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New Testament and of the early Church, is beyond dispute. That it would be productive of further divisions and confusion, is equally certain.
II. But it is pleaded that we must not allow ourselves to be hampered by the dead hand of tradition. It is to be shewn then that Authority is not arbitrary, but based on Reason. So St. Paul bases his regulations and restrictions concerning women's behavior in church on (a) the subordination of the female sex to the male, which is in no wise inconsistent with personal equality; (b) on the different functions of men and women; (c) on natural instinct as to what is proper and becoming.10
The sexes are differently constituted, physiologically and psychologically, and by these differences they are fitted for different kinds of work in Church as in the State and in the Family. As a sex women are not fitted for positions of Rule and Government." Their emotional, affectionate, and sympathetic temperament, however valuable in other ways, is a certain disqualification for the exercise of authority. A judicial, balanced, impartial, controlled temper and attitude is required and ought to be found in those who hold the pastoral office; and these are
9St. Paul is sometimes charged with apparent inconsistency in prescribing in one place the dress (a veil) which women must wear when they pray or prophesy in the congregation (I Cor. xi. 5), while elsewhere, and in the same Epistle, he forbids them to speak or preach in public (I Cor. xiv. 34, 35, comp. I Tim. ii. 11, 12). In answer it may be said: (1) The extraordinary gift of Prophecy is probably regarded as raising the recipient above general rules. A person whose spiritual gift of this kind is recognized by the faithful may deliver her message. But this is distinct from the ordinary exercise of authority in teaching. The prophetic gift, it need hardly be said, was not limited to persons in Holy Orders. It was personal, and did not give any official position. We have been continually told of late that the charismatic ministry was over against the hierarchy.
Or (2) it may have been, as some suppose, that I Cor. xiv represents the Apostle's general rule, while in I Cor. xi he is dealing with an additional abuse, of women not only speaking in the congregation, but doing so while unveiled, which would be considered by all at that time as unbecoming.
The distinction between a consecrated and an unconsecrated building, on which stress is sometimes laid in England, is entirely irrelevant. St. Paul's "church" stands not for a building but for the assembly of the faithful.
101 Cor. xi, xiv; I Tim. ii.
11 Arguments from the example of a constitutional monarch have little force.
not distinguishing characteristics of the female sex. The office of Priest and Pastor is distinctly that of a ruler. It is not chiefly concerned with speaking and preaching, nor with the mere administration of Sacraments. The "Minister of the Word and Sacraments" has a judicial office, to enforce requirements and conditions for the Church's privileges. The faithful and wise steward whom his lord makes ruler over his household is a figure of the Church's pastor.12
Moreover we may certainly ask, If the priesthood may be conferred on Women, why not the Episcopate? if pastorship, why not chief pastorship, the chief rule in spiritual things over all men and women? It is oftentimes by working out arrangements to their fair possibilities that their inherent unworkableness and contradiction of principle is shown.
We are referred to the institution of Deaconesses as a warrant for admitting women to Holy Orders. But the point is that Deaconesses are not in Holy Orders. They are to be regarded (historically and among ourselves) as officers or servants of the Church commissioned for special work, as persons of old in Minor Orders, superior to, but like, Lay Readers appointed and licensed rather than in the stricter sense ordained.1
12Luke xii, 42.
13The word "ordained" may be used in a wider sense than that of admitting to Holy Orders. It stands for a solemn form of commission and benediction for any kind of ministry. This may naturally be accompanied by the laying-on of hands, which sign again is not restricted to the conferring of the Holy Orders of Deacon, Priest, or Bishop. The Roman Pontifical under De Ordimbus conferendis includes services for admission to Minor Orders, de clerico faciendo de ordinations ostiariarum, lectorum, exorcistarum, acolythorum, before De Saeris Ordinibus.
Dean Howson recognized this in his early book on Deaconesses (1862), where he says (p. 243): "The very same technical term (Ordination) is applied [in the Apostolic Constitutions] to Readers, Doorkeepers, and Singers, as well as to Deaconesses," and this with laying-on of hands. "The imposition of hands had a wider range in the Early Church than it has with us; and distinctions must be drawn with regard to the import of the ceremony on different occasions. In the case of the Bishop and the Presbyter it is a solemn consecration. In the case of the Deaconess it is only an official blessing."
The position and functions of Deaconesses in the Primitive Church were uncertain, and they gradually disappeared as special needs for their assistance diminished, at the Baptism of women or in visiting those secluded from contact with men. Professor Cuthbert Turner (than whom there is no higher authority on early Church History) has thus summed up the evidence concerning Deaconesses in early times:11
"1. No woman ever undertook a public function in the face of the Church, i. e. in a mixed congregation.
"2. No order of women ministers was ever universal, and an order of limited currency cannot be regarded, and has never in fact been regarded, as on a level with the orders universal in the Church. In other words deaconesses were not in 'Holy Orders.' "'15
Bishop John Wordsworth in his Ministry of Grace, says:16
"The practical development of Deaconesses was confined to the East, and more particularly to such centers as Antioch and Constantinople, though it appears elsewhere. There is scarcely any mention of the office in the West in the first four centuries, and when it is afterwards noticed, it is usually with disfavor. The first mention of it
at Rome seems to belong to the 8th century."
With these limitations we can entirely accept what is said in the Report of the Archbishop's Committee:18
14Church Times, September 10, 1920.
15 Canons of several local councils with specific prohibitions of various irregularities of this kind are cited in The Place of Women in the Church, p. 85. 16P. 277.
17Bp. Wordsworth continues (p. 281): "The duties of a Deaconess as historically described do not appear to have been very considerable. They had (to use Dr. Bright's words) (1) to assist in the instruction and attend the baptism of female catechumens; (2) to take messages from the Bishop to Churchwomen; (3) to look after them in church. Their duties in visiting the sick and in connection with the Eucharist are less frequently mentioned. We have here, however, the germ of all that is now desired for our modern Deaconesses, including their special relation to the Bishop, to whom they are attached much in the same way as the Deacons were."
18 P. 20.
"Notwithstanding local variations of practice and long disuse, it is beyond all question that the diaconate of women had a very real existence. There has been no decision of the Church as a whole against it. No council of importance has condemned it. And it is impossible to maintain that the disuse has been of so complete or decisive a nature as to render the revival of the order incompetent to any part of the Church."
This was the line really taken by the Lambeth Conference, even if accompanied by some unfortunate suggestions concerning the ministrations of Deaconesses. These recommendations, it should be noted, were adopted by a small majority of the Bishops present at the time (117 votes to 81), this majority being a minority of the members of the Conference (252). The Conference distinctly refused to endorse the proposals of its Committee on the subject. In direct divergence from the Report of the Committee, which said that the Ordination of a Deaconess confers upon her Holy Orders, and that she received the "character" of a Deaconess," in the resolutions of the Conference the term "Holy Orders" was avoided in connection with Deaconesses (not only was it not used, but it was discarded); authority to minister the chalice at a sick Communion was refused to them; and any further advance beyond the Diaconate was explicitly denied to women. Resolution 48 declared, "The office of a Deacon is for women the only Order in the Ministry which has the stamp of Apostolic approval, and is for women the only Order of the Ministry which we can recommend that our branch of the Catholic Church should recognize and use."
In any appeal to the authority of Lambeth, while we may regret some things that were done or said about Deaconesses, what was not done or said, though asked for 19 Report of Lambeth Committee, p. 102.
and recommended by the Committee, must be taken into
The American Church, as I have said elsewhere, is not likely to change its stand in the matter, either in accounting Deaconesses as in Holy Orders, or by withdrawing its rule that the Deaconess must be unmarried or widowed, and that the office or appointment shall be vacated by marriage.20
III. Leaving considerations of Authority and Reason, we pass to questions of Expediency.
(a) Women, it is pleaded, demand such a change in old-established discipline. A few do, some gifted, some restless and wilful, possessed with the idea that the equality of persons of both sexes involves the identity of their functions. But by the great majority of Churchwomen the idea is regarded with abhorrence. They have their own position, their own gifts and influence and opportunities, and they have no desire (perhaps at the loss of some of these) to intrude on masculine prerogatives. By no class of worshippers would such a change in our rules be more bitterly resented than by devout church
Take a particular class of women that should not be ignored in such matters,-those specially dedicated to the service of our Lord and His Church in Religious Communities. They are constant in worship, they value highly the Sacramental life, they are diligent in spiritual as well as in corporal works of mercy. Do they desire to lead the general congregation in worship, to minister in the pulpit or at the altar, to be burdened with the charge of priesthood?
(b) And what would be the effect on Men? Would they be won or further alienated from religion and relig
20 Canon 23, §I.