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Misogyny or Misandry - Women the Light of the Middle Ages or the Victims of Patriarchal Oppression


Those who read the books of older religious traditions including Buddhist, Vedic, Egyptian, Christian, Jewish and many other sources (including old and new testament) carefully, will notice that women played a significant role in ancient society and weren't excluded from religious life and even holding a high position in the religious establishment. For instance, the apostle Paul mentions female prophets, travels together with a deaconess, greets a woman overseer, and even mentions a female apostle. In the Jewish tradition, we can find queens, female fighters, prophets, influential women, and many more. It's also obvious that those women were married. From this, I conclude that ancient religions, while still not "feminist", had never oppressed women, but were in their initial stage of development, especially before the higher middle ages, very gynocentric although still balanced. Hence, the middle ages are falsely perceived as the epitome of patriarchal oppression, it begs the questions of when did the change occurred, what was the rationale and incentive behind the closure of female involvement in the episcopal hierarchy, and does it meant to be oppressive, patriarchal and misogynistic. As I will show in my meta-research the clear answer is that this was never the case and also not the outcome while the feminist claim is an attempt to rewrite history. Anyway, most of the people will falsely assume that such a change happened around AD 100, with the advent of a monarchic episcopate. Only men could become bishops. And, of course, all popes were men! In my meta-research, including Gary Macy's book, "The Hidden History of Women's Ordination" as well as "Ordained Women in Early Church" written Kevin Madigan, and various other sources, the answer that I find is more surprising. First, I will point to Macy's opinion, which I equally share, that women weren't excluded from the papal offices until the High Middle Ages. The pivotal change took place during the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries, with the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) as the endpoint of the transformation. This is as we will immediately see no coincidence. However, this period of European history is not only the source of inspiration but also the foundation of modern gynocentrism, feminism, and misandry. Thus, this changing dynamic can be understood in terms of an attempt made by the church to balance the shift in unlimited power given to women by the Heretics, especially the Cathar of Southern France, while they still kept their traditional position of influencing church behind the scene through informal power position alongside with Elanor's of Aquitaine gynocentrism and the troubadour's Chivalric culture in the secular realm of society which is the source of the modern gynocentric Pop culture. In, that sense, the episcopal policy and the church can be also understood as a male (and female) attempt to stop this shift of unlimited power to women, a kind of reaction to the extreme gynocentric and proto-feminist environment of the heretics while not wanting to completely overthrow the gynocentric matrix itself but balance it. Metaphorically, it can be understood in terms of the modern struggle of the MHRM against the extreme culture of modern female supremacy and feminist misandry. Moreover, this must be also understood against the historical background concerning the struggle between the church and the heretical movements, both in terms of religion as well as their secular expression, and mainly the Cathars and the troubadours as a part of Eleanor's of Aquitaine's heritage which gave rise to Chivalry and classic gynocentric culture. In that sense, until 1184, the attempt to repress heresy in Italy was the realm of bishops in the areas affected. Before the fourth Lateran Council, we should mention in this context The Third Council (1179), which discussed the prevalence of heresy, directing its attention to southern France – the heart of historical European gynocentrism and the cradle of misandry and proto-feminism. However, in 1184, Lucius III and Emperor Frederick Barbarossa met at Verona and equally condemned the Cathars, Patarines, Humiliati, the Poor Men of Lyons, and other sects. The papal bull Ad Abolendam also advocated penalties for heretical clerics and laymen and established a procedure of systematic inquisition by bishops. It was Innocent III (1198-1216) who pressed papal action to wider limits. Innocent sent a torrent of letters about the heretics to archbishops, bishops, and secular rulers. He saw the basic necessity, reform of the Church, as the most profound prerequisite. Italy was not the scene of preaching missions against heresy or of a crusade, which was the case in southern France. Dynamics that later enabled the spread of gynocentrism all over Europe In 1215, the above mentioned Fourth Lateran Council summed up and reaffirmed the pontifical legislation already in existence. In its first canon, the Council gave a statement of doctrine based on traditional professions of faith but was amended to take account of present heresies. The third canon -- given below -- specified procedures against heretics and their accomplices and reproduced the Ad abolendam of Lucius III. Other canons touched on the issue of heresy in various ways. Although the Council's attention was directed primarily on the situation in southern France, the legislation was equally relevant to Italy where, by the time of Innocent's death (1216) the Church was mobilizing its forces against heresy and lacked only the papal inquisition, for which the precedents were already being established and that later become a center for the heretic teachings influencing Henrich Cornelius Agrippa as well as Guillaume Postel. This is an extract from the text of a Church Council, called by and presided over by Pope Innocent III. It is regarded by Roman Catholics (but not the Orthodox Church) as an Ecumenical or General Council, and therefore enjoying a form of infallibility to Catholics similar to the more recently proclaimed "Papal Infallibility". The text is translated into English from the original Latin. Annotations to the right of the text are by the webmaster It states: We excommunicate and anathematize every heresy raising itself against this holy, orthodox, and catholic faith which we have expounded above. We condemn all heretics, whatever names they may go under. They have different faces indeed but their tails are tied together since they are alike in their pride. Let those condemned be handed over to the secular authorities present, or their bailiffs, for due punishment. Clerics are first to be degraded from their orders. The goods of the condemned are to be confiscated, if they are laypersons, and if clerics are to be applied to the churches from which they received their stipends. Those who are only found suspect of heresy are to be struck with the sword of anathema, unless they prove their innocence by an appropriate purgation, having regard to the reasons for suspicion and the character of the person. Let such persons be avoided by all until they have made adequate satisfaction. If they persist in the ex-communication for a year, they are to be condemned as heretics. Let secular authorities, whatever offices they may be discharged, be advised and urged and if necessary be compelled by ecclesiastical censure, if they wish to be reputed and held to be faithful, to take publicly an oath for the defense of the faith to the effect that they will seek, in so far as they can, to expel from the lands subject to their jurisdiction all heretics designated by the church in good faith. Thus, whenever anyone is promoted to spiritual or temporal authority, he shall be obliged to confirm this article with an oath. If however a temporal lord, required and instructed by the church, neglects to cleanse his territory of this heretical filth, he shall be bound with the bond of ex-communication by the metropolitan and other bishops of the province. If he refuses to give satisfaction within a year, this shall be reported to the supreme pontiff so that he may then declare his vassals absolved from their fealty to him and make the land available for occupation by Catholics so that these may, after they have expelled the heretics, possess it unopposed and preserve it in the purity of the faith -- saving the right of the suzerain provided that he makes no difficulty in the matter and puts no impediment in the way. The same law is to be observed no less as regards those who do not have a suzerain. Catholics who take the cross and gird themselves up for the expulsion of heretics shall enjoy the same indulgence, and be strengthened by the same holy privilege, as is granted to those who go to the aid of the Holy Land. Moreover, we determine to subject to excommunication believers who receive, defend, or support heretics. We strictly ordain that if any such person, after he has been designated as excommunicated, refuses to render satisfaction within a year, then by the law itself he shall be branded as infamous and not be admitted to public offices or councils or to elect others to the same or to give testimony. He shall be intestable, that is he shall not have the freedom to make a will nor shall succeed to an inheritance. Moreover, nobody shall be compelled to answer to him on any business whatever, but he may be compelled to answer them. If he is a judge sentences pronounced by him shall have no force and cases may not be brought before him; if an advocate, he may not be allowed to defend anyone; if a notary, documents are drawn up by him shall be worthless and condemned along with their condemned author; and in similar matters, we order the same to be observed. If, however, he is a cleric, let him be deposed from every office and benefice so that the greater the fault the greater be the punishment. If any refuse to avoid such persons after they have been pointed out by the church, let them be punished with the sentence of ex-communication until they make suitable satisfaction. Clerics should not, of course, give the sacraments of the church to such pestilent people nor give them a Christian burial nor accept alms or offerings from them; if they do, let them be deprived of their office and not restored to it without a special indulgence of the apostolic see. Similarly, with regulars, let them be punished with losing their privileges in the diocese in which they presume to commit such excesses. "There are some who holding to the form of religion but denying its power (as the Apostle says), claim for themselves the authority to preach, whereas the same Apostle says, "How shall they preach unless they are sent"? Let therefore all those who have been forbidden or not sent to preach, and yet dare publicly or privately to usurp the office of preaching without having received the authority of the apostolic see or the catholic bishop of the place", be bound with the bond of ex-communication and, unless they repent very quickly, be punished by another suitable penalty. We add further that each archbishop or bishop, either in person or through his archdeacon or suitable honest persons, should visit twice or at least once in the year any parish of his in which heretics are said to live. There he should compel three or more men of good repute, or even if it seems expedient the whole neighborhood, to swear that if anyone knows of heretics there or of any persons who hold secret conventicles or who differ in their life and habits from the normal way of living of the faithful, then he will take care to point them out to the bishop. The bishop himself should summon the accused to his presence, and they should be punished canonically if they are unable to clear themselves of the charge or if after compurgation they relapse into their former errors of faith. If, however. any of them with damnable obstinacy refuse to honor an oath and so will not take it, let them by this very fact be regarded as heretics. We, therefore, will and command and, in virtue of obedience, strictly command that bishops see carefully to the effective execution of these things throughout their dioceses if they wish to avoid canonical penalties. If any bishop is negligent or remiss in cleansing his diocese of the ferment of heresy, then when this shows itself by unmistakeable signs he shall be deposed from his office as bishop and there shall be put in his place a suitable person who both wishes and can overthrow the evil of heresy. That's about the historical background. So, going back to our main subject of discussion, of female ordination, that I mentioned at the beginning, of course, there is the question of what constitutes ordination but whether the definition where one or the other, whether the change occurred in that or the other century or not and even if some religious authority was in favor of this dynamic or not, the bottom line is that women did play a great role within the formal and mainstream religious authority while still holding their traditional power positions of informal authorities. Macy admits this too in his book. As he writes, the definitions of what constitutes a valid ordination have changed many times. Clearly, by modern standards of Catholic definitions, women were (most probably) never validly ordained in the past. But, first, one should ask himself how old are those definitions? Macy maintains that it emerged during the High Middle Ages, and in some forms is no older than the 17th century. Also, the Church was more decentralized during the Early Middle Ages than during the High Middle Ages. Early medieval popes did disapprove of some women ordinations, but how much authority did these popes have? An even trickier issue is the power and influence of the various orders. Somebody might claim that the ordained women were more low-ranking than male priests and bishops. However, as I said it doesn't change the fact that women still hold high positions within the episcopal ranks which in itself represented an imbalance towards men as women any way controlled this formal power by exercising the informal power over it. Also, it is interesting that Macy concludes that the definition of "ordination" was much broader during the Early Middle Ages than later. "Ordination" simply meant appointment to a certain office, neither more nor less. In this sense, even kings and queens were considered "ordained". So were minor officers, such as doorkeepers and acolyte. Also, the ordination was often made by the community the officeholders was supposed to serve, or by a temporal ruler. Of course, bishops could also ordain. The number of orders was quite large, and most of them were open to both men and women. Indeed, in some regions, *all* of the orders were open to women, at least occasionally. The rituals for ordaining women were often similar to those ordaining men. Interestingly, the cover of the book shows the Virgin Mary dressed in something akin to priestly robes! Those were the vestments of a deaconess. Historians have managed to find five references to female bishops. The most famous was a woman called "Theodora Episcopal", who turns out to have been the mother of a 9th-century pope. Saint Brigid of Ireland was even described as having undergone a successful episcopal ordination, but with a curious twist. Brigid's hagiographer claimed that the priest who ordained her didn't know what he was doing since he was "intoxicated by the grace of God"! There are also numerous references to female priests, known as presbyterae, who served at the altar together with the male priests, even to the point of distributing the Eucharist. These presbyterae were legally ordained by bishops, but several popes voiced strong disapproval of the practice. Abbesses were also ordained and often had as much power in their jurisdictions as had bishops. Abbesses heard confessions from their nuns, prescribed penances, and could decree ex-communications. Another example is Macy's book on the Irish abbess St. Bertila, who heard confession from the entire area surrounding her convent, presumably from laborers working the convent's lands which included men! Thus, we have a Catholic nun hearing the confessions of male sinners. Dark ages, indeed. Once, St. Bertila heard the confessions of a male murderer, who was very recalcitrant, since he refused to do penance. (He relented eventually, as well he might. People did believe in Hell back then.) There seems to have been one function that was never performed by females, namely the actual consecration of the bread and wine during the Eucharist. However, even here Macy has found provocative examples of possible exceptions, once again from convents, where masses and communions may have been occasionally held without male priests being present. But even when women didn't consecrate the host and the wine, they were allowed to do almost everything else. Thus, there are examples of women handing over the bread and the wine to the consecrating priest, handling the consecrated elements afterward and distributing them to the congregation, and (admittedly in a saintly vision) breaking the bread into the chalice, but without consecrating it. In later centuries, this would all become strictly prohibited. With obvious sympathies for the women, Macy describes how the definition of ordination changed during the High Middle Ages, how this was connected to a deepening chasm between clergy and laity, and the frank misogynist propaganda accompanying the changes. Another example is Peter Abelard, one of the few high medieval churchmen who defended women's ordinations, perhaps under the influence of Heloise (who Macy constantly refers to as Abelard's "wife"). What I lacked in the existing research including Macy's book is an even broader historical outlook from the point of view of men and which does not rely on the typical epistemological failure of looking at history especially the religious one through the gynocentric pink glasses of cherry-picking and selective interpretation of reality. This is what I attempt in my meta-research. For instance, it begs the question of the female influence in the early medieval Church and whether it was connected to the decentralized character of the church or other reasons. As I will show the decentralization played rather an insignificant role. The next question is whether it was, in turn, connected to feudalism. Here, we will conclude that feudalism played a role but completely in a different one namely serving as the cultural and financial basis for the exploitation of men by the gynocentric culture putting women on a pedestal but not their alleged decline and descent. This will raise our awareness and strengthen the understanding of the phenomenon of the shifting power dynamics between the gender to the detriment of men, in the favor of women, how the gynocentric and feminist culture arose, and the male response to those dynamics. Another point is the role of women in the Eastern church. Macy points out that there were deaconesses in the Eastern church, but says little else about this. And last but not least we will historically rehabilitate the name of men and the middle ages from misogyny and oppression and show that in this time of history, women, it seems, were perceived as the lights of the Dark Ages but never as oppressed while most men were oppressed and seen as the dark and most evil side of creation.

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