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Resolved: The Church Should Ordain Women as Permanent Deacons

January 26, 2012

Resolved:  the Church should return to the practice of the patristic period and ordain women to the permanent diaconate.

Please discuss.

Before responding, you may want to read the interview with Phyllis Zagano at U.S. Catholic and her response to what she felt were the many factually incorrect comments posted to that article.

Also, since it will probably be referred to by someone, here is a link to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II’s letter on the ordination of women to the priesthood.  (For what its worth, I searched the document and “deacon” and “diaconate” do not appear in the text:  it is solely concerned with priestly ordination.)

 

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116 Comments
  1. Thales permalink
    January 26, 2012 1:08 pm

    David,

    Trying to stir the pot, I see. :)

    Just to clarify, when you say “a woman deacon,” you’re not merely talking about a woman being installed into a special ecclesial office, or receiving a blessing and a title to do the Church’s work in a special way….. you’re talking about a woman actually receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      January 26, 2012 1:17 pm

      A short answer: yes.

      • Thales permalink
        January 26, 2012 1:34 pm

        I ask the question because your resolution says “the Church should return to the practice of the patristic period and ordain women to the permanent diaconate.”

        I don’t think there is any doubt that during the patristic period, there were women who had a special office and did the Church’s work in a special way and were called “diaconnesses.” But I think it’s up for debate as to whether these women actually had received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Your resolution assumes they did, but I think that is disputable.

        I don’t have a problem debating the resolution “should the Church sacramentally ordain women as deacons,” but your resolution, as it is, complicates the debate with an extra level of dispute, which I want people to be aware of when going forward with the debate.

      • January 26, 2012 3:59 pm

        The interview with Phyllis rejects the notion, David, that female deacons mean female priests. She notes that they are NOT one and the same.

        • January 26, 2012 4:00 pm

          True, they are not priests; but they are ordained as deacons – it is an ordination, just not priesthood. This is how the Orthodox view them.

    • Kurt permalink
      January 26, 2012 2:40 pm

      But later, could we talk about the Church having women priests, which would be a woman installed into a special ecclesial office, or receiving a blessing and a title to do the Church’s work in a special way but not actually receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders? :)

      • January 26, 2012 3:21 pm

        The Church already has that; they’re just called abbesses and other terms rather than priests.

    • January 27, 2012 7:58 am

      We like to stir the pot around these parts. ;-)

  2. Mark Gordon permalink
    January 26, 2012 1:27 pm

    St. Phoebe, pray for us!

  3. Brian Martin permalink
    January 26, 2012 2:08 pm

    you #@! liberal cafeteria catholic!
    kidding.
    to quote you,
    a short answer: yes.

    Tradition seems to be at odds with canon law.

    but my goodness if girls as altar servers is a threat to boys discerning vocation, think what a threat this would be…although i would suggest if that is a threat then the voaction is awful weak

  4. Calgarian permalink
    January 26, 2012 2:24 pm

    I don’t see why not!

  5. January 26, 2012 2:41 pm

    As deaconESSES, you mean.

    I think, in cloistered monasteries of nuns, or chapters of consecrated virgins or anchoresses attached to cathedrals, this would not be a terrible idea. The Orthodox have an on-and-off history of doing this, reportedly, though the level of official approval is more ambiguous, and the Carthusian nuns still receive (or did until the past century) a stole and maniple at a certain point, I believe, in order to sing the Gospel excerpt at Matins chanted in choir.

    Is it the Sacrament of Holy Orders? I’d argue that this is a mere abstract theoretical point, as deacons do not receive any “new” sacramental “powers” intrinsically. Whether the ordination of deaconesses was/would be a “mere” sacramental (like the subdiaconate and minor orders) or a Sacrament with an indelible character…is a question without PRACTICAL import; even if deaconesses were “only” a sacramental, not a Sacrament, they wouldn’t threaten the validity of any Sacraments.

    Doing it just for women living in the world, however?? I’m much more skeptical of that idea, both for “slippery” slope reasons, but also because of sticky questions it brings up canonically about the clerical state, and the role of women “raising their voice” in liturgy where men other than the priest/chaplain is present (ie, almost all liturgies celebrated outside monasteries of nuns). If it were not expressed liturgically, but merely in ministry to other women only, I could see that, especially if all such deaconesses had to be the wife of a cleric as well, but usually the people pushing for these sorts of things would want all such restrictions cast aside.

    I say, if this starts, it should start with perpetually professed cloistered nuns and there should be no more discussion beyond that for 200 years or so…

    • January 26, 2012 2:52 pm

      The wife of a cleric, or unmarried or a widow, I mean.

    • Kurt permalink
      January 26, 2012 3:42 pm

      I would agree that the place to start is for women deacons within (cloistered) communities of women.

      However, I think reducing sacramental ordination to what sacraments the person can do is bad theology. The proper charism should go with the proper ministry. In the West, male and female religious largely have overtaken the diaconal ministry of service. Our Catholic schools, hospitals and charities could benefit from people not just with the diaconal ministry they have but the diaconal charism and grace — be they living in community or not. Oh, an Church administration is a diaconal ministry. Let’s empty out every Chancery and the whole Roman Curia of the bureaucrat-bishops and priests and instead give them a currently priestless parish and have men and women deacons handle church administration.

  6. Brian Martin permalink
    January 26, 2012 3:05 pm

    The problem is in part because both extremes assume that if a woman feels “called” to ministry of some sort, they automatically want to be priests or support “women priests”.

    My wife is a Board Certified Chaplain. She is refered to within the Church as a Lay Ecclessial Minister” because a Chaplain within the confines of the Church requires Ordination. In the professional world, under the umbrella of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains, she is a chaplain, endorsed by her Bishop.

    She has an interest in the woman’s voice within the church, and is adamant that women are called to ministry…but is equally strong in her belief in the Church’s teaching about women priests. As such, she is not trusted by many in the Church because they assume a woman with advance theological and pastoral ministry degrees is automatically angling toward women priests, while in academic circles, people automatically make the same assumption and are often put off because she accepts the Church’s teaching.

    I pray we someday can be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit through women without having to automatically question their “motives”
    A female deacon (deaconess) does not automatically assume priesthood, but it is a good, emotion laden argument for silencing the female voice

    • Melody permalink
      January 26, 2012 6:13 pm

      “I pray we someday can be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit through women without having to automatically question their “motives”
      Amen to that!

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      January 27, 2012 11:42 am

      Brian,

      does this mean your wife is a LEMma? (Sorry, a bad math joke. I couldn’t resist.)

      On a more serious note, I second all of your points.

  7. January 26, 2012 3:08 pm

    What is the current Orthodox practice?

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      January 26, 2012 3:19 pm

      From the article on Deaconesses at orthdoxwiki.org

      “The Japanese Orthodox Church from its inception in the later half of the nineteenth century had some deaconesses. Japan’s first bishop, St. Nicholas Kasatkin, had a number of deaconesses during his tenure.

      “At the same time, the Russian Orthodox Church, Japan’s mother Church, had deaconesses. It seems from the scant material available that the Russian Church has always had deaconesses.

      “The Church of Greece has had deaconesses intermittently over the recent centuries, and appears to have usually had deaconesses in its female monasteries from time immemorial. In 2004 the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece officially restored the female diaconate.

      “The Russian Orthodox Church still has deaconesses.”

      • Kurt permalink
        January 26, 2012 3:33 pm

        The Armenian Apostolic Church currently ordains women as deacons.

      • Thales permalink
        January 26, 2012 3:47 pm

        Related to my comments above, I wonder whether the Orthodox Churches consider the position to be one where the Sacrament of Holy Orders has been conferred.

      • Thales permalink
        January 26, 2012 5:13 pm

        Hhm, Henry. I see your quote and I appreciate it. But I don’t know that it fully answers my question, since blessings are conferred by the imposition of hands. For example, abbesses are “made” by a bishop imposing his hands with a formal blessing. So I still wonder: do the Orthodox consider “ordaining a diaconess” as the conferring of the first level of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the same way that the Latin Church does?

      • January 27, 2012 10:33 am

        Thales, the question itself is flawed, as the Orthodox do not always so strictly distinguish between the Seven Sacraments and “Holy Mysteries” (which for us in the West would include Sacraments AND sacramentals) more general. So that categorical distinction might not even make sense for them. Remember, our minor orders were ordinations too, but sacramentals, not Sacraments.

      • Thales permalink
        January 27, 2012 12:01 pm

        A Sinner,

        Hmm, interesting. I don’t know much about the Orthodox faith, but I remember reading somewhere about how in some areas, they don’t have highly developed theological treatments like the Latin Church (I think the topic had to do with contraception, Humanae Vitae, and the Theo.ofBody). So I could see that also being the case with the notions of the Sacraments. (And I suppose one could argue whether the non-highly developed theological treatments of the Orthodox is a feature or a bug, and the same for highly developed theological treatments of the Latin.)

        This is all related to the answer to David’s resolution that I’m most inclined to. My position is based on my understanding that the position of deacon that the Latin Church has now today in this modern era, is that it is the first level of the Sacrament of Holy Orders — and if so, then it is uniquely related to the priesthood and episcopate because it is a unique participation in Christ’s priesthood just as the priesthood and episcopate are, and thus the diaconate should be limited to men for the same reasons mentioned in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. This “deacon” position would be different from those positions called “deacons” in the Latin Church in patristic times, in the Orthodox faith, etc., which are distinguished from the first type of deacon in that the second type of deacon consists of special positions “made” by a bishop imposing his hands with a formal blessing, akin to abbesses, etc. So I see a problem with the first type of deacon, and I don’t see a problem with the second type of deacon.

        (I’m no scholar in Sacramental Theology, so my understanding of the diaconate position that the Latin Church has now in this modern era — namely, that it is a conferring of the Sacrament of Holy Orders — may be off or may be simplistic…. or I may be unaware of a point of Latin theology that sees no problem with women participating in Christ’s priesthood as a deacon and that can articulate a distinction with women participating in Christ’s priesthood as a priest. So my mind is open to change as I learn more about this topic.)

      • January 27, 2012 3:38 pm

        Oh yes, the Orthodox are “less developed” in that some will group monastic tonsure and the sacring of monarchs with the other Sacraments all in the same general category, whereas we would make a Sacrament/sacramental distinction.

        As for Holy Orders, the question is what feature exactly makes it innappropriate for women. If it is, say, the ability to say “This is my [male] body” and to act as Christ the Bridegroom, Christ the Head in that context…well, that’s something a presbyter and bishop does, but not something a deacon does.

        The “unity of Holy Orders” is, I think, the strongest argument against deaconesses being the Sacrament strictly-so-called, but I think more study would have to be done on this issue, on just what the relation is between the diaconate and the higher (priestly) grades of Orders, and what the relation of all of them are to the male sex.

  8. Julian Barkin permalink
    January 26, 2012 3:32 pm

    While I may be tradtiionally leaning, I do know the Church’s early history did have deaconesses, and this level of Holy Orders might be disciplinary. Why the diaconate wasn’t even restored in full again till Vatican II so it seems this level is more subject to rulings vs. others.

    I say that if it’s gonna happen it should, especially now in 2012. Why? More good and faithful young women are doing theological programs as laypeople. If we give them somewhere to stake claim in the Church with proper doctrinal teaching, perhaps this would throw a wrench into the feminist’s plans and their criticisim of the Church and give more women a pro-Church outlook, with more female teachers and deaconesses being faithful to Rome. Not to mention these programs can be set up under dioceses or the Roman curia to be more faithful and orthodox than the programs currently out there. So instead of taking programs at universities by teachers who don’t give a flying fart about the Mandatum, and then these young and eventually warped minds then become the new generation of professors, they then continue to spread their teachings onto a majority of their students and keep the cycle going. I think the deaconess diaconate can be a new shining light and an additional tool in the New Evangelization IF done and set up properly. If not this can go very awry and make things worse. (Maybe a sinner’s wright on A LOT of discussion???).

    However two caveats. 1) If they have to perform sacramental duties, such as the Exultet and other things like preaching the Gospel, this should be restricted to male permanent or transistory deacons only. I still believe in the progression of orders and the deacon position being one of them. We don’t want to give the deaconesses and laity the false idea they can eventually become priests now do they? 2) Do not give them the same robes as men. I want them to stand out as deaconesses and I want to know that they are deaconesses. A general deacon set of robes to me would blur the lines as in 1) and this opinion I can forsee being shared by the relatively uncatechized laity. Perhaps what I’ve mentioned can either be done separately or attached to what A Sinner said about being a deacon’s wife.

    Well, what do you think? especially you two a A sinner? like my plan? No?

    • Julian Barkin permalink
      January 26, 2012 3:34 pm

      Sorry one clarification: By programs in my 2nd Paragraph, I meant post-secondary education programs, not diocesan diaconate programs currently out there. Also one thought: Let’s make the diaconate program a B.A as well so that at least if it doesn’t work out, the person has a B.A that the secular world can recognize. They’d say something like “Well I don’t like what you studied but at least it’s a B.A from an accredited institution.”

    • Kurt permalink
      January 26, 2012 4:32 pm

      Julian,

      While I think the teaching of theology is a diaconal ministry, it is not the only diaconal ministry. Men or women deacons as trained theologians would be a blessing, but also the other diaconal work of charity, service and administration would benefit from more men and women given the charism proper to these ministries.

      But I see no reason to ordain women as deacons but prohibit them from the liturgical ministry and vestiture of the diaconate. I’m not convinced the lay faithful are ill-educated, but if they are, the answer is to educate them.

    • January 27, 2012 10:37 am

      One reason to make a distinction liturgically is simply tradition. Deaconesses were never proclaiming the Gospel or preforming the other liturgical roles of a Deacon (though they did seem to commune at the altar, but then again so did all consecrated virgins and widows). They “mainly” seemed to be around to handle sensitive ministries to women (such as related to baptismal nudity.)

      I would agree that outside cloistered monasteries, deaconesses should not be “raising their voice” in churches, especially not mixed congregations.

      • Kurt permalink
        January 27, 2012 1:01 pm

        Why?

        The tradition of the early church was that deacons of both sexes performed a ministry of charity and service. The liturgical role developed later. And then even later, the diaconate was reduced to just a liturgical ministry, something that is now generally consider unfortunate.

        But if restoring women in the diaconate is deemed to be a pastoral benefit in the present time, why exclude these women deacons from the liturgical functions?

        And if part of the diaconial charism is preaching, why preclude deacons of one sex from acting on this charism?

      • January 27, 2012 3:41 pm

        Because Paul’s stance on women’s role in the congregation. They could perhaps indeed speak before an all-female congregation and teach the female catechumens, but I would be very wary of the idea of them getting up there and raising their voice before a mixed congregation. There’s simply no precedent for that.

      • Kurt permalink
        January 27, 2012 5:38 pm

        Sinner,

        The reforms included in the 1983 Code of Canon law permitted it, revised from the previous Code. I understand that for some traditionalists, less than 30 years does not a custom make, but you do understand that for many of us, this reform of Bl. John Paul II is sufficient.

      • January 28, 2012 12:27 pm

        But we aren’t talking about what’s happened so far, you’re proposing ADDITIONAL further reforms. Say what you want about what’s already happened, doing even MORE is a question that should be considered in light of the whole tradition up to this point, not merely in the context of “today” considered in a vacuum.

      • Kurt permalink
        January 28, 2012 1:57 pm

        Since 1983, women have been allowed to preach in church. Since laywomen can now preach, why would there be a problem withh women deacons preaching in church? Other than a general animus toward women?

      • Thales permalink
        January 28, 2012 3:12 pm

        Since 1983, women have been allowed to preach in church.

        Sorry for my ignorance, but what do you mean by this? I associate the word “preach” with “homily during Mass”, and I’m pretty sure only deacons and up can do this.

      • Kurt permalink
        January 28, 2012 4:08 pm

        I associate the word “preach” with “homily during Mass”,

        Thales,

        Please don’t tell that to a dear friend of mine who is a Dominican sister. :)

        The homily during Mass is reserved for clergy. Separate from that rubric, In the 1917 Code of Canon law, drawing on the thinking ‘Sinner’ references, there was canonical prohibition of any woman preaching in a church. Laymen were allowed to preach in a Church. Here locally, I believe I have had great spiritual benefit from female preachers at Vespers and Benediction that I would have been denied with the former Code of Canon law.

      • Thales permalink
        January 28, 2012 5:18 pm

        Oh, okay. As I said, I didn’t know what you meant by “preach”.

  9. January 26, 2012 3:46 pm

    Phyllis Zagano wrote one of the three chapters in a book that just recently came out from Paulist Press, Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future. Unfortunately, hers is also the very weakest of the three chapters. The first, by Gary Macy, traces the history of women in the diaconate; the second, by Deacon Bill Ditewig, discusses the permanent diaconate as restored by Vatican II; the third, Zagano’s chapter, is supposed to discuss the possible impact of ordaining women to the diaconate in the future. Unfortunately, it gets lost in the usual side issues–from canon law to female priests–and never really explains what benefit to the Church (or the world) the ordination of women as deacons might actually bring.

    The problem seems to me to be that we still see sacramental ordination in terms of new “powers” conferred rather than in terms of new responsibilities bestowed to serve the Church and the world. The discussion then revolves around whether or not women would fit into the clerical club with men who now have all the “powers” rather than whether or not–and how–women “ordained to service” might enhance what is supposed to be the Servant Leadership of what is supposed to be the Servant Church.

    • Brian Martin permalink
      January 26, 2012 3:56 pm

      “The problem seems to me to be that we still see sacramental ordination in terms of new “powers” conferred rather than in terms of new responsibilities bestowed to serve the Church and the world. The discussion then revolves around whether or not women would fit into the clerical club with men who now have all the “powers” rather than whether or not–and how–women “ordained to service” might enhance what is supposed to be the Servant Leadership of what is supposed to be the Servant Church.”
      Exactly….and it pretty much leaves out of the discussion the role of the Holy Spirit in calling women to serve the Church in new ways…..I mean seriously, if women had always stuck to the idea that seems so prevalent now among the more “traditional” Catholics, that Mary is pretty much the sole role model of what women should be…we would have had no Catherine of Sienna.

  10. Tom permalink
    January 26, 2012 5:10 pm

    Do men receive the SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS, or do they receive the Sacrament of Deacon, and if they go further, the Sacrament of Priest, and if appointed, the Sacrament of Bishop? That needs to be considered when analyzing the effect of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis on the issue.

    This cover letter and responsum ad dubium from the then Cardinal Ratzinger and now Pope Benedict XVI, is also very important: http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfrespo.htm.

  11. brettsalkeld permalink*
    January 26, 2012 9:57 pm

    I know that in many dioceses the wives of the men studying for the diaconate go through the training alongside their husbands and then minister with them in many contexts (not preaching or officiating, obviously). In effect, there are deacon-couples out there. That might also provide a way in. I notice A Sinner mentioned something about wives of clerics.

    • January 27, 2012 10:45 am

      Well, the wives of priests in the East are called “Presbytera” and serve usually a very (if unofficial) ministerial role as the sort of “mother” of the parish. However, “deaconess” does not mean merely the wife of a deacon (in the way that presbytera signifies the wife of a presbyter). Part of this is because a priest acts in persona Christi, and thus his wife will naturally be a sort of “icon” of Ecclesia in a special way, whereas a deacon’s wife (or a deaconess’s husband) may not have any particular significance in this manner. However, if married deacons were always required to be married to a deaconess and vice versa, this assymetry would be a non-issue (but what about mixed marriages!?! Perhaps, though, married clerics, which I support, should not be in mixed marriages). Likewise, it might make sense for all “Presbytera” to be officially made deaconesses. Of course, the traditional pool of deaconesses from the Early Church was all unmarried women, either virgins or widows over 60.

  12. brettsalkeld permalink*
    January 26, 2012 10:19 pm

    And, not to highjack your thread, but can we do this again next week with the cardinalate?

    • grega permalink
      January 27, 2012 12:49 am

      Women should be priest – perhaps the next Pope will say so and finally free us modern Catholics from this current unbelievable fake song and dance.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      January 27, 2012 11:48 am

      Hijack away!

  13. January 27, 2012 4:27 am

    Brettsalkeld, you took the wrods right out of my mouth! If we have women deacons, then we must also return to having “Cardinal-deacons” among whom should be women, so long as it is recognised that they will refrain from claiming the sacerdotal role. Anyway, the “sacerdotal role,” as it’s now recognised in the Church, should be necessary only for bishops, for priests hearing confessions, and for those who consecrate at mass. And the only reason it should be reserved to them is our of reverence for the Incarnation as a man. This is, I think, very close to the Orthodox Churches’ position.

    • January 27, 2012 10:48 am

      The “must” about Cardinal-Deacons there does not follow. The Cardinal-Deacons were originally the Deacons of the 7 diakonia districts of Rome, and those were always men. Especially since cardinals are generally considered a “pool” of candidates for the papacy, I wouldn’t go this far (unless, of course, we return to the entire Christian population of Rome electing the Pope!)

      Deaconesses were never just “female deacons” (even if it is the Sacrament). Their administrative and liturgical roles were always more limited, especially among the secular clergy (in monasteries, of course, “choir nuns” contrasted with “lay sisters” had a pseudo-clerical character given that their singing of the Office was considered true Public Prayer. Mitred Abbesses are another intriguing example).

      • Kurt permalink
        January 27, 2012 1:15 pm

        But it would fit neatly in a natural evolution to restore to the College of Cardinals those who are deacons, under whatever discipline the Church has for admission to the diaconate (today, unlike the early church, a degree of formal education and a higher age requirement, but not neccessarily Roman residency and..maybe to come.. women as well as men).

        The last (misnamed) “lay Cardinal” was as recently as 1899. It was we liberals, it should be confessed, that were most opposed and finally ended the practice of cardinals not at least in priestly orders. The liberal complaint being that it was only the wealthy nobility who served in these offices. Better the Church be governed by pastoral clergy than secular elites.

        But maybe now, clericalism is legitimate concern and Catholics from a wider variety of backgrounds could be considered for the office of Cardinal-Deacon, a restoration is worthy of consideration.

      • January 27, 2012 3:46 pm

        It’s not a natural evolution though, it’s quite a rupture. As I said, if we want to make the election of Popes (and other bishops!) more democratic…start polling all the baptized of a given diocese. Restricting it to just “cardinals” but then including women suddenly…is like tearing down the prison walls but wanting to keep the funny orange uniforms. It would be MORE traditional to just let everyone vote than to keep the idea of a limited class of electors (but include women in that class), which is simply an arbitrary combination of features.

      • Kurt permalink
        January 27, 2012 5:50 pm

        I think you misunderstand. The proposal would be to restore membership to the College (who have duties other than just the papal election) to some people in the Office of Deacon. However, it would be those in the Office of Deacon according to the discipline of this time and not of times past. In other words, we would not be putting teenagers in the College as we no longer ordain teenagers to the diaconate. if the discipline of the Church once again allowed women in the diaconate, then they could be considered as well as Cardinal-Deacons.

        Actually I would futher propose that the Cardinal Priests and Cardinal Bishops be true bishops who shepherd a particular part of the faithful, while those serving in the Curia bureaucracy, be limited to the Cardinal -Diaconate, regardlesss if they be bishop, priest, or deacon of either gender.

      • January 28, 2012 12:29 pm

        What I’m saying is that the restriction of the Cardinalate to males is more fundamental than the restriction of a “college of cardinals” in the first place. If we’re going to “loose” the restrictions for being part of the college, we might as well not have the college. Your proposal is putting the cart before the horse (or, rather, backing the horse out of the garage before the cart).

      • Kurt permalink
        January 28, 2012 2:08 pm

        I don’t understand the proposition that better the College be abolished than any change made to it. The College was not abolished but reformed with the provision in 1970 that only members under age 80 participate in papal elections. It was altered in 1904 when the Kaiser of Austria was no longer to have to power to veto papal candidates. And in fact it was only in 1917 that membership in the College was limited to priests and bishops, and under John Paul II to bishops. So all that is being proposed is a return to pre-1917.

      • January 28, 2012 7:28 pm

        Read more carefully what I said, Kurt. I said that the restriction to males is more fundamental than the college itself. Other restrictions are not (for example, the age requirement, the priest-and-bishop requirement, etc). These “restrictions” are LESS fundamental, historically speaking, than the college itself, and so it makes perfect sense to change them without abolishing the whole college. Your proposal on the other hand strikes me as though it would be an anomaly similar to passing the 15th amendment (granting suffrage to blacks) without first passing the 13th amendment (ending slavery in the first place!) And, indeed, to take the US constitutional example, I think it would have been a little absurd to extend the vote to women BEFORE, for example, getting rid of the old land-owner requirement (ie, to allow women to vote, but only land-owning women). These things are like nested circles, and loosening an outer circle should necessarily loose all inner circles. To me, the male/female division is in the Church PRIOR to even the clerical/lay distinction in the internal logic of our tradition of hierarchy, and thus opening the college of cardinals (of papal electors) to women would, to me, imply opening it to “everyone” generally. You can’t pull out a “lower block” in the “jenga tower” without the whole tower collapsing. To try to still have Hierarchy while trying to bizarrely democratize that hierarchy (through introducing a women’s voice) just seems like a paradox. At that point, go back to truly democratic election of bishops then (which I’m not saying would be terrible in itself either).

  14. January 27, 2012 10:45 am

    How about women cardinals? Becoming a cardinal does not require priestly ordination. In the old says, cardinal deacons meant precisely that, and some of the major cardinals in history were never ordained. I think appointing a few women cardinals would really shake up the Church without going against the teaching set down most recently laid down in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

    • January 27, 2012 10:59 am

      “Shaking up” is exactly a concern though. If (re-)introducing deaconesses in the West were done, it would have to be done with a hermeneutic of continuity, not revolution or rupture.

      The Orthodox are much better about this than the West is, have a much better understanding of how to organically develop in a traditional fashion. They adapt within the realm of what is theologically possible, but don’t go crazy or iconoclastic with it (one good example is their tasteful use of the vernacular in liturgy; when the West did that, we ended up modernizing and destroying the whole liturgy too!)

      The Orthodox quietly have deaconesses, but in monasteries of nuns, or among women who are still expected to cover their heads and not raise their voice “above a man” in church, etc. Deaconesses in the early church were drawn from unmarried women over 60 (and certainly the idea of a woman being in a higher Order than her husband is unthinkable). Etc.

      Latin Catholics suddenly imagining ordaining women deaconesses in a context where they would be serving in liturgy in all functions save that of priest (and serving, presumably, unveiled), potentially married to laymen, and electing Pope…is, on the other hand, just absolutely unprecedented and insane sounding to me. “Theoretically” possible if we consider only the absolute minimum of “theoretical” orthodoxy? Perhaps. But it is certainly heteroPRAX by any standard of tradition.

      Restoring deaconesses on an “early church” or “monastic” model, which has precedence in tradition? That’s one thing. Artificially constructing an order of deaconesses based on all sorts of already flawed canonical and liturgical modern ideas (where, heck, we already have altar girls and female readers, none of whom cover their heads)…that is quite another.

      One ironic example I always use here is that of the priestesses of the Mariavite church. This is a “catholic” breakaway church in Poland that has women priests. But look what they look like:

      http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/201/felicjanow2001.jpg/

      Their women priests wear VEILS and distribute communion on the tongue! So even though they’ve strayed into the realm of invalid sacraments and heresy, at least they’ve done so in according to a vaguely “traditional” continuity of understanding and aesthetic. I contrast that with the absolutely discontinuous iconoclasm some people in the West seem to imagine for women deacons or priests.

  15. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
    January 27, 2012 12:04 pm

    Thank you all for the spirited commentary. The point about Cardinal-deacons, though tangential, is an interesting one and points out that there are unexpected ramifications.

    I want to make a few comments here on the (permanent) diaconate as now constituted as I have discerned it during my short period in formation.

    First, the theology of the diaconate is evolving. The restoration of a permanent diaconate has caused a rethinking of the “progression of orders.” While the Church will continue to ordain transitional deacons on the road to priesthood, the diaconate is regarded as its own separate order, with its own charism and identity. Following the Acts of the Apostles, it is envisioned as an order of service, broadly defined. A big thing all candidates are pressed on is to discern what their ministry of service will be. We will all (or almost all) act in a liturgical role—reading the gospel, preaching, assisting the priest. But this is not the sum total of our service to the Church or to the world. So I think that any discussion of women deacons (though traditional, personally I really dislike the term deaconess) needs to focus on the diaconate.

    While as Brett notes many programs encourage involvement and participation by wives, at least in the program in my archdiocese wives are generally not involved. They are invited to the classes, but almost none participate. The sense I got from my classmates is that their wives wholeheartedly support their vocation, but view it as THEIRS and not some kind of joint enterprise. Several wives of candidates and deacons have expressed the opinion that this attempt to include wives is sexist. We were told that pastors and parishoners should not view us as “clerical couples” in the sense that our wives will play a role in our ministry. They can and will often have their own ministries, often at a different parish. (In our archdiocese, deacons are not assigned to their home parish. Many deacons work in one parish while their family remains in their home parish.)

    With regards to the hermeneutic of continuity mentioned by A Sinner above, it is worth noting that the modern permanent diaconate was, in effect, made up as they went along. There was some bare bones sketches of who deacons were and what they did that could be prised form the roles given to transitional deacons. And there were some models from the patristic period of other things that deacons did back in the day. Nevertheless, bishops, priests and the deacons themselves had to figure out what the diaconate was going to be in the present and there has been considerable growth and evolution, often in new and surprising ways. In other words, we should not confuse continuity with archeologism. (This is a great word I just learned from a talk by Benedict XVI to the NeoCatechumenal Way.)

    • January 27, 2012 3:50 pm

      “With regards to the hermeneutic of continuity mentioned by A Sinner above, it is worth noting that the modern permanent diaconate was, in effect, made up as they went along. There was some bare bones sketches of who deacons were and what they did that could be prised form the roles given to transitional deacons. And there were some models from the patristic period of other things that deacons did back in the day. Nevertheless, bishops, priests and the deacons themselves had to figure out what the diaconate was going to be in the present and there has been considerable growth and evolution, often in new and surprising ways. In other words, we should not confuse continuity with archeologism.”

      Hmm. I would argue that there was a lot more cross-pollination and inspiration from the living tradition of permanent deacons in the East than you are giving credit to here. We didn’t need to “make up” what deacons would be like, we had the example of the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches to give us most of the idea. The Diaconate may have effectively “disappeared” in the West for a long time, but it did not disappear from the Church as a whole.

  16. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
    January 27, 2012 12:10 pm

    On the various suggestions that, if women deacons are again ordained, then they should be restricted to their traditional roles, and not be allowed to speak when a man is present, be vested differently, wear veils, etc. all I can say is: it will never happen. I cannot imagine the vast majority of Catholic women, or even the vast majority of conservative/orthodox women, accepting such restrictions. We do not treat women who are altar servers, lectors or eucharistic ministers in this way, and attempting to impose such ancient customs at this time would, I think, be met with outright rebellion. Times and customs have changed. Our understanding of the dignity of women has evolved, and their subordination is becoming a thing of the past.

    • January 27, 2012 4:00 pm

      “We do not treat women who are altar servers, lectors or eucharistic ministers in this way”

      Having women in these roles is already a huge historical anomaly (then again, so are EMHCs in general…) and the Orthodox frequently point it out as a reason why reunion is impossible for them.

      Why veiling is necessarily perceived as “subjugation” or a “restriction” I have no idea. Is a priest having to wear a chasuble or a collar a “restriction”? No, it’s just part of the “uniform.” Even high-powered female politicians in the US still deign to don a mantilla when visiting the Pope.

      As for “outright rebellion” I think this is absurd. It’s not like there is a pre-existing free-wheeling female diaconate we’d be trying to impose these things on. Rather, there is already no female diaconate. Therefore, I’d tend to think that the allowance of female deacons in limited circumstances (and with certain rules like this) would still be perceived as a loosening rather than a clamping down.

      But, of course, this is where I think my whole point about the problems of “shaking things up” really comes in. The attitude you express is undoubtedly common among liberals. I’m sure if you were to tell the Womynpriests movement that, “Okay, you can become priests, but you have to dress and liturgize traditionally, like the Mariavite priestesses…” most would say, “No thanks, that’s as good as nothing!”

      Of course, that’s absurd, going from having no place in the ranks of the hierarchy to having some place (even with certain differentiating protocol) is an “advancement” by any standard, and the fact that liberals would seem to rather have NOTHING rather than a conservatively-implemented something…suggests to me that their agenda is actually wider, their attitude actually more revolutionary (with the womynpriests issue acting just as a wedge or token in the battle).

      I would not be surprised to see Catholic deaconesses in my lifetime (if only because I wouldn’t be surprised to see reunion with the Orthodox). But I’m pretty sure, if I do, they will be women in monastic habit and veil living behind a claustral grille.

      • Kurt permalink
        January 27, 2012 5:53 pm

        Having women in these roles is already a huge historical anomaly…

        Having little boys in the lay state in these roles is a huge historical anomaly.

        Sinner, it is not that I don’t find some value in the point you make taken in pieces, I just find that you starkly use a different measure on proposals regarding women.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
        January 27, 2012 8:54 pm

        “Why veiling is necessarily perceived as “subjugation” or a “restriction” I have no idea. ”

        You might try asking women what they think and feel, rather than simply pontificating about them. Even very conservative women feel the bite of sexism in the Church—they may respond to it differently than women who wear their feminism more openly, but they still perceive the problem.

      • January 28, 2012 12:33 pm

        And that sexism will perceived as long as we stick to the orthodoxy of having only male priests. Giving free reign to deaconesses in pant-suits…isn’t going to solve the problem, just create more acrimony.

        And, btw, Kurt, I am not a huge fan of lay “altar servers” in general. I think, assuming a restoration of the minor orders, men (including married men from the parish) should actually be given the minor ordination to Acolyte rather than having perpetual lay “substitutes” which seems just absurd given that the substitution became vastly more common than the actual minor order.

      • Kurt permalink
        January 28, 2012 2:15 pm

        And that sexism will perceived as long as we stick to the orthodoxy of having only male priests.

        The People of God, even with the grace of Baptism and fortified with the Holy Sacraments are incapable of perceiving the orthodoxy of the reservation of the priesthood to males.

        That is one of the strongest arguements I have heard against the male priesthood.

      • January 28, 2012 7:32 pm

        Except that the laity for 1960 years DID perceive it just fine, and the alternate suggestion would indeed have struck many of them as absurd and unthinkable. The “sensus fidelium” (inasmuch as that concept has merit) includes our Ancestors, Kurt, not just the “tyranny of those who happen to be alive today” (or something like that; it’s a paraphrase of a Chesterton quote, I believe).

      • Kurt permalink
        January 28, 2012 10:33 pm

        A Sinner,

        You seem to be contradicting yourself. First you claim the People of God will always see sexism where there is in fact orthodoxy. Then you say the People of God did not before 1960. I don’t understand your negative view of human nature. I don;t understand how human nature changed in 1960, and I don’t understand why you think God baits us.

  17. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
    January 27, 2012 12:21 pm

    Thales, on the subject of whether women deacons in the past received holy orders, the Church is officially undecided. In the 70′s the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote:

    “In some writers of the Middle Ages however, there was a certain hesitancy, reported by Saint Bonaventure without adopting it himself and noted also by Joannes Teutonicus in his gloss on Caus. 27, q.1, c.23. This hesitancy stemmed from the knowledge that in the past there had been deaconesses: had they received true sacramental ordination? This problem has been brought up again very recently. It was by no means unknown to the 17th and 18th century theologians who had an excellent knowledge of the history of literature. In any case, it is a question that must be taken up fully by direct study of the texts, without preconceived ideas; hence the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged that it should be kept for the future and not touched upon in the present document.”

    This paragraph is a gloss in a much longer document about priestly ordination, but seems to clearly say that this question is open. I have not been able to surface any more recent authoritative statements.

    • Thales permalink
      January 27, 2012 12:46 pm

      Thanks David. Interesting information, and it doesn’t surprise me that the whole topic of what constitutes the diaconate, including how it was understood in the past, remains uncertain. I liked your comment from a couple of comments above, that “the theology of the diaconate is evolving”. It’s not surprising that this is a topic where the theology hasn’t been as fully developed as other areas, and continues to develop.

    • January 27, 2012 4:07 pm

      Yes, I’ve seen this quote before, and another from Ratzinger himself even, suggesting the question is officially “open” and that the dogmatic decision only addresses the priesthood properly so-called. Of course, the relation of the diaconate to priesthood (ala the “unity of holy orders” argument) could ultimately collapse this distinction or prove it to be a false one, but for now I do not think it is formal heresy to postulate that deaconesses receive the Sacrament.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
        January 27, 2012 8:55 pm

        “but for now I do not think it is formal heresy to postulate that deaconesses receive the Sacrament.”

        Thank you. And I am willing to concede that denying the possibility is not a formal heresy either.

      • Thales permalink
        January 28, 2012 12:30 pm

        David,
        Heh. I see what you’ve done there. Fair enough, I see your position, but I’ll stick to my side.

      • January 28, 2012 12:34 pm

        Well, I have no real opinion. As I’ve said, the distinction between Sacrament vs sacramental would have no practical effect in this case, would be a purely abstract theoretical point.

  18. dominic1955 permalink
    January 27, 2012 1:06 pm

    I am about as Traditional(ist) as they come, yet I can see some merit in having (non-sacramentally ordained) deaconesses. However, like “a Sinner”, if we were to try it out, we should start with strictly cloistered contemplative Nuns and leave it at that in an experimental basis for a century, akin to what the Carthusian Nuns used to (still?) do with maniple/stole and chanting certain parts of the Office. Today, to introduce such a program to make “deaconesses” for the parishes would be insanity. All the wrong people would be wanting to get in there to get their title of officialdom and piece of the clerical power-pie. Aside from strictly cloistered Nuns (you really don’t see much problems in orthodoxy/orthopraxis with them) it would have to be the solidly orthodox babushka type women who live their faith in rosaries and candles and lived but un-selfconscious service. The kind that do not need to have what they lived called “ministry” with some dumb title. Of course, I think you’d pretty much have to force them to take on such a roll because they wouldn’t care to aspire to it themselves.
    Any woman that would possibly be made a deaconess today would have to undergo something akin to the Consecration of a Nun so as not to imply that the Sacrament of Orders was in any way conveyed. If priesthood is reserved to men by God, then all levels of the Sacrament of Orders as it has been understood (Deacon, Priest, and Bishop) must be reserved to men and even the lower, merely sacramental (blessings) of the Minor Orders must be reserved to men as they are special preparations for the reception of the actual Sacrament of Orders. Some scholastics would even say the Minor Orders are a sort of fanning out and participation in the Diaconate.
    The present day “restoration” of the Diaconate is, by and large, very poorly done. The deacons often have very poor training on all fronts (especially liturgically) and have no real sense of being ordained clerics. The whole thing reeks of that misappropriated notion that we got to get the laypeople participating at Mass and out in the world, so let’s just clericalize them.
    As to the cardinalatiate, why do laymen (men or women) need a “voice” in picking the Pope? Not even other clerics are in the Conclave, just cardinals. This is just feminist nonsense and a gross misunderstanding of the whole process and something which would be wholly untraditional. The title of cardinal is honorary, it implies connection to the “cardinal” (which comes from the Latin word for hinge) clergy of Rome, the deacons who administered the diaconal stations of Rome (as a Sinner already mentioned), the primary priests of Rome (something akin to certain pastors in Milan with special pontifical rights), and the bishops of the suburbicarian dioceses near Rome. These special clergy of the Diocese of Rome were the Pope’s right hand men, the one’s his beneficial rule of the diocese and the Church at large “hinged” on. Being made a cardinal is being given a special honor which should signify your loyalty and special adherence to the Sovereign Pontiff and Bishop of Rome and willingness to shed your blood (hence the bright red) for the Church. The title is honorary, it holds no special sacramental status and as we can see in history, some real unworthy men have been given the title
    Furthermore, even with “lay cardinals”, they were at least tonsured and therefore made clerics. Thus, they were bound to celibacy and, of course, were only men. Making women or non-clerics “cardinals” appears to me to be nothing other than a feigned ignorant way of making the Church “democratic”.

    • Kurt permalink
      January 27, 2012 2:54 pm

      Today, to introduce such a program to make “deaconesses” for the parishes would be insanity. All the wrong people would be wanting to get in there to get their title of officialdom and piece of the clerical power-pie.

      Interesting that nature has made this an uncontrolable female vice.

      • January 27, 2012 4:18 pm

        Lol, well, what dominic said may be a bit of an exaggeration, but we do have to recognize the psycho-sociological reality that the sort of woman who would likely seek to be secular (as opposed to monastic) deaconesses…probably would be a different sort of group than the type of man who nowadays generally enters seminary to become a priest (I’m not as sure where the current male permanent deacon population fits; I’d guess it’s more of a mixed group).

        Let’s just say I have my suspicions that in an alternate history Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton would scramble to become deaconesses. I’m not saying that’s bad or good, but it’s just a reality we have to recognize and deal with.

        And before anyone questions the “reality” of this assumption, I will point out the fact that the very existence of the perception/assumption among people is a reality in itself that cannot be ignored and which would have real pastoral relevance. Whether it turned out true or not, a perception of deaconesses as ball-busters or bitches or aging Boomer guitar-mass butch-types with crew-cuts…would have just as much of an effect on the socio-political atmosphere in the Church, and the effectiveness of pastoral approach, as the current widespread perception of priests as maladjusted or effeminate (again, whether that is “actually” true or not).

      • Kurt permalink
        January 27, 2012 5:55 pm

        Lol, well, what dominic said may be a bit of an exaggeration

        I’m about as inclined to consider it a funny exaggeration as if he had posted Blacks have a tendency to like watermelon.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      January 27, 2012 8:48 pm

      “The present day “restoration” of the Diaconate is, by and large, very poorly done.”

      Given the many holy and hard working deacons I have known, this strikes me as calumny.

      “Whether it turned out true or not, a perception of deaconesses as ball-busters or bitches or aging Boomer guitar-mass butch-types with crew-cuts…would have just as much of an effect on the socio-political atmosphere in the Church”

      And defended with sexist stereotypes.

      • January 28, 2012 12:35 pm

        I’m not defending these stereotypes. I’m saying they exist AS stereotypes, and that the existence of stereotypes can have a real effect on both the socio-political climate of the Church, and on how it relates pastorally to people.

        The stereotype of celibate priests as maladjusted and/or effeminate (may or) may not be true, but the very existence of the stereotype in itself have very real effects.

      • Melody permalink
        January 28, 2012 12:42 pm

        ‘“The present day “restoration” of the Diaconate is, by and large, very poorly done.”
        Given the many holy and hard working deacons I have known, this strikes me as calumny.”‘
        I agree with you 100%, and not just because my husband is a deacon. BTW I think those who think that the women who would apply to be deaconesses would be those stereotyped so charmingly by Sinner (um, ball-busters and bitches…??) are mistaken. Because the diaconate is first of all a servant ministry. And those who are pushing their own agendas aren’t interested in being servants.

      • January 28, 2012 7:36 pm

        At this point, people just aren’t reading what I said. I said right in that post, I have no idea whether the women becoming deaconesses would ACTUALLY be like that, but that stereotype would be assumed (just like certain stereotypes about priests today) even before any deaconesses were actually instituted. The deck is stacked against them by people’s preconceived notions. And those notions in themselves, even if false, have a real power to effect how people think and react to the idea, and that can’t just be ignored, it is a practical consideration that must be made.

      • Kurt permalink
        January 28, 2012 10:38 pm

        that stereotype would be assumed

        The stereotype will be assumed by bigoted people acting on their sinful nature.

        When my parish church was integrated, there were parishioners who assumed by doing so, the Church was endorsing Communism. That was no defense for not acting.

  19. dominic1955 permalink
    January 27, 2012 4:48 pm

    Its not a female vice alone, however, the subject is different. Men get ordained for the wrong reasons, but at least its possible for them to be ordained.

    As to people rebelling for putting traditional “strictures” on them, well, that is part of why I called such a proposal “insanity”. We do not need something further with which to disrupt our liturgical and ecclesiological traditions. They do harm to the Church by weakening the faith precisely through the destruction of our traditions.

    Also, as A Sinner has already mentioned, all of our liturgical novelties involving women alienate the Eastern Orthodox. They are the closest to us and yet we, who are supposed to be Christ’s One True Church, have strayed far from these practices while the Easterners have not.

    We need to start cleaning up the messes we have before we can honestly study such a subject that has the potential for making an even bigger one.

  20. Bruce in Kansas permalink
    January 27, 2012 5:37 pm

    Resolved?

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      January 27, 2012 8:49 pm

      A figure of speech for introducing a point for debate. Which I have clearly done.

  21. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
    January 28, 2012 1:06 pm

    @A Sinnner

    “Giving free reign to deaconesses in pant-suits…”

    Is this another sexist stereotype you are not defending but feel needs to be added to the conversation? This seems a gratuitous insult the the wide variety of women who would be called to a ministry of service were women restored to the diaconate. Maybe I am wrong, but rereading your posts you seem really terrified by the idea that women should be allowed to step out of a set of narrow roles which are subordinate to men. They can’t speak in Church, they must wear veils (and skirts, apparently), they can’t exercise a ministry that involves men. What are you so afraid of? The answer cannot simply be tradition. I think tradition is a powerful and important thing, but I am not going to confuse tradition (which is alive) with the cold, dead hand of the past. So I ask again: what are you so afraid of?

    • Kurt permalink
      January 28, 2012 2:17 pm

      So I ask again: what are you so afraid of?

      The answer to that question seem rather obvious.

    • January 28, 2012 8:10 pm

      “Is this another sexist stereotype you are not defending but feel needs to be added to the conversation?”

      No, this is one I’m pretty sure would actually happen: in the world you seem to imagine, the clerical garb for deaconesses would almost certainly end up being “episcopalian woman-priest” in style (which is to say, pant-suits).

      And I oppose this, certainly, not for sexist reasons but simply for aesthetic ones!

      Remember, I’d prefer that even MALE clergy (in official capacity, at least) be wearing their cassocks, so you have to remember to view my position through that lens. Having priests and deacons in cassocks but then women in pants just wouldn’t make any sense aesthetically, there’s no internal consistency to that idea. But a cassock really isn’t terribly appropriate seeming on a woman either. The question of garb would have to be addressed, certainly, by re-sourcing things from tradition (and that means, probably, looking to nuns…and not nuns from the 70′s!)

      “Maybe I am wrong, but rereading your posts you seem really terrified by the idea that women should be allowed to step out of a set of narrow roles which are subordinate to men. They can’t speak in Church, they must wear veils (and skirts, apparently), they can’t exercise a ministry that involves men. What are you so afraid of? The answer cannot simply be tradition. I think tradition is a powerful and important thing, but I am not going to confuse tradition (which is alive) with the cold, dead hand of the past. So I ask again: what are you so afraid of?”

      But the answer is tradition. I’m more than happy with women in all sorts of secular roles and positions of power, and also am perfectly happy to see women in unofficial (that is to say, non-clerical) ministries of pastoral associate, catechist, director of Catholic schools or hospitals, etc. Heck, I’d even like to see more mitred Abbesses.

      But there simply is a traditional way of doing things in the Church that goes along with a whole traditional aesthetic, and that includes a hierarchy in which, yes, men have precedence over women (in a stylized ceremonial context), and which to deconstruct is iconoclastic. My concern is indeed, then, principally a “liturgical” one.

      Which is really the thing: laicitee. I see two camps on this thread: those of us who would be open to “deaconesses,” and those who want to see “woman deacons,” if you catch the nuance there. The former (myself included) can see a place for the traditional order of deaconesses in the traditional hierarchal structure of the church (for example, among cloistered monastic women). The latter seem to just see the issue as a wedge for deconstructing hierarchy in general, or for “laicizing” the clergy as much as possible (which includes, then, also imagining laicizing clerical dress, secularizing liturgy to the point where it’s basically a glorified PTA meeting, etc etc).

      Which is why I’d say, for example, if you’re going to open the college of cardinals to women…just open it to all the baptized of the City of Rome, for example. I’d actually be okay with that idea theoretically (the practical politics of it aside). Because at least it is a consistent ideal. But trying to simultaneously maintain hierarchy, but then insert democracy or notions of equality into it, to try to, as it were, co-opt the very power of hierarchy to the cause of subverting hierarchy…strikes me as just disingenuous and convoluted. If you want the Church you imagine…then just be brave, be bold, come right out and call for women priests (as Kurt seems to already be doing now). Or, better yet, a church without “clergy” in the first place.

      In reality, the distinction of cleric from lay comes principally in and from liturgy. A cleric is a person publicly deputized to function as a public pray-er, as a public “actor” in the liturgy. Yes, much of the “administrative” stuff is extraneous, and probably is actually a “secular” task that could be farmed out to the laity, men and women alike.

      There seems to be this desire to extend ecclesiastical “power” to women in conversations like this, but I have to ask…what power? I, certainly, am not terribly impressed with the “power” of priests and bishops. The decisions they have to make outside liturgical and personal pastoral approach…are petty at best. It’s not like they’re running the federal government or even a profitable corporation.

      I guess I look at the hierarchy/clergy principally as liturgical, not in terms of the “bureaucratic” aspect, and as such, I am inclined to give tradition and aesthetics and “Iconographic” considerations much higher value when discussing the structure of that hierarchy than any notion of “democratization” which may be perfectly practical, but which is simply foreign to the “symbolic system,” the liturgical tradition, which is the source and purpose of that hierarchy in the first place.

      • grega permalink
        January 28, 2012 10:34 pm

        A Sinner –
        “And I oppose this, certainly, not for sexist reasons but simply for aesthetic ones!”
        How sensitive of you at 22 .
        Certainly interesting to note that your concerns are mostly
        ‘liturgical’ ones – its all about form – a “symbolic system,” the liturgical tradition, which is the source and purpose of that hierarchy in the first place”
        Lots of fun stuff in your comment – thanks for your honesty.

        “Remember, I’d prefer that even MALE clergy (in official capacity, at least) be wearing their cassocks, so you have to remember to view my position through that lens. Having priests and deacons in cassocks but then women in pants just wouldn’t make any sense aesthetically, there’s no internal consistency to that idea. ”

        Since you are in part at least about ‘aesthetics’ – How about Priests in pants and women in ‘cassocks’ – Female Priests, Bishops, Cardinals and perhaps one day a Popessa most certainly ‘aesthetically’ could wear the silk and embroidery with much more dignity than what we modern Catholics are forced to these days.

      • Kurt permalink
        January 28, 2012 10:45 pm

        Sinner, I think you’re going off the deep end, but I appreciate at least your very unique point of view.

        I would just mention that the cassock is not a liturgical garment but really a scholarly garb, really the same item as the academic gown and the judicial robe and why choir members (the schola) often wear cassocks.

  22. January 28, 2012 3:23 pm

    Bravo David for bringing this to the fore. I haven’t investigated all the reasons for why these roles are considered so gender specific, but I can detect the mindblowing sexism shrowded under ‘tradition’ thats hardly concealed. Regarding all the folks (specifically women) with agendas that might show up at the door, I presume we do have a serious discernment and formation process thats designed to bring us to a desired result: namely identifying and forming people who are called by God for a specific task.

    Perhaps a better understanding that it’s God who calls, guides, supporsts and protects the rightful candidates should give us confidence as we move forward. And we certainly need to move forward on this.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      January 28, 2012 3:42 pm

      Thanks, TauSign. I would add there there are plenty of men who seek to become deacons for all the wrong reasons. I have been told that a typical pool of applicants is reduced by more than 50% in my archdiocese before ordination. I did a post a while ago about part of this (extensive) screening and discernment process.

    • Melody permalink
      January 28, 2012 4:14 pm

      “Perhaps a better understanding that it’s God who calls, guides, supporsts and protects the rightful candidates should give us confidence as we move forward.” You expressed better what I was trying to get at in my previous comment; not that someone couldn’t pursue the diaconate for the wrong reasons; but that there is the discernment process along the way by which hopefully both the candidate and the community learn whether the person is called.

  23. January 28, 2012 10:16 pm

    But trying to simultaneously maintain hierarchy, but then insert democracy or notions of equality into it, to try to, as it were, co-opt the very power of hierarchy to the cause of subverting hierarchy…strikes me as just disingenuous and convoluted.

    Notice, everybody, that, under the guise of “tradition” and “liturgy” this language IS all about POWER–and about a kind of “power,” in the minds of this and other sexists, that actively subverts Christ’s dictum that his Church should be all about embracing the role of “servant.” No wonder the Protestants think most of us are so benighted that we can’t see that being Christian IS all about injecting “equality” into “hierarchy”–because that’s EXACTLY WHAT CHRIST COMMANDED!

  24. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
    January 29, 2012 2:04 pm

    @A Sinnner

    It is clear that our views diverge radically, so it is perhaps not worth pursuing this further. But I did want to comment on one small thing.

    “The question of garb would have to be addressed, certainly, by re-sourcing things from tradition”

    Permanent deacons, for the most part, do not wear any kind of clerical garb except when on the altar. In a very small number of dioceses they wear Roman collars (Denver for one) but the push has been away from clerical garb. Transitional deacons wear collars because they are going to become priests, but the sense among permanent deacons (dare I say the sensus fidelium) is that special garb is not appropriate for their ministry. So in this regard, “garb” is a non-issue for women deacons/deaconesses: they would wear lay dress as men do.

    Based on your comments I see that you want priests and perhaps deacons to wear cassocks because they are traditional. But traditional in what sense? As regular day wear this is certainly not the case. As best I can tell, cassocks as daily wear for priests were a radical innovation introduced by the French in the 19th century. It had a heyday in the wider church, but in the 20th century fell away as the collar and black suit combo took over. Even in liturgical wear (under all the vestments) their use has shown evolution with the current cassock dating only from the post-Tridentine period. (To the best of my knowledge: references are sketchy.)

    • January 29, 2012 4:54 pm

      “Permanent deacons, for the most part, do not wear any kind of clerical garb except when on the altar. In a very small number of dioceses they wear Roman collars (Denver for one) but the push has been away from clerical garb. Transitional deacons wear collars because they are going to become priests, but the sense among permanent deacons (dare I say the sensus fidelium) is that special garb is not appropriate for their ministry. So in this regard, ‘garb’ is a non-issue for women deacons/deaconesses: they would wear lay dress as men do.”

      Except, in the world you imagine, deaconesses WOULD apparently serve at the altar just like deacons. But there is simply no precedent in the tradition for deaconesses, say, wearing a dalmatic or crossed stole or even an alb.

      In reality my position is a bit more nuanced. I’ve written before about how I don’t actually think the idea of secular clergy always wearing a “uniform” is really good (it’s not like they’re a social caste, not anymore at least). I am actually fine with priests who are not particularly “on duty” wearing secular clothing.

      However, in the context of official ministry, and in the context of liturgy (whether as ministers, or attending in choir) I think they should; though outside liturgy or “black/white tie” functions this might indeed only be the clerical suit rather than a cassock. But women in clerical suits just looks silly to me, and adding shoulder-pads and a flaring the pants and throwing in some heels doesn’t make it any less so, so the question of garb at least for formal/official clerical functions would have to be addressed in my mind (of course, your answer is that there shouldn’t be any for any deacons, so the divergences here are indeed clearly much broader and not particularly limited to the question of sex and gender).

      The push away from clerical garb even in the context of official “on duty” ministering, however, seems like just the sort of “laicizing” tendency I pointed out.

      • Kurt permalink
        January 30, 2012 9:29 am

        But there is simply no precedent in the tradition for deaconesses, say, wearing a dalmatic or crossed stole or even an alb.

        The alb is the baptismal garment. Properly, every Christian has worn it. And the white wedding dress, the shawl worn by Ethiopian Orthodox women and the white outfits some Pentecostal sects wear to church on Sunday and mainline Christian children wear on Easter is an adaptation of it.

        The dalmatic and cross stole are innovations that developed after women deacons declined in the West. They were worn by women deacons (by this point of history, entirely monastic) in the Byzantine and Maronite churches.

        But women in clerical suits just looks silly to me, and adding shoulder-pads and a flaring the pants and throwing in some heels doesn’t make it any less so,

        Okay. Up until now I’ve favored women deacons, but that convinced me to the contrary! :)

  25. dominic1955 permalink
    January 29, 2012 3:33 pm

    Obviously we all disagree, just a few parting shots though.

    I have no problem with women having certain powers and even jurisdictions within the Church, but in a traditional way. I am all for mitred abbesses and such, but the kinds of women who should have this power should be able to take the Oath Against Modernism and one of the developed Credos (Tridentine or People of God) without the slightest hesitancy. That said, so should all priests and anyone else who has any say in the Church.

    As to permanent deacon programs, that is what I’ve seen. It is no slight against the men who go for it, its not their fault. Some I’ve seen do a decent job and actually teach the candidates to have some sense of their clerical state, their legitimate role in liturgy and a more balanced approach to this “service” aspect. There is no need to ordain men to be social workers after all.

    As to the “sensus fidelium”, this deals with the totality of the Faithful (past and present) and those who are truly faithful. It strikes me odd that one would take views which are at odds with the constant Tradition as being an authentic expression of the “sensus fidelium”, maybe an authentic sensus infidelium…

    Cassocks as daily dress in more modern times was introduced during the reign of Pius IX, that is why it is called “abito Piano”. Before that, they wore frock coats with a special cape, knickers, buckled shoes, etc. basically a simplified and clericalized version of 18th Century men’s wear. Before that, however, cassocks or tunics (referred to as the vestis talaris) were proscribed by Roman decrees. Regardless of what happened in the distant and cloudy past, the connection between the wearing of the cassock and other such ecclesiastical garments and the reign of Popes like Pius IX gives the cassock a certain symbolic importance as a mark of orthodoxy.

    Lastly, this matter of “sexism” betrays a certain adoption of modernist and worldly thinking. Thinking properly as Catholics, the makeup of the Hierarchy and the role of women in the Church is a given. What the Fathers and Councils etc. have said about these issues are not mere time conditions responses that are somehow obsolete. The Catholic should adopt the mind of the Church, they shouldn’t try to alter that mind to coincide with the mind of the world.

    • January 29, 2012 4:56 pm

      “There is no need to ordain men to be social workers after all.”

      Thank you! This, of course, was a problem with even priestly formation for a long time too.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      January 29, 2012 8:06 pm

      Except of course, for the fact that the first seven deacons were indeed ordained to be social workers—or at least as close to that as can be had in 1st century Palestine. Out of curiosity: you seem quite dismissive of the charitable and social justice work which is now so central for the permanent diaconate. Why shouldn’t their work in these areas be supported by the grace of ordination as it is part of their charism?

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      January 29, 2012 8:13 pm

      “Lastly, this matter of “sexism” betrays a certain adoption of modernist and worldly thinking. Thinking properly as Catholics, the makeup of the Hierarchy and the role of women in the Church is a given. What the Fathers and Councils etc. have said about these issues are not mere time conditions responses that are somehow obsolete. The Catholic should adopt the mind of the Church, they shouldn’t try to alter that mind to coincide with the mind of the world.”

      Really? The Church has never changed its mind on something at the prompting of the Holy Spirit? Could the Spirit speak to us through the broader world?

      We have grown as a people on our long pilgrimage to the New Jerusalem, and I think it is entirely possible that our self-understanding of the role of women (or indeed the nature of the hierarchy) will change. Indeed, I hope it has. 50 years ago, there were priests in the U.S. who would not shake the hands of their women parishioners. 50 years ago, at the public masses that preceded the daily sessions of Vatican II, women could attend but could not receive communion. If they approached the communion rail they were physically restrained by the Swiss Guard. So yes, I definitely hope that the Church has changed course on this.

  26. dominic1955 permalink
    January 29, 2012 9:32 pm

    “Except of course, for the fact that the first seven deacons were indeed ordained to be social workers—or at least as close to that as can be had in 1st century Palestine.”

    Yes, those first deacons did much in the way of service but not merely social justice. They were to be the eyes and ears of the bishop and the priests. The distribution of alms was one part of that service, but so was their liturgical and pastoral service. All of it goes together and is integral to the diaconate.

    “Out of curiosity: you seem quite dismissive of the charitable and social justice work which is now so central for the permanent diaconate. Why shouldn’t their work in these areas be supported by the grace of ordination as it is part of their charism?”

    That is because it is only one facet of what the permanent diaconate should deal with. If that is all a permanent diaconate program is teaching, then it is doing the Church a disservice. Note that in Pope Paul VI’s motu proprio Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem (Sec. V, No. 21) the list of the functions a deacon should attend to are primarily liturgical. It is not until 9) that social assistance is mentioned. Archbishop Lefebvre was in favor of a restored permanent diaconate. As Archbishop of Dakar and Superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers, he understood the value of a permanent diaconate in missionary territories in the service they could provide liturgically, pastorally and in charitable efforts.

    Basically, I see the potential in the restored permanent diaconate as a real clerical order. Permanent deacons should be liturgically astute, I would guess that one of the ideas kicked around at the time by the old liturgical movement was that a greater availability of clergy would allow a more common celebration of the Solemn High Mass, which was/is the normative version of the Mass.They should also be able to minister in other liturgical and pastoral actions, and do so competently. Thus, they (and any potential cleric) need to be intelligent enough to perform these duties and be of impeccably orthodoxy. If they are to be the bishop’s eyes and ears, they need to be able to properly think with the Church and therefore teach those in their charge the saving truths of the Faith without blemish. I also see value in a restoration of the Minor Orders and allowing laymen to be ordained in them to perform their various services with no intention of being ordained priests.

    • Kurt permalink
      January 30, 2012 9:49 am

      Note that in Pope Paul VI’s motu proprio Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem (Sec. V, No. 21) the list of the functions a deacon should attend to are primarily liturgical. It is not until 9) that social assistance is mentioned.

      Yes. The diaconate had ben mangled from its proper ministry to a purely liturgical and transitional office. Paul VI took the quite radical step of restoring the social and charitable ministry of the diaconate. It is not surprising that first the Holy Father srestated the understood liturgical functions and then the restored service ministry.

      Archbishop Lefebvre was in favor of a restored permanent diaconate. As Archbishop of Dakar and Superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers, he understood the value of a permanent diaconate in missionary territories

      This was the Vichyist Lefebvre’s concession to the native Africans. They might be deacon while the offices of priest and bishop were reserved for white colonialists.

  27. dominic1955 permalink
    January 29, 2012 9:51 pm

    “Really? The Church has never changed its mind on something at the prompting of the Holy Spirit? Could the Spirit speak to us through the broader world?”

    Well, depends on what you mean by this. Could the Holy Spirit speak to us through the broader world? It is certainly possible, but more along the way that nature proclaims the glory of God. I do not see why He would go through the World (which has always been associated with the Devil and sin) to teach His one true Church something, certainly not with strains of thought that have been condemned by the Magisterium.

    “50 years ago, there were priests in the U.S. who would not shake the hands of their women parishioners.”

    That is an accidental quality of some priests, I do not recall this as something mandated in the 1917 CIC or even in things like my archdiocese’s old diocesan norms. They did say that priests shouldn’t be out alone with women or drive in cars alone with them, but this was all to protect both parties from suspicion. Maybe its seen as overblown today, but regardless, those are prudential norms which can and do change. Still, the principle is always valid.

    “50 years ago, at the public masses that preceded the daily sessions of Vatican II, women could attend but could not receive communion. If they approached the communion rail they were physically restrained by the Swiss Guard. So yes, I definitely hope that the Church has changed course on this.”

    To be honest, I do not know what you are talking about so I cannot address this specifically. However, knowing the old liturgical norms, actually, I would guess that pretty much no one other than the celebrating prelate received Communion at these Masses. A Pontifical Mass in the various rites (Eastern and non-Roman Latin Rites were also celebrated during Vatican II at St. Peter’s) did not really have a provision for distributing Communion to the laity or even the majority of the clergy. They never would have had bowls full of thousands of hosts like they do now days. It was the custom for the laity and assisting clergy not to Communicate at large Masses like this because, 1) frequent Communion was a rather new practice, 2) the logistics of the traditional rubrics do not allow for it and 3) each priest/bishop is supposed to say his own Mass every day so even if he assists at a Conventual Mass or a special occasion Pontifical Mass, he probably already said his own private Low Mass.

    I think the Church is plenty respectful of women, it is the World that causes trouble by making it seem (even to our own people!) that the Church is so backward or “sexist”.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      January 30, 2012 7:06 am

      “To be honest, I do not know what you are talking about so I cannot address this specifically. However, knowing the old liturgical norms, actually, I would guess that pretty much no one other than the celebrating prelate received Communion at these Masses.”

      This was apparently reported in the NY Times and other newspapers covering the event at the time. It is documented in the recent book “The Spirit of Vatican II” (a history of the US in the pre and post-conciliar period). And no, this was specifically targeted at women: their husbands could go forward and receive communion, they could not.

    • grega permalink
      January 30, 2012 9:41 am

      “I think the Church is plenty respectful of women, it is the World that causes trouble by making it seem (even to our own people!) that the Church is so backward or “sexist”.”

      I view church history as plenty alligned with overall societal trends. Equality of women and men – at least around this part of the Globe will not go away as a fact of life. And yes it does mean that a large mainstream Religion like the Catholic Church will have to face this over and over and over again – equality of women is societal mainstream – I would argue it is even more than that -this is one of our major cultural and political battlelines distinguishing our culture and society from others.
      Right now we actually witness the ‘unifying spectacle’ that religious fundamentalist (christian, muslim and jewish) all but agree that women should be put back in their ‘proper’ place – they typically start by using patronizing, ‘wellmeaning’ language – but certainly in the Middle East they use violence.
      I view the Catholic Church as full part of societal mainstream – thus women will gain full equality in the long run.

    • January 31, 2012 10:34 am

      “I do not see why He (the Holy Spirit) would go through the World (which has always been associated with the Devil and sin) to teach His one true Church something, certainly not with strains of thought that have been condemned by the Magisterium.”

      “I think the Church is plenty respectful of women, it is the World that causes trouble by making it seem (even to our own people!) that the Church is so backward or “sexist””.

      It appears to me that this line of thinking is really influencing how you approach this topic. The ‘world’ can be thought of as evil (i.e. sinful values and actions that resist the conversion that Christ offers). This ‘world’ opposes Jesus and thus we hear him ‘not praying’ for these forces or concerns.

      The ‘world’ can also be the ‘non-sacred’ or ‘non-consecrated’ (i.e. the profane) areas of life which are not dedicated to evil, but where the Holy Spirit moves freely; places where we ‘live, move and have our being’. This is where the Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized. Of course the Church is informed and nourished in Sacrament and Word in the sacred spaces, but she is not confined to such.

      • dominic1955 permalink
        January 31, 2012 10:24 pm

        I know the distinction (i.e. that the world is not actually evil in all the connotations of that word), but we’ve traditionally considered the “World” as what needed saving. What we considered good and useful from the World and adopted from the World we “baptized”, thus changing it, and took it out of that profane arena and put it on a different plain.

        What is truly profane (though not unholy, I know that doesn’t mean evil either) does not belong in the sanctuary. This is why it used to be that the ecclesiastical chants and sacred music were the only forms worthy of the Temple (the church), while what was truly profane was not, though it has its place outside. Even what is profane but still of value or nice has its own place and even can contribute to the believer’s well being.

        What I really take issue with is “This is where the Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized.” The Church is not evangelized by the profane world, we alone have the Gospel, we alone have the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the life of grace. Yes, the Spirit moves freely where He wills, but with prevenient grace-the preparation of the sanctifying grace which is only found in, from and through the Church.

        Not in vain did the Fathers compare the Church with the ark of Noah, outside of which all would perish in the deluge.

        From your handle, you must have a love of Franciscan spirituality. Certainly you know the love and regard that St. Francis had for God’s creation and how this creation was made by God out of love for us. This is the good “world”, we can come to know and love God through His creation. But certainly you also know how he walked to Egypt to try to evangelize the Ottoman sultan. He knew the Church (through Christ) alone has the saving medicine for the world, not the other way around.

      • February 1, 2012 11:21 am

        dominic1955 were are going unnecessarily at cross purposes.

        “What I really take issue with is “This is where the Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized.” The Church is not evangelized by the profane world, we alone have the Gospel, we alone have the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the life of grace.”

        I’m not saying that the Church is evangelized by the profane world. Certainly the profane world is not an agent of evangelization. What I mean is that we can discover the movings of the Holy Spirit in the circumstances of daily life and in the context of our ordinary relationships. This is why, we franciscans have a pratice of Gospel reflection which is expressed in the phrase…“going from gospel to life, and life to the gospel”

        But again, your linking of avoiding the profane in the sanctuary with this topic of woman deacons is troubling. I’m certain that you had no intention to make such a conscious link and can perhaps rightfully accuse me of overreaching. If so I apologize in advance. But I’m wondering if this frame of reference in itself doesn’t lead many to the conclusion that the female gender is not suitable for the sanctuary. Is your concern (mine also) of profane or secular music in the liturgy extended in some fashion with woman proclaiming the gospel from the pulpit? Yes we are saved in the Ark, but women inhabit the Ark also.

  28. January 29, 2012 11:37 pm

    David, I admire your great patience and courtesy in moderating this post. I can only hope and pray that your Franciscan charism along with your diaconate discernment and training is preparing you for encounters with the ‘liturgical police’. You might even take the entire post and thread and use it for a stimulating discussion with your brother candidates.

  29. R. Rockliff permalink
    January 30, 2012 10:12 am

    Dear Sinner,

    I want it entered into the record that you are not alone in your evaluation of the importance of aesthetics in religious matters. I saw someone marginalize your perspective because it is unfashionable. I also saw someone make a snide reference to your age. I do not know if they were insinuating that you are too young to appreciate aesthetics, or that you are too young to include aesthetics in your value judgments. I am supposing that they do not think anyone should include aesthetics in their value judgments. I am twice your age, and I believe that aesthetics are much more important than contemporary opinion admits. The ancient philosophers most closely connected with Catholic patristic thought held that the human aesthetic sense was closely related to the human moral sense, though it is not fashionable to believe this today.

    I have seen people insinuate that the only possible motive for preferring ancient forms over modern is misogyny. These insinuations suggest a lack of imagination; an inability to imagine that not all human beings are motivated by the same things. One of the most important features of contemporary thinking is the notion that politics (power) is the only thing that motivates human beings. If someone claims that his motives are aesthetic, he will not be believed. Insinuations will be made that his preference for skirts over pants is motivated by misogyny, that he fears the power of a woman in pants. These insinuations do not really reflect on you. You might be motivated by misogyny, and you might not be. You might, after all, be motivated by aesthetics. What these insinuations do really reflect on is the psychology of your critics. What it shows is that they do not value aesthetics the same way you do, and that they cannot even imagine that someone else might value something that they do not. It also shows that they are not willing to take you at your word, and therefore are not willing to engage your ideas. They have asked you what you are afraid of, but you could ask them the same question.

    The problem is a problem of imagination.

    • grega permalink
      January 30, 2012 1:27 pm

      “The problem is a problem of imagination.”
      I appreciate your comment – in my view the ones lacking imagination here are
      actually not those of us requesting Equality but those that can not imagine anything other than the aestatics of the past and and imagination that seem not able to stretch beyond stereotypical utterances along the lines of ‘pantsuits’ etc.
      This said I certainly should not have made the age related comment. I actually value the honesty and sincerity displayed by you ,Asinner and others as well as the overall kind tone.

    • Melody permalink
      January 30, 2012 5:00 pm

      I am not going to say that aesthetics are unimportant. But I am going to argue that they are a side-issue to David’s discussion as to whether women should be ordained as permanent deacons. Wikipedia defines aesthetics as “..a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste.” And I suppose one’s “sensori-emotional values” could inform one that women deacons were appropriate or inappropriate to liturgical functions, or any other functions. But this is really a subjective thing, it seems to be a bit about comfort zones. And nowhere do Gospel values inform us that we are not going to be taken out of our comfort zones. I am confident that such questions as appropriate attire and liturgical function of women deacons would be able to be worked out, informed by both tradition and modern needs. But first the question needs to be decided of whether women deacons are to be, or not to be, in the Western Church.

  30. Kurt permalink
    January 31, 2012 8:52 am

    Okay, let’s ordain only aestheticly pleasing women to the diaconate.

  31. January 31, 2012 12:21 pm

    The real question for me is not the aesthetics or the Tradition per se. Rather, does the Church benefit (i.e. is she spiritually enriched and enhanced) when we consider woman as suitable candidates? It’s true that a modern secular world sees gender equality or opportunity as a paramount concern, but in terms of vocations the Church is concerned with spiritual impulses that begin in God. Therefore, the Church has to consider in light of the dramatically changing circumstances of women, whether or not God is (or will) breathing his Spirit in true callings. I think the question is very much open

  32. dominic1955 permalink
    February 1, 2012 5:22 pm

    Tausign,

    As to your first paragraph,we would be in substantial agreement. All of our traditional spiritualities would say that this is where we find the will of God for ourselves is in our daily lives. This is where the rubber meets the road, so to say.

    As to the second part, the connection is not accurate. Secular and banal music should be kept out of the liturgy completely, only what is truly sacred belongs in the Mass and Office. As to women in the sanctuary, they do not belong there not because they are “secular” or “worldly” they belong in the nave with the rest of us laypeople. Women shouldn’t be proclaiming the Gospel, and neither should I.

    The connection I was drawing with the sacred/profane and the World issue was not with women themselves but rather with the ideas/ideologies/philosophies that some in the Church seem to have enamored themselves with and try to impose those profane ideas on the Church. The “equality” and egalitarianism that stemmed from the Revolution is not something that can be “baptized”, they cannot be made Catholic without utterly rejecting what they are and substituting what the Church teaches about the true nature of equality and our rank before men and God, in which case it is foolish to talk about “baptizing” ideas of the Revolution when we are in reality merely emphasizing our own teaching as a correction.

  33. February 1, 2012 10:40 pm

    @dominic1955

    Thanks for the dialogue, I do appreciate it. Regarding ordination and equality, you will note in my comment directly above yours that I take your position. I never have said that women are entitled to diaconate ordination based on any sense of rights. This is because no person whatsoever has a right to ordination. This ‘right to ordination’ is a strawman that is used to hijack the issue. So on this we agree.

    You say, ” As to women in the sanctuary, they do not belong there not because they are “secular” or “worldly” they belong in the nave with the rest of us laypeople. Women shouldn’t be proclaiming the Gospel, and neither should I.” This begs the question as to why none should be ordained. As males you and I are in the naive because we are not ordained to the diaconate for some reason other than our gender. Women are not ordained to the diaconate, in part or whole, becasue of their gender. Clearly, I’m interested in understanding why women are not considered.

    Now the Chuch has spoken about why woman should not be ordained to the priesthood…people disagree but she has spoken. As I understand it, the Church has not spoken definitively about the ordination of woman to the diaconate and considers it an open question. Which is where it stands in my mind. As far as I can tell, the documents which discuss priestly ordination don’t apply to this issue. If people say otherwise, they should produce some evidence.

    We seem to be at a point in time where the status and circumstances of women have changed markedly in many cultures around the world. So I am open to the possibility that God may call some women to this important ministry along with men for the benefit of the entire Church. Indeed, its this desire to discern what God wills for the Church that is vital. This is not to mirror secular advances for women or promote agendas. (Note: even if there are difficulties to contend with by secular or religious reactionairies, this would not pose and overwhelming obstacle.) At any rate, I think that by probing the issue in a careful manner we should discover what, if any, the role of gender plays in this ministry. Peace and all good.

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