Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2006


Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought


One of the earliest arguments against women's ordination the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops articulated in 1972 was that, since the incarnation of God was in a male, this culminates in a male priesthood. This reflects a hierarchical anthropology well-known from Christianity's earliest encounters with the Greco-Roman world, whereby the male was associated with the mind, reason, and the spirit, while the female was associated with the body, passion, and the material world.1 In fact, some Greek doctors and philosophers thought that every fetus began as a male, but those that didn't develop fully became female.2 Thomas Laqueur calls this the "one- sex body" theory-there is one normative body, the male, and the female body is just an underdeveloped version of it. 3 Several of the early Church fathers were well aware of these notions, and added to them a scriptural layer that read Eve's secondary creation from Adam's rib as evidence of woman's subordination and incompleteness compared to man. Eve's susceptibility to temptation later in the story only proved that she should be carefully managed by a man. This gendered anthropology was used to legitimate male control of women on the grounds of female incapacity and male superiority throughout much of western history, so that only recently have women, rather than their fathers , husbands or the state, been legally allowed Lo make decisions affecting their bodies, their children and their property.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.