When we encounter difficult Bible passages, the first thing to do is to realize that anything “bad” that we perceive is due to a problem with us, not a problem with the Bible. Pray based on the supposition that it is easy for us to misunderstand stuff like this.
Here is an excerpt from a Catholic apologetics question-and-answer document that touches this topic:
15. Please recite 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in their entirety.
1 Timothy 2:11-15 - “Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 - “The women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”
16. Forbidden from teaching, submissive, and silent – that’s what you quote to prove that women can’t be priests? Don’t be ridiculous – you can’t fool anybody into thinking the Catholic doctrine is of God with passages like that.
To those who love God and believe the Bible is His Word, passages like these are all the authority they need to conclude that our teaching is of God. And if you accept that God’s Word cannot be in error, and if you accept that sexism is an error, then you will also conclude that there must be nothing sexist in this passage – except when it is read superficially.
17. Men are allowed to say what they please, but women must shut up and “be subordinate”!
Men are not allowed to say what they please. St. Paul teaches that assemblies of the Church are to be conducted with order (1 Cor. 14:37-40), and part of that is being subordinate, both men and women, to the ordained authorities. Women, not being able to exercise the ordained ministry, are told generically to be subordinate in Church and not to presume to speak in a teaching capacity, for that is the job of the minister. This is all perfectly sensible, granted that they cannot be ordained; there is no hint of sexism unless one assumes beforehand – falsely – that women have a right to be ordained and are being denied that right.
18. How is it not unjust to deny women equal right with men to speak in the Church?
Equal right to speak? Nonsense. We are not talking about speaking of just anything; this is speaking as an officiate, as the homilist, as the minister – that is all. And nobody has a right to that, as I have shown elsewhere. You speak of rights being denied, when in fact there is no right there to be had. If ordained ministry was selected for on the basis of worth or justice, then there would be a question of rights violated, by telling women at large to be silent at Mass, and not to teach; but God calls whom He wills, and He does not call people on the basis of worth or justice. Women are generically told to be silent, in this regard, for the simple and not at all unreasonable fact that they just cannot be ministers, who are the only ones allowed to speak in a teaching capacity at Mass.
19. I have heard that Paul only excluded women from ministry as his own habit. “I do not permit them to teach,” he said; not “God does not permit them to teach.”
That interpretation does not account for the data given us in the passage. Paul tells us precisely why he does not permit women to teach, and he does not base it on his own opinion; for him, it is bound up with the order of creation: “for Adam was created first, and then Eve.” (1 Tim. 2:12-13) Any interpretation which makes his doctrine subjective and mutable, violates that reason. Furthermore, in another passage where St. Paul expresses the same thought, he says that his teaching is not his own, but the Lord’s: “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. … [And] acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 14:33-37) Therefore it is not only his own private practice to forbid women to the ordained ministry, up to the discretion of churches; he lays it down as a law for all churches, based on the law of God, on the order of creation, and on a command of Jesus.
20. Paul cites “the law” – the Old Testament. Where does the Old Testament say that women must be silent?
Paul does not command women to be silent at large, but only when it comes to teaching as a minister in the Church. That is no burden – everyone who is not ordained has to be silent in that regard. But as for the Law, the Old Testament taught that only Aaron and his sons were to be selected for ministerial duty – Exodus 28. As far as conducting the assemblies of the Israelites went, then, only men were allowed to serve, and everyone else had to be silent. Things are no different now. This is because the Old Testament priesthood was also an image, a picture if you will, of the true Priest, Jesus Christ. And He was a man. So God decreed that only men should be His priests, and in the modern priesthood this same requirement remains, for the same reason: priests are images of Jesus Christ. And therefore God takes, for the sake of that supernatural image, men, since they are already natural images, in our race, of the Son of Man.
[cont’d [URL=“http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=12124848”]next post]