escapes, the fortitude and nobility displayed by both hero and heroine, and the happy ending. It is, however, a Christianized romance, as are several other of the apocryphal Acts and The Recognitions of Peter.
Thecla appears as a truly heroic character who endures all manner of suffering for the sake of Christ. After her itineration through Asia Minor with the Apostle Paul, she settles near Seleucia, where she teaches, preaches, heals and baptizes. Tertullian, incensed that Montanist women used her as a model, declared that a deacon had confessed that he fabricated the story “for love of Paul.” William M. Ramsay maintained that The Acts of Paul contained an authentic 1stcentury account, which had been outrageously embellished by the 3rd-century deacon. Dennis McDonald has pointed out that, though the story is almost surely fictitious, this does not obviate the existence of an actual female leader of that name.

Both Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil of Caesarea spoke of Thecla as a historical figure. Writing in the 300s, they described her teaching center and hospital near Seleucia. The pilgrim Egeria visited this facility in 399 A.D., and also described its monasteries, convents and assembly buildings, along with the teaching and healing ministries that went on there. The German team that excavated the center in 1908 found the apse still standing above the ground, with the main basilica’s outlines covering a space equal to that of a football field. The excavators also found numerous cisterns, apparently for washing the sick, two other churches, and many fine mosaics. The center apparently was in active use for at least 1,000 years, indicating the presence in Asia Minor of an extremely strong female leader.
Women in Consecrated Orders
Beside the outstanding achievements of individual women stood the ministry of consecrated women in specialized orders. These orders included ecclesial widows, virgins, presbyteresses and deaconesses. Sometimes such women were formally ordained and sat with the rest of the clergy in front of the congregation.
Mary McKenna suggests that the disadvantaged women who accompanied Jesus in his Galilean ministry (Luke 8:23) formed the beginning of the order of widows. The Greek term cheira might refer to any woman who found herself in difficult circumstances. Tertullian complained of a virgin who was admitted to the order of widows at the age of 19! These widows were supported by the gifts of the congregation, and in turn were expected to pray for their benefactors as well as for all other members of the church. Their duties and qualifications were developed from the instructions in 1 Timothy 5. In the Clementine Recognitions and Homilies, perhaps from the first half of the 3rd century, St. Peter, as he prepares to leave Tripoli, appoints elders and deacons and organizes an order of widows.

The widow came to be looked upon as “the altar of God,” both because of her ministry of intercession and because of the gifts that she received. Under no circumstances should she reveal the name of a donor, lest other widows demand an equal gift from the same source or, worse yet, curse the one who withheld such benefices. The Didascalia insisted that neither “the bishop nor a presbyter, nor a deacon, nor a widow should utter a curse,” because widows “had been appointed to bless.”

Widows were clearly part of the ordained clergy in the Testament of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a 5th-century reworking of earlier material from Hippolytus’s Apostolic Tradition. The selection process and ordination service of widows parallels those of deacons, bishops and presbyters. The document applies the title “presbyteresses” to these women, and six times refers to them as “the widows who sit in front.” During communion, they stood by the altar, close to the bishops, presbyters and deacons, and within the veil that screened off the laity. These widows assumed pastoral responsibilities such as instructing female catechumens and the ignorant, gathering those who desired to live a pure life for prayer and encouragement, rebuking the wayward, and seeking to restore them.
Women As Deacons
As Clement of Alexandria made mention of Paul’s reference to deaconesses in 1 Timothy 3:11, so Origen commented on Phoebe, the deacon that Paul mentions in Romans 16:1–2:
“This text teaches with the authority of the Apostle that even women are instituted deacons in the Church. This is the function which was exercised in the church of Cenchreae by Phoebe, who was the object of high praise and recommendation by Paul… And thus this text teaches at the same time two things: that there are, as we have already said, women deacons in the Church, and that women, who by their good works deserve to be praised by the Apostle, ought to be accepted in the diaconate.”
Women deacons appear to be under discussion in 1 Timothy 3:11, although the feminine form “deaconess” did not come into use until about 100 A.D. As late as the end of the 4th century, diaconos might designate a woman as well as a man. The order of deaconesses as distinct from that of widows appears clearly delineated in the first half of the 3rd century in the Didascalia, which declared that the deaconesses should be honored as figures of the Holy Spirit. They could visit believing women in pagan households where a male deacon would be unacceptable. To them belonged the duties of visiting the sick, bathing those recovering from illness, and ministering to the needy. Deaconesses also assisted in the baptism of women, anointing them with oil and giving them instruction in purity and holiness. They could give communion to women who were sick and unable to meet with the entire church. The Apostolic Constitutions even specified that both male and female deacons might be sent with messages outside the city limits. The ministry of the widow was largely that of prayer, fasting, and laying of hands on the sick, while the deaconess, usually a considerably younger woman, undertook the more physically arduous tasks.

Ancient documents show that deaconesses were ordained. The Council of Chalcedon set down requirements for the ordination of deaconesses, and the Apostolic Constitutions includes their ordination prayer.
Women As Elders
The feminine form of “presbyter” or elder occurs frequently, though it is often translated simply as “old woman.” At times the term certainly refers to women who were part of the clergy. The Cappadocian father, Basil, uses presbytera apparently in the sense of a woman who is head of a religious community. Also applied to women is the term presbutis, “older woman” or “eldress.” The old woman who instructed Hermas is called presbytis. It occurs not only in Titus 2:3, but most markedly in Canon 11 of Laodicea, which forbade the appointment of presbytides (eldresses) or of female presidents (prokathemenai).

The masculine form, prokathemenos, indicated the presbyter or bishop who presided over the communion service. Dionysius of Alexandria, who died in 264 A.D., described a martyr as “the most holy eldress Mercuria” and another as “a most remarkable virgin eldress Apollonia.” A variant reading of the apocryphal Martyrdom of Matthew, a 4th- or 5th-century document, tells how Matthew ordained a king as priest and his wife as presbytis, “eldress.” Epiphanius and Theodoret vehemently repudiated any priestly function accruing to the “presbytides.”
Women As Priests?
There are even a few scattered references connecting women to the priesthood. Pseudo-Ignatius’s Letter to the Tarsians commands that those who continue in virginity be honored as priestesses of Christ. The eldresses of Titus 2:3 must be “hieroprepeis,” a term that inscriptional evidence suggests should be translated “like a priestess,” or “like those employed in sacred service.” The Cappadocian Gregory of Nazianzus wrote to Gregory of Nyssa about Theosebia, “the pride of the church, the ornament of Christ, the finest of our generation, the free speech of women, Theosebia, the most illustrious among the brethren, outstanding in beauty of soul. Theosebia, truly a priestly personage, the colleague of a priest, equally honored and worthy of the great sacraments.”

The walls of the Roman catacombs bear pictures showing women in authoritative stances, with their hands raised in the posture of a bishop. The Ecclesiastical Canons of the Apostles specifically forbade women to stand in prayer (24:1–8). But here we see them standing in prayer, exercising a ministry of intercession and benediction, and dominating the scene. To this day, their steadfast faith and ministry still bless us.

(Dr. Catherine Kroeger is chaplain and lecturer in the department of religion at Hamilton College in New Hartford, N.Y. Her doctorate is in classical studies and Greek, with a specialization in women in ancient religion, especially women and the ecclesiology of the Apostle Paul)

I do not see the question of women in the Church being primarily a feminist question.

It is primarily a theological, scriptural and pastoral question.

As we can see from Dr. Kroger's writings above there is a great and historic precedent for the involvement of women at every level of Church life.

While it would be a big shift for the RC Church to take after 1800 + years to ordain women - and I think they should - they could begin in other ways.

Pope Francis has asked for a discussion about women deacons.

But there is nothing to stop Francis creating WOMEN CARDINALS!

Cardinals do not have to be in Holy Orders.

Why not make a few women be prefects/heads of Vatican departments and congregations?

Why not invite and train and remunerate women as CANON LAWYERS - to become chancellors of dioceses and to run marriage tribunals?

Why not divide a diocesan responsibility in TWO - and make the bishop the PASTOR and a woman the CHIEF EXECUTIVE?

Why not have women as parish managers and restrict priests to pastoral responsibilities?

Why can't a woman run the managerial end of Knock Shrine and the parish priest be simply the pastor?

Why do bishops have priest secretaries when priests are so short. Why not have women diocesan secretaries?

Why have priests teaching THEOLOGY when a lay woman or man theologian could do that job?

Why have a priest TIMOTHY The Wannabe Bishop BARTLETT being the organiser of World Family Day in Dublin in 2018. Why not a women organiser and make Timmy do a decent bit of parish work for a change?

Why have priests as school principals when a layman or woman could do at least as good a job?

While we are getting our heads around the ordination of women issue - lets get on with having more women employees and officers.

After all more than 50% of most congregations these days are women.

When DIARMUID MARTIN leaves Dublin in a few years time let us divide his job. Let's have a woman as Archdiocese of Dublin Chief Executive - and Diarmuid's replacement as the Archdiocese of Dublin's PASTORAL DIRECTOR?

What about it Francis ????

The PRIESTS and PEOPLE of Dublin would see a lot more of their senior pastor if he was not stuck to a desk overseeing finances, committees and properties.


  1. MournemanMichael15 October 2017 at 00:14

    What excellent ideas!
    But no doubt to be strongly resisted by the usual vested interests.

  2. I have historical and linguistic expertise in this very area, Bishop Pat, and I was keen to comment on the subject-matter. However, your heavy hand of censorship has been falling recently on my posts; it is, frankly, discouraging. What is the point of taking the trouble to compose and type comments that, in all probability, won't be published?

    I'm disappointed that you've caved in to the cyber bullies.

    1. MC,the only editing of your comments I have done is to remove words and phrases that can be viewed as either racist or unnecessarily crude.

      Yesterday I blocked 5 comments that were crude about you and that were designed to provoke you.

    2. Just read Magna's comment at 00.51 about Pat giving in to cyber bullies. How blind are you Magna! In recent days you've provoked much reaction and deservedly received criticism. You should reflect on the justifiable reasons you have become an unlikeable person. It's not Pat's fault nor that of bloggers. You invite the opprobrium on yourself and until you learn to respect the intellect and opinions of others, you will be forever an outcast in your lonely world. This blog serves a useful purpose for all and should not be dominated by you. Thank you Pat for your efforts to restrain the outpourings of Magna.

  3. Pat, this notion of the possibility of women cardinals is incorrect. The Code of Canon Law is clear on the matter. A cardinal must be a male who is ordained a priest. A new cardinal who is not already a bishop must be ordained as one.

    1. Canon law is man made and can be changed.

    2. @ 05:31
      Not correct. Cardinal Albert Vanhoye SJ, is a cardinal since 2006. He's not a bishop.

      The other norm relating to being a priest is relatively recent - either the 1917 code or that of 1983. The famous Secretary of State of Pius VII(1800-1823, Cardinal Ercole Consalvi was not a priest, and was a cardinal before he became a deacon, etc. etc.

    3. I'm 05:31. Yes there can be a dispensation from being a bishop, eg Avery Dulles SJ, but he was definitely a priest when created a Cardinal.

      Prior to the 1917 Code it was possible to be a Cardinal without having Major Orders (ie deacon, priest or bishop) and there was a handful of such cases. But each and every one of then had Minor Orders and were therefore clerics and not laymen. Minor orders having been abolished the only way to be a Cardinal now is to be at least a priest, then ordained a bishop when elected to the College, unless dispensed, as has happened in one or two cases.

      Would these putative female Cardinals be electors in a conclave and be candidates themselves? How could a woman be ordained Bishop of Rome when the constant Tradition, reaffirmed definitively by the post Vatican II popes, including Francis, is that it is impossible for women to be ordained to the priesthood?

    4. Avery Dulles? He's 'pushing up daisies'.

      Who cares what he stupidly said (and he stated many stupid things)?

    5. He wasn't the only one saying "stupid things"!

    6. At 20:14
      Not correct to say ‘each and every one’ hand Minor Orders and were therefore clerics and not laymen

      E.g. Cardinal Henry Stuart (1725-1807) was made a cardinal with tonsure only. Canonically tonsure did not make someone a cleric (it indicated he intended to be) and could be automatically lost.

      The possibility of dispensation means the lack of absolutes. This is all that is being argued here.

      Therefore a person does not have to be s cleric to become a cardinal.

      Therefore, why not eomen?

      Bishops of Rome were elected for centuries before cardinals existed.

    7. The cardinal received minor orders very soon after tonsure.

    8. They have to be male and at least a priest.

    9. At 18:45
      Correct, but not before being made a cardinal.

      At 18:46
      Correct, but that is only recently the case. See above for details.

  4. I would love to see Tommy Deenihan replaced. I don't mind what gender his replacement is, just that he goes.

    1. Hopefully the new bishop will do this for you.

    2. Hopefully a new bishop will deal swiftly with both Johnny Buckley and Tommy Deenihan. Johnny should be banished from all public ministry and Tommy should be assigned to make Johnny's banana supper for ever more. They would make fine parish clergy on an uninhabited island.

    3. What's a banana supper? A toasted sandwich with sliced banana as a filling. A very acceptable and comforting collation.

    4. I made no criticism of the banana supper. Indeed I like them too, sometimes I even mash the banana and put in some nutella.

      Johnny does however going his banana peel from the car window which is annoying if you've been told to collect him from the train.

  5. Maqgna at 00.51: You are the bully par excellence as has been shown all too frequently. Pat is not allowing cyber bulli1es to censor you. It is entirely your own doing and you deserve to be removed. Your own words betray you. You know by now you do not enjoy favour by many on this blog, so please spare us your histrionics. The topic today deserves rational comment and is very insightful. Women have been marginalised in many areas of life, but especially in the Church, despite some unique women in many of the religious orders. As a priest I always seek to choose women for meaningful roles of spiritual leadership, pastoral involvement, management of various programmes. Women bring a greater imagination, creativity and sensitivity which we need. Each parish should strive likewise. I see no theological or scriptural prohibition to women being given pastoral and ordained ministries in our Church. Pat, you control this blog, often unfairly, but I think you try to be reasonable. Don't allow Magna destroy this forum, irrespective of his "self proclaimed" expertise in everything!

    1. I do my best to let everyone have their say and I'm sure that I get it wrong sometimes.

      When Magna comments from the intellectual and rational point of view he does so extremely well.

      MMM has complimented him on this and even below seeks to lead Magna to comment on Francis.

      Like you I see no reason why women cannot be bishops, priests and deacons.

      Your own efforts at encouraging female ministry are excellent.

    2. 09:50, let me make myself clear to you: I don't seek anyone's favour, not Bishop Buckley's, not anyone else's on this blog, and, above all, not the favour of someone so smug and pompous as you.

    3. Magna, though I don't wish to add any further pain to you after your declaration of being "affected" by critisisms of recent times, but the words you attrubute to me - "smug" and "pompous" re: my 9.50 comments came to my mind about you very often!! Now that you've used them, they more accurately define you as you continue in your arrogance to belittle, denigrate and insult everyone who dares challenge you and speaks the truth. You know something about everything but you are not "master" of all opinion or analysis. Those of us as priests in today's Church are genuinely working for a better, more inclusive, caring, welcoming and Christian community, endeavouring to respect the gifts, creativity and imagination of all - women, men, the young and children. Obviously you live in a small, closed, broken, sad world of your own, seeing life through squinted, shaded windows. I,on the other hand, live in a wider, real and engaging community. I'm off now after my morning's work since 8.00am for dinner with very kind and caring prishioners. This is my blessing, for which I am very grateful.

    4. Magna does not care what pain he inflicts on others and he is the cyber bully par excellence. The maxim ‘Nemo iudex in causa sua’ doesn’t not apply to this self-styled polymath. It’s about time, Pat curtailed some of his antics.

    5. Bishop Pat, you have again censored a comment of mine (directed at 14:20). The comnent was in no way crude or abusive, but it was satirical, a literary device you yourself have used.

      I notice, too, that you have allowed another comment critical of me at 15:46.

      If you are not going to permit ne to answer this personal nonsense, then you are indeed acting unfairly.

    6. Magna Carta, get over yourself. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve written to answer your personal nonsense and Pat didn’t publish and there was nothing crude in what I said - just calling you out on your vicious behaviour. So suck it up and shut up. People are sick of you and you have destroyed this blog with your browbeating and bullying antics. It is high time Pat began to cool your heels a bit.

    7. Pat, I am glad you editing Magna Carta’s comments seeing, after numerous appeals and chances, he is clearly incapable of being trusted to treat others with respect and decency. Reading his continuous tirades is very distasteful and boring.

    8. Seems to me, Pat, you can’t win. You are trying to protect MC from people; and you are trying to protect people from MC.

  6. MourneManMichael15 October 2017 at 09:51

    Magna in respect of your criticisms of Francis could you please give information on actions taken by him of which you are critical, as opposed to actions you believe he should have taken. The latter could well be considered subjective value judgement. Additionally they may well not reflect the reality of the information at Francis's disposal, when he accessed it, nor the factors hindering him acting.
    Just as we now read of Trumps frustration at being unable to wield unrestricted executive power by the checks and balances of the US constitution, Francis has to contend with a Vatican self serving hierarchy much concerned with preserving status power and privilege possibly resenting changes to vested interests.
    For my part since I don't follow RC church doings other than standard news and +Pat's blog, my impression is that Francis seeks genuine changes but battles with Vatican vested interests.

    1. MMM, my criticism of Pope Francis is neither impressionistic nor subjective, but based entirely on his conduct, not perceived, but actual.

      Early in his pontificate, Francis seemed a bright beacon of hope to a global LGBT community: he seemed to hint that the Church would become a welcoming home to people who, historically, had experienced it largely as a very cold and unwelcoming house.

      Of gay priests in ministry, Francis famously declared in 2013: 'Who am I to judge?' This doesn't quote him fully on that occasion, but it does express the ground for optimism that so inspired and encouraged LGBT people more or less everywhere. And Francis hadn't finished: he stoked their hope with words that the Church needed to apologise for the hurt it had caused gay people. No pope in history had spoken as this man had done; and certainly not his immediate two predecessors, arguably the two most homophobic popes in papal history. Contrast these hopeful signs from Francis with his endorsing a review of Pope Benedict's ban on gay candidates for seminary. By doing so, Francis was deliberately'buying into' the morally disgraceful stereotype that homosexuals are also all paedophiles or ephebophiles.

      The institutional Roman Catholic Church has a historic problem (almost entirely of its own making) with paedophile-and-ephebophile acting priests, and not just with this, but with covering up their sickening crimes 'for the good of the Church'. What greater 'good' could be done to the Church than to scapegoat homosexuals not just for the crime of paedophilia, but to 'take the heat off' the institutional Church for its complicitity in these atrocious acts. Pope Francis, along with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, must both have been aware of exactly the dark, and medically unsupported, association they were making between these groups of people. Their moral demonisation of homosexuals constitutes grave sin, and is historically on a par with how centuries ago the Roman Catholic Church misrepresented Jews and others. By demonising homosexuals in this way, both popes have, like their predecessors, selected a certain demographic and, for their own political ends, have set them up as figures of hate. And yet, Pope Francis has declared himself no judge of men who happen to be gay and has called upon the wider Church to apologise for historic abuse of such people (and, implicitly, to change their behaviour toward them). Francis hasn't exactly given a clear and credible lead, now has he?

      There is also Francis' repeated failure to defend the two abuse survivors who were members of the so-called 'Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors'. Both were deeply dissatified with the Commission, and with the Curia, over how this commission would work; neither member eventually saw any point in continuing the charade. And this is exactly what it is: an elaborate charade, all smoke and mirrors to improve the Vatican's reputation globally.

      There is, too, Pope Francis' complicity in the appointment of bishops who were the subject of allegations concerning the covering up of child sexual abuse by priests... despite his apparent determination to address this significant, and deepy troubling, open sore.

      Finally (but not conclusively...I haven't the time to type more) Francis has shown total ignorance and insensitivity towards transgender people, preferring to describe transgenderism more sinisterly as 'gender ideology' or, worse, as 'gender colonisation'. How much more can he oppress a group of people that has suffered so much misunderstanding, stereotyping, discrimination and violence at the hands of wider society and whose younger demographic has the highest suicide-ideation rate (and the highest rate of actual suicide) among all LGBT people.

    2. Now that's the kind of comment we we'd from you Magna. Congratulations.

    3. The appointment of which bishops in particular?

    4. MourneManMichael15 October 2017 at 15:49

      Magna: In seeking examples of Francis's positive actions (ie something he actually did) as opposed to criticisms based on perceptions of his alleged failures, I sought to avoid value judgements affected by limited knowledge of his relevant understanding and information bases, and significantly, his freedom to personally take actions unrestricted by the mechanisms of vested interests within the Vatican hierarchy.

      May I thank you for your response above. Not until the fifth sentence of your third paragraph do you reference a positive action taken by Francis when, after criticising Benedict's ban on gay candidates, you say that Francis "endorsed a review" of that ban. My simple understanding of that is that Francis sought a re-examination of Benedict's ban. I don't understand how that "buys into the morally disgraceful stereotyping" you describe. There may well be more to it that in my ignorance I fail to understand, so perhaps you could clarify?
      When, in your fourth paragraph after you say that "Francis must have been aware" you then go on to generally criticise a demonisation of homosexuals. While I agree with this as a generalised criticism, your comment does not specifically reference any positive behaviour of Francis's to thus demonise. I could accept such a criticism if you, or anybody, could point to any speech or document from Francis making such derogatory negative comments, but in their absence, and on the basis of your comment, I find too much generalised assumption to accept them as valid criticisms backed up by conclusive evidence.
      A similar impression is given when you criticise Francis's "failure to defend" the two abuse survivors. Not knowing much about the issue, I've just now looked online, and, from Marie Collins' statements following resignation earlier this year, I particularly note her criticisms primarily directed at the Vatican impeding bureaucracy rather that at Francis, and that throughout her three year tenure she'd never had the opportunity to speak to him.
      For brevity, I have to say your criticism in this respect seems based on your perception of Francis's failure to act, and as such, contains the value judgements I sought to eliminate as a basis for valid criticism.

      For brevity's sake, could I say that your last two paragraphs also contain much generalisation and value judgements as opposed to specific examples of substantiated evidence.
      Believe that I seek not to defend Francis, nor any other cleric. I seek concrete information in the interest of fair play.

    5. 14:48, Chilean bishop, Juan Carros, despite protests from many, including priests.

    6. MMM at 15:49, with respect (and you are one of the few commentors on this blog that I do respect), for Pope Francis to claim, effectively, a morally neutral position on gay priests (as he did in that aeroplane flight in 2013) and then to endorse a ban on gay candidates for seminary, even if chaste, is blatantly (outrageously) hypocritical.

      Furthermore, Pope Benedict XVI introduced that ban in 2005 as a panicked reaction to international pressure, especially from global media, to act against child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests.

      Homosexuals are not, by definition, paedophiles, any more than are heterosexuals. Yet Benedict, by barring such candidates from seminary, was explicitly and publicly linking the two...without even plausible medical evidence to support his discriminatory action. This was a homophobic knee-jerk reaction by Benedict and, frankly, spoke more of his own prejudice than anything else. When Pope Francis endorsed the review of Benedict's ban (the fundamentals of which were not changed in the slightest) he was endorsing Benedict's homophobia...and confirming his own.

      Homophobia is morally reprehensible, fundamentally because it represents a failure to love unconditionally: it creates an 'other', starkly differentiating the morally virtuous from the morally opprobious. In a nutshell, it is the springboard from which the 'righteous' have discriminated against (and even physically attacked and killed) LGBT people. In the past eight or so years, more that fifty LGBT workers employed by Catholic institutions in the US have been sacked by Roman Catholic bishops...just for being gay.

      Homophobia is gravely wrong, because it hurts people unjustifiably. Pope Francis' hypocrisy on LGBT issues can only affirm and entrench such behaviour.

      How do my two last paragraphs 'contain much generalisation'? I don't understand. As regards my penultimte paragraph, Pope Francis has indeed approved the ordination to the episcopacy of candidates associated with the sexual abuse of children, either directly or indirectly. For example, Juan Carros of Chile, just two years ago.

      As for my last paragraph, I did give examples of Pope Francis' disparaging transgender people with his ill-informed comnents, 'gender ideology' and 'gender colonisation'.

      Francis is neither a psychotherapist nor a psychologist. And he is not a social anthropologist. How is he qualified to make such dogmatic assertions about transgenderism when people who ARE academically qualified to speak about it understand so little of the subject themselves?

    7. MMM, as I said earlier, Magna is not "master" of opinion or analysis. He's definitely not an expert and interprets Francis's ministry to fit his agenda. It is better for people to view Pope Francis by studying and reading his statements & teachings in full, as you are attempting to do. Likewise, you are correct on Marie Collin's statement: it is a critique of Vatican bureaucracy, not a personal attack on Francis. I believe that Magna does a huge disservice to TRUTH, with little regard for the people he defames and deliberately hurts. I cannot recall much helpful insights or inspiration from his words. Pope Francis is the first to recognise publicly that he is a "sinner", therefore aware of his role as Shepherd to be compassionate and merciful, which I find him to be. There are many clerics who welcome all peoples and all types of families to their Church community. I am aware of such people in my Parish and I am open, welcoming and caring to them as I am to anyone else. What matters to me is the affirmation of the dignity and gift of each human being in the eyes of God. I don't necessarily need Pope Francis to tell me that: I've always believed it, but his gestures and words are encouraging.

    8. 18:48, you've avoided engaging with me argumentatively. Why? Are you afraid?

    9. MC @14.48
      Bishop Juan Barros was appointed a bishop in 1995, almost 20 years before Francis’ election.

      You said “appointment of bishops” plural.


    10. And Francis approved the appointment, despite protests against this man's remaining in office.

      Why can't you research properly, instead of seeking only information that feeds your obvious prejudice?

    11. In addition, Francis has not been pro-active in this matter, waiting for offending bishops to tender their resignations instead of effecting their summary dismissal.

      And please don't offer the pathetic excuse that this is just curial diplomacy.

  7. MMM, you are right. I believe Pope Francis is seeking genuine renewal and is constantly calling the Church back to its essence - to be the community Jesus intended and intebds it to be. Problem is, there are too many of the senior prelates who are trying to stifle Feancis's vision. However, those of as priests in parishes who believe in the true vocation given to all through baptism must seek to give women meaningful, real and relevant roles, not just gestures of tokenism. I and my parish would be impoverished were it not for the participatiin of women. I try to affirm the dignity of all who enter my church and invite ideas, suggestions and involvement frequently. Sometimes it works, other times it's a struggle. MMM seems to have genuine, reasonable and insightful observations, albeit from very different perspectives, but useful nonetheless. I wish Magna would emulate his aporoach. Progress is onky made when we engage in genuine dialogue and listening.

  8. The Gospel is for all.Female and Male were created in God's image. Scripture reminds us people after the resurrection however we interpret it will be like Angeles. Women and Men in church and society deserve equal respect and are equally capable of assuming responsibility.

  9. Pat, the late Catherine Kroeger was a life-long Presbyterian, married to a Presbyterian Minister so her musings reflect her own background and obsessive feminist agenda, rather than Catholicism.

    1. Is she not talking about Christianity in general?

    2. Why do you think the two should be mutually exclusive?

    3. Arlene's on fire15 October 2017 at 21:36

      In response to MC, even in these ecumenical times (far better than unecumenical times), Presbyterians, even of the most liberal stripe, have views on ordained ministry at odds with Catholic teaching. The learned theologian is arguing, on feminist grounds for the ordination of women to a priesthood she does not believe in.

    4. Dear Arlene, why ever would 'she' do this? Is she (you know) inebriated?

    5. Is she? Does SHE know this? You might better inform her. Yes?

    6. Arlene's on fire16 October 2017 at 12:59

      So a Presbyterian believes in the Catholic priesthood? How curious.

  10. Show me a person who thinks gender is relevant to the validity of priesthood and I will show you a person who doubts the power of the Holy Spirit.

    1. Arlene's on fire15 October 2017 at 21:40

      Eg Pope Paul VI in Inter Insignores, St John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, and Pope Francis when he said the door was closed on the question of women priests.

    2. Yes. The Catholic church does not get everything correct. Also I do not accept papal infallibility as a justification.

      If I were on my deathbed and only a female clergy person was available I would gladly receive her. Indeed i know many a Catholic priest I would turn away in preference for a female priest.

    3. You're not a Catholic then. Have you tried Anglicanism, they have women ministers. Or do prefer to stay and be one of those cafeteria Catholics?

    4. @13.02
      'Cafeteria Catholic" is a needlessly disparaging term to use in relation to people who accept, as Pope Francis does, that beliefs change with time and the increasing availability of new evidence.

      For example, Prancis's speech at the weekend has instructed that the death penalty is no longer compatible with Catholic teaching. He used this as an illustration of the development of doctrine, so convincingly elucidated by J. H. Newman.

    5. And by Magna, on this and other blogs. (Was once accused here of being 'obsessed' with the death penalty. How odd.)

    6. At 14:33
      That's hardly for you to judge.

      Nemo judex in sua casu.

    7. It's stormy out there16 October 2017 at 16:27

      According to Catholic teaching, Revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle. Not even Popes can add to it. The development of doctrine (and Newman was conservative BTW) means clarification of a teaching, not a contradiction of it. The so called humble Francis, who with his staff occupies an entire floor of the plush Casa Santa Marta, does not exercise collegiality (the lib buzzword) but instead issues Motu Proprio and headline grabbing interviews, like some dictator. Popes are guardians of the Deposit of Faith, not announcers of new doctrine.

    8. Judge precisely what, 15:55?

    9. 13:02, if my typing here is a little faulty, forgive me: my shoulders are heaving in manic mirth at your little colloquialism, 'cafeteria Catholics'.

      This is precisely what successive magisteria have been for literally hundreds of years, with their erroneous teaching by word and by example.😅

    10. at 16:26
      Just like the decision to condemn slavery as immoral was not a contradiction but merely a development of the view that slavery was moral.

      Or that the condemnation of the death penalty by Francis was just a development of the practice followed by Pio Nono who, as sovereign of the Papal States relished his prerogative of signing the death warrant of criminals?

      No amount of ad hominem argument about Francis' living conditions which are radically simpler than his predecessors adds anything to your argument.

      No need to cling to the belief that doctrine is immutable.

    11. At 13.02
      I am merely not a mindless fundamentalist. I hear the church's teachings but reason with my mind. That is how I was taught when educated by the Jesuits.

      If you think the Catholic Church is always and forever correct in its teaching than may I remind you to answer the Pope's call to join the crusades and kill Saracens.

    12. Of course doctrine is immutable. To say otherwise is to believe that God changes. The NT acknowledges slavery without condemning it nor without commending it, so the Church has every right to condemn it. When it comes to doctrine, we are on different ground, it cannot change to fit in with contemporary opinion. 16:26 you decry ad hominem attacks having just accused a great Pope of 'relishing' signing death warrants, are you kidding?

    13. A non-sequitur. Yes beliefs change. No God doesn’t.

    14. The NT supported slavery. Ephesians 6:5 is an example.

      Pio Nono jealously guarded his prerogatives as a head of state to do just that. Read any standard biography.

    15. For those who believe the church gets everything correct please book you flight to the next crusade and go fight some Sarasens - the pope has called you .

  11. Arlene's on fire15 October 2017 at 16:33

    Jesus was wrong in choosing only men as Apostles?

    1. If we follow the logic of this point than please take note: some of those men Jesus choose were married. If one rule can change than so can another.

    2. Arlene's on fire15 October 2017 at 21:28

      Whether a person is male or female is much more fundamental than whether married or not. There have always been married clergy in the Catholic church, to this day in the Eastern Catholic Churches, and in the Ordinariate.

      I'm not sure if it can be said definitively that the Apostles were married. There is a reference to St Peter's mother-in-law, but he could have been a widower. Anyway, Jesus said that neither wives nor children nor family should stand between the call to follow him and that anyone who put his hand on the plough and looked back was unworthy of him.

    3. Who said there were only men sent out i.e. apostles?
      “After this the Lord appointed 72 others and sent them out.” Luke 10.1.
      All sent. All apostles.
      Jesus sent the women to tell his brothers to go to Galilee. Matthew 28.10.
      They were sent. They are apostles.

    4. At Anon 00.36
      Well said. I agree with all of that. Also let's not forget it was two women Jesus sent from the tomb with his message.

    5. Oh, it appears there were 82 Apostles, according to one of the resident blog theologians/exegetes. Fancy that.

    6. @13.06
      It seems you are confusing a group called "The Twelve" whose membership was fluid with "Apostles" both of which were subgroups of "Disciples."

      Here are 16 who at various times made up "The Twelve:"
      Peter, Andrew, James, John,
      Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew
      Matthew, Simon, Jude, Judas,
      Matthias, Thaddeus, Nathaniel, Levi.

      Don't worry you were not the first to feel the need to harmonise the evidence.

      And welcome to issues in biblical studies that have been discussed for centuries.

    7. Thanks, Fr. All men in the Twelve.

    8. All male names in the Twelve yes. Because of the significance of the New Twelve for the New Israel as a legitimate development from the Twelve tribes named after Abraham's twelves sons.

      No significance at all attached to the gender of those called to follow (disciples) and sent to evangelise (apostles). The former category included many women, including named women in the N.T. And as the post above showed, so did the latter.

    9. It's stormy out there16 October 2017 at 16:31

      Thank you again Fr. It's important that unlettered laywomen are kept up to speed. Say hello on my behalf to the women who will cook your supper tonight.

    10. It's stormy out there16 October 2017 at 16:35

      I hope you write to the Vatican to point out their flawed understanding. Patting lay people on the head when the venture forth on theological matters is profoundly clericalist. Maybe force of habit, no pun intended.

    11. 16.35
      The Vatican is, like Ireland, a state. Like Ireland it doesn't have a monolithic understanding, flawed or otherwise, anything, including biblical data.

      The gender of those who cook is irrelevant. There are many women who are experts in biblical studies and many more who are familiar with such elementary matters as the differences between the Twelve, disciples and apostles.

      They don't draw false conclusions from the fact that the names of the Twelve are all male.

    12. Arlene's on fire.17 October 2017 at 04:07

      Once again, thank you Fr. Hope dinner was up to its usual high standards. Say hello to the women who do the cooking, cleaning and laundry in religious houses and seminaries all over the globe while their clerical betters and masters explain to untutored laywomen why Jesus chose the all-male Twelve Apostles.

    13. Two inaccuracies and one conflation of two phenomena which need to be separated. First to deal with the inaccuracies:

      1. The services role is in fact played by women (and many men) in church and society.

      2. Those who hold non-scientific or non-critical views on the bible are male and female.

      The very strange counclusion you draw from both inaccuracies is that because many women work in services no one, female or male, should present any scriptural insights publicly, in case their audience contained any women, who because of their services contribution deserve not to be disturbed from holding uncritical views.

      And a final point: the term “twelve apostles’ is false. There was a group called ‘the twelve’ to show that Jesus’ movement was in continuity with Israel and its twelve tribes. Its membership was fluid. An apistle was someone who had first been a disciple and who then was sent to evangelise. There were named women disciples. There were women apostles e.g. sent to tell Jesus’ brothers (and sisters) about the resurrection.

    14. Arlene's on fire17 October 2017 at 19:24

      No, I just get some wry amusement from listening to male religious opining about women's role in the church, while they get their day in somehow and the women they come in contact with on a daily basis are those who hoover their rooms, answer the phone, cook and clean. All very Upstairs Downstairs.

  12. The prophecy of St Malachy means we are in the end game with Pope Francis. Eschatologically we need to forget Magna and get on our knees.

    1. Are you well, 17:48? Seriously. I'm not trying to score cheap personal points. But the so-called 'prophesies of St Malachy'?

    2. Are you well, 17:48? Seriously. I'm not trying to score cheap personal points. But the so-called 'prophesies of St Malachy'?

    3. Long live Pope Francis!

    4. Oh! He'll shuffle off this mortal the rest of us.😆

  13. Sorry but I have to laugh at that priest who says he has women doing this and that in his parish::::::: seems to me he is using them
    And as for going out to a Sunday dinner cooked by another fool of a woman.
    And I wish you would stop commenting on Magna, he has better opinions than you will ever have
    Written by a woman who isn’t easily fooled.

    1. Very well said, 18:57. That 'priest' is, indeed, using them, not according to their personal worth and vocation, but according to how this 'priest' personally believes they should be used.

      Not quite the same, really.

    2. 18.57: Sorry to have offended your feminist sensitivities - if they exist at all!!I sense a whiff of anti clericalism in your silly comment. I treat all with respect and am glad that I am in a role where I give as many people as possible an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the life of their parish community. Simply making the point that there are very forward looking and genuine priests who are trying to make a difference. Nothing wrong with being creative or positive. Incidentally my host today who invited me for lunch allowed me to use my cooking skills which we frequently share. I've never used women. Think you need to discover "kindness".....

    3. Fr, that’s MC’s mummy at 18:57 so it is. You leave her wee Magna alone. He wouldn’t hurt a fly and youse are always picking on him so yiz are. He’s not a horrid person. He’s just very much misunderstood ;-)

    4. Magna at 19.17: You just can't accept that as a Priest I have and always had a genuine respect for women and have always believed in creating an inclusive outreach and ministry in my work. I seek the wisdom of all before I continue with any project. I value the dignity of every person and enciurage the contributiins of everyone - women, men, the young and children. All done out of a deep desire to live the gospel in fullness. Somehow, you don't seem to have this ability. And I suspect you don't possess magnanimity of heart, despite calling yourself Magna!! I pray for your healing.

  14. Magna Carta, if you have academic expertise in this area then I for one want to hear what you have to say. My reasonable expectation is that it will be phrased in a way befitting an academic, which means Pat will feel no need to remove swearwords, profanities or abuse. This is in no way bullying - it is merely expecting you to behave in a socially acceptable manner online. Now if you have stopped sulking will you please make a posting on your area of expertise?

  15. Now, Pat - you’re on shaky ground annoying Magna Carta. If you’re not careful there’ll be no more of him approaching you on his knees and you will be joining the vast majority of the rest of the human race whom he loathes. Lol

    1. Very good..

    2. Please, if you mean to insult me, do so literately. '' more of him approaching you...'? That should read: ' more of HIS approaching you...'. (Sigh😕)

      Didn't anyone teach you about gerunds?

  16. 'The Neglected History of Women in the Early Church' should not be allowed to draw attention away from any unnessaryness that may, or may not be occurring at Gaynooth. Such neglect will only allow poovery to run riot at the already compromised institution.

  17. Keep safe in the storm tomorrow Ireland!

    Thinking of you all.

    God Bless. X

    1. It will come and it will go. Honestly, we don't make a fuss.. But thanks all the same!

  18. What as somebody who is excommunicate why don't you you mind your own business and let the church manage it's own affairs.

  19. There are relevant facts (of which I suspect you are aware) that are not mentioned here. A deaconess was NOT A female deacon, the roles were entirely different and separate. When it was mandatory for catechumens to be unclothed and then clothed in white garments, the female deaconesses merely assisted the females to undress and be re-clothed in a white toga-like dress before baptism. The deacons (all male) could officiate at certain sacraments. This situation still exists in the Coptic churches, I understand. If research omits basic relevant information, then it is not research, it is partisan propaganda.

  20. If the sex of the apostles was irrelevant and there were so many suitable females then why were there only two (MALE) candidates to replace Judas and why was Matthias chosen and not a woman? And if the 12 weren't special why did they not elect both MEN to be apostles? Read all about it Acts 1:15 - 26!

    1. The sex of disciples and apostles was irrelevant. The twelve needed to be male to show Jewish disciples and would-be disciples that the Jesus movement/phenomenon was in continuity with Israel (and, more importantly, with Israel’s God) and its twelve tribes based on Abraham’s twelve sons.

      When the Way moved beyond Jewish contexts the notion of the twelve declined in significance while the roles of disciples and apostles grew.

    2. But even then there were no female priests. It's the constant, unchanging tradition of the Church, East and West, and among the Protestants until recently in their history.