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The Hidden History of Women's…
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The Hidden History of Women's Ordination: Female Clergy in the…

by Gary Macy

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From the age of 5 to 16, I was educated by nuns of the Brigidine Order—an order founded in the memory of St Brigid of Kildare. A large section of our religious education revolved around learning stories of her life and deeds—yet in more than a decade of sitting in classrooms universally adorned with St Brigid's crosses, we were never once told that one of Brigid's biographies included a story that she had once been ordained a bishop. It was a story which we were not supposed to hear—much like the evidence which Macy gathers together here, proving that women were ordained to several roles within the Catholic Church up to the 12th century.

It makes for a fascinating read, as Macy first tackles the theology and history writing from the 17th century to the present day, neatly demolishing the rhetorical feats which (usually male) scholars have gone to to prove that 'ordination' does not mean 'ordination', often by means of anachronistic arguments. He then goes on to discuss the evidence for women as deaconesses, presbyterae (priests), and episcopae (bishops)—whether as wives of men who held equivalent positions or not—who could hear confession, distribute communion (and perhaps bless the host?) and preach the Gospel. Macy demonstrates that while there may never have been a golden age of equality for women within the Christian Church in the west, women before the 12th century certainly had a range of ordained functions which has largely since been denied them. Really fascinating reading if you have any interest in the topic. ( )
2 vote siriaeve | Aug 5, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195189701, Hardcover)

The Roman Catholic leadership still refuses to ordain women officially or even to recognize that women are capable of ordination. But is the widely held assumption that women have always been excluded from such roles historically accurate?

In the early centuries of Christianity, ordination was the process and the ceremony by which one moved to any new ministry (ordo) in the community. By this definition, women were in fact ordained into several ministries. A radical change in the definition of ordination during the eleventh and twelfth centuries not only removed women from the ordained ministry, but also attempted to eradicate any memory of women's ordination in the past. The debate that accompanied this change has left its mark in the literature of the time. However, the triumph of a new definition of ordination as the bestowal of power, particularly the power to confect the Eucharist, so thoroughly dominated western thought and practice by the thirteenth century that the earlier concept of ordination was almost completely erased. The ordination of women, either in the present or in the past, became unthinkable.

References to the ordination of women exist in papal, episcopal and theological documents of the time, and the rites for these ordinations have survived. Yet, many scholars still hold that women, particularly in the western church, were never "really" ordained. A survey of the literature reveals that most scholars use a definition of ordination that would have been unknown in the early middle ages. Thus, the modern determination that women were never ordained, Macy argues, is a premise based on false terms.

Not a work of advocacy, this important book applies indispensable historical background for the ongoing debate about women's ordination.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:11 -0400)

"In the early centuries of Christianity, ordination was the process and the ceremony by which one moved to any new ministry (ordo) in the community. By this definition, women were in fact ordained into several ministries. A radical change in the definition of ordination during the eleventh and twelfth centuries not only removed women from the ordained ministry, but also attempted to eradicate any memory of women's ordination in the past. The debate that accompanied this change has left its mark in the literature of the time. However, the triumph of a new definition of ordination as the bestowal of power, particularly the power to confect the Eucharist, so thoroughly dominated Western thought and practice by the thirteenth century that the earlier concept of ordination was almost completely erased. The ordination of women, either in the present or in the past, became unthinkable." "References to the ordination of women exist in papal, episcopal, and theological documents of the time, and the rites for these ordinations have survived. Yet, many scholars still hold that women, particularly in the Western church, were never "really" ordained. A survey of the literature reveals that most scholars use a definition of ordination that would have been unknown in the early middle ages. Thus, the modern determination that women were never ordained, Macy argues, is a premise based on false terms." "Not a work of advocacy, this important book applies indispensable historical background for the ongoing debate about women's ordination."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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