>----- > (3) I have a reference somewhere to ladies called
>> CONHOSPITAE who called down the wrath of bishops
>> because they were assisting priests to take the
>> Sacraments to the sick & dying. These seem to be early
>> proto female "clergy" - administering but (probably) not
>> consecrating the sacraments.
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 entering
the sanctuary but they were apparently ignored pretty widely in the early
middle ages at least (and I would guess probably in rural areas throughout).
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 in
female monasteries to be distributed by the abbess (and possibly other nuns)
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 scenes.