Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sr. Vassa: There's no ontological impediment to priestesses

Is the male-only priesthood a discipline or essential to the nature of being a priest? Sr. Vassa (again unflinchingly taking up a contentious topic by climbing up the ladder to the highest platform and then jumping into the deep end head first) dives right in and says there is no reason beyond personal preference to not have female clergy.

You know, when people ask me about women in priesthood, they say, 'Sister, why can't women be priests?' And I say, 'Women CAN be priests. We don't WANT them to be priests.' Because you see, God can do anything, and the Church, by divine authority, uh, can do anything, but, the Church doesn't want to - and that's a legitimate reason. What I don't like is when we TRY to pretend that there are other reasons for this, because it's legitimate not to want something, and there are reasons not to want this - right? - but, we shouldn't pretent that there's some... reason, that, for example, the maleness of Christ is essential to priesthood. Because, the question in this whole big question, is, when we discuss something like the fact that Christ is indeed male, we can ask, with regard to priesthood - we should ask, this IS the question for the whole argument - is Christ's maleness essential to priesthood, or is it accidental? According to Aristotelian logic this would be at the heart of the question, okay? Is it essential, or is accidental? So, is it something- a sine qua non to Christian priesthood? And if you pay attention to the argumentation in Hebrews, where the author of Hebrews is at pains to show that there IS the possibility of change to the way priesthood is, um- is... how do you say, served, right? Those who have- see, the author of Hebrews is at pains to explain to Jews how in the world those who are not of the tribe of Aaron and so on, those who are not Levites, why in the New Testament now other can be priests. And he is explaining that- the priesthood according to the rite of Melchizedek. So, he's explaining a new kind of priesthood, and he is explaining that this is something that is changeable, as to who can be a priest, okay? So if one explores the Epistle to the Hebrews, one can see that there are- that the question of who can be a priest is something that is indeed a changeable aspect of tradition. What is NOT changeable is the basis for all priesthood, and that is of course Our Lord Jesus Christ. That's where the question arises: who- you know- what- what aspect of his person is essential to that service that is priesthood, that ministry, that, that mystery, um- is it, does it include his maleness, for example, would it include, if Christ indeed had black hair, for example, would priesthood be limited to those with dark hair? You know, I mean, we would ask what IS essential to the person of Jesus Christ in his priesthood? Would his maleness be part of that? Anyway, traditionally, actually, we don't see the maleness of Christ thematized at all- it's not a patristic- nowadays some people who are at pains to argue against females in priesthood- whereas I don't think there's a big problem, we should just say honestly, 'We don't want women to be priests. As Church, we don't want that.' That's fine, you know, that's fine, but we shouldn't say that we COULDN'T have women as priests.


  1. Bravo Sr. Vassa! Don't get me wrong, she gets this wrong, but she is revealing for us - witnessing - how modern secularized academics think about the very "nature" of the Faith. She is correct, in that if we are to think dialectically (aristotelian logic), not only is the color of our hair, or our embodied sexuality (i.e. or sex or "gender"), but indeed ALL aspects of our embodied nature is accidental to our nature - the very essence of what we are. This means that a spirit/soul dualism is the heart of Christianity, and Christ died in vain because He did not have to become a REAL man to save our accidentally embodied souls. When Persons or the priesthood is reduced to an abstract "service", then an android, phone app, or a dog can perform the correct external motions of service to embodied human beings because the body is accidental, and not really saved in the end in any case...

    Speaking of desire, these secularized and secularizing individuals and groups who are agitating for women's ordination (e.g. the St. Phoebe Center for the deaconess) are the ones who are confusing what they desire for the truth of God and Man(anthropos).

    I wonder how we are doing? Is this Imperial Church of the East surviving it's relatively recent encounter with secularism and its sources? Are are bishops aware of the dangers of the modern Academy, not just as a center of the ever changing "winds of doctrine" but as the cathedral of the secular world view?

    Christopher Encapera

    1. Unless you're trying to argue that Christ assumed human nature more for men than women, your argument is rather confused. Sister Vassa is responding to the bizarre argument that Christ was male therefore priests must be male to represent him, which implies that women cannot image Christ or are someone secondary in the saving work of the incarnation.

    2. Joseph Zheng,

      You (and Sr. Vassa) are missing the Traditional/Christian anthropological/ontological revelation and truth and replacing it with a straw man, which Sr. Vassa rightly deconstructs with her Aristotelian dialectic. Bravo!

      Now if only it actually had something to do with Christianity and the ordained hierarchy of the Church...

    3. By all means, Jake, spell out the "traditional ontological revelation and truth". After all, our secularized minds need such things spelled out for us. As for strawmen, the argument that Christ is male, therefore priests should be male, is one that is indeed made by some proponents of male-only priesthood.

    4. You might already know (but maybe not) that "traditional ontological revelation and truth" of Christianity can not really be "spelled out" in a comment box.

      What can be spelled out is a secularized, dialectical straw man of ontology by its reduction to dialectical metaphysics of essentiality and accidents. By the way, "maleness" is not unrelated to the priesthood as Fr. Lawrence notes below:

      "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence" (1 Tim 2:12)

      To a secularized mind, which has reduced our being/anthropos to a dialectic (i.e. a duality) of essentiality and accidents, and further *judges* that being from the outside from a pure Kantian morality of "absolute parity" between the what is essential (our sex being accidental, incidental, and irrelevant), such Scripture can only be explained as an interpolation of "alien influence", namely Roman cultural expectations.

      Christianity on the other hand, has an ontology that rejects such metaphysical schematics for both God (who is beyond attribution) and Man (who has the potentiality to be as God through communion). At the same time (and through a dark glass - paradoxically) it holds our emobodied being (ontology) as both essential and accidental in metaphysical terms. So all things (i.e creatures, man) are recapitulated (Apokostasis) in the Eschaton (our "essentiality" AND our "accidental" nature) and at-the-same-time our embodied ontology and "sex" is carried forward, as it were.

      Another way to say all this is that Christianity offers us a hierarchy of ontology and "becoming", not the metaphysical dialectic of the feminists who negate our embodied selves (and thus the Incarnation itself) as "accidental".

      So there you go Joseph, the comment box summery of theological anthropology.

    5. And another thing: How Sr. Vassa creates her "straw man" is by attributing an Aristotelian dialectic to those who reason from first principles of Revelation. She then goes on to correct the inconsistencies of this dialectical (and good for her!). She says that the Church "try's to pretend" - in other words she does not recognize the Revelatory presupposition that ALL reasoning begins from and which reason can not itself exam - reason can not exam its first principles because it depends on them for its very existence (and no, this is not a crude fideism).

      Sr. Vassa says that "God can do anything" and while this is true, it does not follow that God has not done what He has done - namely, the all male Aaronic priesthood. It also does not follow that "the Church, by divine authority, uh, can do anything" because it has been *given* to us (by God) to do some things and not other things. The "anything" of our freedom is circumscribed by His Good Will.

      All this indicates that Sr. Vassa is reasoning from non-Christian principles. If Sr. Vassa is going to play the philosopher, she will have to understand the place that first principles have in dialectical reasoning. If Sr. Vassa is going to play the Christian theologian, she will have to become a better philosopher. The academic world is full of poor philosophers. As Kierkegaard said, what the modern (i.e secular) world needs is not Jesus, but Socrates...

  2. I think the dear sister has jumped the shark.

  3. This was very distressing, but perhaps not surprising. I suggest that her liberal agenda is overwhelming her exegetical sense--the Letter to the Hebrews has absolutely nothing to do with the issue of whether women can be presbyters, while the First Letter to Timothy deals with this issue explicitly. Why ignore the latter and pretend the Church has no theological reason for its two-millennia old prohibition? But as Christopher says, it is to be welcomed as a revelation of how the modern Academy can go astray.

  4. I, for one, welcome her outing herself as a garden-variety secular liberal that I don’t even have to pretend to listen to regarding church matters anymore. It’s so much easier when they’re honest with you about their motives.

  5. So, if sh wants a female priesthood, go be Episcopalian. They will put up with modern nonsense.

  6. I’m always so appalled to read the comments on this site. Sr. Vassa is putting forth a theological opinion as to WHY this IS the case. She doesn’t advocate for a change, only gives an explanation of why. She may very well be wrong but then civilally disagree with her. The idea that the “why” is a settled question is absurd. Even Met. Kallistos has said that the Orthodox have been to quick to uncritically accept Catholic arguments on this issue. The knee-jerk reaction to label everyone with a different view as some kind of secret conspiring secular liberal is not only ludicrous but downright embarrassing. You all sound like a bunch of reactionary fundamentalist evangelicals. Why not go join their church? Since you’re all so found of telling people to become Episcopalians.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I hear ya, Liam! It’s amazing the level of reactionary thought we have in the church. It’s not like women haven’t been the most steadfast in the faith. Who was at the Cross? Women! Who were the first the Risen Christ and proclaim the Gospel? Women! Who had to save the Church from heretical emperors? Women! I literally have no good answer as to why women can’t be priests.

    3. Women can't be priests because they aren't men. Jesus was male. Adam was male. God, the Father, has revealed through His Son Jesus Christ, that the High Priest is a male. The Disciples and Apostle, chosen by Christ, who were given the command to celebrate the Holy Eucharist were male. The Apostles ordained Bishops and presbyters who were male.

      One men can be priests. Only men can be ordained to "major" orders. Ever.
      There is no possibility in the Apostolic Church for women to be priests. Ever.

    4. This really isn’t a hill I’m gonna die on, but I’m also not gonna die on absolutely maintaining a male only clergy when the very concept of sex and gender will be meaningless in the New Jerusalem

    5. Something about neither Greek nor Jew, neither male nor female, not taken or given to marriage. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    6. Weird. Jesus didn't cease being male in Heaven. But we are magically not longer male in Heaven. Also bizarre that God created Adam and Eve male and female in His Image and likeness in the garden before sin, but some how we'll just be androgynous?

      In any case, the idea of using St. Paul to eradicate gender in Heaven is a feminist talking point, not Church teaching. No one ceases to be male or female, though we will be like the angels and there will be no marriage or having children.

  7. It's not like a central theme of all scripture, from Genesis through Revelation, uses the image of the spousal relationship to express the Church's relationship with God or anything... not like female figures represent the Church while male prophets typify Christ... no mention of Bride and Bridegroom... no notion of the Eucharist (the priesthood is first and foremost Eucharistic) as the wedding feast... and not like any Church Father has ever commented upon it. Nope, not patristic, not biblical; gender is no more prominent than hair colour. Why resort to such sophistry when we can just be honest and say we hate women?

    1. Miklagard, you could very well make that theological case. Likewise, there are counter arguments. That is the nature of the theological dialogue that rational people have. Instead you've chosen to frame it in a mocking tone and then simply treat the issue as "obvious" just like a fundamentalist Protestant would.

    2. Of course there are counter arguments, and of course it's a complex topic. It is precisely Sr Vassa's dismissal of argument I am mocking. "It's not in the Fathers, therefore let's be honest and call it sexism". It's patronising and dismissive, not rational in the slightest.

    3. Nah, its not complex or complicated. Its God-ordained, Apostolically passed and faithfully lived Doctrinal and Dogmatic truth: Women can't be priests. Just like men can't have a baby.

      A priest offers Sacrifice, the Sacrifice.
      A woman gives life.
      Eve was the mother of life. The Theotokos is the New Eve.
      The New Adam is Christ, Who offered Himself and is the Offering.

      A female cannot be an Adam, a male cannot be an Eve.
      Men don't give birth, women give life.

      The all male priesthood of the Church is a recapitulation, or if you will, a uniting with the once and for all Adamic reality of Christ as Offerer and Offering.

      No "Women priests" possible, ever. It's Dogma.

    4. The doctrines of the Trinity and Christ's divinity are both exceedingly complex, but it doesn't mean the Church has ever been open to compromise.

    5. Exactly! Lots of things people like to "leave as open questions" also fall into this category. The nature of ordination is one of them.

    6. Fr. Alexis, it certainly isn't "dogma" as you say. Dogma has an exceedingly high standard. Both Metropolitans Kallistos and Hilarion have spoken to this. It is important to have a real discussion of these points and you have a good case to make. Sadly you undercut yourself when you turn it into some kind of fundamentalist style pronouncement annihilating all theological nuance at the end.

    7. Liam Higgins says:

      "Dogma has an exceedingly high standard. Both Metropolitans Kallistos and Hilarion have spoken to this."

      My exposure to Hilarion is more limited, but nothing I have ever read suggests he would agree with modern feminist ontology. Met. Kallistos is a theological minimalist (of that peculiar Oxford/Paris axis)and his opinion is an outlier. Not only that, but he is inconsistent as well. When asked (as happens occasionally when he is on the lecture circuit) to apply his theological minimalism to homosexualism, his face/tone gets an edge and he goes on about Scripture/Tradition/Dogma, etc. So he is a minimalist only when he desires it. Typical, unfortunately, of Orthodox feminists.

      The "fundamentalist" trope is hardly worth addressing, but it a common symptom of a mind infected with feminism. You might want to see someone about that...

    8. Liam Higgins, it's unclear to me what you think Dogma or doctrine of the Orthodox Church is.
      What is clear is that women cannot be priests. This is the unchanged and unchangeable teaching of the Church.
      See my above explanation for the why.

    9. We can speak of dogma, which has been clearly articulated in the councils, doctrine, and theologoumena. That is pretty basic and straightforward. You may argue that it does indeed each the level of dogma but that has never been clearly defined and even if it is dogma there is still question as to WHY which is what Sr. Vassa was specifically addressing. Being so absolutist reeks of the worst kind of fundamentalism. I happen to think that women should not be priests and that there is a compelling case to be made against it. However, the way you choose to argue it and the way others here choose to demonize Sr. Vassa should be far more alarming to people when we consider the future of the Church.

    10. Jake, you’re using the same boring rhetorical strategy to evade discussing the point. One does not need to hold a “modern feminist ontology” whatever that means, to recognize that a male priesthood is not on the level of dogma. The same goes for Met. Kallistos. You can’t just dismiss him as an outlier because he disagrees with you. (As an aside, that you use the word “homosexualism” which isn’t even used in that discourse is a big red flag.) It may shock you that some diversity of opinion is actually okay and has always been the case in the Church! Who exactly are these “Orthodox feminists” that you think are lurking in the shadows? Again, my mind must be “infected” by feminism (whatever that means) simply because I disagree with you. I wouldn’t consider myself a feminist at all. Your whole method of argumentation screams fundamentalism, acting as though Tradition has one univocal meaning you can bludgeon people with. You want to dismiss the charge because it is true.

    11. Liam Higgins
      Oh I see, not a dogma or doctrine of the Church? Not taught in the Apostolic deposit of faith? Not handed down through councils?


      "Pretending to consecrate cups mixed with wine, and protracting to great length the word of invocation, [Marcus the Gnostic heretic] contrives to give them a purple and reddish color. . . . [H]anding mixed cups to the women, he bids them consecrate these in his presence.

      "When this has been done, he himself produces another cup of much larger size than that which the deluded woman has consecrated, and pouring from the smaller one consecrated by the woman into that which has been brought forward by himself, he at the same time pronounces these words: ‘May that Charis who is before all things and who transcends all knowledge and speech fill your inner man and multiply in you her own knowledge, by sowing the grain of mustard seed in you as in good soil.’

      "Repeating certain other similar words, and thus goading on the wretched woman [to madness], he then appears a worker of wonders when the large cup is seen to have been filled out of the small one, so as even to overflow by what has been obtained from it. By accomplishing several other similar things, he has completely deceived many and drawn them away after him" (Against Heresies 1:13:2 [A.D. 189]).

    12. Tertullian

      "It is of no concern how diverse be their [the heretics’] views, so long as they conspire to erase the one truth. They are puffed up; all offer knowledge. Before they have finished as catechumens, how thoroughly learned they are! And the heretical women themselves, how shameless are they! They make bold to teach, to debate, to work exorcisms, to undertake cures . . . " (Demurrer Against the Heretics 41:4–5 [A.D. 200]).

      "[A female heretic], lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism. . . . But we, little fishes, after the example of our Icthus [Greek, "Fish"], Jesus Christ, are born in water . . . so that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes, by taking them away from the water" (Baptism 1 [A.D. 203]).

      "It is not permitted for a woman to speak in the church [1 Cor 14:34–35], but neither [is it permitted her] . . . to offer, nor to claim to herself a lot in any manly function, not to say sacerdotal office" (The Veiling of Virgins 9 [A.D. 206]).


      "When a widow is to be appointed, she is not to be ordained, but is designated by being named [a widow]. . . . A widow is appointed by words alone, and is then associated with the other widows. Hands are not imposed on her, because she does not offer the oblation and she does not conduct the liturgy. Ordination is for the clergy because of the liturgy; but a widow is appointed for prayer, and prayer is the duty of all" (The Apostolic Tradition 11 [A.D. 215]).

      The Didascalia

      "For it is not to teach that you women . . . are appointed. . . . For he, God the Lord, Jesus Christ our Teacher, sent us, the twelve [apostles], out to teach the [chosen] people and the pagans. But there were female disciples among us: Mary of Magdala, Mary the daughter of Jacob, and the other Mary; he did not, however, send them out with us to teach the people. For, if it had been necessary that women should teach, then our Teacher would have directed them to instruct along with us" (Didascalia 3:6:1–2 [A.D. 225]).


      "[T]here suddenly arose among us a certain woman, who in a state of ecstasy announced herself as a prophetess and acted as if filled with the Holy Ghost. . . . Through the deceptions and illusions of the demon, this woman had previously set about deluding believers in a variety of ways. Among the means by which she had deluded many was daring to pretend that, through proper invocation, she consecrated bread and performed the Eucharist. She offered up the sacrifice to the Lord in a liturgical act that corresponds to the usual rites, and she baptized many, all the while misusing the customary and legitimate wording of the [baptismal] question. She carried all these things out in such a manner that nothing seemed to deviate from the norms of the Church" (collected in Cyprian’s Letters 74:10 [A.D. 253]).

      Council of Nicaea I

      "Similarly, in regard to the deaconesses, as with all who are enrolled in the register, the same procedure is to be observed. We have made mention of the deaconesses, who have been enrolled in this position, although, not having been in any way ordained, they are certainly to be numbered among the laity" (Canon 19 [A.D. 325]).

      Council of Laodicea

      "[T]he so-called ‘presbyteresses’ or ‘presidentesses’ are not to be ordained in the Church" (Canon 11 [A.D. 360]).

    13. Epiphanius of Salamis

      "Certain women there in Arabia [the Collyridians] ... In an unlawful and b.asphemous ceremony ... ordain women, through whom they offer up the sacrifice in the name of Mary. This means that the entire proceeding is godless and sacrilegious, a perversion of the message of the Holy Spirit; in fact, the whole thing is diabolical and a teaching of the impure spirit" (Against Heresies 78:13 [A.D. 377]).

      "It is true that in the Church there is an order of deaconesses, but not for being a priestess, nor for any kind of work of administration, but for the sake of the dignity of the female sex, either at the time of baptism or of examining the sick or suffering, so that the naked body of a female may not be seen by men administering sacred rites, but by the deaconess" (ibid.).

      "From this bishop [James the Just] and the just-named apostles, the succession of bishops and presbyters [priests] in the house of God have been established. Never was a woman called to these. . . . According to the evidence of Scripture, there were, to be sure, the four daughters of the evangelist Philip, who engaged in prophecy, but they were not priestesses" (ibid.).

      "If women were to be charged by God with entering the priesthood or with assuming ecclesiastical office, then in the New Covenant it would have devolved upon no one more than Mary to fulfill a priestly function. She was invested with so great an honor as to be allowed to provide a dwelling in her womb for the heavenly God and King of all things, the Son of God. . . . But he did not find this [the conferring of priesthood on her] good" (ibid., 79:3).

    14. John Chrysostom

      "[W]hen one is required to preside over the Church and to be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also, and we must bring forward those who to a large extent surpass all others and soar as much above them in excellence of spirit as Saul overtopped the whole Hebrew nation in bodily stature" (The Priesthood 2:2 [A.D. 387]).

      The Apostolic Constitutions

      "A virgin is not ordained, for we have no such command from the Lord, for this is a state of voluntary trial, not for the reproach of marriage, but on account of leisure for piety" (Apostolic Constitutions 8:24 [A.D. 400]).

      "Appoint, [O Bishop], a deaconess, faithful and holy, for the ministering of women. For sometimes it is not possible to send a deacon into certain houses of women, because of unbelievers. Send a deaconess, because of the thoughts of the petty. A deaconess is of use to us also in many other situations. First of all, in the baptizing of women, a deacon will touch only their forehead with the holy oil, and afterwards the female deacon herself anoints them" (ibid., 3:16).

      "[T]he ‘man is the head of the woman’ [1 Cor. 11:3], and he is originally ordained for the priesthood; it is not just to abrogate the order of the creation and leave the first to come to the last part of the body. For the woman is the body of the man, taken from his side and subject to him, from whom she was separated for the procreation of children. For he says, ‘He shall rule over you’ [Gen. 3:16]. For the first part of the woman is the man, as being her head. But if in the foregoing constitutions we have not permitted them [women] to teach, how will any one allow them, contrary to nature, to perform the office of the priest? For this is one of the ignorant practices of Gentile atheism, to ordain women priests to the female deities, not one of the constitutions of Christ" (ibid., 3:9).

      "A widow is not ordained; yet if she has lost her husband a great while and has lived soberly and unblamably and has taken extraordinary care of her family, as Judith and Anna—those women of great reputation—let her be chosen into the order of widows" (ibid., 8:25).

      "A deaconess does not bless, but neither does she perform anything else that is done by presbyters [priests] and deacons, but she guards the doors and greatly assists the presbyters, for the sake of decorum, when they are baptizing women" (ibid., 8:28).


      "[The Quintillians are heretics who] give women predominance so that these, too, can be honored with the priesthood among them. They say, namely, that Christ revealed himself . . . to Quintilla and Priscilla [two Montanist prophetesses] in the form of a woman" (Heresies 1:17 [A.D. 428]).

      So, dogma and doctrine...

    15. Im sure if you and I had a in person conversation, you'd have a different impression. I'm just going to ignore you comments about me being fundamentalist, absolutist and what not. Also, you comment that I think Sr. Vassa is a demon.

      He's the problem with anyone who claims the Church doesn't have a clear teaching on why priests are men and that this is somehow an open question: The nature of the priesthood is Christological. To deny that only men can be priests and to say that women COULD be priests or even ordained to major orders is adopting heretical ecclesiology and Christology.
      Jesus Christ was male and for good reason. This is foundationally why only men can be priests in the Church.
      Im not even coming on that strong in this discussion. The Fathers are much stronger in their apologia. Just read the quotes I posted above.

    16. Liam, what is "boring" is your misuse and abuse of the word "fundamentalist". Your using it as if it has some relevant content, when in fact it is nothing more than a dismissive label. Sort of like calling a black man a n&^%^#r just a few years ago.

      Met Kallistos is an outlier, his (and yours apparently) limitation of dogma is too drastic and not acceptable to a large majority of current Orthodox (to say nothing historically). It empties the word of its meaning, so that those who seek reform can make a space for what they call "dialogue", even though they don't really have any intention of accepting Dogma and its implications.

      On this issue, male/female ontology in general and concerning ordination in particular is an extension of theological anthropology, which is part of Christology, which is the very heart of the Faith and the Church's "Holy Dogma" as the Fathers put it.

      Where do you teach? Your use and concern about the optics of language places you in academia somewhere...

    17. Fr. Alexis, respectfully, you don't seem to have carefully read what I wrote. I did not say it was not doctrine, nor did I say it is not part of Tradition. Rather, I said there is a case to be made that it does not reach the level of dogma. Trinitarian and Christological dogma are spelled out in the councils very clearly, this issue was never made so explicit. You may have a good case that it is dogma, but that alone does not make it so.

      To reiterate my point, even accepting it as dogma does not answer the WHY, which is what Sr. Vassa was addressing. Furthermore, I did not say you think her a demon, I said that "others here" have consistently tried to demonize her (which is certainly not the same thing as to literally say someone is a demon). I choose my words very carefully.

      As for my comments about fundamentalism/absolutism, while I would certainly not be so bold as to call you personally a fundamentalist (I don't know you), I am still willing to say that your argument proceeds in that fashion. To Jake's comment, I did not use misuse or abuse the word "fundamentalist." Rather than using it as a dismissive label (as "feminism" has been repeatedly used here) I am using it as descriptive of a means of argumentation that seeks to disregard other opinions by dismissing the person who holds the opinion and shutting down discussion. Again, I actually agree that there are various reasons why women should not/can not be priests. I am not labeling that particular view as fundamentalist but, the means of argumentation (or lack thereof).

      You actually prove my point with your string of quotations from the fathers. No doubt all of these should be carefully studied and considered, each within their respective context. By doing this we can "acquire the mind of the fathers" as Fr. Florovsky so wisely taught. However, quote-bombing with the fathers simply perpetuates the pernicious myth that they have speak univocally, turning them into a crude blunt instrument with which one bludgeons opponents. This is very similar to the fundamentalist Sola Scriptura Evangelical practice of citing a string of quotations from the Scripture and then proclaiming their "clear" teaching from the Word of God. If anyone rationally points out the nuance or complexity of what they so carelessly string together they're denounced as not sufficiently spiritual, secularists, or those corrupted by academia (something Jake also claims). As Orthodox living in America (I assume) we should be wise enough to not fall into this same trap. It is imperative that we not fall into the paranoia of seeing some hidden enemy lurking around every corner. When we treat Tradition as simply another weapon to be wielded against those with whom we disagree we diminish it rather than enhance it. We turn the beautiful symphony of our Tradition, as Fr. Behr so eloquently describes it, into the dull monotone of droning voices. We must have faith in the integrity of the Church and her teaching which should then allow us to have theological discussions in gentleness and respect.

    18. Let's just be real clear about what this convo is about: You think providing direct quotes by the Father and Councils speaking against the impossibility of ordaining women and along with a clear explanation of WHY, is a quote bombing fundamentalist style approach.

      I say, when people come to me and ask me WHY the Church teaches ANYTHING, I show them quotes from the Fathers, passages from Holy Scripture, and excerpts from the Councils of the Church.

      You know why? Because most people have a short attention span. They also don't want and usually won't be able to handle the "go and acquire the mind of the fathers" approach of reading every theologically challenging work under the sun.

      In fact, its spiritual insanity to think we can burden newly illumined with theologically dense texts. Also, it is pretty dangerous because it can lead to delusion and pride. "Hey, go read the Ladder of Divine Ascent. Go and do likewise."

      Sorry, but asking the average Orthodox Christian to just go and "acquire the mind of the Fathers" is just crazy. They need an immense amount of guidance before they are even ready to read the first six chapters of the Ladder.

      In likewise manner, "theological discussions" could be profitable, but if you are using Sr. Vassa as an example of how THAT kinda thing should go, I mean c'mon. Between her advocation of LBGT and ordaining women to the priesthood, I think THAT example proves exactly why "theological discussions" among the laity can and do often go horribly wrong. Even worse for Sr. Vassa, she is a monastic, so her "discussion" has cause a lot of scandal and confusion for those who are following her non-sense.

    19. I think this will be my last reply here, so i'll just say this: it's an odd thing to be in the trenches and to be able to peer out and see people who aren't in the trenches discussing "how hard and tactless" the battle is.

    20. Fr. Alexis, anyone who has done serious reading of the fathers on these issues know that it isn't as "clear" as you profess it to be (hearkening back to my former point that the tactic is, quote, claim clarity and authority, denounce rational disagreement). Again, and I grow tired of repeating myself here, I am not disagreeing with your conclusion. I'm respectfully disagreeing with the way you make your case, turning an otherwise reasonable theological case into a absolutist/fundamentalist pummeling. I never said the newly illumined should be burdened with theologically dense texts. At the same time, that doesn't mean things should be dumbed down and Holy Tradition be turned over to new converts whose contextual frame is often Sola Scriptura. If this spirit, so foreign to the Church, is not dispensed with it will do great harm in the future. There is a balance to be found between these two extremes. Acquiring the mind of the fathers should indeed be an aspiration for all, not only for an elite few.

      As for Sr. Vassa, you may not like her but there is no reason to blatantly misrepresent her. She never advocates for ordaining women to the priesthood. She merely makes the case that the reason they are not is NOT an ontological reason. Now you may presume to infer her motives but that is unfair to her. It seems to me that you should at least show her the respect she deserves as a monastic, and a learned one at that, as I'm sure she would show you as a priest.

      As for your last comment, I never personally said "hard and tactless" (although I realize you may not mean to attribute this to me). I respect all of your efforts and I'm sure pastoral work is unimaginably difficult. However, I should hope that no one sees the most pressing and important issue of our time as the insistence that there can be no female priests.

    21. Liam,

      Where do you teach? Are you linked with or a former student at Fordham?

      I don't grant you your argument (such as it is - it's mostly a loquacious and sophisticate sounding expression of your own {and many other secularized academics} anxiety) that what Fr. Alexis Baldwin, myself, or for that matter most "traditionalists" you would identify as "fundamentalists" are in any way, shape, or form crypto protestant fundamentalists. Your erroneous correlation simply reveals you don't actually understand what protestant fundamentalism really is. Indeed, as I have already stated you misuse fundamentalism while you accuse others of misusing secularism. Except we have not - As I note above her misapplication of Aristotelian existentialist/accidental distinction and categorical schema is NOT the ontology of the Fathers, though it becomes so in the west both in and outside the Church.

      As far as Fr. Florvorsky thought and work somehow being party to your philosophy, you must be aware of Fr. Mathew Baker of blessed memory, who by your own scholastic measure would have to be one of if not the greatest student/disciple of Fr. Florovosky. As he says at the end of his excellent essay “Neopatristic Synthesis and Ecumenism: Towards the “Reintegration”:

      “...In a secularized academic context riveted by the political ideologies of “race, class, and gender”…The questions of “experience” and reason in theology – its sources, first principles and procedure – and the acceptable cultural “correlation” require a more rigorous and dogmatic-philosophical treatment. Orthodox theologians must deal not only with Western theology, but also with the sources of Western secularism with greater depth and care than has yet been shown…”

      Nothing I have ever read gives me the impression that Fr. Florvorsky would have given Sr. Vassa's secularized and secularizing thought around THE issue of the day (i.e. theological anthropology) anything more than it deserves (a dismantling and rejection).

      The "symphony of our Tradition" only condemns as "the world" this modern reform movement, yes mostly driven from academia, to (consciously or unconsciously) pseudomorphize Orthodox Christianity into something that will mistakenly judge our male/female ontology from worldly ground(s). I don't grant you that it is "complex" or "nuanced", though it does resist a scholastic examination (it is spiritually known - some don't know it).

      Finally, the bombastic language of your final paragraph (i.e. "pernicious", "bludgeons", "monotone", etc.) is simply hypocritical on your part, and reveals the anxiety to which I referred to above. Fordham/Public Orthodoxy, St. Phoebe center for deaconess, and others make much hay of a "fundamentalist" threat within Orthodoxy, but at the end of the day the only evidence of this is a normative and traditional rejection of so much of their scholastic methodology and reform agenda.

      Enough for now, where do you teach!?!

      Christopher Encapera
      Deacons formation program (2nd year)
      St. Sophia Seminary, UOC of USA

    22. Liam says:

      "I am not disagreeing with your conclusion. I'm respectfully disagreeing with the way you make your case..."

      " It seems to me that you should at least show her the respect she deserves as a monastic..."

      Fr. Alexis is not in your class (so you don't get to give him a grade - neither do you get to give me one over my cogent use of "homosexualism"), and in any case your approach is pastorally speaking, largely irrelevant. Also, Sr. Vassa's position is real Christological negation and does not stop at a mere "academic" (as they say) consideration. She has been censored in the past by her synod (you might not be aware of this). Finally, yes anthropological theology as evidenced by abortion, marriage (homosexualist or not), end-of-life, LGBT (or whatever the correct abbreviation is) all testify that the question "what is man" is YYHHHUUGGGEEEE - it is one of if not THE most pressing issue of the day. Certainly my experience in Orthodoxy in general and in a mission Church situation for almost 10 years confirms this.

    23. Jake, I'm really not sure what you're trying to get at with your first two quotations from what I wrote. Everyone in this conversation deserves respect, Fr. Alexis, Sr. Vassa, and you. No, I don't think it is respectful to misstate what Sr. Vassa says, especially when it is clearly posted above.

      As for your comment about "class" I'm not sure what you mean by that either. I wasn't giving either of you a "grade" just disagreeing with very specific points about how you choose to argue this.

      As for your use of "homosexualism" I'm not sure who you are trying to speak to with the term. The only time I've ever seen that used is by downright fanatics, which I trust you are not. If you wish to speak to real contemporary issues then you would do well to use the terminology people actually use.

      You are correct that theological anthropology is incredibly important and for that reason it deserves more serious treatment than it has gotten here. It is broader and even more vital than the "culture wars" sketch of issues you've given would suggest. As we strive to speak to our world and address the problems our society presents it is increasingly vital that we be able to have substantive theological dialogue within the Church. That is my whole purpose in entering into this conversation.

    24. Liam,

      Where do you teach?

      It is unclear as to how you define "respect". You appear to be saying that it is not "respectful" to accurately describe, label, and discuss Sr. Vassa's secularized and secularizing philosophy. I think that is simply silly.

      Homosexualism is a perfectly serviceable term when thinking about and the culture in which we all live and swim. Perhaps it is only "fanatical" from your particular (secularized) point of view?

      No, the Church does not need "theological dialogue", not in the way you mean it. "dialogue" is a term academics/"progressives"/secularists use in a particular way, and has a whole host of epistemic, anthropological, and theological commitments (most of them unconscious) that is part and parcel of secularism and its acidic action in the Church. Yes the Church needs "theological dialogue", of the kind that is grounded in Christianity.

      Here is some relevant commentary on "dialogue". I don't agree with every detail, but the central thesis is a start:


    25. Jake,

      I'm flattered that you assume I teach somewhere. I'm not part of whatever Fordham cabal you seem to think exists.

      I'll start by commenting on the article you posted at the end. I find it very curious that it suggests "fundamentalist" is a contentless slur while at the same time warning that "dialogue" is a suspect and subversive term used by dangerous "progressives" which should be avoided at all cost. As far as contentless slurs go, this seems to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. The rest of the article is even more problematic but I digress. I am using the term "fundamentalism" in a very specific way, as I've previously stated. It is not fundamentalist at all to argue there should not be women priests (with this I also agree). The term "fundamentalism" is relevant when it comes to the way the case is argued.

      As for your comments on how I define "respect" as I've said time and again here, it starts with not blatantly misrepresenting someone's statements. Sr. Vassa doesn't advocate for female priests, she is discussing the 'why.' Because she disagrees with your view (and your view may very well be correct) you jump to this charge of "secularized and secularizing philosophy." I'm not sure what real content you think that has. Since secular at its most literal means 'not religious' are you implying that Sr. Vassa is not truly Orthodox? Or not truly a monastic?

      As for the term "homosexualism" please point me to relevant articles where you think the term is well defined. There are homosexuals and homosexuality but I know of no serious persons who use the term "homosexualism" as if it is some kind of philosophical movement. If you want to speak to people in relevant ways it is wise to employ terms that are actually used.

      Your next paragraph is especially interesting because you say the Church doesn't need "theological dialogue" in the way that I mean it. Then you imply that I am part of some academic/"progressive"/secularist triad, which is especially strange when, again, I AGREE that women should not be priests. Yet the "theological dialogue" I suggest is somehow not "grounded in Christianity" which I assume means that I am not grounded in Christianity? Consistently the implication has been that if I was sufficiently spiritual then I would agree with you. I'd like you to be crystal clear when it comes to what you're accusing me of.

    26. Can’t believe I missed all the fun ;)

      Here’s some of my, a poor, uneducated, working class machinist, thoughts on the above convo:

      1)Quote bombing from the fathers may explain why *you* think male-only clergy is dogma, but not why *they* think so.

      Also just throwing out canons is tricky, there’s ones about not going to Jewish doctors.

      2) Jake, quit asking Liam where he teaches! It’s none of your business, nor does it matter one bit where he, or anyone else, teaches (assuming he even does)

      3) to “demonize” someone does not mean to say they are literally a demon. I mean, seriously that’s not how language works

      4) “homosexualism”....I..uh..lolwut?

      5) Feminism is not a dirty word (particularly if you have daughters)

      6) It is not revisionist to suggest that some of the language around women in the Church has carried with it ancient misogynistic undertones. Maybe ordaining women 2,000yrs ago was just a cultural bridge to far?

      The scriptures are largely quiet on slavery, but all know that it is a reprehensible institution. And one now who would suggest otherwise should be, quit righty, shown the door.

      7) We are Christians, and we are not supposed to be of this world so let’s throw off those ways of thinking that create and perpetuate systems of oppression.

    27. Liam,

      You might not teach - a literature track then, that has lead to a marketing position somewhere? I won't rehash homosexualism, abuse of fundamentalism, etc. Other than to note your novel use of fundamentalism as a kind of "style" as it where of argumentation - a concern for optics in a secular setting that those who would have the Church compromise with secular concerns sometimes talk about.

      Yes, Sr. Vassa is secularized and uses a secularized argument to explain why the Church does not have priestesses. As she explicitly says, it is because we can not ontologically it is because we don't "want" to. Why? Because she erroneously thinks it has something to do with Aristotelian logic (though if you pushed her you would find that she is really using the new and improved Kantian categories). In theology (and dialectical thinking in general) HOW you got to a conclusion is as important as WHERE you get. You seem to believe that it is theologically commensurate that Sr. Vassa agrees with Church/Fathers/dogma by way of a secularized dialectic of essentially/accidents and a kind of communal choice (i.e., we simply don't want to ordain females). It is not the same, and just one small piece of evidence is Sr. Vassa's own explicit admission elsewhere (this was about 2 or 3 years ago when my wife was a subscriber to her blog - she was relating a conversation she had with her niece) that she is not "ok" with the status quo and thinks women should be priests.

      If you are truly interested in the subject of "dialogue" in the modern setting (grounding, difficulties, etc.) you should read:


    28. Jake,

      As someone who wants to be a deacon one day I hope you'll reconsider your consistent attempts to demean me. Now I'm just some marketing person trying to do theology....? I'm one of those "who would have the Church compromise with secular concerns"........? Remember that when you're arguing with people online you could very well be speaking to someone from your own parish.

      Your next paragraph has number of problems which I believe evidence you have not really yet done your homework on this particular issue.

      You say, Sr. Vassa is "secularized" and uses a "secularized argument" to explain why women cannot be priests.......and that "secularized argument" is erroneously based on Aristotelian logic....? Who knew that Aristotle is an agent of secularism?! (I'm leaving your reference to Kant aside because she doesn't invoke him and I don't think you can justify your claim.) It makes perfect sense for her to reference Aristotle's thought precisely because it was employed by the Catholics who first developed fully formed arguments about the essentially (in it's philosophical sense) male nature of the priesthood. It is Orthodox (such as yourself) who later adopted these arguments wholesale from Catholics when they were faced with these modern questions. NONE of that means the essentially male nature of the priesthood is incorrect, but it makes perfect sense for Sr. Vassa to employ Aristotle when addressing that particular argument. Anyone who has studied the fathers knows that many have employed elements of Aristotle's philosophy and it is not somehow inherently foreign to the Church.

      I'm glad you agree that the HOW is just as important as WHERE you get, since I've been saying that this entire conversation..... Yet you react to my critique of your arguments as a mere concern for optics.

      Then you again start talking about a "secularized dialectic" of "essentially/accidents." What precisely do those two things have to do with each other ? Speaking of essence and accidents is perfectly sound, depending on one's philosophical outlook. Do you seriously think that the Church, the fathers, or, Tradition itself has some ban or prohibition on using this language?

      Furthermore, what makes the dialectic secularized? Other than your disagreeing with it? You can't simply call persons secular or just use it as an adjective and expect that to have real content.

      As for "a kind of communal choice" that is NOT what she says. She says the CHURCH. Do you really think the Church and its Tradition is merely some kind of communal choice through the ages? Not every single aspect of the Church or the Tradition needs to be elevated to the level of ontology for it to, nevertheless, be very real. Nor has that ever been the case.

      As a final point, I would invite you to post the piece from her blog where she said this so that we can all discuss it. It isn't kind to put forward "evidence" heard from another without any kind of context. You have not been willing here to consistently respond to Sr. Vassa's actual words, even when they are posted at the top of the thread, so I can hardly respond to hearsay about what she might have said years ago.

    29. Liam says:

      "....consistent attempts to demean me..."

      Liam, if you are going to engage theological controversy, you need to toughen up a bit. Where do you teach? ;)

      Yes, her thinking on this subject (i.e. male/female ontology) is closer to Kant than Aristotle, because behind the categorical thinking is Kant's metaphysics of morals (its inherent reductionism and Cartesian foundation), of which her (and modernism in general) *moral* judgement of the meaning of the essentially/accidental distinctions in relation to male/female reflects.

      Your right, categorical thinking in RCism is YYYUUUUUGGGE. Your wrong, it does not make "perfect sense" for Sr. Vassa to employ it because she starts from modernist presuppositions (Kantian). Yes, Aristotle is "baptised" by Fathers - Neoplatonism was their intellectual context, but they are not neoplatonists and obviously not Kantian. Yes, her dialectic is "secularized" because she starts with the wrong presuppositions - her ontology is wrong. Yes, this issue is "ontological" and Christological - it goes to the very heart of what we believe about God and Man(anthropos). Your grasping at dialectical straws yourself Liam, trying to justify her argument as somehow worthy of consideration on its own terms. You make no sense when you say that I am not responding to her words - that is just about all I have done.

      In the end, like I said, you appear to be grasping for something to hold on to. Her thinking can not be justified because it starts (and thus ends) at the wrong place. I gave her credit in my very first post for at least consciously employing a little philosophy because most secularized Orthodox do so unconsciously, so she has that to hang her hat on.

      This little conversation is yet more evidence of a "divide" in Orthodoxy, at least in its western European/NA setting. Too many Orthodox (I put it at at least half of everyone standing next to you on any given Sunday) have unexamined, unconscious "doctrine" about man(anthropos) that comes not from Christianity, but from secularism and its sources. What this means for the future is difficult to predict of course, but it is an unhealthy pseudomorphism in the Church at the very least. IMO, if our catechesis was better it would be a start to an improvement but for several reasons it is weak and will stay that way for the foreseeable future.

    30. Liam,

      I meant to add that this is my last reply to you about this subject, you may have the last word.

    31. Jake,

      I'm certainly not offended by your efforts to demean me. However, it is silly on your part to deny that you've done so, as it is plain for everyone to read. My point was that such petty attacks are unbecoming of the office you profess to seek.

      As for this Aristotle and Kant business I would like to know who it is you've been reading. I'm almost certain it isn't Aristotle and Kant themselves. Again, it is completely unclear to me that you actually understand the essence/accidents distinction in philosophy, and if you do, why you possibly think that has something to do with "modernism" (whatever you think that means in the first place....now we've moved on from secularism...?)

      You seem to entirely miss my point about the RC origin of these arguments, which Orthodox adopt and then Sr. Vassa is responding to. This further illustrates that you need to do more homework on this topic. Where exactly does Sr. Vassa start from "modernist presuppositions" ? Again, other than that she disagrees with you. Plus somehow her "ontology is wrong" because.....? You can't simply assert things and then gesture at "secularism" "modernism" and any number of other "isms" to discredit those who disagree you, while never coherently defining any of the terms, much less explaining why they apply to your opponent.

      Next, you again insinuate that Sr. Vassa, presumably myself, and half the Church in America are somehow secretly "secular" (again, whatever that happens to mean to you). And you seriously claim that I'm the one grasping.......?

      You are right about one thing, this whole conversation evidences the desperate need for better catechesis and theological education in this country.

  8. C. S. Lewis's essay "Priestesses in the Church?" is still relevant here.


  9. Feministis Bullshit. Church gets too modern by me, and looses it's point: a cleaner soul. All these new trends in the Churches and the fight for suppremacy (here on Earth) make me feel very unsecure in some Churches. God forgive me if I am wrong in saying this. God save us all!

    1. The Church is undefiled, these people are placing themselves outside and through their love of worldliness will cause a schism at some point. They are already driving people to the Old Calendrists.

  10. Don’t some jurisdictions have a prohibition on women receiving communion while on their period? What possible theological justification can there be for this? (And please, don’t mention wet dreams, they are not comparable)

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. So basically, you don't want an answer. Got it.

      Well, here it is anyway. A wet dream is comparable. Also, physical bleeding. If someone started bleeding in the altar, they MUST leave immediately. They cannot re-enter until the bleeding stops.

      Remember, the Eucharist is the Bloodless Sacrifice Offering that is Christ.

      However, the answer is to reject feminism ideology in the Church. Refuse to follow this ridiculous "the Church is/has been misogynist" non-sense. Then, you'll start to see the truth of the answers.

      (Above comment was deleted because I needed to edit the word comparable, which was spelled wrong. This post was the same as deleted one above)

    3. Ok sure, if someone is literally gushing blood all over the place, but that’s not happening here because yay tampons (or pads). You’re advocating baring 1/2 the church from communion over a physiological process they have no control over. And this because the Blood of Christ is leaking out of them?

      And as far as the “uncleanliness” of menstruation goes, pooping is way grosser and we all do that.

    4. There's no need to be immature and crass.

      The point of my comment is to show that what feminist infected commentators/detractors of our tradition are missing is that "uncleanliness" is a part of our tradition. It's not a Divine Punishment for women, but our practices apply to both men and women.

      To address you comment about barring people from Communion, I think you impassioned pleas are misplaced. We do have this practice, but you won't find that there are rigorist inquisitional enforcers roaming our communities, drawing up ire and smiting down clergy for not "enforcing" this practice.

      In fact, the practice of women refraining from Communion during menstruation is usually not well known or discussed. It could be a topic of discussion with one's confessor or not. In any case, its not wise to burden anyone with a practice they can't bear, so, I think many would argue that women shouldn't refrain from Holy Communion during this time UNLESS they are spiritually mature enough to be able to burden refraining from Holy Communion.

      But, you know, nuance is totally lost on the feminist ideologues, so I don't expect anyone adhering to that insanity to be able to grasp the spiritual perspectives.

    5. This is really disappointing. You start by talking about "feminist infected" commentators which is a rather extreme and disrespectful thing to say. There has been plenty of debate about the nature of those prohibitions, unless you mean to say that anyone who disagrees with you is "feminist infected." Furthermore, at the end of your argument you go so far as to imply that "feminist ideologues" are actually insane and therefore cannot understand spiritual perspectives. All that does is try to dismiss conversation by calling your opponents names and insulting their intelligence. Why not simply respectfully explain your points?

    6. The only thoughtful commentary i've read explaining the spiritual practice of ANYONE refraining from Holy Communion comes from the Holy Saints and pious monastic commentators. No "debate" with them. The "dialogue" and "debate" seems to come only from those who have an agenda. This agenda is always a derivative of feminist thought/ideology. Now, i'd be happy to read some sources you think isn't derived from feminist ideology on this topic. Please provide and i'll read it.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Firmly modernist mindset as evidenced by the use of such abominable words such as 'mansplaining.' Lack of any respect for God-given authority of men over women.

    1. @Hans
      You have to be joking, right? “Mansplaining” abominable? I’ll grant it’s a goofy word, but to be offended by it and the phenomena that it’s speaking to is just....puerile.

      Also, are you suggesting that women can be in no positions of authority?