Women’s Ordination in the Catholic Church
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For the first millennium of Christianity’s existence, women held ordained leadership positions in the Christian Church. While the definition of ordination was changed in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to exclude women from ordination, the evidence that women had once been ordained as priests, deaconesses, abbesses, presbyters, and holy virgins and widows is irrefutable, despite the contrary narrative that the Vatican promotes. Over the past century, some Catholics have called for a return to women’s ordination. However, the Catholic hierarchy’s response to calls for women’s ordination has ranged from rejecting evidence that women were once ordained to completely banning the discussion of ordaining women in official arenas. The Catholic Church’s conservative views are in sharp contrast to almost every other Christian sect. In the past century, the majority of Protestant Christian sects have ordained women, partially due to the pressure and influence of the second wave feminist movement, but the Catholic Church has not taken the same step. The movements for women’s ordination within the Catholic Church underwent a resurgence during the twentieth century, in conjunction with other secular feminist movements such as Woman Suffrage and the second wave feminist movement. They gained further momentum in the 1960s, when The Second Vatican Council was announced. Vatican II redefined what it meant to be Catholic in the modern world and ushered in many reforms and steps forward for women, especially nuns.