Thomas Aquinas

aquinasSt Thomas Aquinas (1224 – 1274 AD) was the most influential Christian theologian in the Middle Ages. Most later theologians copied their arguments from him. In the Catholic Church Thomas was held out as a ‘safe’ norm for others to follow.
In Thomas’ time women were excluded from the ordained ministries. Thomas had to find justification for this as a theologian. The main reason, he decided, was woman’s inferior nature.
Thomas based his reasonings on what he read in Aristotle’s work, whose books became known in Europe at the time through Arab scholars.

Like Aristotle, Thomas believed that only the male seed carried life. Following Aristotle’s assessment, he judged women as having less intelligence and being weak in character. Everything was determined by God in the laws God laid down as Creator in nature.

On this page we outline Thomas’s teaching on women in brief. To read the exact words of Thomas, click on the links indicated!

Creation

God created MAN first
making him the origin
of the rest
of humanity.

God created
WOMAN
out of man and for man.

God created MAN in his own image in the full sense of the
term
since God is the source of everything.

God created
WOMAN in his image
only to the extent that she too has a mind.

Differences at Birth

The active force in the male seed derives
its power also from the stars.


A MAN’s seed contains the future
child.

In
procreation, a WOMAN only contributes her womb

– which is like a ploughed field in which a grain of seed has been sown. The woman feeds the
foetus.
When a MALE child is born
the birth is perfect.

Every FEMALE child is born through an ‘accident’.
‘The semen is weak or the material [in the womb] is unsuitable, or because of the action of some
external factor such as the winds from the south which make the atmosphere humid.’

But in God’s overall plan women do serve a purpose.

They are useful for generating children. After all, in his providence, God can even make use of
‘accidents’.
Strictly speaking, every WOMAN is a ‘monster’ of nature.

The female sexual organs too will rise at the resurrection.
For resurrection repairs the defects of nature.

Other Gender Differences

MAN has the greater power of
reason. Because God ordered [= streamlined] him for intellectual activity.

WOMEN are not ordered to intellectual operation.
Though a WOMAN is carnally united to a man in generation, she is not united to him in his higher
faculties.

That is why St. Paul forbade women to teach or to have authority over men.
A MAN naturally commands authority.
WOMEN are subject to men.
For man is the beginning and end of WOMAN.

Even a
WOMAN’s hair is a sign of her subjection to man.

God made WOMAN a helper to man, but only for generation, not for a man’s other
tasks.

Representing Christ

MAN is in a state of perfection.
MEN signify eminence in human nature.
WOMAN is in a state of subjection.
The FEMALE SEX cannot ‘signify eminence of degree’ [= women cannot be the expression of perfect human
nature].
Therefore, it is MEN who can represent Christ at the Eucharist.
Therefore,WOMEN cannot represent Christ at the Eucharist.

John Wijngaards