What is the Church's stance on


…those verses in 1 Corinthians, I believe, about women not speaking and also praying without a headcovering?


Well, I think you’ll see a lot of readers at Mass who are women. I think you’ll see a lot of female teachers and principals in Catholic schools, women who are DREs, women who are on the parish council. . .

That should answer your question about ‘not speaking in church’. Obviously women ‘speak in church’. Obviously women can ‘teach men’ in schools, even in RCIA etc.

But: Do women proclaim the gospel as priests or deacons in a Catholic Church? No. Are they Catholic priests? No.

The words St Paul speaks are layered and nuanced. They refer both to a specific time and place, and to all times and places.

The specific: The Church at Corinth, where some converts from pagan teaching (where women ‘priestesses’ were the norm) as well as some nonChristian women (i.e. Jewish for the most part) were standing up and disrupting the service, probably by trying to claim a ‘priestly’ role or to mock the teaching. St Paul addresses that specifically – a woman is NOT a priest and cannot use the liturgy to try to BE a priest, and no woman (many of the nonChristian men used their wives and daughters’ ‘disruptions’ to cover their own wish to disrupt the service so they could claim, “WE didn’t try to stop anything”) could interfere with the sacred liturgy.

The ‘timeless’: Christ instituted a priesthood, and a Church, and the liturgy thereof. We don’t have any right to interfere with any of the above. Because men can become priests, they don’t usually try to ‘take on’ priestly roles; if they want to pursue the calling, they can. That’s GOD’s call, not ours. But God knew then and now and always that there would come a time when the priesthood would be ‘redefined’ by a loud and idolatrous crowd as ‘just another job’ and that women would (erroneously) start to demand it as something they felt ‘deprived of choice’. St Paul’s words then remind us that God has a design for people, that men and women are not ‘interchangeable’, that since women are ALREADY providing the world with a lot of service, God wants MEN to step up as priests and be servants. Men have a much harder time (at least until modern times) being ‘servants’ and humble, because they are naturally inclined to lead and be ‘individuals’. Women are more inclined to be not just caretakers, but to be empathetic and to care for others.

But in the Devil’s usual attempt to twist things, he has convinced a loud number of people that the priesthood is about POWER not service, and that women should step up and GET THAT POWER away from the MEN.

If women really cared about the priesthood as service, they could do everything a priest does except institute sacraments. Priests listen to people, priests visit the sick, priests ‘run’ a parish by overseeing the spiritual, emotional, and socioeconomic welfare of the people. Priests work with youth and elderly. Women can do all of that without being priests.

So, what are the sacraments then? Are they’ power’ or are they responsibility?
Some sacraments such as baptism can be done by a lay person in an emergency, and in matrimony, the spouses marry each other with the priest blessing the union. Holy Orders and Confirmation are usually done by a bishop, not a priest. Sacrament of the Sick is something that not everybody even has a chance to receive. . .

That leaves what as the ‘prize’ or ‘power’ --Eucharist and Reconciliation.

The Eucharist is confected at Mass; Reconciliation can be at any time.

So the big ‘draw’ is that some women are convinced that they NEED to be the ones standing up in church and ‘calling down Christ’, or to be ‘behind the box’ telling people "your sins are forgiven’. (Of course, in early Christian times, the priest was not behind the box, and the penitent confessed in front of EVERYBODY in church).

That is seen as POWER. And that is exactly what St Paul was saying was reserved to the priest, the MALE priest, as God’s decision, not because it was POWER, but because it was SERVICE. And what the Devil has twisted into portraying as, “You poor, poor women, you aren’t ALLOWED to have the incredible POWER of turning wine and bread into GOD! You aren’t ALLOWED to have the incredible POWER of forgiving sins!! just because you’re WOMEN! It’s the MEN keeping you down! Demand your RIGHTS! Demand your POWER!!! IGNORE God speaking through that misogynist Paul --it was only for that TIME when MEN kept Jesus’s REAL WORDS giving you POWER, HIDDEN! The Catholics have CORRUPTED THE MESSAGE! Demand your FREEDOM!”

I’ll talk about headcoverings later, but just a short --it is a very pious and beautiful custom which many feel is still something we should be doing, but which few to none would ‘look down on’ a woman who was convinced, as many, many are, that it is no longer required. I don’t care if women hate wearing a hat or scarf or veil or headband because it feels ‘icky’, or whether to them it’s a sign of MALE BONDAGE, there is a reasonable case that it IS no longer required, and until the Church comes out and says, “Whoa, that idea of no more headcoverings isn’t working out, women, you are required to cover your heads now, per this directive coming from me, the Pope, and sent out to all the bishops in the world”, I’m not going to tell you that you MUST wear a covering if you’re a woman. And I am ALSO not going to tell you that if you DO wear a covering, you 'have to make sure you’re doing it for the RIGHT REASON" as if the automatic reason you wore it was vanity and pride, and you couldn’t be trusted to have come up with this idea for the right reason TO START WITH. I think St Paul was speaking for the ages here as well, but time will tell. Again, I think that no woman is WRONG to NOT wear a covering right now, and I also think no woman is WRONG to WEAR a covering right now.


Tantum Ergo,

Thank you for your post!


The whole question should look at Paul’s whole statement.

A couple chapters in 1Co before Paul says that, he also talks about women prophesying in the assembly.

So, it is 1 Co 14:33b-36 where he (supposedly says) that women are not to speak in the assembly BECAUSE…and note this well…BECAUSE…they should also be subordinate as the law says. Long story short: this looks like the insertion of text by someone else, someone who was more of a Judaizer, emphasizing the adherence to the Law of Moses.

But, the real Paul, some chapters earlier says, in 1 Co 11:5

But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered brings shame…

So, 1Co is inconsistent, even contradictory, on the matter. It says in one place that women can pray and prophesy (in the assembly) and in another it says that they have to remain silent. *** So, which is it?***

I tend to think that the Chap 14 stuff was a later insertion by someone who was trying to stand on Paul’s shoulders and had their own agenda.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.