I heard Pope Francis recently being more open for lay woman to be in leadership positions in the church. However, isn’t this sentiment in contrast with 1 Timothy 2:11-12? Im not saying I disagree with Pope Francis, its just that this verse is confusing to me. Paul sounds like he’s demeaning woman.
Pope Francis wants them to contribute to the Church in their own special way - not by trying to be priests. The passage from Timothy most probably refers to an ordained office, which Pope Francis (like his predecessors) clearly says is not open to women - just as having a baby is not open to me.
The Catholic Church does not read these texts from Timothy as they are applied by some Fundamentalist Christians. While some of these may be more lenient in their application in their churches, others do not allow women to teach in any manner or even to speak aloud in formal worship. Some even extend this application to all circumstances of life, even in the home to one degree or another where some I know of personally are forbidden to question their husbands’ final decisions.
But the Catholic Church understands these verses in the context of bringing order to liturgical celebrations where perhaps some questions may have arisen due to confusion or even a lack of humility on the part of some. Thus Paul’s words in this letter to Timothy are likely part of a response.
Within this framework Paul is not offering an exhaustive prohibition to women, applying to all situations in life. According to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Inter insigniores, 1976, it is an exclusion of women from the ministry of teaching exercised by the ordained priesthood, the function of official teaching in Church assembly.
While the verses surrounding this text have been viewed by some as downplaying women, read in the context of first century Roman society and as a whole with the rest of the apostle’s words it is actually extolling the role of women in the various roles they can and do play in the Church, whether it is as mothers, wives, or a life of single service in perpetual chastity.–See Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 7:25-40.
St Paul mentions a few women who were leaders in the Church, one who held the non-ordained office of deaconess, and some who taught others. I would read this passage in 1 Timothy as related to ordination and behavior in the Mass.
I want to build on what the poster two posts above me said, but let me repeat part of it first: the Church has stated, in the document Inter Insigniores, that 1 Tim. 2:11-12 does not forbid all authority to be held by a woman, but only the authority of the ordained ministry – that is all that it excludes to women.
There are several ways we can know this. Firstly because, besides forbidding them to exercise teaching authority over men, he also forbids them even to speak; and this shows that he was talking about doing these things in the Church alone – for he would not forbid women to speak just at any time at all; that would be ridiculous. Secondly, because he says “let a woman learn in silence.” Where was the faith learned? In Church! Thirdly, because of the context, which is that, the letter to Timothy is a pastoral letter, in which St. Paul explains to the young bishop Timothy how to run the churches in his area; and immediately after these verses where he forbids women to the ministry, Paul goes on to explain whom he should ordain, listing the qualities of good bishops and deacons. Thus he was teaching whom to ordain to the bishopric and the diaconate, and started by saying not to admit women to the ministry.
As to the claim that St. Paul was demeaning toward women, there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. [LIST]
*]Galatians 3:28 explicitly affirms equality: “There is neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus.”
*]Ephesians 5:28, 33 says, “Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. … [L]et each one of you love his wife as himself.”
*]1 Corinthians 11:11-12 says, “*n the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.”
*]1 Corinthians 7:4 says, “[T]he wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”
[/LIST] These are explicit declarations of equality. The inequality of females beneath males is gone; husbands must love their wives as themselves, that is, as equals; neither man nor woman is independent of the other, and they have the same authority over one another’s bodies.
St. Paul understood that Jesus proclaimed the equality of the sexes before God and he taught it to the churches. But he also taught that women are not to be allowed into the ordained ministry and that women are to be submissive to their husbands (whenever they don’t demand something evil). Those things don’t diminish the dignity of women, but enhance it, because they show that women are not to be made in the image of men, but, they reflect the glory of God in their own way and with their own, equal dignity.*