Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

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Friday, June 03, 2016


Since the recent conversation between the Holy Father and the international gathering of religious superiors in Rome, the airwaves and cyberspace have been flooded with talk of "ordaining deaconesses."

This action, if it were possible, would be an entirely novel invention by egalitarian ideologues.  Novelty is the enemy of the Church's Tradition, which is itself the path to eternal life.  At some point, such types need to face the facts that contradict their agenda.  To wit:

1. Romans 16 speaks of "our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the Church at Cenchrea."  This in no way indicates an office of deaconess, much less a ceremony of ordination to such an office.  The office of deacon was established after the word servant (diakonos) was being used in a general sense.  We use words even today in both an official and general sense, e.g. "a police officer" vs. "policing the area."  All it means is that she was a "servant of the church."  The Lord welcomed women into his company and the Church has always depended on the varied service of holy women.  Please read the article: "Women in the Life and Teachings of Jesus" by James A. Borland. 

2. I Timothy 3: 12 ff refers to the qualifications of deacons and, in so doing, clearly identifies them as male (andres/viri).  The specific role of diakonos deacon is an office for which women are not qualified according to the description given by Saint Paul in I Timothy 3.  In the early Church, women had important roles of service - caring for the poor, assisting the elders, charitable works, helping with female catechumens - that were not in any way reserved to the ordained clergy.  As adult baptism waned, so did "women deacons."  (See Catholic Encyclopedia article on "Deaconesses")  The Church's traditions have developed in a particular direction since then, under the guidance of the Spirit. 

3. While women have been important leaders and contributors in the Church's history, they were never ordained.  Even though the Apostolic Constitutions contain evidence of a Bartholomew writing to another bishop in order to give him instructions on how to bless women for service in the Church using a ceremony that contains elements akin to an ordination, this does not mean that it was in fact an ordination.  Priests lay hands on people all the time and parishes hold commissioning ceremonies for liturgical minsters.  These blessings do not make them ordained clergy.  A "deaconess" (to use a fabricated transliteration) was a women of importance in her role of service to the Church but not an ordained clergy person.  Mother Superiors in the Middle Ages carried croziers, during which time some theologians mistakenly included religious vows as an eighth sacrament.  They wielded great power, as did Saint Joan of Arc, but this did not make them ordained. 

4. The 2002 report of the International Theological Commission (one of the advisory bodies operated by the CDF) titled From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles and the Vatican document Ordinatio Sacerdotalis along with its accompanying responsum ad dubitum clarifies both the role of female servants in the early Church and the deposit of faith regarding ordination of men only to the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  Nothing new can be unearthed somewhere by a new commission.

5. Holy Orders is one unified sacrament with three degrees - deacon, priest, bishop - and the rules and rituals governing it should express that. 

6. Modern egalitarianism is not a good reason to make innovative theological decisions.  It will be even more harmful to the Church than it is to the secular world.  We need to accept how God made us and calls us differently, for ordained ministry is from Him, not from human invention.  We need to follow the way of the Church and not the way of the world. 

Thus, if a new role for women is deemed to be essential to the life of the Church today, it would need to have a title that unambiguously distinguishes it from all that it is not: Holy Orders, vowed religious life, consecrated life, and consecrated virgins living in the world. 

Better yet, let us do all that we need to do to promote vocations and thrive in like manner to those diocese whose seminaries are filled.  Then the Church will grow as Christ intended and the priest shortage will not pressure us into ill-fated creativity.

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