Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Do Women Have Souls?

It is a well-known fact that up until at least the sixteenth century, Christian theologians were still debating whether or not women have souls.

At least, I have heard this assertion several times from different people, so it must be true.

Or is it?

A young scholar, Valentius Acidalius, was working as a teacher in Silesia, and, like many young scholars, he was short of money. He thought to turn an honest penny by publishing a “diverting” pamphlet. In Latin the word homo, like the word man in English, primarily means “a human being, male or female, young or old,” but has the secondary meaning of “adult male.” Valentius thought it would be fun to use this ambiguity to “show” that in the Bible only adult males have souls. If he thought the pamphlet would amuse, he was grievously wrong. Simon Geddicus, a Lutheran scholar, launched a mighty counter-pamphlet entitled A Defense of the Female Sex, in which he proposed... to “destroy each and every one of the arguments put forward by Valentius,” [who] took a seizure and died.

The pamphlet, however, often bound with the refutation by Simon Geddicus, survived, and it appears that it was published at Lyons in France in 1647... [T]he offending book caught the attention of Pope Innocent X, who put it on the Index of Prohibited Books (Decree of June 18, 1651). So much for the allegation that the Church holds that women do not have souls.

But that did not stop this terrible misunderstanding from spreading to anti-Catholic bigots who were only too willing to believe it. Read the rest here.

If you repeat a lie enough times...


  1. Hello Mr. Ertner,
    I came across your comment on the blog Holy Smoke regarding a possible vocation to consecrated life. Although there are no male consecrated virgins the eremitic vocation of solitary consecrated layman/laybrother may be an option for you. You can check out sections 917-921 of the Cathechism here . Pray and discern! Peace to you in Christ! b. JC

  2. Thank you, John. I was not quite aware that being a hermit was considered a seperate vocation. However, I don't know if you can be a hermit and still live in the world - I would like to continue working as a doctor and being involved in various NGO work. I know I could seek to receive Holy Orders as a permanent Deacon, but that would require some training and it would bind me by obedience to the Bishop - in contrast to consecrated virgins, who I believe are not bound to obedience.

  3. Regarding the consecrated virgins: of course they are obediently bound to their diocesane bishop.

    iMHO you cannot live both "in the world" and as a hermit because the hermit's vocation implies separation of the world.

    Among others, It's possible to make private vows.

  4. I never heard that one before. How absurd! The whole account of misunderstandings and misrepresentations bears an unfortunate resemblance to a few internet conversations I've followed.