Wednesday, August 3, 2016

TO BE A DEACONESS OR NOT TO BE A DEACONESS: THAT IS THE QUESTION? AND JUST WHAT IS A DEACONESS?

I find it interesting that the study group to discuss deaconesses uses that term and not the male equivalent of deacon. Deaconesses existed in the early Church but as far as I can ascertain not in the male way of ordination and their function was different than their male deacon counterparts.

None the less, I find it a bit contradictory that Pope Francis decries gender ideology and yet seems to allow those in the Church who promote it for women's ordination, be it deacons or priests or bishops, to have their day in court with deaconesses and the women's ideology that surrounds its promotion which is usually based upon power grabs and not service.

This is what the pope said about gender ideology:

In remarks delivered last week, Pope Francis said ideologies that profess children can “choose their gender” constitute the very “annihilation of man as image of God.”

“Today, in schools they are teaching this to children – to children! – that everyone can choose their gender,” Francis said, according to a transcript released on Tuesday by the Vatican, The Associated Press reported.

The pontiff was addressing bishops in a closed-door meeting during his pilgrimage to Poland last week when he made the remarks.

He said he wanted to conclude the meeting by reflecting on how we “are living a moment of annihilation of man as the image of God.”

Francis said “ideological colonization” is being advanced by “very influential countries,” which he declined to name. One such colonization includes that of “gender.”

But then this is what what Reuters is reporting about the planned discussion on women deaconesses (I know that is redundant) but they aren't using the term women deacons which I think is important and has implications:


Pope Francis has set up a commission to study the role of women deacons in early Christianity, the Vatican said on Tuesday, raising hopes among equality campaigners that women could one day have a far greater say in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Church bans women from all but a few decision-making roles (so it is all about power isn't it, not Christian service which is what deacons and deaconesses were about in the early Church, waiting on tables!)and the pope and his predecessors have ruled out allowing them to become priests. But advocates said Francis's move might make it easier for a future pope to study whether to allow that.

Deacons, like priests, are ordained ministers, and, as in the priesthood, they must be men. They cannot celebrate Mass but they are allowed to preach and teach in the name of the Church and to baptize and conduct wake and funeral services.

The Church barred women from becoming deacons centuries ago.

Scholars debate the precise role of women deacons in the early Church. Some say they were ordained to minister only to other women, such as at immersion rites at baptism. Others believe they were on a par with male deacons.

A Vatican statement said the pope had chosen a group of six men and six women, led by a chairman, who is a bishop, "after intense prayer and mature reflection".

Most of the group are theologians and university professors. Of the six women, two are nuns and four are lay people.

Professor of theology and ministry at Boston College, Father James Bretzke, said the pope had "shown he is very much his own person. He is respectful of his colleagues and of his predecessors but he's not shackled by them".

"I think genuinely he's looking forward now, saying women have to have a greater role in the Church," said Bretzke, who, like the pope, is a member of the Jesuit order.

The Women's Ordination Conference, which advocates for a female priesthood in Catholicism, said it was encouraged by the fact that the group was gender-balanced and included lay people.

The group called the pope's decision "an important step for the Vatican in recognizing its own history of honoring women's leadership", because Biblical and historical evidence cited several women leaders working alongside men in the early Church.

"Only when women are equally included in all ordination rites - as deacons, priests, and bishops - and at all Church decision-making tables, can we begin to restore our Gospel values of equality and justice," the campaign group said.

© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

My final comment: The last paragraph of the article above says it all--its about power, power to make decisions? But what kinds of decisions? It is about gender ideology, "equality and justice" because there shouldn't be any differences between men and women and a woman can choose to be a male and have all the power in the world. I won't get crass here, but is does strike me as a certain kind of envy! Is Pope Francis unwittingly or wittingly particpating in the very thing His Holiness decries? Gender ideology anyone?

30 comments:

TJM said...

my understanding of deaconesses in the early church is that they were non-ordained ministers, no matter what some lefties say on the subject. Since the ordination of woman in any capacity was settled by St. John Paul II, this seems like a huge waste of time and energy for a Church which has suffered greater losses following Vatican II than she did after the Protestant Revolt. I think it's way past time for someone like Cardinal Pell to sit down with Francis and persuade him to pursue more pressing tasks.

qwikness said...

I heard once that a deaconess were the spouse of a deacon. In any event I think this going nowhere. The pope is probably doing this for appearances sake. A dialogue and final resolution to put it to bed.

Jan said...

Under Francis we are becoming more like the Anglican church every day. Just waiting for the end of this papacy and hoping for something better ...

Critical Reader said...

Ever since the Moral Majority emerged in the '70s, one of the strongest and highest visibility planks of the Republican platform is opposition to abortion. Republican presidents have talked about it repeatedly over the years. Yet the reason why Roe v. Wade is still in place today is because the Republicans appointed O'Connor, kennedy, and Souter to the bench.

Moral of the story? 1) Talk is cheap. 2) Actions speak louder than words. Francis can talk all he wants about gender identity, but by appointing this commission we see where he really stands.

The hierarchy sometimes will talk a good game as a sop to orthodox/traditional Catholics, but such talk means nothing in the face of what the hierarchy does.

Anonymous said...

The Liturgy is in shambles. Religious life has been all but destroyed, Catholic education is riddled with heresy. A "devout and practicing" Catholic, Joe Biden, Just performed a gay marriage causing incredible confusion and scandal. We have cardinals and bishops rationalizing adultery and homosexuality. And the list of concerns and problems is endless. None of these problems are addressed or even acknowledged by Francis but he has time to waste on silliness like woman deacons. I guess it doesn't matter that the Church has decided a long time ago as de fide that only males can receive ordination. But I guess facts don't matter anymore, or rules or dogma. Why don't we have a study to decide how many sacraments there are. Can the pope change that Father? You are the ultra papist. Francis is a problem. He needs to go.

Marc said...

qwikness, in the Orthodox Church, the wife of a deacon is referred to as a deaconess. In fairness, I don't think there is support for that particular usage of the word in the early Church. It seems plain that deaconesses helped with the baptism of women when, in the early Church, this was done by full immersion and unclothed.

From my experience, I know that women still assist with this process in the Orthodox Church, where baptisms are done by full immersion (but clothed). I know that a priests wife can assist with this process, for example.

There is no need to have deaconesses in the modern Western Church. But this has nothing to do with need and everything to do with gender ideology.

Mark Thomas said...

The issue of deaconesses, as is the case for almost every issue within the Church, is of strong interest to a relative few right-wingers and left-wingers.

The majority of Catholics have either abandoned the Church/Mass or assist at Mass just a few times each year. The Church and Her daily "controversies" are of little or no in interest to the majority of Catholics.

Among Catholics who assist regularly at Mass, the majority will accept that which the Church presents to them. Once upon a time, the (Latin) Church presented Mass in Latin to Her children. Those who assisted regularly at Mass accepted that.
Today, those who assist regularly at Mass accept all-vernacular liturgy. The fight over liturgy is of interest to staunch right-wingers and left-wingers, not to the majority of Catholics.

The tremendous battles over translations of the Mass, deaconesses, whether priests should wash women's feet at Holy Thursday Mass...don't interest the majority of Catholics. The battles are fought by select groups of right-wingers and left-wingers.

Other than said folks, "nobody" within the Church is interested in such matters.

Should the Church admit women to the diaconate, then the majority of Catholics will yawn and not care...only a relative few staunch left-wingers and right-wingers will care.

By the way, I am not saying that that's good. But the reality is that the majority of Mass-going (regular attendance) Catholics would accept deaconesses...and the majority of Mass-going Catholic would accept Masses without deaconesses.

By the way, I am convinced that Father McDonald is correct about the following: The push for deaconesses among left-wingers is, for the most part, about a grab for power.

Pax.

Mark Thomas

TJM said...

If you tell me who Joe Biden's bishop is, I will write to him and tell him to grow a "pair" and deal with this fake catholic the media adores.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The wife of a married Presbyter (priest) in the Eastern Rite, and I presume also in Orthodoxy, is Presbytera.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

These waters have already been stirred!
http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_pro_05072004_diaconate_en.html

Billy the Kid said...

More Papal garbage...the Church is sinking faster than the USS Indianapolis...and the sharks are waiting.

Marc said...

You see correct, Father. Priests wives are called Presvytera or some other thing depending on culture.

Anonymous said...

Critic - One of the reasons abortion remains legal is that, although the Republicans have spoken against it, they need it to remain an legal and an issue so as to have their most effective campaign issue to draw voters.

Critical Reader said...

Anon. at 12:33: Absolutely correct. And there are parallels in the Church. More active Catholics=increased revenues, and a modernist's or heterodox "Catholic's" money is as green as a Trad's (and there's a lot more of it). The Church panders to heterodoxy to tap this potential revenue stream so it can fund its notions of social justice (e.g., CCHD). But it can afford to give the shaft to trads because trads (silly creatures) actually believe St. Peter had a point when he said "Lord, to whom shall we go?" That's why the hierarchy spends so much time and energy bashing little old SSPX while mostly ignoring rampant modernism in the mainstream parishes. SSPX, as a separate institution, gives Trads a way out and thus siphons off money in a way modernists "in full communion" (i.e., people like Biden, Kennedy, Pelosi, and Tim Kaine) don't.

Anonymous said...

There are some in the Orthodox Church who say there were ordained women deacons...but they did not have the same role as male deacons. There was a book written some years ago about Women and the Priesthood by those in the Orthodox Church, with varying opinions on women priests and deacons. An ecumenical council is the highest authority or teaching order in the Orthodox Church, and no such council among them has ever declared such ordinations are impermissible; however, it would be highly unlikely that they would ever ordain women priests, given their liturgies and their irritation with the secular trends of the West. I have known some Catholics who have become Orthodox over liturgy, like some at Atlanta's Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

As for the Church sinking, well, Billy the Kid, it has survived worse times over 2,000 years...Hitler, Communism, the Reformation, French Revolution...


As for the abortion debate, even if Roe v Wade were overturned---which of course it should be given its shaky legal (much less moral) foundations---all that would do is send the issue back to the states, and doubtless many if not most states would keep it legal---the Romney/Obama electoral college map from 2012 would probably be a good clue as to its legality in such an event. Does anyone really see a single state in the Northeast, except Pennsylvania, which would vote to ban abortion if so allowed? What about California, which backed Obama by 3 million votes last time? Or Illinois, dominated by liberal Chicago?


Anon1 said...

The Pope is reluctant to make a call on the questions of female deacons (there are no deaconesses or priestesses in the Roman Catholic Church). So, he appoints a commission to study the question. And then what? Should the study recommend ordaining deacons will the Pope appoint some? I do not think he will.

Father is right, it is a power grab.

Joe Potillor said...

Or in Ruthenian tradition Pani, or Russian Matushka...

Dialogue said...

Can a man become a deaconess?

George said...

Anonymous @ 1:23 PM

Sending it back to the states would be better that the situation we have now.
Some states would, through legislation or executive action of some sort, retain unrestricted abortion. There are states which would retain it with restrictions, although whatever a state ended up doing would then have to survive any challenge in state court. Of course there is always the option of the amendment process.

George said...

Critical reader

Kennedy, and Souter were thought to be more conservative than they turned out to be
(although certainly not in the mold of Scalia).
In order to avoid a protracted fight in getting the approval of the Senate,it seems either that the President at the time was persuaded by his advisors to choose compromise candidate for the nominee, or he, for whatever reason, made a poor choice.

Anonymous said...

If a man wanted to become oh I don't know let's say a Daughter of Charity and walk around in the old habit and coronet would that be allowed. Let's have a commission to see if men could become nuns.

On a serious note there should be a commission to restore the sub diaconate which EVERY other apostolic Church has and Pope Paul VI got rid of just because he felt like it.

Marc said...

Paul VI *tried* to get rid of the subdiaconate, and he failed. Thank God.

Critical Reader said...

George,

It's too much of a pattern. Rather than consistently pick solid conservatives such as Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, somebody (president, advisor, or whoever) picks an enigma (probably because of what happened to Bork) and then the administration says to the Republican party faithful "Trust us." This came to a head with the Harriet Miers nomination when the rank and file revolted and said "No, we _won't_ trust you." (If you'd asked 1000 jurists and scholars to each submit 1000 Supreme Court choices, Miers probably wouldn't have shown up on a single list.) The best that can be said is that the administration negligently failed to do its due diligence in just enough instances to keep the pro-choicers in control of the court, sometimes by a single vote. The worst that can be said is what Anon at 12:33 said--the Reps don't want Roe overturned because that would reduce the motivation of the social conservative wing of the party to get out and vote thereafter. In other words--if this is true--we've been played.

Anon. at 1:23: Theoretically, the Supremes could do more than send the abortion issue back to the states if it recognized the Fourteenth Amendment personhood of the unborn. But I'm not holding my breath. Science suggests this with increasing strength, but there's absolutely zero movement in this direction on the bench as far as I can tell, and no sign that there will be any.

TJM said...

Anonymous at 6:25, that's too logical. "Catholic progressives" heads will explode!

Dialogue said...

Technically, Paul VI merged the sub-diaconate with acolyte, even permitting the "ministry" of acolyte to be called "sub-diaconate". It's a mess, but it still more or less exists.

Marye said...

Anonymous @ 6:25 Why would a man want to become a Nun when he can choose a similar role as a monk?
For women there is not similar position in the church to the man who is a deacon. Why in the world is our church so against a woman serving God? What is wrong with a woman wanting to serve the Lord in the same role as a man? I just do not get this hatred towards women from traditional Catholic men and women. Why in the world after all these years can't the church change her rules so that everyone can serve if they are called by God. This would be such a wonderful change for our church and possibly open doors to those who would love to be a Catholic. If a woman chooses the hard life of a priest with all the limits as the man chooses who are we to say it is not a call from God?

Billy the Kid said...

Marye, RE: "Why would a man want to become a nun?" So he can use the women's bathroom?

Marye said...

Billy I dont understand your question. A man would not want to become a nun he could become a monk.
What does that have to do with a woman's bathroom? Really I don't understand.

Billy the Kid said...

Marye, Never mind.

John Nolan said...

References to Paul VI's 'Ministeria Quaedam', issued motu proprio in 1972, raise some interesting points. The ministries of Lector and Acolyte are no longer minor orders, and may be conferred on those who do not proceed to ordination. They are, however, reserved to men.

The liturgical and other responsibilities of both ministries are fairly extensive, but in practice are exercised by non-instituted lay people, including women, 'ex temporanea deputatione'. And this explains why MQ has never been implemented as intended. The reason why women were (grudgingly, it has to be added) allowed to serve at the altar was based on the fact that they already performed the function of an Acolyte as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.

It would be fairly easy for Pope Francis, if he were so minded, to delete Section VII of MQ which at present reads 'Institutio Lectoris et Acolythi, iuxta venerabilem traditionem Ecclesiae, viris reservatur'. Why does he not do so? Is it a question of formally upholding 'the ancient tradition of the Church' while ignoring it in practice, which his two predecessors were also prepared to do?

A 'deaconess' is not part of the Latin tradition, but since it is sex-specific one would have to find a role for it which would pertain only to women. Added to this is the distaste among women in the English-speaking world for the -ess suffix generally, e.g. poetess, authoress, even (recently) actress. It's not a problem in German, where most professions have an -in suffix to denote the feminine; Rechtsanwältin (female attorney) and Soldatin (female soldier) to name but two.