The Ministry of Women and Social Myth

Fr. J.N.M. Wijngaards, mhm

Submitted to the Indian Bishops Conference and  the All India Seminar on New Ministries, June 1975

Publ. in New Ministries in India Ed. D.S.Amalopavadass, Bangalore 1976, pp.50-80.

( The numbers indicate references at the end)


a.l. The changing social status of women in India and the need of the apostolate demand that we examine to what extent women should be called upon to participate in the sacramental ministry of the Church. Should the acolyte and lectorate be entrusted to women too ? Could women be ordained as deaconesses, priests, or even bishops? There are special reasons that make this question pertinent and relevant in our days. The Church in India might fail in its task if it would not seriously study this question and explore the apostolic challenges related to it.

a.2. At the Bishop’s Synod of 1971 in Rome Cardinal Flahiff, Archbishop of Winnipeg, made the following statement on behalf of the Canadian Bishops’ Conference: “In spite of an old tradition of many centuries against women’s participation in the ministry, we believe that the signs of the times force us to carefully examine the present situation and the possibilities for the future. The clearest of these signs is the fact that women are already successfully fulfilling pastoral tasks… This is the only recommendation which the Canadian Bishops submits to the Synod”… .1

a.3. The main contribution of this essay should be seen as an analysis of what Scripture has to say about the question. However, the teaching of Scripture cannot be seen in isolation. What the original Scriptural author wanted to teach cannot be understood without taking into account “the situation of his own time and culture” and “the customs men normally followed at that period in their every day dealings with one another”2 Moreover, as the Word of God is addressed to people of successive generations, its full meaning should be explored in every new age with a renewed understanding.3 The message of Scripture acquires its full meaning for us only when we have understood the new “status questionis“.

a.4. We will first rapidly review what is known about sex roles genetically, female dominant societies and male dominant societies. We shall see that sex roles are stabilized through cultural myth and that the male dominance in OT and NT thinking is due to such a cultural pattern. After briefly discussing the cultural demands of our own society, we will study the scriptural message on women’s ministry for our times.



The genetic basis of sexual roles

b.l. Men and women have equal rights as citizens of the State and adopted children of God. But this equality of rights should not be confused with an identity of functions. In fact, both biologically and psychologically men and women are different. These are inborn traits which would seem to dispose them to different tasks in society. Although these differences should not be exaggerated, they are a real part of a person’s physical and mental make-up. Underneath prejudices imposed by culture (see e), there is a hard substratum of constitutional variance. In particular, men seem by nature to be better prepared for aggressive tasks and women for nurturative ones.

b.2. Man’s body is much better adapted to hard physical work. In the human male the central and massive bodiness is formed by the chest. Man has broad shoulders and strong arms. Man has much stronger muscles than woman (as is borne out by international sports achievements) and projects an image of strength. Woman, on the other hand, possesses a body that is structured for motherhood. For woman the massive and central bodiness is constituted by the womb. “Woman is what she is because of her womb” ‘(Virchow). The physique of woman is directed towards attracting the male partner by its beauty, and protecting the offspring by its reserves in natural energy. The physical and psychological differences that flow from this, dispose men and women for different social roles.4

b.3. This different disposition has also been remarked by psychologists in the observation of children. Before boys and girls can have been influenced by prejudices of the culture to which they belong, they already show contrary attitudes to their environment. Generally speaking boys play more roughly, show more aggression, are more inclined to be obstinate, are more easily given to violence. Girls yield more easily and avoid physical fighting. They prefer quiet games and are more affectionate. These findings have been confirmed by studies in different social milieus and culture.5

b.4. The genetic factor is also proved by a comparative study of the behaviour of monkeys, especially that of primates which are close to man in the tree of evolution. Among gorillas and baboons the males impose their authority by aggression. The leader is always a male who claims precedence over others regarding space, food and females.6 An interesting finding is that an injection of the male sexual hormone into young females in the foetal stage produces typically male, aggressive behaviour in the young monkey.7 This kind of research, also performed on rats, seems to imply that sexual hormones have a decided influence on the behaviour of males and females.8 The different dispositions of men and women to aggressive and nurturative tasks would seem also the result of different hormone activity in the body.

b.5. The innate difference of men and women can also be demonstrated to some extent by the actual division of labour in society. In practically all primitive societies aggressive jobs are done by men, such as hunting, fishing, metal working, weapon making, boat building, etc. The women normally grind corn, gather fruits and seeds, manufacture and repair clothes, and do the work at home. Although part of this may be culture-determined (see e) the fact that the same division of labour is followed in 224 economically primitive societies from all over the world shows that it must be partly based on biological make-up of men and women. 9 This conclusion was recently strengthened by experiments in Israel. In spite of concerted and explicit effort to give the same job to men and women in the Kibbutz communes, men and women are gradually returning to an acceptance of the traditional division of labour. Whereas men do work in the productive branches, more and more women join the service branches to do cooking, laundering, teaching and caring for children.10

Female-centered societies

c.l. The disposition towards aggressive tasks obviously makes man rather than woman a likely candidate for leadership in society. The step from aggression to dominance, however, is neither necessary, nor was it universally followed. In many ancient, fruit-gathering societies it was woman not man, who was considered the centre of the family and tribal life. And although male dominance became the rule afterwards some societies have preserved a matriarchal organization to our own days.

c.2. For ancient man the female, not the male, was the symbol of life and fertility. In the pre-agricultural phase people did not know the biological function of the male seed. Fertility was attributed to mother earth, from which life was seen to spring forth in so many different forms. Undoubtedly from this originated the belief in the mother goddess as the oldest and most fundamental divinity, a belief documented in the mythology of Oceania, Africa, North and South America, the ancient Middle East and Asia.11 This is supported by the paleological finding of many female figurines, probably amulets representing the “Magna mater” or fertility goddess. Some of these little statues can be dated from 60,000 B.C.12

c.3. Among 565 societies whose social organization was carefully studied, 20% were found to be matrilineal, i.e., membership in the family is transmitted through the female, not the male, members. Among them 84 societies were found to be matrilocal, which means that after marriage the young couple resides with the parents of the bride, not with those of the bridegroom. Anthropologists link this social organization to an economic situation in which the main property and source of income is the field from which women gather fruits. The centre of gravity for subsistence is fertility.13 In India itself two matrilocal societies are well-known: the Todas of the Nilgiris and the Nagas of northeastern India

Male dominance

d.1. Most societies that exist today and those of which we can trace the history show a bias towards male dominance. The supremacy of man over woman may be due to the increasing need of strength and force in economic and political leadership. Favoured by genetic factors (see b) man assumed the leadership role in cattle husbandry, heavy agriculture and urbanization. The focus on masculine power asserted itself also in religious thinking

d.2. It is hard to overestimate the influence of urbanization on the life of man. Instead of dependence on what could be gathered freely or obtained by hunting, mankind was forced to obtain its living by continuous and hard work. Man subject animals to his use: to carry his loads and plough his land. Man devised tools with which he could cut materials and build lasting homes. Man fashioned weapons to meet the violence of robbers and enemies. The survival of the townships that arose depended on the strength of the workman and the valour of the soldier. It was natural that masculine power should assert itself in these new forms of society.14

d.3. Among 565 primitive societies which were specially studied, 375 were found to be patrilocal, i.e., after marriage the family resides with the parents of the bridegroom. Also, membership in the families, with names and property rights, were transmitted through males in four out of every five societies.15 In all major societies known in the world at present, social organization evolves round the man not the woman.

d.4. The new organization of society implied also a new vision of the world and a new understanding of God, From reverting attention on the earth and the power of birth man began to see the world as a large city created by a supreme power. All the creation myths of the ancient religions that are known to us speak of a strong male god who created the world by bringing order in the chaos. Such male gods are nowconsidered to reign supreme. They are thought to rule from heaven, to display their power as warriors and supreme craftsmen. Marduk of Mesopotamia and Woden of the Germanic tribes have the same traits. Fertility too is understood in a new light. It is no longer the female but the male animal carrying the seed that is considered the symbol of fertility. The bull, not the cow, came to be worshipped as the giver of life in the Middle East.16

d.5. The difference also manifested itself in a new attitude towards sex. *****Polygenism became accepted in most societies. Analysing customs in 200 societies it was found that man appropriated more freedom and privileges regarding sex and marriage. Women on the other hand were subjected to severe sexual restrictions.17 Sociologists can relate this unequal treatment of man and woman to the rise of autocratic agrarian societies.18

Social Myth

e.1. When certain values have been accepted by a society, they tend to be strengthened in the course of time by the development of a “myth” through which these values are justified. The acceptance of male dominance as the pattern of social organization was reinforced by many cultural myths. The myths of male superiority enshrine much that needs to be discarded: prejudices and an outdated view of reality and values no longer acceptable in a metropolitan society.

e.2. As soon as children are old enough to learn, society begins to mould their minds into its own pattern of thought. Through what they say and do, parents impose their ideas on the position of man or woman in society. Masculinity and femininity are two of the earliest categories assimilated by a child.19 A study based on 110 present-day-societies shows that from the fourth year of age children are pressurised into their future adult role in society. In most societies (85%) achievement and self-reliance are virtues exclusively held out to boys. Girls are educated towards nurturance (82%) and responsibility (61%). The values thus inculcated by society become part of the myth by which man and woman judge their own characteristics and task in society.20

e.3. One way in which a social myth fossilizes values is language. English, e.g., employs the same term “man” to denote the male person and a human being as such. By this the male person is made the norm for human nature. Woman’s nature is seen as something special, as different. It is measured against the criterion of humanity found in the male. The same “myth” that identifies the male and being human is found in Sanskrit, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, etc. What some western philosophers (Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas) have stated explicitly: “Woman is an incomplete man”21 is somehow the unspoken but fundamental conviction in many cultures. Whereas in fact woman is biologically the preserver of life and a more complete expression of human nature, she remains considered as “the second sex, the other”(Simone de Beavoir).

e.4. Social myth in England has linked the categories of masculinity and femininity to various professions. Whereas mathematicians, physicists and engineers are considered to have “manly” professions (rough, hard, valuable, intelligent, dependable), novelists, poets and artists are characterised as “feminine” (sexy, soft, imaginative, warm, exciting). This is undoubtedly the reason why so few women enter some professions; only one in every 55 physicists, one in every 300 chemists, one in every 500 electrical engineers is a woman. What is even more interesting: although many boys and girls have personal talents that lie in an opposite direction, they are themselves psychologically convinced they won’t fit into this or that pattern because it does not agree with the social myth.22

e.5. Recent research on sexual practices in Italy disclosed unbelievable prejudices among man. In some cities 50% of adult men commit adultery or have dealings with prostitutes. While excusing this as a weakness, 75% of the same men will strongly condemn sexual relations of women before marriage and adultery performed by women. The cause of the confusion lies in a self-contradictory social myth. According to this there are two kinds of women: sexless women (who should be respected) and depraved women (who may be be sexually loved). An average Italian expects his wife to have no interest in sex (to be “chaste” as Our Lady) and seeks sexual fulfilment with other women (whom he considers depraved like Eve). For women too the situation gives rise to severe psychological tensions. She cannot feel herself a true woman without having a guilt complex at the same time.23

e.6. It is now generally agreed that Christian theology of sex , chastity, marriage and celibacy has been tainted by different cultural myths in the course of the centuries. For many writers in the patristic period anything exclusively belonging to the body (and therefore irrational in Stoic terms) was evil. Gregory the Great maintained that intercourse always contained an element of sin and that this element of sin consisted in the pleasure experienced.24 Thomas Aquinas and the scholastics based much of their theology on a cultural myth as if the only contribution of woman to the offspring were providing a kind of human “farm” in which the male seed (the complete future human being) could be planted.25 In this light it becomes imperative to examine whether also the attitude towards women’s participation in the ministry has not been affected by similar cultural myths.



The traditional explanation of Scripture

f.1. For many centuries it was taken for granted by many Catholic theologians that it is Scripture itself that authoritatively rules out the sacramental ministry of women. “Only a male person can validly receive sacred ordination” (Canon Law 968, 1). A woman is incapable (“incapax”) of receiving the sacrament of the holy orders. This was classified as “dotrina de fide catholica” 26 or at least as “opinio certa et communis”.27

f.2. Characteristic of the quality of argument is Cornelius a Lapide’s commentary on 1 Cor 14, 34-35 and 1 Tim 2, 11-13. Paul forbids women to speak in Church. Cornelius states that this prohibition is absolute and universal. He then lists five reasons for this prohitibiton:

(i) it follows from woman’s nature and God’s positive command in Gen 3, 16;

(ii) silence is more suitable to woman’s humble status in the presence of men;

(iii) man possesses better reason and judgment and more discretion than woman;

(iv) by speaking woman may be tempted to lure man to sin;

(v) it is better that women remain ignorant of what is not necessary: by asking stupid questions in Church (1 Cor 14, 35) she would give scandal to others.28

f.3. In some cases we find such outspoken anti-feminine outbursts that we may rightly suspect the authors of being psychologically abnormal. “The Hammer of Witches” adds the following comment to Sir 25, 16-19: “What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessay evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colours. Therefore if it be a sin to divorce her when she ought to be kept, it is indeed a necessary torture; for either we commit adultery by divorcing her, or we must endure daily strife.29 This book first printed in 1486 has innumerable reprints in German, French, Italian and English and was responsible for bringing thousands of innocent women to the stake.

f.4. It may be objected here that the “Hammer of Witches” was an exceptional book and that quoting from it may prejudice us unfairly against post-scholastic theologians. The truth is that, in spite of its monstrosities, the book was universally accepted as containing good theology and sound Catholic doctrine. One of its authors, Jakob Sprenger, O.P., was Dean of Cologne University. The other, Heinich Kramer, O.P., was prior and spiritual director in many places. Both men were appointed inquisitors for Germany by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484. Both wrote many theological treaties. It is there publicly honoured, uncontradicted, widely quoted “theologians” 30 who wrote: “It should be noted that there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is, a rib of the breast, which is bent as it were in a contrary direction to man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives”. Or consider this masterpiece: “(When Eve answered the serpent) she showed that she doubted and had little faith in the word of God. All this is indicated by the etymology of the word; for Femina comes from from Fe and Minus, since she is ever weaker to hold and preserve the faith”. It cannot be denied that much that is written in our theological handbooks and a large part of the ordinary “traditional” interpretation of Scripture against women is an inheritance of this kind of theology.31

f.5. If we eliminate anti-feminist prejudices from traditional theology, the following nine arguments emerge as Scriptural reasons to oppose the admission of women to sacred orders:

(i) God the Father is always represented as a male person (Gen 18, 1-2; Is 6,1-3; Dan 7,9).

(ii) God subjected woman at creation (Gen 3, 16; 1 Cor 11, 3; Eph 5, 23).

(iii) Man is superior to woman and is head of the family (Sir 25, 13-24; Eph 5, 21-23; Col 3, 18).

(iv) When God assumed human nature, He became a man not a woman (Jn 1, 13-14).

(v) Christ chose only men to his apostles (Mt 10, 24).

(vi) Even Mary was not elected to become a Priest (Lk 1, 47-48)

(vii) Christ has to be a male person because He is the bridegroom of the Church (2 Cor 11, 2: Eph 5, 27: Apoc 21, 9)

(viii) The Priest must be a male person because he represents God the Father considered male.

(ix) Paul taught that women must be silent in the Church (1 Cor 13, 34; 1 Tim 2, 9-15).

f.6. Analysing the above arguments we may resolve them into three fundational questions which need to be answered:

(i) Is the male person on account of his masculine nature a better image of the divinity? 32

Is this the reason why God is spoken of as a male?

Is this why Jesus was a man?

(ii) Is the social subjection of woman to man the express will of God revealed in Scripture?

Does this subjection hold good “for all countries and all times”?33

(iii) Is the priesthood of Christ incompatible with the nature of woman? 34

The influence of social myth

g.1. Jewish society had developed its own social myth of male predominance. This social myth was quite naturally incorporated in Sacred Scripture. Just as the “flat earth” theory was part and parcel of the creation accounts without implying a divine approval of such a theory, so the social organization imprinted itself on various religious texts without falling under the scope of its teaching.

g.2. Both in the Old Testament and New Testament times the Jews were a male dominant society. All relationships in the family centre round the father (the patriarch). He could divorce his wives as he liked (Gen 16, 1-6; Dt 24, 1-4; Mt 19, 3-9). He decided on the future of his children and had absolute authority over them (Gen 43, 1-15; 2 Sam 13, 23-27; Mt 21, 28-31). He was in every sense the head of the family (Ps 127, 3-5; 128, 1-6; etc.). It was the man who received the family property (see the exception of the daughters of Zelophehad, Num 27, 1-11; 36, 1-12). It was the man who as sole owner of the family property could distribute it to his sons (Dt 21, 15-17; Lk 15, 11-32). Male predominance also found its expression in the Hebrew language. “Ishah” (women) was derived from “ish” man (Gen 2, 23)

g.3. As in other societies, we find also with the Jews a strong cultural myth designed to underline man’s central position. The workings of this myth can be demonstrated from the endless elaborations in extra-biblical Jewish thinking. The inferiority of woman is brought out by making Adam’s creation a glorious success, while God’s various attempts at making woman are presented as a series of failures. “Eve herself seemed like an ape when compared with Adam, whose heel—let alone his face—outshone the sun:” (B. Baba Bathra 58a; Lev. Rab. 20.2). God first created Lilith but He used filth and mud instead of pure dust Yalqut Reubeni ad. Gen. II. 21;IV. 8). Litith refused to lie beneath Adam and eventually became the mother of many demons (Num. Rab. 16.25). The act of love is an evil thing which Adam and Eve only learned from Samael, the devil, after they had been thrown out of paradise (Safer Adam, 64-67). 35

g.4. We need not be surprised that the social myth of male predominance affected the following aspects of Sacred Scripture :

(a) The representation of the divinity. The world of the gods represented in man’s imagination, is one of the ways in which social myth is reinforced. For this reason it is only natural that Yahweh was spoken of as if he were a man and that Christ could not have been understood as an incarnation of God, unless He was a man.

(b) Sacramental Liturgy. The rules restricting the priestly ministry to men in the Old Testament (Lev 8), allowing women access only to part of the temple and attaching ritual uncleanliness to childbirth (Lev 12, 1-8: 15, 19-24), are illustrations of a liturgical expression given to the social myth. Traces of this can still be seen in early Christian uneasiness about full participation of women in the liturgical assembly (1 Cor 11, 2-16; 14,33).

(c) Family ethics. The duties of the father of a family towards his wife (Sir 9, 1-9 ; 36, 21-27) or towards his children (Sir 7, 22-26; 22, 3-6; 42, 9-11), of a wife towards her husband (Sir 25, 13-26; 26, 1-18) and of children towards their parents (Sir 3, 1-16; 7, 27-28; 25, 3-6) are all explicitations of the social structure enshrined in the myth. The early Christian family code still reflects the same social values when it describes the role of husbands (1 Pet 3, 7; Col 3, 19; Eph 5, 25-26), wives (1 Pet 3, 1-6; Col 3, 18; Eph 5, 22-23; 1 Tim 2, 9-15) and children (Col 3, 20; Eph 6, 1-3).

(d) Religious symbolism. The image of the marriage between Yahweh and Israel belongs to this sphere (Hos 3, 1-5; etc.). Idolatry is compared to fornication and adultery (Ez 16, 15-43; etc.). God speaks also as a father punishing his children (Is 1, 2-6; 43, 5-7; etc.)

The all pervasiveness of this pattern of values is due to the fundamental role played by the myth in constructing society from within.36

g.5. From a Scriptural point of view it is important that we recognize this social aspect so that we may carefully distinguish it from the revealed message. God’s Word to man had of necessity to be couched in human language and to be understood in the cultural thought pattern of the people who received the message. It would be a fatal theological blunder to confuse the human medium of expression with the divine message itself.

A methodological comparison

h.1. In this light it is instructive to compare the instituation of slavery as a parallel example. The Catholic Church has pronounced very strongly the universal equality and dignity of every human person. “Every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race and colour, social condition, language or religion has to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent”. The Church has called upon its members to “put up a stubborn fight against any kind of slavery, whether social or political.” 37 . However, slavery was a part of the social myth of Jewish society and penetrated the Scriptures in a fashion similar to the myth of male predominance.

h.2. The myth of slavery was embedded in the following aspects of Scripture :

(a) In the conception of God. Yahweh is considered as the universal master “the Lord of Lords”, who owns property rights over the whole world and all men (Ps 96, 1-18 ; 10, 14-17). Men are God’s slaves whose main duty is to serve in total obedience. (Ps 123, 1-4; Is 5, 2-7; Sir 2, 1-6; 3, 17-24; 10, 8-18). It is in this spirit that St. Paul considers Christians “slaves of Christ” (Gal 4,5; 3,13; Rom 1, 1; etc.). Even the incarnation is formulated as the Son assuming the form of a slave (Phil 2, 7)

(b) In liturgical worship. Strictly speaking the slave had no full liturgical rights. He could only participate in some functions by way of concession. Like the working animals the slave should be given rest on the sabbath day (Ex 20, 10; Dt 5, 14). He could share in the meals concluding the peace offering (Dt 12, 18), in the paschal celebration (Ex 12, 44) and in the feasts of pentecost and tabernacles (Dt 16, 11-14).

(c) In social ethics. Slaves were protected by law in certain cases (Ex 2,11; 21,26-27; Dt 23, 16-17). Hebrew slaves had privileges, including the theoretical right of being liberated after six years of service (Lev 25, 39-46; Ex 21, 2; Jer 34, 14). But the fundamental right of one person to own another as slave was formally accepted and endorsed. Before telling masters how to treat their slaves (Sir 33, 21-24), Sirach bases the inequality of free men and slaves on a disposition by God himself (Sir 33, 7-15). The same attitude to slaves is still at work in New Testament moral instructions (1 Pet 2, 18-21 ; Col 3, 22-25 ; Eph 6, 5-9; 1 Tim 6, 1-2; Tit 2, 9-10)

(d) In religious symbolism. Many elements of scriptural language reflect a society in which slavery was normal. Jesus’ parables introduce slaves for the sake of comparison (LK 12, 42-48; 17, 7-9). Redemption is understood as a liberation from the slavery of sin (Rom 6, 6; Jn 8, 34; etc.)

h.3. Thus the social myth that divided men between masters and slaves was integrated with the biblical message. But this does not lend support to accepting slavery as an institution willed by God or sanctioned by Him through inspired writing. Let us not make the mistake which was made by Popes and theologians in former ages.38

Theological rationalization

i.l. Rationalization is a tendency of the human mind to give a rational explanation to observed facts. Primitive man rationalized lightning as a flaming arrow thrown by God (Ps 97, 4; 29, 7; Hab 3, 9). Sacred Scripture is full of theological rationalization and it would be a mistake for us to interpret these as inspired teaching

i.2. During David’s reign a severe famine of three years took place. A popular oracle attributed this famine to unrequited blood vengeance on the part of the Gibeonites to expiate for some crime Saul was supposed to have done against Gibeon. David had seven innocent descendants of Saul killed and hung on gibbets. Through this the famine was halted (2 Sam 21, 1-14). All this is obviously a theological rationalization. In spite of explicit statements such as “The Lord said: There is blood guilt on Saul and his house”(2 Sam 21, 1) and “after that God heeded supplications for the land” (2 Sam 21, 14), we cannot reasonably suppose that God actually inflicted the famine and exacted the sacrifice of vengeance from the seven innocent Saulities.

i.3. Quite often the Jews attributed to God what we know by later reflection in Scripture to have been due to human causes. When we read passages such as “You shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven, You shall not forget” (Dt 25, 19) and “Go and massacre Amalek; destroy all that they have. Do not spare them but kill men and women, infants and sucklings” (1 Sam 15, 3), it is surely not the command of a revengeful God but the theological rationalization of Hebrew fanaticism. How could the God who is love (1 Jn 4, 8). who loves all things that exist and has hated nothing of what He made (Wis 11, 24), who wished to save and not to destroy (Lk 9,55), speak such intolerant language? Many of such texts cannot be taken as straight forward utterances of God. They are often imperfect rationalizations tolerated by God in his mercy on account of man’s hardness of heart (Mt 19, 8)

i.4. Observing the submission of women to their husbands the Jews rationalised that this came about by an intervention of God. The parable of the second creation account rationalized that woman was equal to man by nature (Gen 2, 23), but that she was subjected to man on account of her sin (Gen 2, 2, 16; see also Sir 25, 24). Elsewhere the submission of woman is rationalized as being due to the creative act of God himself (1 Cor 11, 8-9) and sometimes the two rationalizations are combined (1 Tim 2, 13-14). It is obvious that such texts have to be interpreted very carefully. Knowing the male predominance in society, we have no right to draw a theological message from what is clearly a rationalization of a myth.

Implications of Christ’s Priesthood

j.1. Stating that Scripture has no objection to the ordination of women to the full ministerial priesthood does not yet do justice to the real meaning of the New Testament message. In the new order which Christ has brought, women share fully in all the aspects of His redemptive priesthood. This implies of necessity that women should also participate in the sacramental ministry. Only this will give expression to the fundamental universality of Christ’s priesthood.

J.2. Jesus our highpriest (Heb 5, 1-4; 7, 26-28) abolished the Old Testament priesthood. Whereas the old covenant still presupposed the distinction between the sacred and profane, Christ radically abrogated all sacral institutions. Instead of accepting one place, the Temple, as sacred, Christ sanctified all places by substituting his own body as the New Temple (Jn 2, 21), by bringing his unique sacrifice on the worldly hill of execution (Heb 13, 12) and by initiating a new kind of spiritual worship “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4, 20-24). Whereas the Old Testament priests had to offer frequently at specified sacral times, Christ sanctified the totality of time by his all-sufficient sacrifice (Heb 9, 25-28). Christ himself did not belong to the priesthood of Aaron. As representative of all men He abolished the priestly dignity that was linked to bodily descent and established a new priesthood built on “the power of indestructible life” (Heb 7, 16). So far were the Old Testament notions of the priesthood alien to Christ that we never find him apply the term priest to himself or his followers.39

j.3. Jesus exercised his priesthood by offering himself on Calvary and by preaching. To continue these two ministries, every disciple has to carry His cross (Mt 6, 24) and drink His cup (Mt 26,27). Each of his followers has to bear witness to him even under persecution and death (Mt 10, 16-22; Lk 12, 8-12). All Christians therefore participate in the royal priesthood of Christ (1 Pet 2. 5-9), in being “priests to his God and Father” (Rev 1, 6), “a kingdom and priesthood to our God” (Rev 5, 10), “priests of God and of Christ” (Rev 20, 6).

j.4. This common priesthood is given through the sacrament of baptism. We should note that this baptism is exactly the same for every single person. There is absolutely no difference in the baptism conferred on men or women. In fact, St. Paul affirms that the baptism of Christ transcends and obliterates whatever social difference existed in Christ Jesus. “For all who are baptised into the union of Christ have taken upon themselves the qualities of Christ .himself. So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free men, between men and women… you are all one in union with Christ Jesus (Gal 3, 26-28).

j. 5. The ordination to the sacramental priesthood is an extension of the basic sacrificial prophetic sharing that had been given already in baptism. Before the coming of Christ it would have been unthinkable for a non-Jew like Titus to be ordained priest. But the baptism of Christ had wiped away all human discrimination and gave Titus the basic ability of sharing the fullness of Christ’s priesthood… “through the washing by which the Holy Spirit gives new birth and life” (Tit 3, 5). It is theologically correct to infer from this that baptism must of necessity also give to women the basic ability of being entrusted with the fullness of the ministerial priesthood.

j.6. On account of sociological circumstances the early Church could not immediately draw the consequences from this basic universality of the priesthood of Christ. Paul knew that Christ’s baptism had in principle abrogated the distinction between slaves and free men (Gal 3, 38) and in one text he draws the logical conclusion that slaves should be liberated (1 Cor 7, 21-23). Yet the prevailing social system brought him to accept the institution of slavery as a necessary evil. In the same way the prevailing world of thought made it impossible for him to realize to its full extent the equality in Christ between men and women he so firmly believed in (Gal 3, 28). In this light it becomes all the more significant that we have solid scriptural reasons for assuming that already in Paul’s time women have been admitted to the sacramental ministry of the diaconate.

j.7. It is true that the word deacon (Greek “diakonos”) is frequently used by Paul in a less technical sense (cf. Rom 13, 4; 15, 8). On the other hand the term certainly has technical connotations in other texts (1 Tim 3, 8-12). When Paul speaks of himself as a “deacon” (Phil 1, 1; 2 Cor 3, 6; Eph 3, 7) he probably means more than referring to himself a metaphorical way. The diaconate was an established part of the sacramental priesthood with close associations to the function of the apostolate itself (Acts 6, 1-6). It is highly significant then that Paul’s letters record that the diaconate had been entrusted to women too. Apart from Phoebe “a lady deacon of the Church at Cenchreae” (Rom 16, 1) Paul has some special admonitions for the women among the deacons in 1 Tim 3, 11 (the whole context speaks of deacons: see verses 8-13).

j.8. That such lady deacons existed in the early Church is further confirmed by tradition. The Didascalia has recorded the formula of the ordination of women deacons and attests that the ministry was conferred both on men and women deacons by the imposition of hands. Such lady deacons can historically be proved to have administered not only holy communion but even the anointing of the sick.40 . From a scriptural point of view we are not surprised about this. In spite of Paul’s injunction that women should not speak in the public assembly (1 Cor 14. 35; 1 Tim 2, 12), we know from his own letters that he found it natural for women to pray or prophesy in the assembly (1 Cor II, 5) and that such prophetic utterance was part of the service to the community inspired by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12, 4-11).

J.9. The very nature of Christ’s priesthood demands that on principle it transcends and disregards human distinctions based on caste, nationality, social status or sex. The social conditions of the first centuries may have obscured this trait in the priesthood and may gradually have led many to the assumption that in Christianity too participation in the sacramental ministry is bound to men only. The renewed realization of equality of all human persons and of the transcending universality of Christ’s mission should prove the opportunity of bringing to light the true meaning of Christ’s priesthood. This will only be realised if not only men, but also women are given the opportunity of expressing in their person the fullness of His sacramental grace.

Scriptural Summary

k.1. By way of summary we may state that there is no valid argument from Scripture by which participation in the priesthood can be denied to women. In particular we could make the following observations: (see f. 6).

(i) The male person is not on account of his masculine nature, a better image of the divinity. The reason why God is spoken of as a male and why Jesus was incarnated as a man is the social predominance of men in Hebrew society.

(ii) The social subjection of woman to men is not the express will of God. It does not hold good “for all countries and all times”. The scriptural texts which seem to favour male predominance are theological rationalizations.

(iii) The priesthood of Christ is compatible with the nature of woman.



Relevance of the Question

l.1. The question whether women in India should receive sacramental ordination seems, at first sight, inopportune. The idea seems so novel and contrary to prevailing thought that one would be tempted to drop the question from the start. Is it worthwhile discussing a question which will a priori be ruled out by many as impossible? Can we afford to examine this problem while many other, apparently more obvious, values of Vatican II have still not been full digested and integrated by the Indian Church? Above all, does the question of women’s ministry spring from an essential Christian or apostolic need, or is it the fancy of arm-chair theology?

1.2. The question of relevance cannot be solved one-sidely by scriptural exegesis. Even if (as we have in h.1) there are no objections from Scripture against the ordination of women, there could be valid sociological reasons against it. For the position in women in society is partly due to biological factors (see b. 1-b-5) and partly to sociological ones (see c.1.-e. 6). We would have to consider, especially:

(a) Are there developments in Indian society that would make women’s participation in the ministry useful or necessary?

(b) Are there elements in the Indian social structure which could serve as the natural foundation for a meaningful sacramental ministry by women?

(c) Has Scripture anything to say concerning our findings under (a) and (c)?

The need of liberation

m.1. India is undergoing far-reaching social changes. One of them concerns the personality and social role of women. Whereas the traditional religions bar women from active religious involvement and leadership, the modern Indian woman feels less and less inclined to accept such restrictions. She is looking for a liberation from her social slavery and from the religious principles that sanctioned her enslavement. Should Christianity not offer her the fullness of freedom given by Christ?

m.2. In the major religions of India woman is not accredited with a distinct religious role. Rather she is considered to benefit from religious institutions only through the mediation of her husband. The Hindu idea was enshrined in the authoritative law of Manu as a salvation by dependence.41

“By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house”

“In childhood a female is subjected to her father; in youth to her husband; when her lord is dead to her sons. A woman must never be independent”.

“No sacrifice, no vow, no fast must be performed by women apart (from their husbands).

If a wife obeys her husband, she will for that (reason alone) be exalted in heaven” (Manu V, 147, 148, 155)

m.3. For Muslims the imposition of purdah on women has even led to their exclusion from entering mosques. And although there have been isolated cases of women acting as imam, for all practical purposes she cannot exercise any religious function (such as being muodhdhin, imam or mulla) in our own days.42

m.4. Against this background it is important to note that modern mentality is no longer in harmony with according to women only a second-rank position in religion and society. The ancient practice of sati (suicide by the wife of a deceased husband) against which Rajaram Mohan Roy had to put up such a stiff fight is now practically non-existent. The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 has effectively curbed some of the most glaring abuses of child marriage. The system of offering devadasis to temples is on the wane. It has become easier for widows to re-marry. Through education more and more women are taking part in professional and government leadership functions. These external social changes demonstrate the presence of a new self-understanding of women that goes counter to the established religious traditions. “Too long has the Indian woman meekly conformed to the duties prescribed for her by religion and to the restrictions imposed on her movement and personality by social tradition”.43 The times are ripe for the social liberation of women in Indian society.

m.5. Would we Christians be justified in this context, if we did not proclaim how the liberation and equality of women have their religious sanction in the redemption by Christ? It is undeniable that the women’s movement in India was initiated and strongly supported by the Christian mission from its beginnings .44 Hasn’t the time come now to shed whatever prejudices are still left in our own religious beliefs and practices? The denial to women of participation in the ministry, particularly as it is based on a theological discrimination, remains an obstacle to the all-round proclamation of Christ’s universal priesthood. If women could be given their rightful share in the salvific ministry of Christ, this fact by itself would greatly strengthen our Christian witness concerning the true equality of women. Too often in the past the Church allowed chances to slip by. In a memorandum handed to the Belgian Bishops on January 21, 1975, a Catholic Women’s Association made the following remarks: “The Church has lost the world of workers, she is losing the youth, she will lose the women”. This observation—let it be noted—results from a study of the facts.45 What a glory it would be to the Church in India if it could be said that at the right time she showed herself as the true champion of woman’s redemptive role in society.

Indian respect for maternity

n.l. Indian society recognizes the function of the “mother” in a very positive way. A mother’s role has profound social and religious implications. If properly understood, this function could be the starting point for a re-evaluation of woman’s place in the Church.

n.2. The oldest religions of India were female centred. The pre-Aryan Indus Valley people worshipped the mother goddess as can be proved from the statues found. “The commonest figure is that of a female, almost nude except for a short skirt fastened by a girdle, decked with much jewellery and wearing a fan-shaped headgear”46. The worship of Kali and the cult of Shakti are survivors of these ancient religions.

n.3. The original female divinity which dominated India before the arrival of the patriarchal Aryan warriors with their patriarchal gods 47 , has been described in the following terms: “When the divine life substance is about to put forth the universe, the cosmic waters grow a thousand-petaled lotus of pure gold, radiant as the sun. This is the door or gate, the opening or mouth of the womb of the universe. It is the first product of the creative principle, gold in token of its incorruptible nature. It opens to give birth first to the demiurge-creator, Brahma. From its pericarp then issue the hosts of the created world. According to the Hindu conception, the waters are female; they are the maternal, pro-creative aspect of the Absolute, and the cosmic lotus is their generative organ. The cosmic lotus is called “The highest form or aspect of Earth”, also “The Goddess Moisture”, “Goddess Earth”. It is personified as the Mother Goddess through whom the Absolute moves into creation”48

n.4. The brahminical Manucharitra still has preserved in its family law some traces of this pre-vedic respect for maternity. “The teacher is ten times more valuable than a subteacher. The father a hundred times more than a teacher. But a mother a thousand times more than a father” (II, 145). Respect for the mother is constantly prescribed (II, 228-237). Forsaking one’s mother is considered a crime (III, 157) which needs to be punished (VII, 387). “The pain which the parents undergo on the birth of their children, cannot be compensated even in a hundred years” (II, 227)49

n.5 Traditionally Indian literature has expressed its esteem for motherhood and motherly love in many classic passages. In the Telugu Mahabharatha of Nannaya (Ad. I. 160; VII, 254) and of Tikkana (Shanti V, 278) the mother is described as the symbol of care and protection. The well-known poet Tirupathi Venkatakavulu coined the famous verse “Mother means religion and knowledge. Mother means prayer, training and teacher. Mother means everything. Whoever oppose his mother destroys himself.50 The seventeenth century Telugu farmer poet Vemana summed all this up by saying: “He that knows earth knows heaven. He that knows his mother knows the deity”(Ven. 336).51

n.6. The same reality could be demonstrated in a hundred other ways. The mother figure has a rather characteristic function in the popular Indian films. She is always portrayed as the indestructible source of love and compassion. If we examine Telugu proverbs for example we find that there is a recurring theme of the selfless love of a mother. More than a hundred proverbs of this nature can be listed. Characteristic are following

“The father is wealth, the mother is God”
“Can the nurse give comfort as a mother can?”
“If the mother has enough, will the child starve?”
“A child that does not see the face of his mother is like a crop that has not seen the face of rain”.52

n. 7. If such is the position of the mother, can we be surprised that for many modern Indians, as for their pre-Aryan ancestors, motherly care becomes an expression of the nature of God? The words of Krishnalal Shridharani seem to faithfully reflect what is felt by many: “And what could be nobler than to see the Creator as a Mother? It is the mother, not the father, who comes to mind first whenever the word ‘creation’ is mentioned. Women’s eternal energy, her natural ability to give and to feed life, to add cell to cell, makes man look relatively unimportant to the scheme of things… One can be sure of one’s mother if not of one’s father; and if this is true on earth, it may also be true of the cosmos… All other loves, the lover of the betrothed, of married couples, of friends, of father for their sons, of brothers and sisters, are based on reciprocity, and are forms of friendship; rnother-love alone can be one-sided… Consequently, it seems to me that if God is love, He should be conceived of as Mother and not Father… There was a time in my youth when I made myself sick with love of God… I… concentrated on the face of my mother, believing that if God was, He must be a supreme image of my mother’s distinterested love..”.53

n. 8. It is here that one cannot help wondering whether a priesthood entirely reflected by male representatives can do justice to the fulness of God’s love. The Bible itself stresses that there are feminine aspects to God’s compassion. God’s everlasting fidelity is compared to the never-forgetting love of a mother for her children (Is 49, 15). Christ is spoken of as being tender (Heb 5, 2} and anxious as a hen wanting to protect her chickens (Mt 23,37). Paul too felt that his apostolate required a gentleness characteristic of a mother taking care of her children (1 Thes 2, 7). Instructing catechumens in the faith and guiding them to the step of baptism was for Paul like giving birth to a child. “My dear children, Once again, just like a mother in child-birth I feel the same pain for you until Christ’s nature has been formed in you” (Gal 4, 19). Reflecting on such statements of Scripture it seems natural to infer that in India full expression should be given to the maternal aspects of Christ’s priesthood by entrusting also to women the task of translating this priesthood to our contemporaries.


o.1. Through this essay I have stressed the importance of social realities. After so many centuries of prejudice and contrary tradition we cannot expect all of a sudden a revolutionary change-over in society’s attitude towards women. This means that the participation of women in the ministry can only be introduced gradually. On the other hand it would be irresponsible not to take any action now in preparation for future changes.

o.2. It seems to me that the Church in India should immediately take on the following tasks:

(i) The faithful should be well instructed about the equality of women and their share in Christ’s priesthood. The traditional explanation of Bible texts which incorporate a Hebrew social myth, should be revised in the light of a comprehensive view of the Scripture and the teaching of Vatican II

(ii) The various apostolates already undertaken by women in India, such as visiting the sick, instructing catechumens, educating children, reading Sacred Scripture, preparing for the liturgical celebrations, etc., should be acknowledged and strengthened by being made into quasi-sacramental ministries as far as possible.

(iii) The ministry of the diaconate should be opened to women. This could be done with the understanding that lady deacons be entrusted especially with the nurturative aspects of the apostolate: consoling the dying, baptism, distribution of Holy Communion, apostolate of teaching the youth and of reconciliation

(iv) In some special cases women could be ordained priests with apostolic tasks that could only be fulfilled by them, I am thinking here especially of work among the Muslim women, pastoral work in female wards and in other spheres of life not so easily accessible to men. Women working in such spheres should have the power to hear confessions, give the sacramental absolution, celebrate Mass and administer the anointing of the sick.

o.3. What seems unacceptable at first may prove to be the will of Christ. What may seem unusual and strange may well be the demand of the Gospel in our own times. The pharisees rejected the Carpenter from Nazareth. They refused to recognize Him as their priest when they stood under his cross on Calvary. The idea that a woman could express the priesthood of Christ may seem equally upsetting— and our prejudice is equally mistaken as that of Jesus’ pious contemporaries. Only honest appraisal in the light of Christ’s Spirit should decide the question on women’s ministry; not convention or personal fancy. After all, it is Christ’s priesthood, not ours, we are speaking about .


1. The full text was published in “Archief van de Kerken”, dated 6th August 1972.

2. Vatican II, Dei Verbum no. 12; ed. W.M. ABBOTT. The Documents of Vatican II, Guild Press, New York 1966, pg. 120.

3. Vatican II, Dei Verbum no. 23; ed. W.M. ABBOTT, ibid. pg. 126.

4. F.J.J. BUYTENDIJK, De Vrouw, Utrecht 1961, pgs. 81 ff; 162-163.

5. SCHEIFLER, Zur Psychologie der Geschlechter, Spielinteressen gdes Schulalters, Z.F. Ang Psych. 8 (1914) pgs.124-144.

HATTWICK, Sex Differences in Behaviour of nursery school children, Child Development 8 (1967) pgs. 343-355

CUMMINGS, The incidence of emotional symptoms in school children, Brit. Jour. Psych. 14 (1944) 1. pgs. 151-161.

N.G. BLURTON-JONES, An Ethnological Study of some daspects of social Behaviour of Children in Nursery School, in Primate Ethnology, ed. D. MORRIES, London, Weidenfeid & Nicholson, 1967

6. I. DE VORE, Primate Behaviour, New York: Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1965

7. W.C. POUNG, R.W. GOY and C.R. PHOENIX, Hormones and Sexual Behaviour, Science, 13 (1964) 212-218

D.A. HAMBURG and D.Y. LURDE, Sex Hormones in the Development of Sex differences in human behaviour, ed. E.E. MACCOBY Tavistock, London 1967

8. G.W. HARRIS and S. LEVINE, Sexual Differentiation of the Brain and its Experimental Control, J. Phys. 181 (1965) p379-400

9. R.G. D’ANDRADE. Sex Difference and Cultural Institutions, in The Development of Sex Differences, ed. E.E. MACCOBY, Tavistock London, 1967, pgs. 174-204.

10. M.E. SPIRO, Kibbutz: Venture in Utopia, Harvard Univ. Press `1956; L. TIGER and J. SHEPHER, Women in the Kibbutz, Harcourt Brace Jovanowhich 1975.

11. M.F. ASHLEY-MONTAGU, Ignorance of physiological paternity in secular knowledge and orthodox belief of the Australian aborigines, Oceania 12 (1940-42) pgs. 72-78. M. ELIADE, Traite d’Historie des Religions, Payot, Paris 1959. pgs. 221-231.

12. H. KRIHN, De Kunst van het Oude Europe, Pictura, Utrecht 1959, pgs. 20-22; 31 -33; 50-58.

13. R.G. D’ANDRADE, Sex Differences and Cultural Institutions, ibid, (see note 9) pgs. 182-185.

14. For the urban revolution, see the excellent description in V. GORDON CHILDE, Man Makes Himself, Menter, New York 1951, pgs. 114-142.

15. R.G D’ANDRADE, Sex Differences and Cultural Institutions, ibid. (cf. no. 9) pgs. 174-204.

16. M. ELIDE, Traite, etc. ibid. (cf. no. 11). pgs. 47 ff.

17. C.S. FORD and F. BEACH, Patterns of Sexual Behaviour. Harper and Row, New York 1951, pgs 103, 110, 123 etc.

18. W. N. STEPHENS, The Family in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963, pgs. 256-258.

19. L. KOHLBERG, A Cognitive-Developmental Analysis of Children’s Sex Role Concepts and Attitudes, in The Development of Sex Differences, ed E. E. MACCOBY, Tavistock London 1967.

20. H. BARRY, M.K. BACON and I. I. CHILD, A cross-cultural survey of some sex differences in socialization, J. abnorm, so. psychol, 55 (1967) 837-853

21. This is the meaning of “femina est mas occasionatus”, i. e., the kfemale is the result of 3 defect in propagation; ARISTOTLE, De Generatione Animalium II 3 ; THOMAS, Summa Theol. 1 Q 92. art II ; ibid. 0. 99, art 1

22. L. HUDSON, Frames of Mind. Ability, Perception and Self-perception in the Arts and Sciences; Penguin 1970, esp. pgs, 32-33; 46-47; 86-90.

23. G. PARCA, Le Italiane se confessano, Florence 1959

F. SULTANI. Mentalita e comportimento del maschio italiano, Milan 1965.

24. J.T. NOONAN, Jr. Contraception: A History of its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists, Harvard Univ. Press, 1965, pgs. 46-49; 76-81; 150-151.

25. R. NOWELL, Sex and Marriage, in “On Human Life” ed. P-HARRIS, London, Burns and Gates, 1968, pgs. 45-71.

26. F. SOLA, De Sacramentis Ordinis et Matrimonii, no. 121; in Sacrae Theologiae Summa, vol. IV, Madrid 1956, pg. 701.

27. T.C. DONLAN et al, Christ and His Sacraments, Dubuque 1960, pgs. 491-492

C. MACALIFFE., Sacramental Theology, Herder St. Louis 1991, pg. 370

28. CORNELIUS A LAPIDE, Commentaria in Scripturam Sacram (Antwerp 1616), Paris 1868, vol. 18, pgs 353, 396. See: V. E. HANNON, The question of Women and the Priesthood, London, Chapman 1967, pgs. 26-31.

29. H. KRAMER and J. SPRENGER. The Malleus Maleficarum (Lyons 1486), here Dover Public, Reprint, New York 1971, pgs. 43.

30. We quote from the introduction : “There can be no doubt that the Malleus Maleficarum had in its day and for a full couple of centuries an enormous influence. There are few demonologists and writers upon witchcraft who did not refer to its pages as an ultimate authority. It was continually quoted and appealed to in the witchtrials of Germany, France, Italy, and England; whilst the methods and examples of the two Inquisitors gained an even more extensive credit and sanction owing to their reproduction (sometimes without direct acknowledgeement) in the works of Bodin, De Moura, Oberial, Cicogna, Peperni, Martinus Aries, Anania, Binsfeld, Bernard, Basin, Menghi, Stampa, Clodius, Schelharmer, Wolf, Stegmann, Neissner, Voigt Cattani, Richardus and a hundred more” (Ibid, pg. xxxix).

31. In a preface to the book written October the 7th 1946 Fr. Montague Summers has some amazing things to say. After asserting that the writings of the two authors” are well approved by many learned men, Pontiffs, Saints, and Theologians alike”. He describes the virtues of the “Hammer of Witches” : “One turns to it again and again with edification (!) and interest. From the point of view of psychology (!) from the point of view of jurisprudence, from the point of view of history, it is supreme. What is most surprising is the modernity of the book. There is hardly a problem, a complex, a difficulty, which they have not foreseen, and discussed, and resolved…with the greatest clarity,…with unflinching logic…… with scrupulous impartiality (!) “(Ibid, 1948 Preface, pg. ix-x). Yet, this is the book which describes in the most lurid details imaginary sexual orgies between penis-toting devils and human witches (all proved from Scripture, of course). This is the book that sanctioned limitless torture to extract confessions from the accused. It is a book full of superstitious belief, sadistic cruelty, bigotry and hatred for women. It is sad to reflect that while so many harmless books were put on the “Index”, a book of this nature was continuously reprinted, with an approving Bull of Innocent VIII (1484) to give it ecclesiastical authority.

32. BONAVENTURE maintained that only the male person, with body and soul, presents a true image of God; Quartum Librum Sententiarum, dist. 25. a. qu. 1; in “Omnia Opera“, Quaracchi1889, vol. iv, pgs. 649-665. V. E. HANNON, oc. (note 28), pg.

33. E. B. ALLO, Premiere Epitre aux Corinthiens, Paris, Etudes Bibiiques, 1934, pg, 267 : Each time has its own customs; but the supreme principles, one of which Paul applies to Corinth, are valid for all places and all times” (translation my own). V.E, HANNON, o.c. (note 28), pg. 29.

34. THOMAS AQUINAS maintained that the female sex itselfwas incompatible with the priesthood because “it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree”;Summa Theol. 111, Suppl., Q. 39, art, 1.; English,transl. Burns and Oates London 1922, vol. Third Part, Qu. 34-68, pg. 52.

35. R. GRAVES and R. PATI. Hebrew Myths, London, Casseil 1964, pgs, 65-69: 89-90.

36. Throughout this essay we use the word “myth” in a technical sense. “Myths display the structured, predominantly culture-specific, and shared semantic systems which enable the members of a culturearea to understand eachother and cope with the unknown…Myths are stylistically definable; each discourse that express the strong components of semantic systems”. P.MARANDA, Mythology, Select Readings, Penguin Harmondsworth 1972, pg. 12.

37. Vatican II Gaudium et Spes, no. 29; ed. W. ABBOT, ibid, (see note 2), pg. 228.

38. “Slavery was defended on theological grounds by Thomas Aquinas, Albert the Great and Duns Scotus……Canon Law treated all slaves as objects and classified them under the heading ‘church property’ . ..The slave trade was given a new lease of life at the end of the Middle Ages by the Spanish and Portuguese conquests and colonization of the New World. In his Bull of 1454, Romanus Pontifex Pope Nicholas V gave his blessing to the practice of enslaving all conquered peoples… In 1548, Paul III granted to all men and to all members of the clergy the right to keep slaves. Papal galleys set out to catch men…Christian theologians seriously discussed the ‘problem’ of whether a pocket mirror was a just price for a negro. The Jesuit college in the Congo owned twelve thousand slaves in 1666 and the Popes enjoyed the services of slaves until the end of the eighteenth century in the Papal States”. J.KAHL,The Misery of Christianity, Pelican Harmondsworth 1971, pgs. 32-33.

39. “When we move from the OT to the NT it is striking that while there are pagan priests and Jewish priests on the scene, no individual Christian is ever specifically identified as a priest .. … (Even) the author of Hebrews does not associate the priesthood of Jesus with the Eucharist or the Last Supper; neither does he suggest that other Christians are priests in the likeness of Jesus”. R.E, BROWN, Priest and Bishop, London Chapman 1971, pg. 13.

40. J. DANIELOU, The Ministry of women in the Early Church. London 1961, pg. 29.

41. G. BUEHLER, The Laws of Manu, Oxford, Clarendon Press 1886; here Dover reprint, New York 1969, pgs, 195-196.

42. MAULANA MUHAMMAD ALI. The religion of Islam, New Delhi, Chand & Co., pgs. 190-192.

43. N.A. SARMA, Woman and Society, Baroda, Padmaia, 1947, pg. 96; see also R.W. SCOTT, Social Ethics in Modern Hinduism, Calcutta YMCA 1953; chapter on “the emancipation of women” mpgs. 187-213.

44. “Nowhere was the influence of the missionaries felt more than in the women’s movement”. V.A. SMITH. The Oxford History of India, re-edited by P. SPEAR, Oxford Clarendon Press 1958, pg.725.

45. “Women, the Women’s Movement and the Future of the Church“, PRO MUNDI VITA Amsterdam, 56 (1975) pg. 17.

46. B.G. GOKHALE, Ancient India : History and Culture, Bombay, Asia Publishing House 1962, pg. 18.

47. H. ZIMMER, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, New York, Pantheon, 1963, pg. 96.

48. H. ZIMMER, ibid., pg. 90

49. G. BUEHLER, The Laws of Manu, ibid, (see note 38), pgs. 56, 71-72,104, 321.

50. This and many other excerpts can be read in PENUMETSA SATYANARAYANARAZU, “Suktisudharumau” Hyderabad AP Sahitya Academy, 1963, pgs, 292-297.

51. C.P. BROWN, Verses of Vemana, Hyderabad, AP Sahitya Acahdemy, 1967, pg. 88.

52. K.V. SATYANARAYAN “Telugu Sametalu” Hyderabad, AP Sahitya Academy, 1974 esp. pages. 299-302 (under “talli”).

It is also noteworthy that, while with other nations the home country is considered a “father” (cf. das Vaterland of the mans), for the Indian people it is always their “mother”country, their “Mother” India.

53. KRISHNALAL SHRIDHARANI “My India, My America” NewYork. Duell Sloan and Pearce,1941, pg. 199 cf also R. LANNOY, The speaking Tree, London, Oxford University Press, 1971, pg. 109.