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  #1  
Old Mar 7, '12, 9:34 am
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Default St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

I read a quote by St Thomas Aquinas, I think from the Summa, saying that women should not teach publically, only privately.

Does anyone know, was he referring to women teaching in the Church, or teaching in general? can women be school teachers and teach little kids? etc.

Please I'm not looking for debate, I'm just wondering what he meant.

thank you!
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  #2  
Old Mar 7, '12, 10:43 am
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

Well you can be pleased to know he was only expressing an educated opinion that referred to his society and culture, he was not expressing the doctrine of any Church. I say this because you use the phrase "are women allowed" (using present tense) - well, they are! Otherwise it would be pretty awkward for a few female teachers at Catholic schools...

I think perhaps back then when access to education for anyone was almost nil (and even more so for women) his words make sense. But now you don't need to worry, because - I repeat - he was expressing an opinion that relates to his era, and women are pretty educated now.

I disagree with him though even looking at his era. Who was he taught to walk and talk by, I wonder?
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  #3  
Old Mar 7, '12, 10:45 am
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

Quote:
Originally Posted by Monica4316 View Post
I read a quote by St Thomas Aquinas, I think from the Summa, saying that women should not teach publically, only privately.

Does anyone know, was he referring to women teaching in the Church, or teaching in general? can women be school teachers and teach little kids? etc.

Please I'm not looking for debate, I'm just wondering what he meant.

thank you!
No, I do not know that. But you are not following Aquinas on that, are you? One of my best theology teachers was a nun.
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  #4  
Old Mar 7, '12, 11:03 am
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

I don't know the exact Aquinas quote or exactly what he himself meant by it, but it seems to me a potential problem is defining the terms "public" and "private", as well as "teaching" of course.

In a sense, only the bishops are true public teachers of Catholic doctrine.

The priests obviously also play a role in presenting the teaching of the bishops to the people in public settings like the Liturgy, and certain male religious orders like the Dominicans have been founded with preaching as their goal.

But when an ordinary layperson or religious "teaches" it is still further removed from the bishops. It seems to me it takes one of two forms- education and the sort of comparing of notes that forums like these are good for.

Parents, being the primary educators of their children, and the other educators, often laypeople, whom they employ to help them in this task must teach their children the Faith. But this education of children is, it seems to me, fundamentally a private kind of teaching, even if it sometimes takes place in schools.

The rest of it, including even the work of lay apologists and scholars, is ultimately at the end of the day a comparison of notes regarding what the bishops have publically taught. Even if it goes on in the public forum, it is not really teaching but a non-authoritative statement of the person's private understanding of the teachings of the bishops or their logical consequences.

We could also discuss the different roles of men and women as such in society and specifically in the Church, but even before we get to that it seems to me that women and ordinary lay men alike can be said to be unauthorized to teach publicly in the manner St. Thomas Aquinas (and St. Paul before him) may have had in mind.
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  #5  
Old Mar 7, '12, 11:05 am
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

Greetings Monica!

I found what I hope are some useful articles. I will just number them (in order of interest/importance for your question) with direct links and hope that it answers some questions.

1. What Aquinas Really Said about Women - Article in 'First Things' Philosophical Review
2. Aquinas and Aristotle Concerning Women
3. Summa Theologica on the generation of Women
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  #6  
Old Mar 7, '12, 11:13 am
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

Thanks for the replies!

I asked because I have a teaching degree, and I want to imitate the Blessed Mother in how she lived. I don't really like the idea of me being in public office, the government, being a university prof, etc. I think that there's nothing wrong with being a wife and mother at home, or a nun if a woman is called to that - depends on her vocation. I think those two ways of living for the woman are beautiful. I don't know my vocation yet and I just graduated so I'm trying to think of what to do while I'm figuring out my vocation. I thought I'd just teach (elementary school) for now, but then I came across this quote.. I don't know if in the original context, he was talking about teaching in Church, or not. I don't mean to teach in Church at all. But what about teaching children in a school? weren't there female Saints who did this? I need to look them up.. what about nuns who teach? what about writing stories relating to the faith (for evangelization) or making youtube videos about the faith (not where I'm talking, but just with quotes and pictures) - is that teaching, or is that different? again I'm just searching for the truth I will pray too of course, but I'll take a look at all those articles.
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  #7  
Old Mar 7, '12, 11:21 am
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

I read about St Elizabeth Ann Seton, who started a school... I assume that she taught there too.. and there are the Dominican Sisters, who teach..

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=180

I hope it's okay......?
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  #8  
Old Mar 7, '12, 11:32 am
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

Quote:
Originally Posted by Monica4316 View Post
I hope it's okay......?
When the Church declared St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Sienna to be Doctors of the Church in 1970, (St. Therese of Lisieux was added in 1997) this was official recognition that women may teach in some contexts. The title Doctor means one who teaches. You do not need to worry about going against Church teaching if you take a teaching position.
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  #9  
Old Mar 7, '12, 11:35 am
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

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Originally Posted by Monica4316 View Post
Thanks for the replies!

I asked because I have a teaching degree, and I want to imitate the Blessed Mother in how she lived. I don't really like the idea of me being in public office, the government, being a university prof, etc. I think that there's nothing wrong with being a wife and mother at home, or a nun if a woman is called to that - depends on her vocation. I think those two ways of living for the woman are beautiful. I don't know my vocation yet and I just graduated so I'm trying to think of what to do while I'm figuring out my vocation. I thought I'd just teach (elementary school) for now, but then I came across this quote.. I don't know if in the original context, he was talking about teaching in Church, or not. I don't mean to teach in Church at all. But what about teaching children in a school? weren't there female Saints who did this? I need to look them up.. what about nuns who teach? what about writing stories relating to the faith (for evangelization) or making youtube videos about the faith (not where I'm talking, but just with quotes and pictures) - is that teaching, or is that different? again I'm just searching for the truth I will pray too of course, but I'll take a look at all those articles.
Congratulations on graduating!

As I said in my post, Aquinas was only expressing his opinion that relates to his experience of life in the era he lived in. Not doctrine, and not relating to today's society.

Also, you are confusing emulate and imitate. If you are imitating our Blessed Mother you will find that impossible. It's not normal to wear a 1st century peasants clothes around town and you're not the mother of God. However, if you wish to emulate her than trying to lead a pious life dedicated to God in whatever vocation you are called to, then you'll be fine.
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  #10  
Old Mar 7, '12, 11:36 am
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

Monica, you are being scrupulous. Please talk to your priest.

Yes, you can be a school teacher.
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  #11  
Old Mar 7, '12, 11:46 am
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

Quote:
Originally Posted by Monica4316 View Post
Thanks for the replies!

I asked because I have a teaching degree, and I want to imitate the Blessed Mother in how she lived. I don't really like the idea of me being in public office, the government, being a university prof, etc. I think that there's nothing wrong with being a wife and mother at home, or a nun if a woman is called to that - depends on her vocation. I think those two ways of living for the woman are beautiful. I don't know my vocation yet and I just graduated so I'm trying to think of what to do while I'm figuring out my vocation. I thought I'd just teach (elementary school) for now, but then I came across this quote.. I don't know if in the original context, he was talking about teaching in Church, or not. I don't mean to teach in Church at all. But what about teaching children in a school? weren't there female Saints who did this? I need to look them up.. what about nuns who teach? what about writing stories relating to the faith (for evangelization) or making youtube videos about the faith (not where I'm talking, but just with quotes and pictures) - is that teaching, or is that different? again I'm just searching for the truth I will pray too of course, but I'll take a look at all those articles.
As you can tell from my post I assumed you were talking about teaching Catholic doctrine in the Church.

Regarding occupations of women in general, I would recommend taking a look at G.K. Chesterton's What's Wrong With the World.

Basically, a central part of Chesterton's conclusion on the subject of women is that humanity has for practically all of history and in practically all cultures divided itself into a specialist gender and a generalist gender. He doesn't speculate as to whether something biologically inherent in the sexes accounts for this or just the accumulated wisdom of countless generations, be he believes humanity is benefited by only one half of it specializing and engaging in narrow pursuits outside the home, while the other half remains more of a generalist, more of a Jack-Of-All-Trades (or Jill-Of-All-Trades, rather). Among the many points he brings up in this connection is the fact that young children don't need to be taught any one specific subject in depth so much as taught a little bit about a thousand subjects.

Chesterton singles out secretary work as an occupation in which he thinks women should not be employed, for the very same reason they were so good at it and so often employed in it even in his time: women's greater tendency towards viewing authority as personal rather than legal. He also points out, if I recall, the hypocrisy of those who sent women to slave away in factories and called it freedom.

Anyway, while the vocations of wife and mother probably have great relevancy for any woman's vocation (though ideas like spiritual motherhood), throughout its history there have been other vocations for women, including active ones, which the Church has encouraged and even canonized members of, as you've pointed out. In these active vocations in the world the tasks of educating young children and caring for the sick and infirm are the ones that stand out most immediately in my mind as quite compatible with femininity. I highly doubt Aquinas meant that women should not teach at all, not even secular things to small children, since this after all is what every mother does.
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  #12  
Old Mar 7, '12, 11:49 am
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

Quote:
Originally Posted by Monica4316 View Post
But what about teaching children in a school? weren't there female Saints who did this? I need to look them up.. what about nuns who teach?
There have been several women saints who were teachers and educational administrators, including Lucia Filippini. Entire orders of sisters also have been founded with the mission to teach.

Before you over think this too much, allow me to ask:
  • Would parishes run schools that employed women teachers and administrators if women teaching school was forbidden by the Church?
  • Would the Church canonize women who taught if that went against the teaching of the Church?
  • Would the Holy See approve of and support orders founded not only to teach, but to train teachers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Monica4316 View Post
I thought I'd just teach (elementary school) for now, ...
Emphasis mine.

This made me chuckle. Way back in the olden days I did a one-year stint as a first-grade teacher. I was young and in energetic, but it still almost killed me. I was clamoring to get back to working with teenagers by Christmas break. My hat is off to the brave men and women who just mix it up with the K-3 crowd every day; I don't know where they find the energy or patience. To my way of thinking it's one of the most demanding jobs out there.

Finally, I suggest that you check out the following website:

http://mission.liguori.org/newsletters/scrupanon.htm

There is much information there about the teachings of the Church presented in a gentle way for those who tend to be a bit scrupulous, which is what I think is going on here.

Luna
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Old Mar 7, '12, 11:57 am
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

Quote:
Originally Posted by LemonAndLime View Post
Congratulations on graduating!

As I said in my post, Aquinas was only expressing his opinion that relates to his experience of life in the era he lived in. Not doctrine, and not relating to today's society.

Also, you are confusing emulate and imitate. If you are imitating our Blessed Mother you will find that impossible. It's not normal to wear a 1st century peasants clothes around town and you're not the mother of God. However, if you wish to emulate her than trying to lead a pious life dedicated to God in whatever vocation you are called to, then you'll be fine.
I do mean emulate of course I understand I can't imitate Mary in the way that you describe. But when I said this, I meant imitating her humility, so for example how she lived a simple humble life and didn't put herself on display.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1ke View Post
Monica, you are being scrupulous. Please talk to your priest.

Yes, you can be a school teacher.
I'd love to talk to my priest but the priest who knows me best is in another city. It could be that I'm scrupulous in this, but when St Thomas said women shouldn't teach publically, that's the first thing that came to mind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aelred Minor View Post
As you can tell from my post I assumed you were talking about teaching Catholic doctrine in the Church.

Regarding occupations of women in general, I would recommend taking a look at G.K. Chesterton's What's Wrong With the World.

Basically, a central part of Chesterton's conclusion on the subject of women is that humanity has for practically all of history and in practically all cultures divided itself into a specialist gender and a generalist gender. He doesn't speculate as to whether something biologically inherent in the sexes accounts for this or just the accumulated wisdom of countless generations, be he believes humanity is benefited by only one half of it specializing and engaging in narrow pursuits outside the home, while the other half remains more of a generalist, more of a Jack-Of-All-Trades (or Jill-Of-All-Trades, rather). Among the many points he brings up in this connection is the fact that young children don't need to be taught any one specific subject in depth so much as taught a little bit about a thousand subjects.

Chesterton singles out secretary work as an occupation in which women should not be employed, for the very same reason they were so good at it and so often employed in it even in his time: women's greater tendency towards viewing authority as personal rather than legal. He also points out, if I recall, the hypocrisy of those who sent women to slave away in factories and called it freedom.
I've never had a job as a secretary but I'm just curious what you mean, - could you explain this in more detail? I don't really understand the reason that Chesterton gives.

Quote:
Anyway, while the vocations of wife and mother probably have great relevancy for any woman's vocation (though ideas like spiritual motherhood), throughout its history there have been other vocations for women, including active ones, which the Church has encouraged and even canonized members of, as you've pointed out. In these active vocations in the world the tasks of educating young children and caring for the sick and infirm are the ones that stand out most immediately in my mind as quite compatible with femininity. I highly doubt Aquinas meant that women should not teach at all, not even secular things to small children, since this after all is what every mother does.
I remember he did mention how women teach their children and that is fine... for him this would fall under "private" teaching, rather than public. I'm a bit at a loss at what he meant by public teaching, and if he meant teaching the faith (like in Church), or in general. Thanks for the reply

In Scripture, it does talk against women teaching in the Church (but it clarifies - teaching in Church specifically), and against women being in positions in authority, which I presume could include something like government. I have no interest in either of those but I'm just wondering about teaching in school.

I found the original chapter that quote is from, for anyone interested in the context:

http://bit.ly/A4gglR

it's not very clear to me if he's talking about teaching in Church, or just teaching. The topic of the whole chapter is whether we can receive grace through words, so maybe it's just about teaching theology and about the faith, but I'm not certain. He says "Now this pertains especially to the grace of the word. Therefore the grace of the word is not becoming to women". What is the grace of the word? is this only when teaching the faith?

He goes on to say: "Speech may be employed in two ways: in one way privately, to one or a few, in familiar conversation, and in this respect the grace of the word may be becoming to women; in another way, publically, addressing oneself to the whole church, and this is not permitted to women".

This answers the question if women can be preachers or priests/pastors, or give sermons in church. But regarding secular things.. (like teaching math to grade 3s ) - is that not related to the quote at all?

St Thomas explains that the reason for the above is that women should not be placed in authority above men, for example men in the church. Okay, but is it the same case with children (boys), or not?

Then St Thomas says how this does not apply to prophesy.
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Last edited by Monica4316; Mar 7, '12 at 12:08 pm.
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  #14  
Old Mar 7, '12, 12:03 pm
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

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it's not very clear to me if he's talking about teaching in Church, or just teaching. The topic of the whole chapter is whether we can receive grace through words, so maybe it's just about teaching theology and about the faith, but I'm not certain.
In his time, there would not have been the clear distinction between these things that we have now. Pretty much all educational institutions were run by the Church and all learning was seen as the servant of theology.
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  #15  
Old Mar 7, '12, 12:08 pm
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Default Re: St Thomas Aquinas and women teaching

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In his time, there would not have been the clear distinction between these things that we have now. Pretty much all educational institutions were run by the Church and all learning was seen as the servant of theology.
hmm I see...
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