Saturday, August 6, 2016

LET THIS BE CLEAR: IT'S ABOUT DEACONESSES NOT DEACONS


Deaconesses existed in the early Church but they were not ordained deacons, they were lay deaconesses. This ministry disappeared in the Church, kind of like sub deacons, tonsure, porters, and the like disappeared in the Latin Rite Ordinary Form after Vatican II.

Thus one of the participants on the commission to discuss deaconesses, not deacons, makes things crystal clear in an interview:

Die Welt: What, precisely, is the mandate of the new commission on deaconesses?

Menke: This is not yet fixed in writing. I presume that the pope will want to have examined whether the reintroduction of a ministry [Beauftragung] tied to the title “deaconess” could serve the mission of the Church and, not least, the stronger incorporation of women. Although many outsiders wrongly assume so, it does not in any case concern the admission of women to the sacrament of orders (the sacrament of ordination is meant – Ed.). For the Second Vatican Council definitively declared whether the deacon receives the sacrament of orders. The sacrament of orders is received not only by bishop and priest, but also by the deacon. Thus, since there is only one single sacrament of orders (in three levels, i.e. deacon, priest, bishop), the admission of females to sacramental diaconate, bestowed by ordination, would mean their admission also to priestly and episcopal ordination. …

Die Welt: What role did deaconesses play in the early church?


Menke: The office of deaconess represents, in historical retrospect, a very complex phenomenon which is marked by great geographical and temporal differences. In the eastern church there are deaconesses to this day. Meanwhile, the historical sources have been sifted through exhaustively and show clearly: at no time and in no place did the deaconess have a part in the office bestowed by ordination. What is witnessed throughout is the express exclusion from any sort of liturgical service at the altar, public exercise of the ministry of proclamation, and solemn celebration of baptism. In the early church, deaconesses fulfilled charitable services, and administrative ones in part also, similar to today in the Catholic church’s active [karitativ] religious orders: nursing, service to the poor, care for people, etc.

Die Welt: In your view, should we reintroduce a female diaconate?

Karl Heinz Menke: Of course one can consider whether the institutionalization of women’s participation in the form of an office similar to the early church or the eastern church would make sense. But in this it cannot be a matter of officializing or clericalizing whatever can be done in the church. One should take note that, at least in the West, the institution of deaconess was taken over by active [karitativ t├Ątig] women’s orders. The justified call for more participation of women in the church would hardly be met, if at all, by admitting them to an exclusively serving function. Women who were called deaconesses but were not equal to deacons would more likely feel discriminated against than valued more highly. …

Die Welt: Francis said that it should not be difficult to answer the question of deaconesses quickly, for this is an area discussed intensively since the 80s. When will your commission offer its results?

Menke: I know nothing of such a statement by the pope. As a rule, every comparable commission works for three to five years…

7 comments:

NO D said...

Umm, in other words we are taking about whether women can become nuns, sisters, teachers, nurses, choristers and lectors (where needed, in convents, etc), or extra-ordinary ministers of the Eucharist (where needed, in convents, if suitable men cannot be found, or in times of necessity / emergency). And whether or not these women ministers may or may not offer - in states or peril - to baptise those in need (to be confirmed by an ordained priest when possible), hear confession (to be presented to an ordained priest as soon as possible). Also to offer benedictions (as mother to a group of sisters), to expose the Blessed Sacrament for adoration (in certain privileged cases) .. to exercise temporal authority over possessions held in common (allotted to those under her rule), to hold temporal power and jurisdiction over lands, titles, governances attached to her role in society (abbatial, sovereign, presidential, representative, and so on) .. in service to the Church.

Is that it? To restore to women the authority that they so visibly held, at times remarkably often and indomitably so, prior that is to the Second Vatican Council, the mind-darkening Enlightenment, and the rebellious Reformation. Perhaps, of course, it is only to give a new name to the current state of powerlessness via a Marxian Socialist turn of dialectic ..

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this, Father. Is there a link to the interview as well? This issue has been a concern of mine for a few days now, mostly because of the hyperbolic statements by the media and left-leaning blogs (redundant?). I know one who is discerning the diaconate as a vocation, and is not so much uncomfortable with the idea of female clergy as he is worried about wholesale changes to the diaconate when he is mid-formation.

TJM said...

left-wing loons on their final march to attempt to describe the unity of the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic Church. This is a silly distraction to deflect attention from their support for a myriad of evils

Anonymous said...

I'm Eastern Orthodox, I have seen before where "liberal" Catholics will point to our Church as proof that deaconesses were a thing in the early Church. It is true that we had them, and I guess their office is still around technically, however, they had no liturgical role, their main job was the baptism of females from what I have read on the subject. I'm afraid the Catholic Church looking into this is just yet another innovation. Having been to Mass a number of times, with all the female Eucharistic ministers, there might as well already be deaconesses

Billy the Kid said...

A lot of the Masses I go to look like a women's boutique or a quilting party there are so many females in the Sanctuary.

Dialogue said...

Just give the title "deaconess" to all Sisters in wayward religious orders, and simultaneously dissolve their communities. The title will then die out in a dozen or so years, and religious life will have been reformed. Simple.

Anonymous said...

Apparently there is disagreement within the Eastern Orthodox about the role of the deaconess. In 1988, the Ecumenical Patriarch convened a conference at Rhodes (Greece) in 1988 to study the place of women in Orthodoxy and the ordination of women. The consultation could not envision ordination of women priests or bishops (that has been a sore point in dialogue between the Orthodox and Anglicans; however, it formally advocated the restoration of the order of deaconess. An official statement from that conference said in part: "The apostolic order of the deaconess should be revived. It was never altogether abandoned in the Orthodox Church though it has tended to fall into disuse. There is ample evidence from apostolic times, from the patristic, canonical and liturgical tradition, well into the Byzantine period....that this order was held in high honour. The deaconess was ordained within the sanctuary during the Divine Liturgy with two prayers, she received the Oracion (the deacon's stole) and received Holy Communion at the altar.

Perhaps East and West have different views on the matter...in the West for may centuries (until Pope Paul the 6th instituted the permanent diaconate in the 1960s), the office of deacon was mainly seen as a transitory office, the necessary step in order to later be ordained a priest. In other words, the office was not seen as one of service.

Thomas Hopko, editor of "Women and the Priesthood" (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1999), notes that while "The Orthodox Church has never had women bishops of priests" (page 139 of that book), and cites various reasons for that, also notes on the following page that the Church has affirmed the inclusion of women in the Church's diaconate. But of course what remains to be answered was what role the deaconess played in addition to assisting with baptism of women. In any event, the Orthodox would likely have much greater reservations about ordaining women as priests and bishops than as deacons---I suspect an all-male priesthood and episcopate is a "non-negotiable" matter in terms of any possibility of reunion with Rome.