----- Original Message -----
From: "Jo-Ann McNamara"
> Distributing, but not consecrating, the eucharist does not necessarily
> require a priest. From at least the Carolingian period forward there were
> sporadic efforts to keep women from handling consecrated vessels or
> the sanctuary but they were apparently ignored pretty widely in the early
> middle ages at least (and I would guess probably in rural areas
> Also in the early middle ages, I have the impression from hagiographical
> sources that it was not uncommon to reserve a supply of consecrated hosts
> female monasteries to be distributed by the abbess (and possibly other
> to sick or dying women (and conceivably even male personnel). Again, this
> is not entirely clear to me but it seems to fit some of the deathbed
Is it also worth remembering in this context that the "sacerdotal monopoly"
was also breached by permitting midwives - laywomen - to take a flask of
holy water into the lying-in chamber to baptise any infant in danger of
death. I understand they would even baptise the available part of a half
born baby which was clearly alive, if they feared (the obvious case being
the lower limbs in the case of a breech birth with the umbilical cord round
the neck) the baby would not survive the birthing process.