CNN Features Mosaics and Frescos of Early Women Officeholders
Widespread archaeological and literary evidence of female deacons,
priests and bishops in early Church
One happy outcome of the recent papal transition
was the heightened media profile FutureChurch and other progressive
Catholic organizations were given in both print and TV venues.
FutureChurch was quoted widely in national and international print
and radio media.
On April 12 CNN’s LiveFrom program featured Sr. Chris Schenk opposite Fr.
Joseph Fessio, provost of the traditionalist Ave Maria University in Florida.
The show’s producers and host, Kyra Phillips, were vitally interested in
newly available archaelogical and literary evidence that women held leadership
and ministerial roles in the early church identical to those held by men. Inscriptions
and images found on papyri, tombstones, frescos and mosaics show early Christian
women served as apostles, prophets, priests, deacons, bishops, stewards, enrolled
widows and teachers of theology.
Two hours before the program aired, the FutureChurch office obtained
permission from Dr. Dorothy Irvin to scan and email to CNN her
photographs of the 9th century
mosaic of women bishops at St. Praxedis in Rome and of a woman priest honored
in a fresco in the Catacombs of Priscilla. “It is one thing to say that
we can’t talk about women’s ordination today, it is quite another
to say that the church has had no history of women priests. Archaeological artifacts
and literary studies show conclusively that women served their communities as
deacons, priests and bishops in both the eastern and western Churches,” said
Schenk on the program.
Kale the presbyter who lived 50 years irreproachable she ended
her life on the 14th of September"
Fr. Fessio contended that tombstone inscriptions for women officeholders
merely meant that these women were the wives of priests and
bishops. However, contemporary
scholarship rejects this interpretation. In the ancient world, titles were
legal identification, since no system of family surnames yet existed.
If a woman is
described by a title such as presbytera (woman priest) it means that she held
that office herself. If her husband had the office, the title is attached to
his name (not hers) and she is named as his wife without a title. Also, the
words presbytera (woman priest) and episcopa (woman bishop) were
often found on tombstones
of unmarried women as well as on married women’s tombstones whose husbands
carried no title at all.
A new monograph written by FutureChurch’s
Sr. Christine Schenk summarizing the work of two scholars: Ute
Eisen and Dorothy Irvin, is now available from
the FutureChurch office. Attractively presented, the 5000 word monograph includes
a map of the Mediterranean world showing exact sites where archeological data
about each woman priest, deacon or bishop was found as well as line drawings
of ancient inscriptions produced by archeologist Dorothy Irvin.
Eisen’s book: Women Officeholders in Early Christianity shows that women
led and served communities as priests, deacons and bishops Asia Minor, Greece,
Spain, Egypt, Sicily, Italy, Palestine and Yugoslavia.
Dorothy Irvin holds a pontifical doctorate in Catholic
Theology from the University of Tuebingen, Germany with specialization
in bible, ancient near eastern studies
and archeology. For the last eighteen years she has been an active field archeologist.
Women Officeholders in the Early Church
New Monograph & Map Summarize Archaeological Discoveries
Inscriptions and images found on papyri, tombstones,
frescos and mosaics in Rome, Sicily, Jerusalem, Northern Africa
and many other places reveal that early Christian women served
their communities as deacons, priests, theologians and bishops.
This monograph summarizes the groundbreaking work of scholars such
as Ute Eisen and Dorothy Irvin. Eisen’s book: Women Officeholders
in Early Christianity (Liturgical Press, 2000) is an exhaustive
study of the written evidence for women officeholders from the
ancient Church to the Middle Ages. Irvin, a theologian and an active
field archaeologist, holds a pontifical doctorate in Catholic Theology
from The University of Tuebingen, Germany. Her calendars The
Archaeology of Women’s Traditional Ministries in the Church have
made recent discoveries of women’s ministry in the ancient
church more widely accessible. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org