Female Deacons and The Hermeneutic of Perpetual Innovation
BY STEVE SKOJEC ON MAY 13, 2016 @ www.onepeterfive.com/female-deacons-and-the-hermeneutic-of-perpetual-innovation/
In an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica, Cardinal Walter Kasper discusses Pope Francis’ intention to form a commission to study the issue of “female deacons”:
“There is going to be a fierce debate, I think. On this issue, the Church is split down the middle,” German Cardinal Walter Kasper said in an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica.
Kasper’s comments came a day after Francis said he would set up a commission to study the possibility of having women serving as deacons, ordained members of the clergy who can carry out many of the duties of priests.
Kasper, one of the most influential liberal voices in Catholicism, said Francis wanted the issues aired after years of demands for women to have a greater role in the Church hierarchy.
“I personally don’t have a clear position but I am always open to and ready for innovation,” Kasper said, adding it was impossible to predict the outcome of the review.
“If you look at what has happened in the past, it would lead you to say no (to female deacons). But anything is possible.”
Whenever the winds of change are blowing, it seems we can count on Kasper to be in the mix.
Yesterday, I can’t count the number of people who sent me the story about the female deacon issue and asked me what I thought. I’ve read a the whole transcript of that part of his address. Francis treats of the problem fairly accurately as I understand it, describing the non-ordained role of “deaconnesses” in the early Church, which dealt with propriety and modesty in cases like full immersion baptism rather than any sacramental or preaching role. It does appear that the question was pre-planned — not many people would have a fairly obscure reference to the Council of Chalcedon ready to go off the top of their head, not even a pope — so that’s a consideration. Why include that question if you don’t want to open a door?
In that respect, I would suggest to you that it’s yet another thing thrown at the wall. And the things being thrown at the wall seem to be coming in increasingly rapid succession. Here, a quote of Apb. Fernandez strikes me as having greater relevance:
“You have to realize that [Francis] is aiming at reform that is irreversible. If one day he should sense that he’s running out of time and doesn’t have enough time to do what the Spirit is asking him, you can be sure he will speed up.”
Ultimately, I don’t expect much movement on female deacons. They’ll dredge it up and look at it all over again, and very little will come of it, despite the excitement of Fr. James Martin and company.
What will happen, though, is the continued battering down of any certainty that the Catholic faith is divinely revealed and immutable. The sense of constant change, perpetual flux, in something that is supposed to be unyieldingly stable is a huge problem. Cardinal Kasper may be “always open to and ready for innovation”; he may like to think that “anything is possible” — but most of the faithful are not and do not.
There is a curious unmaking of some of the more important accomplishments in the pontificate of John Paul II happening here. First, the synods on family which then produce an exhortation that snubs and all but replaces his Familiaris Consortio. Now, a commision to revisit what was so well established in JPII’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that it is referred to as “infallible.” You’ll see a particular syntax around the Catholic web about this “not being a question of opening a door; there is no door.”
And yet, here we are.
It is difficult for me to conjure up an explanation other than a permanent state of rupture and confusion. The satirical Catholic website, Eye of the Tiber, handles the issue masterfully…but it somehow falls just short of comedy when it’s actually the way people feel.
Pope Francis said today that he would set up a commission to study whether or not he can find more ways to confuse and frustrate the living crap out of people, revealing an openness to re-examining the church’s long-held insistence on not speaking off-the-cuff.
His move was hailed as a breakthrough by those in the media who have clamored for years to be given more stuff to speculate on, and who cite research showing that a pope whose speeches were scripted and thought out produced nothing for the media to report on, and therefore, pointless.
But the idea will face stiff resistance from some who believe that finding out whether he can indeed find more ways to confuse people is the first step toward drinking during a General Audience, which recent popes have ruled out.
During a discussion at the Vatican on Thursday, which at one point touched on the fact that just saying that a completely absurd idea is a possibility just because you’re put on the spot is in itself absurd, Francis was asked about the possibility of an official commission to study the issue. His response was, in essence, “Why not?”
“Constituting an official commission that might study the question of how I can make the lives of Catholics defending the Church from misinformed Catholics annoying?” Pope Francis said out loud. “I believe yes. It would do good for the Church to clarify this point.”
“I accept,” the pope said later. “It seems useful to me to have a commission that would clarify whether all of my successors should also be obliged to speak without regard to already resolved matters.”
The upshot of never-ending upheaval is nothing less than the crushing of faith and hope, the subsequent diminution of charity, and the loss of countless souls to despair.
I wonder if Pope Francis and his friends, always excited about novelty, ever contemplate that fact — or the terrifying accountability they will have before Our Lord.