Roman Catholic leaders claim that women have never been ordained. This is false. Most Catholic priests probably are in the dark, but surely the scholars at the Vatican know that women deacons, priests, and bishops existed in the early centuries of Christianity. There's a word for a deliberate falsehood—a lie.
One scholar who has unearthed evidence of the truth is Dorothy Irvin, Catholic theologian and field archaeologist. She presented evidence of women in church ministry on October 9 at the St. Cloud Library.
The ordination of women is part of our Catholic history and theology, says Dr. Irvin. She has worked for over 30 years to find and identify archaeological documentation of women’s ministries, including ordained ministries, in the early church. She reveals,
Whatever the art form of a particular period and culture, women appear as church officeholders in that art form. Whether it is tomb inscriptions, catacomb frescoes, mosaic floors, or even church architecture, women’s names and women’s faces are presented there as deacons, priests, or bishops. Although much of this material was found and published before 1900, it is still not well known today.Beginning with archaeological evidence of women’s participation as leaders in Jewish worship, her presentation shows women attested by their contemporary communities as ordained and ministering within the episcopal structure of the church, in fact, even as bishops themselves. The photographs she shows are authentic photographs, not artists’ reconstructions.
I agree with those who are concerned about the shortage of priests today, and I sympathize with those women who are frustrated in their desire to serve in an ordained capacity, but those are not my reasons for supporting the ordination of women. I support it because it is part of our Catholic history and theology, and is called for by the gospel as much as the ordination of men is.Read more about her WORK HERE and listen to Irvin's scholarly PRESENTATION HERE.
One record of women officeholders in the early Church is a ninth century portrait in Rome honoring WOMEN LEADERS in the Church. Irvin explains:
Inscribed above Theodora is the word Episcopa, with the feminine ending, meaning a bishop who is a woman. Just as contemporary churches, cathedral offices and seminaries frequently display photographs of previous pastors, bishops and rectors; the mosaic at St. Praxedis reveals the succession of female pastors and bishops from Mary of Nazareth though Praxedis and Pudentiana to Theodora. Like her predecessor, St. Praxidis 700 years earlier, Theodora wears an episcopal cross attesting to her service as bishop of the titular church of St. Praxedis.After 9 years of study in the Near East and at Tübingen University in Germany, Irvin received a pontifical doctorate in theology, with specialization in Old Testament, archaeology, and the Ancient Near East. She has taught at several American universities, including the University of Detroit and Saint Catherine University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Her publishing credits are many:
• the book, Mytharion: the Comparison of Tales from the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East (1978).
• articles on biblical and archaeological topics to several books.
• articles for several encyclopedias, including the Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East.
• commentaries on the Sunday readings in the entire lectionary cycle for parishes to use in planning Sunday mass.
• most recently, calendars depicting her work on women ministries in the early church, with commentary for each photo. The first five years of calendars, together with articles, book reports, and a Bible study guide, have been re-bound together in the book, The Archaeology of Women’s Traditional Ministries in the Church, also called The Rebound, which can be ordered.
Since 1987 she has been on the staff of the Madaba Plains Project, which excavates in Jordan. There she specializes in linking ancient spinning and weaving tools to the handicrafts of tent-dwelling women today, whom she interviews.
Dr. Irvin is available for illustrated lectures on women in the Bible and early church. Injustice depends on ignorance. Let’s counter injustice in the Church by spreading truthful information.