Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Woman at the Last Supper

The last remaining objection to women's ordination to the priesthood rests on the belief that only twelve men were present at the Last Supper and empowered to re-enact the sacrifice in his name.  On this the Church bases its decision not to ordain women, and the subsequent tradition of only appointing men to preach and teach and rule.  This is the sole remaining objection, but there is good reason to believe this may not be true.  Even if it were true, Jesus clearly appoints women to apostolic service and to preach.
Other traditions that sprang from this myopic male world view have already been set aside.  For example, the stipulation that only males may stand in God's service or touch the Holy vessels (Pope Soter c. 176 and Pope Sixtus c. 120) and the prohibition against women from actively participating in liturgical activities (Pope Boniface c. 418).  Members of the laity, both male and female, serve at the altar in Roman Catholic Churches, and all are called to participate actively in liturgical services.  Women preach and teach Catholic theology and lead Catholic organizations and institutions around the world.

The Didaschalia Apostolorum (middle of the 3rd century) and the Apostolic Constitutions (c. 375), as well as Conciliar decrees at the Council of Laodicea c. 360 and the Council of Saragossa c. 380 forbade women from accessing the altar or touching altar vessels or altar cloths as well as from singing and speaking.  These prescriptions, found not to be based not on sound theology or Christological interpretation, but on sexual discrimination against women, no longer are considered valid.  There is a precedent for overturning traditions related to the sanctity of the altar and the celebration of the liturgy, therefore the tradition that only males may preside at the Liturgy of the Eucharist is not a forgone conclusion, much as some may wish it were so.