Pope Francis: Let’s study idea of ordaining women as deacons [and more?]

Pope Francis: Let’s study idea of ordaining women as deacons [and more?]

Women bishops in Rome: Anglican and Episcopal Suffragans meet Pope Francis

By Rosie Scammell | religionnews.com/2016/05/12/pope-francis-lets-study-idea-of-ordaining-women-as-deacons/

VATICAN CITY (RNS) In an opening with historic import, Pope Francis has said he wants to study the possibility of ordaining women as deacons, a step that could for the first time open the ranks of the Catholic Church’s all-male clergy to women.

The order of deacons was reinsitituted in the Catholic Church following the reforms of the 1960s, and while deacons cannot celebrate Mass like a priest, a deacon can preach at Mass, celebrate funerals, and perform baptisms.

But in restoring the diaconate, the church also restricted ordination as a deacon to “mature married men” over 35.

Many protested that limitation, saying the earliest Christian texts also speak of “deaconesses” and arguing that the modern church should also allow women deacons.

Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were both theologically conservative pontiffs who said that such a move was unjustified and could undermine the concept of the all-male priesthood.

But Francis said Thursday (May 12) he agreed the matter should be given more careful consideration, telling hundreds of nuns from around the world that he himself always wondered about the role of deaconesses in the early church.

“Constituting an official commission that might study the question?” the pontiff asked aloud in response to questions from some of the sisters.

“I believe yes. It would do good for the church to clarify this point. I am in agreement,” he said, according to an initial report from National Catholic Reporter.

“I accept,” the pope said later. “It seems useful to me to have a commission that would clarify this well.”

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5 comments on “Pope Francis: Let’s study idea of ordaining women as deacons [and more?]

  1. [National un-Catholic Reporter goes gaga over and for deaconettes]

    Review NCR coverage of women deacons

    NCR Staff | May 12, 2016

    NCR’s Josh McElwee reported today that Pope Francis will create a commission to study the possibility of allowing women to serve as deacons in the Catholic church. Below is a wrap-up of recent content on NCRonline on women deacons and women’s ordination.

    Women share struggles at Vatican event, skirting issues of ordination, governance A dozen women from around the world shared compelling and sometimes harrowing stories of their struggles for peace, education and equality during a Vatican event March 8, 2016, with some calling for better representation and women’s leadership at the highest levels of the Catholic church. (Joshua J. McElwee, March 9, 2016)

    Archbishop: Synod should reflect on possibly allowing female deacons Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher said the synod should reflect on allowing for female deacons as it seeks to open up more opportunities for women. (Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, Oct. 6, 2015)

    Priests offer support for women’s ordination Priests explain their diverse journeys in support of women’s ordination at WOW conference in Philadelphia. (Thomas C. Fox, Sept. 19, 2015)

    Catholic activists raise ordination issue as pope’s U.S. trip approaches Some 500 Catholic activists from around the globe will converge on Philadelphia for a three-day conference Sept. 18-20, 2015, to press for women’s rights in the church. They will meet one week before Pope Francis is set to step foot into the city. The U.S.-based Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) is hosting the Women’s Ordination Worldwide meeting. (Thomas C. Fox, Sept. 11, 2015)

    We need fearless discussion on women’s ordination We say: Many people in the church are prevented of speaking on women’s ordination in fear of losing their livelihoods and careers. Those of us with the freedom to speak up, should. (NCR Editorial Staff, Nov. 15, 2015)

    The church is not a museum “The Church is not a museum.” Those are the words of Pope Francis opening the family synod in Rome this week.One can hope the delegates begin to understand. (Maureen Fiedler, Oct. 8, 2015)

    Women’s ordination: Can we be public? (Global Sisters Report commentary) In mid-April of this year, I was one of 38 Catholic leaders from 22 different Catholic reform organizations that met in Limerick, Ireland, in a four-day conference to discuss the state of the church. We spoke about the need to revitalize the church and the issue of authority as key in that revitalization. We spoke about the need of the Vatican to decentralize in favor of strengthening the local churches. (Jeannine Gramick, July 14, 2015)

    Are things looking up for women in the church? A plethora of conferences about women have popped up all over Rome in the last three months. The Vatican’s former hard-line freeze on discussing women’s roles may at last be thawing out. (Christine Schenk, May 7, 2015)

    Despite what opponents say, women deacons are for ministry The Cleveland-based activist group FutureChurch has organized its members nationwide to pay pre-ad limina calls on bishops. The FutureChurch brief includes restoring women to their traditional place in the diaconate. (Phyllis Zagano, Jan. 18, 2012)

  2. If it happens, this will finish off the institutional Novus Ordo Church of the progressive modernist Spirit of Vatican II. Every crazy liberal ex-nun and all the radical modernist feminists who have been waiting to be ordained as priests will be lining up to get their time in pulpit. Use your imagination (i.e., Deacon Nancy Pelosi, et al.). God help us….

  3. Boy is it ever the time to be in Communion with “Rome!” Thanks Fr Schmidberger, if it weren’t for you I’d of thunk St Marcel actually meant what he said. Women Deacons, The Blessed Sacrament for adulterers! Rome’s converted alright. What’s next, openly homosexual priests? –oh, wait.

  4. Some feminine observations about deaconesses (aka deaconettes)

    Posted on 12 May 2016 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf @ wdtprs.com/blog/2016/05/some-feminine-observations-about-deaconesses-aka-deaconettes/

    Did you all know that, a few years ago, the question of deaconettes was put to the International Theological Commission (ITC) – under the aegis of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)? Yes, indeed! The Commission has no teaching authority. However, they did come down against the notion.

    At the time it was reported [Fr. Z’s comments in brackets]:

    The general secretary of the International Theological Commission, Father Georges Cottier, O.P., has responded to certain questions about the Commission’s study of the diaconate raised by the October 8th issue of La Croix. Fr. Cottier stated that the Commission’s study has not concluded that the possibility that women could be ordained to the diaconate remains open, as asserted by La Croix, but rather tends to support the exclusion of this possibility. [The short translation of this is, “No”. The longer translation is, “Nooooooooo!”]

    The Commission of theologians, even if it has not the role of pronouncing with the authority, which is characteristic of the Magisterium, presented two important indications which emerge from study of the matter. In the first place, the Commission observed that the deaconesses mentioned in the tradition of the early Church cannot simply be assimilated to ordained deacons. In support of this conclusion, Fr. Cottier noted that both the rite of institution and the functions exercised by deaconesses distinguished them from ordained deacons. [Diaconate doesn’t apply in the same way to women as it does to men. Men were ordained with a sacrament.]

    Furthermore, Fr. Cottier noted that the Commission’s study reaffirmed the unity of the sacrament of Holy Orders. The distinction between the ministry of bishops and priests, on the one hand, and that of deacons, on the other hand, is nonetheless embraced within the unity of the sacrament of Holy Orders.


    So, for what it is worth, the ITC came down against this.

    I wonder what was lacking in the “commission” that is the ITC? After all, these were experts in the field, right? It was a “commission”, right? It studied this question, right?

    Recently we saw two well-organized Synods take bites at the same apple. Is that what we are going to see now?

    “But Father! But Father!”, you fishy-smelling, print-besmeared Fishwrap types are slavering, “‘Ha! Ha!’ on you! Pope Francis understands. He is, after all, the first Pope who smiled! Heeee. We should create committees after committees after committees, with lots of authority! Eventually, one of them will get it right and that one will be the only one that counts! That’s how Vatican II did it… with committees. That’s how we’ll do it now… with committees! The Spirit of Vatican II wanted women to be ordained, right? But you don’t get that because YOU HATE VATICAN II!”

    To which I respond, “I really like this paragraph from the ITC’s explanation:

    The deaconesses were named before the sub-deacon who, in his turn, received a cheirotonia like the deacon (CA 8, 21), while the virgins and widows could not be “ordained” (8, 24-25). The Constitutiones insist that the deaconesses should have no liturgical function (3, 9, 1-2), but should devote themselves to their function in the community which was “service to the women” (CA 3, 16, 1) and as intermediaries between women and the bishop. It is still stated that they represent the Holy Spirit, but they “do nothing without the deacon” (CA 2, 26, 6). They should stand at the women’s entrances in the assemblies (2, 57, 10). Their functions are summed up as follows: “The deaconess does not bless, and she does not fulfil any of the things that priests and deacons do, but she looks after the doors and attends the priests during the baptism of women, for the sake of decency” (CA 8, 28, 6).

    “She looks after the doors”… sort of like ecclesial bouncers. But wait, there was an order of doorkeepers, men, who did that: porters. So, I suppose the deaconettes helped with the women who were pests or making trouble.

    I received the following on deaconettes from a very smart, Churchy-trained, American woman friend. She gives a pretty good summary but with my comments [in brackets]:

    Deaconesses could not possibly have been considered ‘ordained’ as the part of the seven grades of order, since they did not follow the cursus honorum: there were no ostiariae, lectrices, exorcist-esses [exorcistines? exorcistettes?], acolyte-esses, [acolytettes] subdeaconesses (though there is a mention of these among the Copts). If anything, ‘diakonissa’ was a honorary title, [just as ‘episkopa’ was for the mother of the Pope in the famous mosaic in Rome] since one was jettisoned into the office without any known previous office or ‘order’ (all the more so if one were married to a man who became a deacon and his wife came by the title that way). There were instances of presbyters and bishops being suddenly chosen from among men (‘per saltum’) but it was certainly not the norm. [Jerome scorned Ambrose on that account: “Heri catechumenus, hodie pontifex; heri in amphitheatro, hodie in ecclesia; uespere in circo, mane in altari; dudum fautor strionum, nunc uirginum consecrator: num ignorabat apostolus tergiuersationes nostras et argumentorum ineptias nesciebat?”]

    AND — we forget that there were many ‘orders’: not just minor orders, but the order of virgins, widows, energumens, catechumens, ‘fossores’, [grave-diggers!] penitents — into which people were enrolled (‘ordained’ into an ‘order’ or an ‘office’ — like cantors) usually by a prayer and a blessing and/or imposition of hands. Even our modern form of the Sacrament of Penance retains the vestige of the imposition of hands, as in the rubrics the priest is of course to raise his hand toward the penitent as he recites the formula of absolution. [I don’t do that hand-imposition thing, but it is in the book. I call that the law-suit bit of the modern rite.] We also forget we had two kinds of deaconesses — wives of deacons who were called ‘deaconess’ as an honorific, though no doubt she helped her husband in his ministry, and deaconesses in their own right, as it were, usually older women (and usually widows) who assisted with total immersion baptism for (unclothed) female catechumens, and full-body anointing/chrismation (or at least a woman’s forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears, breast, hands and feet), as well as keeping the women’s side of the assembly in line and visiting sick women and girls. Being ‘ordained’ into one of the ‘orders’ — even with the prayer and the imposition of hands — did not mean Ordination to Holy Orders.

    But I think that’s not what this current idea is about, eh?

    No, that is not what this is about.

    * * *

  5. Welcome to a Church of England manque: where anything goes.

    Already Liverpool Archdiocese lists Permanent Deacons along with their wives. Next it will be ‘partners’ I suppose.

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