SSPX Bp. Williamson opposed to female “Doctors of the Church”: are his reasons good? [Fr. Z]

The SSPX’s rather odd Bp. Richard Williamsom, excommunicated in 1988 for having received episcopal consecration from the late Archbp. Lefebvre without pontifical mandate, has something to say about naming a woman as Doctor of the Church.

You might know that the Church has called three women “Doctor”. To be named a Doctor of the Church, you must be a saint and your life and writings or preaching must reflect something of the Church in her God-given teaching mandate.

Let’s read what Williamson has to say.
My **emphases **and comments.

A few days ago I met in Rome a gracious Roman lady who asked me why in
a sermon several years ago I had been opposed to the papal declaration
of St. Catherine of Sienna
as a Doctor of the Church. The problem, I
replied, lies in the confusion of roles.

Recent Popes have
declared three women Saints to be Doctors of the Church: Catherine of
Sienna, Theresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux. Now no Catholic in his
right mind would call in question either the orthodoxy or the great
usefulness of each of their writings.
We have only to thank God for
their inspired and intuitive wisdom. Nevertheless for the Pope to
declare them Doctors, i.e. teachers, is to encourage Catholic women to
set up in public as teachers. **St. Thomas Aquinas (IIa IIae, 177, art 2)
has three reasons against this. **[He seems to be basing his ideas on the writings of the Angelic Doctor]

Firstly he quotes St. Paul (II
Tim II, 12): “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to use authority over
the man: but to be in silence.
” St. Thomas distinguishes here public
from private teaching: in the home a mother must teach her children, in
a quasi-domestic setting a woman may well teach, especially girls and
little boys. [A pretty strong argument, since it comes from St. Paul.]

Secondly, any woman set up in public view is liable to arouse unclean desire in men. [This is not really a very strong argument.]

Thirdly, “women in general are not so perfect in wisdom as to be entrusted with public teaching.” [This also is not a very strong argument.]

is in question here is the whole design of God for man and woman as
complementary head and heart of the family.
Teaching of a public kind
is a function primarily of the reason, or head, just as teaching in the
home is as much a function of the heart.
[Ehem.] True, modern times are
destroying home and family, leaving woman frustrated, with little
alternative but to go out in public, where she does not belong and
where she often – bless her!—does not want to be.
But by giving to
women, even Saints, the title of “Doctor”, the **modern Popes are giving
way to such modern times, instead of resisting them.
St. Thomas
Aquinas’ three reasons may look old-fashioned, but the question is
whether our new-fashioned world can survive, with women in authority,
making themselves constantly as attractive as possible, and still,
generally, “not perfect in wisdom”. O Lord, grant us some men! Kyrie

Bishop Richard Williamson
La Reja, Argentina

Let’s see if we can have some reasoned and reasonable discussion of this.

Please avoid inflammatory comments. Don’t just vent. That contributes nothing but needless clutter.

I will delete comments that, in my opinion, lead to rabbit holes to skate too close to the edge.

Full entry…

i don’t see what the problem of having female doctors of the church is?:confused: this is the first i have heard of this issue. but they say, you learn something new everyday. so the official sspx stance is that women should not be doctors of the church or what? :rolleyes:

Agreed. “Bishop” Williamson seems to be one of the most extreme of the SSPX “Bishops” (I have seen some of his writings)

I have been on forums where a particular person was under the influence of “Bishop” Williamson teachings, his rants were, in a polite way, on the bizzare side and sometimes sede in nature.

you know, i do not agree with a word the bishop said. its like to me, he was saying that women aren’t fit to be teachers, or what have you. since where in the Code of Canon Law does it state that women cannot be doctors of the church? i’d like to have that pointed out to me! i felt this was insulting to say the least! what are we good for then in his eyes? hmm huh hmm?:mad:

After Father Z’s blog post, Bishop Williamson gave an interview in which he talked about this topic in much greater depth. Before you make assumptions about what he means, have a listen to him explaining what he said and why:

The Bishop is absolutely right. Making women Doctors of the Church disrupts and confuses the hierarchy of the Church which God created. We are all equal before God, but we do not have the same roles. Just as women can not be priests, they should not be Doctors of the Church. Dominus Vobiscum.

the point is, i disagree with what i read about what he said in that article. he obviously does not think women should be declared doctors of the church, correct? i also read his reason for stating so in that article. it sounded to me absolutely biased! what does he think then? that men should be the ones to be doctors of the church? women ought to stay home and be seen and not heard?
iam not a feminist by any means, i am a traditional Catholic with traditional values and i adhere to those values, but i do not agree with him at all in this issue. it really made me wonder what exactly does the sspx think of women and their roles in society and in the church? its a disgrace in my humble opinion that he thinks women should not be doctors of the church, like they don’t have anything of value to be declared as such. am i wrong? this is how it struck me.

Maybe I don’t understand his aguments, but these are the problems with his logic as I see it.

First, these women were given the title “Doctor” because they DID teach, perhaps not in the same way as some of the male “Doctors”, but they still taught. The title “Doctor” is not giving them permission to do something, it is acknowledging something they already did. And they were canonized long ago, so I doubt Bp. Willimson has a problem with what these saints actually did. Bp. Williamson’s argument seems to suggest that by giving the title “Doctor” to these women, the Church is giving them and other women permission to teach. Well, these saints already did it and have long been praised by the Church for what they did, so it can’t be all evil. Even if not every women is called to teach as these women did, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging the contributions of these saints. Look at St. Joan of Arc. Not every women is called to lead battles, and some Church officials had a real problem with St. Joan, but she was canonized for what she did.

Second, I seriously doubt that anyone is being tempted to impure thoughts because of these female saints. If Bp. Williamson is concerned about women in public being the cause of impure thoughts, maybe proclaiming these female saints as Doctors will inspire other women to be chaste and modest, even while weilding great influence in the Church.

As for Bp. Williamson’s argument about the wisdom of women, why are these female saints so respected and powerful if they were less wise than men?

Recall that there was a time in the Church when Our Lady was not widely venerated, and there were no female saints mentioned in the Mass. Over time, the Church has called us to acknowledge the contributions of women more and more. I see the proclimation of these saints as Doctors of the Church as just another movement along that path.

:amen: :blessyou:

You should listen to the interview linked to above.

His position is that men and women are different and have different roles. He is not saying that men are better than women, only that they have different roles. The role of women, according to the Bible itself, is to remain silent in Church and not to have any place of authority within the Church.

And keep in mind that most people in our day also disagree with what St. Paul said about the role of women. What St. Paul said (which was inspired by God, by the way), and what Bishop Williamson is saying (again, listen to the entire intervew), is shocking to some because we have all been influenced by the blending of the roles of men and women which we are continually presented with by the liberal world we live in. In my opinion, we have all absorbed more of this liberal mind-set than we realize.

Since the Catholic mindset is completely opposed to the liberal mindset, the Catholic principles that are opposed to the liberal principles that we may have unintentionally absorbed, will shock us to a certain extent. And that explains why many in the Church today have such a problem with St. Paul’s teaching; and, in my opinion, why the teaching of Bishop Williamson is so shocking to some.

That’s my opinion.

i respectfully disagree with you. while i agree that women should not be priests, there is no official church law that states they cannot be doctors of the church is there? if so please, point it out to me in the Code of Canon Law. i also agree that women do not have the same roles as men, but how, tell me, how does it disrupt and confuse the heirarchy of the church if they are declared doctors of the church?

if the pope thought it would disrupt the heirarchy, he would not declare them doctors of the church would he? by doing so, he is not pandering to anyone. he made a well informed decision. the bishop is wrong. the pope on the other hand is correct, and i applaud the decision to make these 3 great saints doctors of the church.

so, your saying unequivocally, that by declaring these 3 female saints as doctors of the church is giving them authority in the church? is it your opinion that the pope/s is wrong in declaring these women as doctors of the church?

I admit that I wrote my reply above before that link to the interview was posted, so I didn’t have the benefit of that background. I can’t listen to it right now, but I’ll check it out later. However, I would still like to note that as Catholics, we look to the Church, for the correct interpretation of St. Paul and other scripture. Therefore, the fact that Bp. Williamson can quote scripture and use it to attack the Church’s declaration doesn’t really make for a strong argument in my opnion.

here is a lovely document written by HH John Paul II

“The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the “feminine genius” and she finds in her a source of constant inspiration. Mary called herself the “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). Through obedience to the Word of God she accepted her lofty yet not easy vocation as wife and mother in the family of Nazareth. Putting herself at God’s service, she also put herself at the service of others: a service of love. Precisely through this service Mary was able to experience in her life a mysterious, but authentic “reign”. It is not by chance that she is invoked as “Queen of heaven and earth”. The entire community of believers thus invokes her; many nations and peoples call upon her as their “Queen”. For her, “to reign” is to serve! Her service is “to reign”!”

"In this vast domain of service, the Church’s two-thousand-year history, for all its historical conditioning, has truly experienced the “genius of woman”; from the heart of the Church there have emerged women of the highest calibre who have left an impressive and beneficial mark in history. I think of the great line of woman martyrs, saints and famous mystics. In a particular way I think of Saint Catherine of Siena and of Saint Teresa of Avila, whom Pope Paul VI of happy memory granted the title of Doctors of the Church. And how can we overlook the many women, inspired by faith, who were responsible for initiatives of extraordinary social importance, especially in serving the poorest of the poor? The life of the Church in the Third Millennium will certainly not be lacking in new and surprising manifestations of “the feminine genius” "

Letter of John Paul II to women

I find it interesting that in Holy Scripture, wisdom is often portrayed as a woman (just read, well, the Book of the Wisdom, for example :D). Many of these passages are also applied to Mary in the liturgies in her honor as well.


First: Rome has spoken, case closed.

Second: The four SSPX Bishops are NOT really Bishops in a true sense since they do not have any recognized education above that of an ordinary priest which all Bishops in the Catholic church have. Any education they had occured in an environment isolated from the body of the Church therefore it is somewhat like being home schooled; its an education but it is truncated. In other words, who are you going to get advice from on an engineering problem: The person who graduated from the school of engineering at UCLA or someone who taught himself engineering at home?

Third: They are like media hogs; they like to stir up trouble to get publicity.

Solution: Just ignore them; they will eventually crawl back into the hole they came from and leave us alone.

It seems to me that it doesn’t matter who states the truth. What does matter is “What is the truth?” In order to discern that one must study the Church’s interpretation of St. Paul’s ban on women teaching men in Church and be able to discern whether or not that applies to “Doctors” of the Church. Is the term “Doctor” limited to “teacher” as St. Paul describes it or is the term broader than that?

I’m really not impressed with attacks upon speakers. What interests me is discerning the truth.


neither am i. iam only stating that i do not agree with what bishop williamson said. it does not reflect what the pope stated. what the pope stated is what matters because he is the vicar of Christ not bishop williamson.

St. Paul was referring to women speaking out of turn in Church - that is, getting up and interrupting the priest to present a homily of their own, or shouting out questions in the middle of Mass.

He was not saying (as we can see, because immediately afterwards he praises Priscilla for doing public evangelism in the streets and in the Forum) that women are not allowed to set up their own venues and teach publicly there.

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