Woman, Church and State:
A Historical Account of the Status of Woman Through the Christian Ages with Reminiscences of the Matriarchate
Matilda Joslyn Gage
Chapter II: Celibacy
"As long as the church maintains the doctrine that woman was created inferior to man and brought sin into the world, rendering the sacrifice of the Son of God necessary, just so long will the foundation of vice and crime of every character remain. Not until the exact and permanent equality of woman with man is recognized by the church -- aye, even more, together with the accountability of man to woman in everything relating to the birth of a new being, is fully accepted as a law of nature -- will vice and crime disappear from the world. Until that time has fully come, prostitution in its varied forms will continue to exist, together with alms-houses, reformatories, jails, prisons, hospitals and asylums for the punishment, reformation or care of the wretched beings who have come into existence with an inheritance of disease and crime because of church theory and church teaching." p. 47
"While the inferior and secondary position of woman early became an integral portion of Christianity, its fullest efforts are seen in Church teaching regarding marriage. Inasmuch as it was a cardinal doctrine that the fall of Adam took place through his temptation into marriage by Eve, this relation was regarded with holy horror as a continuance of the evil which first brought sin into the world, depriving man of his immortality. . . . [H]ad it not been for the fall, God would have found some way outside of this relation for populating the world, consequently marriage was regarded as a condition of peculiar temptation and trial; celibacy as one of especial holiness." page 49- 50
"The androgynous theory of primal man found many supporters, the separation into two beings having been brought about by sensual desire. Jacob Boehme and earlier mystics of that class recognized the double sexuality of God in whose image man was made. One of the most revered ancient Scriptures, "The Gospel according to the Hebrews", which was in use as late as the second century of the Christian era, taught the equality of the feminine in the Godhead; also that daughters should inherit with sons. . . . The fact remains undeniable that at the advent of Christ, a recognition of the feminine element in the divinity had not entirely died out from general belief . . .It was however but a short period before the church through Cannons and Decrees, as well as apostolic and private teachings, denied the femininity of the Divine equally with the divinity of the feminine. There is abundant proof that even under but partial recognition of the feminine principle as entering in the divinity, woman was officially recognized in the early services of the church, being ordained to the ministry, officiating as deacons, administering the act of baptism, dispensing the sacraments, interpreting doctrines and founding sects which received their names." pages 50-51
"...the church decided to compel a belief that its control of this contract lessened the evil, to this end declaring marriage illegal without priestly sanction..." page 52
"... while the possibility of salvation to the married, at first recognized, was denied at later date even to persons otherwise living holy lives. The Emperor Jovinian banished a man who asserted the possibility of salvation to married persons provided they obeyed all the ordinances of the church and lived good lives. As part of this doctrine, the church taught that woman was under an especial curse and man a divinely appointed agent for the enforcement of that curse. It inculcated the belief that all restrictions placed upon her were but parts of her just punishment for having caused the fall of man." page 53
"... woman was not part of the original creative idea but a secondary thought, an inferior being brought into existence as an appendage to man." page 54
"That Paul was unmarried has been assumed because of his bitterness against this relation, yet abundant proof of his having a wife exists. For the membership of the Great Sanhedrim, marriage was a requisite. St. Clement of Alexandra positively declared that St. Paul had a wife. Until the time of Cromwell, when it was burned, a MS. letter of St. Ignatius in Greek was preserved in the old Oxford Library; this letter spoke "of St. Peter and Paul and the apostles who were married." Another letter of St. Ignatius is still extant in the Vatican Library. Tussian and others who have seen it declare that it also speaks of St. Paul as a married man. But tenderness toward woman does not appear in his teaching, man is represented as the master, "the head" of woman. In consonance with his teaching, responsibility has been denied her through the ages; although the Church has practically held her amenable for the ruins of the world, prescribing penance and hurling anathemas against her whom it has characterized as the "door of Hell." " pages 54-55
"The old christian [sic small c-Christian is often not capitalized in this work] theologians found the nature of woman a prolific subject of discussion, a large party classing her among brutes without soul or reason. As early as the sixth century a council at Macon (585) fifty-nine bishops taking part, devoted its time to a discussion of this question, "Does woman possess a soul?" .... Christian women were therefore allowed to remain human beings in the eyes of the clergy, even though considered very weak and bad ones.
... As late as the end of the sixteenth century an anonymous work appeared, arguing that woman were no part of mankind, but a species of intermediate animal between the human and brute creation. (Mulieres non est homines, etc.) Mediaeval [sic] christian [sic] writings show many discussions upon this point, the influence of these old assertions still manifesting themselves." page 56
"Until the time of Peter the Great, women were not recognized as human beings in that great division of Christendom known as the Greek church, the census of that empire counting only males, or so many "souls" - no woman named. Traces of this old belief have not been found wanting in our own country within the century. As late as the Woman's Rights Convention in Philadelphia, 1854, an objector in the audience cried out: "Let women first prove they have souls; both the Church and the State deny it." " page 57
"Everything connected with woman was held to be unclean." page 57
"To such an extent was this opposition carried, that the church of the middle ages did not hesitate to provide itself with eunuchs in order to supply cathedral choirs with the soprano tones inhering by nature in woman alone. One of the charges against the Huguenots was that they permitted women to sing in church,..." page 57
"The Christianity of the ages teaches the existence of a superior and inferior sex, possessing different rights under the law in the church, it has been easy to bring man and woman under accountability to a different code of morals. " page 58
"A knowledge of facts like these is necessary in order for a just understanding of our present civilization, especially as to the origin of restrictive legislation concerning woman. The civilization of to-day is built upon the religious theories of the middle ages supplemented by advancing freedom of thought." pages 62 - 63
"Without predetermined intention of wrong doing, man has been so molded by the Church doctrine of ages and the coordinate laws of State as to have become blind to the justices of woman's demand for freedom such as he possesses." page 63
Regarding the dark ages: "The most pronounced doctrine of the church at this period was that through woman sin entered the world; that woman's whole tendency was toward evil, and had it not been for the unfortunate oversight of her creation, man would be dwelling in the paradisal innocence and happiness of Eden, with death entirely unknown. When the feminine was thus wholly proscribed, the night of moral and spiritual degradation reached its greatest depth..." page 66
"To the theory of "God the Father", shorn of the divine attribute of motherhood, is the world beholden for its most degrading beliefs, it most infamous practices." page 69
"It was declared that Peter possessed a wife before his conversion, but that he forsook her and all worldly things after he became Christ's, who established chastity; priests were termed holy in proportion as they opposed marriage." page 71 i.e., Peter abandoned his wife (and children? and young children?) to win converts for Christ. That certainly is holy.
" "The Fathers of the Church of the most part, vie with each other in their depreciation of woman and denouncing her with every vile epithet, held it a degradation for a saint to touch even his aged mother with his hand in order to sustain her feeble steps. " " footnote number 48, page 74, quotation from Anna Kingsford in _The Perfect Way_ ( Gage does not give the edition), page 286
"Aristotle whose philosophy was accepted by the church and all teaching of a contrary character declared heretical, maintained that nature did not form woman except when by reason of imperfection of matter she could not obtain the sex which is perfect." page 75
"Although the laws against the marriage of priests were enacted on pretense of the greater inherent wickedness of woman, history proves their chief object to have been the keeping of all priestly possessions under church control." p. 80
Many notable consequences followed the final establishment of celibacy as a dogma of the church. First. the doctrine of woman's inherent wickedness and close fellowship with Satan took on new strength.
Second. Canon Law gained full control of civil law.
Third. An organized system of debauchery arose under mask of priestly infallibility.
Fourth. Auricular confession was confirmed as a dogma of the church.
Fifth. Prohibition of the Scriptures to the laity was enforced.
Sixth. Crime was more openly protected, the system of indulgences gained new strength, becoming the means of great revenue to the church.
Seventh. Heresy was more broadly defined and more severely punished.
Eight. The Inquisition was established.
When Innocent III completed the final destruction of sacerdotal marriage, it was not upon disobedient priests the most severe punishment fell, but upon innocent women and children. Effort was made to force wives to desert their husbands. Those who proved contumacious were denied christian burial in an age when such denial was looked upon as equivalent to eternal damnation; property left such wives was confiscated to the church; they were forbidden the eucharist; churching after childbirth was denied them; they were termed harlots and their children bastards, while to their sons all office in the church was forbidden. If still contumacious they were handed over to the secular power for condign punishment, or sold as slaves for the benefit of the church. They were regarded as under the direct control of Satan himself, as beings who iniquitously stood between their husbands and heaven." pages 81 -82
"The duty of woman to obey, not alone her male relatives, but all men by virtue of their sex, was sedulously inculcated." page 84
Regarding the church's drive to enforce priestly celibacy:
a) Priest's wives, who were previously considered part of the highest reaches of local society, became shunned. The church refused to provide for widow's of priests. Priests were not required to support their children. Children of priests became known as bastards.
b) Priests were not expected to abstain from sex. The church encouraged that priests take a mistress.
"The priest regarded himself as the direct representative of divinity; the theory of infallibility was not confined to the pope, but all dignitaries of the church made the same claim. Asserting themselves incapable of wrong doing, maintaining an especial sanctification by reason of their celibacy, priests nevertheless made their holy office a cover for the most degrading sensuality. Methods were taken to debauch the souls as well as the bodies of women. Having first taught their special impurity, it was now maintained that immorality with a priest was not sin, but on the contrary hallowed the woman, giving her particular claim upon heaven. It was taught that sin could only be killed through sin. The very incarnation was used as a means of weakening woman's virtue. That Christ did not enter the world through the marriage relation, stamped christian honor a system of concubinage in the church, for whose warrant woman was pointed to the Virgin Mary. .... The chastity of concubinage and the unchastity of marriage was constantly asserted by the church, and thus the mysteries upon its foundation were laid for the degradation of woman, who was at all times depicted as being of no self-individuality, but one who had been created solely for man's pleasure." pages 90-91
c) Laity imitates priesthood, and Europe became a "continent of moral corruption" page 92
d) Church wanted to protect its wealth.
"As long as the church maintains the doctrine that woman was created inferior to man, and brought sin into the world, rendering the sacrifice of the Son of God a necessity, just so long will the foundation of vice and crime of every character remain." page 93
"When a priest failed to take a concubine his parishioners compelled him to do so in order to preserve the chastity of their own wives and daughter's." page 94
Gage presents numerous examples establishing that the current (1890) church is guilty of the same misdeeds as the earlier church.
Pope John XII seduced and violated 300 nuns.
Henry III, bishop of Leige, was deposed in 1274 for having 65 illegitimate children.
"No greater crime against humanity has ever been known than the division of morality into two codes, the strict for woman, the lax for man. Nor has woman been the sole sufferer from this creation of Two Moral Codes within the Christian Church. Through it man has lost fine discrimination between good and evil, and the Church itself as the originator of this distinction in sin upon the trend of sex, has become the creator and sustainer of injustice, falsehood, and the crimes into which its priests have most deeply sunk." page 109