Sunday, March 03, 2013

Fr David Bissias Refutes Valerie A. Karras on Women's Ordination

The eminent physicist Wolfgang Pauli was well-known for his abrupt and scathing criticism of colleagues, often proclaiming their work “utterly wrong” (ganz falsch).  Once, when asked for a comment on an article by a younger physicist, he replied, “Not only is this not right, this is not even wrong [das ist nicht einmal falsch]!”  He meant that the article’s assertions could not be tested and therefore proven correct or wrong.  Scientifically, “not even wrong” meant something worse than “utterly wrong”: that the effort provided no benefit whatsoever to the scientific endeavor, for even disproven theories contribute to scientific progress.

If Pauli were an Orthodox Christian theologian, he might have responded in a similar manner to Valerie A. Karras’ article, “Theologies of Women and Ordained Ministry.”[1]  Obviously, her general argument cannot be scientifically “tested,” but that is not the point.  The article makes numerous valid observations, but none of them amounts to even a single “theology” of women; nor is there criticism of several such “theologies of women.”  However, the questions that Karras rightly poses merit answers by the contemporary Church.  Unfortunately, the answer she suggests or, often more accurately, implies, cannot be judged right or wrong based on the argument she presents.  Thus, es ist nicht einmal falsch—it is not even wrong.

The ultimate point of her article is that there is no “theological” justification for the Church to continue excluding women from the ranks of the presbyter and bishop, not to mention other ministries in the life of the contemporary Church.  To make this point more attractive, Karras relies on anecdotal evidence of women’s “subservient” position in the Church, a limited reading of patristic authorities, false analogies, a narrow view of an Orthodox “anthropology,” an overly-schematized view of “history” and an eschatology which is certainly subject to dispute.  If this is not enough, she has also neglected apparently more contrary evidence from ancient and contemporary authors and canonical sources (including Holy Scripture), largely dismissed contemporary “hard” science and social science and, perhaps most importantly, ignored a great deal of the liturgical-sacramental life of the Church.  The discerning reader cannot but help notice that her argument reveals a predetermined conclusion which is not at all supported directly and positively by the evidence Karras provides, and she certainly has not provided convincing arguments to account for the more obvious contrary evidence (such as Holy Scripture) that seems to support a conclusion opposite of her own.
Read the rest here.
HT: Dr. Tighe


Anonymous said...


Perhaps women should not participate at all.

That should take care of the problem in a generation or two.

Teena Blackburn said...

I wish the bishop who is responsible for Valerie Karras would tell her to shut up.

John (Ad Orientem) said...


bob said...

Dr Karras seems to move from post to post in the academic world. I can't tell if it's the normal circulation or if it's just no one thinks she's a good scholar. I heard her speak in Seattle around 20 or so years ago. Very unimpressed. Her whole argument at the time was that since the Fathers she was quoting never discussed gender in the way we do, it was unimportant to them. They never discussed railroads either, but they might have if they'd been imagined by them! She wants to be ordained quite badly. That's never a very good sign in men. In women it's downright Anglican.

Irene said...

Women who attempt to distort and bastardize Church teaching and tradition to present their own views and desires just sicken me. I suggest Valerie start with some of our earliest teachings regarding women in the Church and just keep silent and not attempt to teach and usurp authority over men.

As for anonymous above your suggestion is ludicrous. The Church has survived 2,000 years with men and women in their respective roles. I think it's the feminist lies that will die out since most feminists barely manage or fail to reproduce themselves. Who will truly have the long standing influence in the Church? People who attempt to fight the Holy Spirit by corrupting tradition and barely produce any progeny if at all? Or women who have multiple children and teach and instill in them the teachings of the Church and the Holy Fathers? I'm confident in the end Church tradition will survive and the Church will grow with the help of the truly faithful. Heresies and corruption from the world come and go.

Life, Hope, Resurrection said...

Did anyone save a copy of this article? The blog appears to have been deleted.