Self-Appointed Papacy and Women Priests?

Hey guys I’ve been discussing issues with my Anti-Catholic brother who claims to have left the church but I still see him go every once in a while. But lately weve been talking about the History of Catholicism. The other day, he made two claims that had me shocked and very eager to find out if it was true or not.

Claim #1. “One of the Popes in the Church’s History made himself Pope. He appointed himself Pope.” He believes it was Pope Clement VII who had done this. Can anyone find anything pointing to this being true. I havent found anything yet.

Claim #2. “The Roman Catholic Church use to ordain Women Priests. They had them for the longest time. Up to about a thousand years.” I had never heard of this before. I dont know where he got this from but he claims it to be one of the “Truest Facts” of History. I tried looking it up and still could find nothing. I barely could find any good evidence of Women Deacons, but Women Priests? Can you guys help me out on this one and maybe site historians. And maybe you could even help me a bit more on defending the teaching of only males in the priesthood. He thinks that by not allowing women to become priests we are somehow suppressing them. Thank you.

Since he made the accusations, it is up to him to prove he is right. Look up Pope Clement VII in New Advent website. Never fall into this trap when anti-Catholics make accusations and then want you to prove them wrong. They should provide you with good sources. Forget the website “” Try this from CA but don’t supply him with facts. Let **him **provide solid proof which he won’t be able to.

Best response to any “facts” like that, …cite your source. Like I learned from another wise member of this forum today, if you want a place in my head, you gotta pay the price of admission!

I remember reading things from atheists that would say that it is up to theist to prove there is a God. Actually, it’s up to whomever is making the accusation. Ask where this “evidence” came from.

“Where did you hear this? Who is it that says this? Cite your source. Show me why that source is trustworthy.”

Peter Kreeft has a really good talk on why the priesthood is reserved for men.

It is not up to us to refute baseless claims. Your brother has made the claim so it is up to him to provide documentary evidence to support his assertion which we can then discuss. If he cannot he is simply blowing hot air.

Re: women priests, your brother is wrong. But he’s right that people say that.

Not legitimate historian people, mind you.

The word for elder in Greek is “presbyter.” This was a lay position in synagogues. (You had a committee of elders deciding on how to spend alms money on the poor and do synagogue maintenance, that sort of thing.) Since Christianity grew out of a Jewish atmosphere, the new little churches also had a committee of elders, chosen by the bishop (who back then was the only one who could say Mass) and the rest of the community. Elders were always male, because they were modeled after the patriarchs. (This is not to say that women in the synagogues and churches didn’t have power or a say; they just did things differently.)

Eventually, after a century or so, Christian communities got too big for the bishop to do everything priestly at church, and the bishop started appointing and ordaining presbyters to do priest stuff.

At this time in both East and West, bishops and priests and deacons were often ordained from the ranks of married men. (Though they were expected not to have sex on days when saying Mass, and bishops were expected not to have sex with their wives at all.) They also often had their mothers living with them or helping in their ministry.

Now, one of the things the Church did (and still does, in the Eastern side of things) was to acknowledge the women who were related to a priest, bishop, or deacon by giving them a related title. (Even here in the Latin Rite, a priest’s mom is entitled to be buried with one of her son’s stoles, if I recall correctly.)

Because there was a female version of a deacon that had a similar version of the titles for a deacon’s wife or mom, a lot of feminists have found it convenient to claim that these titles referred to female holders of these offices, rather than to relatives of the officeholder. But since the titles are still in active use in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, that’s just silly.

A bishop’s mom - episcopissa (sometimes episcopa in lazy Latin inscriptions)
A bishop’s wife - episcopa

A priest’s mom - presbyterissa
A priest’s wife - presbytera

A deacon’s mom - diakonissa or diaconissa
A deacon’s wife - diakona or diacona

Now, the names for women actually holding church offices as themselves, rather than having a relative’s title, are somewhat varied. These ladies were not ordained, but they did receive a special blessing or consecration, much as nuns receive today. (And in fact, a lot of the traditional words for various nun offices are derived from these older titles. The mother superior of a convent can be called a presbyterissa, etc.)

If the woman was basically a laywoman version of the old synagogue/church council of elders, she sometimes had the title of presbyteris (“woman elder”), presbytis (“old woman”), ministra (“servant, minister”), or vidua (“widow” - being a vowed widow for life who was supported by the church was a church office, and some vowed widows were on a lot of church committees and church jobs, just like today).

If a woman was doing a deaconess job (ie, running the local church’s orphanage, running its guesthouse, cleaning the church and doing sacristan stuff, helping with naked baptism of women, running money and religious instruction to widows who couldn’t be visited by men without scandal, or supervising vowed virgins and widows and canonesses), she also had various titles. (“Diakona” seems to have been the most common.)

Now, there do seem to have been a few times and places where women did take it upon themselves to attempt to say Mass. But this was pretty clearly something that the Church as a whole did not agree with, because every mention of the practice that we have is somebody or some Church council condemning it. It is associated with heretics who were doing all kinds of crazy practices and teaching all kinds of crazy things. If a group was having sex on the altar or their communion was milk and cheese, they probably had women priests too.

There was also an outbreak of women priests in an Italian town in the Middle Ages, but that was because one of the women had declared herself the Holy Spirit incarnate on earth. So declaring herself and one of her women friends to be priests? Nothing compared to the whole “I am actually God” thing.

So your brother is wrong.

Clement VII was elected to the papacy at the conclave of 1523 (19 November). I’d actually call into question the authority of a person to appoint oneself Pope and the legitimacy of that appointment. It’s stupid and it’s one of the characteristics of antipapacy.

  1. Popes do not simply appoint themselves - such is called “an antil-pope”.

  2. No there has never been women Priests. Despite some who have attempted to be Priests in the 20th century etc.

  3. Women deacons - yes there were such - but they were not ordained - not deacons in the sense of the use of the word that is commonly used.

…you’ve been given an excellent response for Claim #2–no women priestesses in the Catholic Church; persona Christi would totally be infringed upon since Christ is male and a woman, though equal in dignity with man, cannot represent Christ’s masculinity.

…for Claim #1, here’s what new has:

A false claimant of the Holy See in opposition to a pontiff canonically elected. At various times in the history of the Church illegal pretenders to the Papal Chair have arisen, and frequently exercised pontifical functions in defiance of the true occupant. Hergenröther enumerates thirty in the following order: (
(If you follow the links offered by the Catholic Encyclopedia you can get a feel of what transpired when the Antipopes were installed.)

We have to understand that the Church is organic; she grows both in number (active members of the Body) as well as in Doctrine and Practice; the imperfection of her members can cause errors to be introduced into her daily life–some issues as an Antipope occurred in the past because the Church had a dependency on temporal powers.

Maran atha!


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