Question 80:

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 says: Women should remain silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the Law says. But if they want to learn about something, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church. Now there are even women priests. Is the gospel no longer valid?


Answer: Both men and women have been equally created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). There is no different value. Therefore, any discrimination of women, as has happened in the history of human culture and civilization, contradicts the original will of the Creator. The equality and equal worth of men and women remains a holy truth of God’s revelation for the world and for the Church.

Through His actions, Jesus clarified the dignity and the equality of women. Women have as much share in His sermons, His actions, and His love for mankind as men. He allowed women to follow Him and allows Himself to be supported by them (Luke 8:1-3), defends a despised prostitute (Luke 7:36-50) and breaks through the limits of his society (John 4:27) and through religious taboos (Mark 5:25-34).

The early Church takes Jesus intention of stressing that women have the same standing and the same dignity as men, and to free women from the constraints of the restrictions and customs of their time very seriously. Paul goes back to Baptism, in which all previous differences are conquered and all baptized are brought together in the unity of Christ; There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free person, there is not male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:27 ff). This fundamental theological statement, which redefines the created order in the new creation that Christ brings, aims at overcoming all previous dividing barriers and restraints.

Translating this theological realization into action was difficult even for Paul (see 1 Corinthians 11:2-16), which contains the sentence quoted above, although Paul called women to full participation in the life of the community and even recognized that they should have leading roles (see Romans 16:1-5) and missionary duties (see Romans 16:7). After Paul's time, however, there were tendencies to assign women increasingly to the domestic sphere (compare 1 Corinthians 14:34 ff with 1 Timothy 2:11-5, and also 1 Peter 3:1-6; Titus 2:5; 1 Timothy 5:11-14). The command that men must love their wives, which is also part of Roman-Greek ethics, is deepened in Ephesians 5:25-32 within the context of the Christian household: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her (5:25). The example of the serving love of Christ had to change the mans attitude towards his wife: giving love instead of practicing patriarchal power. Furthermore, Ephesians 5:21 commands all Christians, men and women: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Regarding the teaching of the Church, there are some very difficult questions for the current Catholic and Orthodox Churches. One of the many, widely discussed questions is the problem of allowing women access to the office of priest/pastor. In their human and Christian dignity, women are equal to men. Therefore, women should have an equal position in all aspects of lay discipleship. In 1976, however, the Roman ‘Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith’ determined again that because of the example of Jesus and the whole tradition of the Church, the Catholic Church does not believe that it is possible to admit women to the priesthood. This is not a final dogmatic decision. The arguments of scripture are very important, however, and clearly have to be given more weight than the arguments arising from the request for secular equality between men and women. Furthermore, concerning questions of Office, the Catholic Church does not want to go down a different route from the Orthodox Church.

In the Anglican, as well as many protestant churches, women do act as pastors and even bishops.


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