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Crossing the Stained-Glass Ceiling of Theology

The Proclamation of the First Women as Doctors of the Church

Clarisse Tesson    Université Paris-Est-Créteil    



In 1970, Pope Paul VI proclaimed two women doctors of the Church, Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena. He therefore broke with a millenary tradition that excluded women from a title that recognized a form of magisterium in the universal Church. Indeed, teaching is the clergy’s prerogative in the Roman Catholic Church. If the doctorate of the Church is a title given to saints who are already canonized, one can wonder if these first proclamations of 1970 legitimate a new position for women in theological teaching. It seems that they are contemporary with women’s access to theological faculties, which were gradually opened to women after the Second World War, first as auditors, then as students, and finally as teachers. This article wants to interrogate these two concomitant events and to see whether the proclamation of the first women as doctors of the Church opened a way for theological teaching in the Roman Catholic Church to women or not. After studying the way this novelty is presented by Pope Paul VI in his homilies of proclamation, the echo of the event will be put forward. Finally, discourse and practice will be confronted to see if the recognition of a posthumous title to women influenced women’s condition in theology.

May 16, 2023
March 26, 2023
Jan. 20, 2023

Keywords: CatholicismUniversityWomenDoctors of the ChurchTheology

Copyright: © 2023 Clarisse Tesson. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.