chapter  3
Nuns
Pages 43

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (I Corinthians 14:34-6) But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (I Timothy 2:12-16) By barring women from religious office, Christianity was con-

tinuing the path of Judaism; in biblical times the Hebrew woman took no part in religious service, she could belong neither to the cohanim (priests) nor the Levites, and she was allotted a special place in the Temple. But whereas the Old Testament offers no direct reason for depriving women of the privilege of religious officiation, the New Testament did provide justification: the secondary role of woman in Creation and her role in Original Sin. The same arguments served St Paul both to deny the right of woman to officiate and to justify her subjugation to man; and this despite the

fact that where grace and salvation were concerned, man and woman were recognized as equal: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28). The concept of the equality of the sexes as regards salvation was never denied by the medieval Church, but yet it never advocated equality in the terrestrial Church. St Paul’s standpoint, as reflected in the abovecited verses, was adopted by the Catholic Church and determined woman’s status.