Friday, October 9, 2015


My comment: The last picture below is of a Carthusian nun in the Latin Rite (in union with Rome) vested in maniple and stole over her habit who had a liturgical role, presumably in the Divine Office, not the Mass.

Also, recall the movie "The Sound of Music" when the Benedictine Prioress during the Divine Office wears bishop's gloves (Extraordinary Form) and offers a blessing to the sisters as a bishop would and I believe she has a crozier. 

But read this from The Deacon's Bench":

Curious about women deacons? Look East.—UPDATED

While the subject has popped up at the Synod this week, and seems to be generating some buzz, the topic of women deacons is hardly new to some churches in the East.
 The Coptic Church, for example, has a long history of deaconesses, but the office is not conferred by ordination and seems roughly akin to being a religious sister or nun:
Originally in the Church, during the Divine Liturgy, there was the celebrant priest(s), the altar deacon(s), and the congregation led in the hymns by the cantor (the mo’alem). Nowadays, the majority of the deacons are either chanters (psalters) or readers (augnostos). Neither of these ranks are ordained by the laying on of hands, but receive special prayers for blessing. The ranks of the chanter and reader are the first steps towards preparing the young men to fully understand the responsibilities of an ordained deacon, of which learning the Church’s hymnology is just one aspect. Since everyone should be chanting and participating in the Liturgy, then it really does not matter whether we are standing in the forefront wearing the deacon’s special garments of the robe and stole or whether we are standing inconspicuously unnoticed with the rest of the congregation. All the Church Fathers and Christ Himself teach us that we should never seek the first place nor the glory of being prominent. Our Christianity elevates the servant and submissive ones, not the one who wants to be prominent and distinguished. Therefore, as females we should not be bothered by the fact that we are not in the forefront; it is women who actually benefit from this arrangement since a truly Christian life must have humility and self-denial. Exercising authority is dangerous and difficult to do in a Christian way. Instead, let us learn from the Most Holy Virgin Mary to stand in humility before God and worship Him with awe and piety.
The Office of the Deaconess:
In the patristic era, there were three specific offices in the Church in which a woman could serve: deaconess, widow, and virgin. For all practical purposes, we will briefly mention the offices of widow and virgin and discuss the office of the deaconess (female diaconate) in more detail. The offices of widow and virgin were not ordained positions, but were entered by a personal vow. Their ministry consisted mostly of prayer, charitable work, and exemplification of virtuous Christian living. We still have the office of virgins, but in the form of the female monastics (nuns). Instead of living in groups in private homes, now they live in monasteries. As for the office of deaconess, they were consecrated by the bishop in a special ceremony. They were not ordained since the laying-on of hands was not involved. Their ministry included charitable work and in attending to the sick, poor, and all women and children, who needed help. They also prepared women for baptism, as well as assisted during their baptism.
After disappearing, the office made a come back in the 20th century:
The office of deaconess was restored in our Church by the Holy Synod, headed by H.H. Pope Shenouda III, and it is regulated by defined and specified bylaws. This was not intended as a political or theological statement for the equality of women, but because it was determined that there is a practical and definite need for it. We must remember that all of us as members of the Body of Christ, whether males or females, young or old, are called to be intimately united to our Lord Jesus Christ. This is possible only if we purify our hearts and offer to our Lord our thoughts, feelings, and acts to sanctify them. Again, this is possible only if we live the inner life of the Holy Church by being active participants. Each one of us has the potential, by God’s grace, to reach the highest goal, which is communion with Christ in this life and in the life to come in the Heavenly Jerusalem.
The Armenian Apostolic Church, also uses women as deacons, or deaconesses, and it is an ordained office:
The diaconate is one of the major orders in the Armenian Church. The word deacon means to serve ‘with humility’ and to assist. The Armenian deaconesses historically have been called sargavak or deacon. They were also referred to as deaconess sister or deaconess nun. The other major orders of the church are bishop and priest. The deaconesses, like the bishops and monks, are celibate. Their convents are usually described as anabad, meaning, in this case, not a ‘desert’ as the word implies, but rather ‘an isolated location where monastics live away from populated areas.’ Anabads differ from monasteries in their totally secluded life style. In convents and monasteries, Armenian women have served as nuns, scribes, subdeacons, deacons, and archdeacons (‘first among equals’), as a result not only giving of themselves, but enriching and contributing much to our nation and church. In the 17th century, for example, the scribe and deaconess known as Hustianeh had written ‘a devotional collection of prayers and lives of the fathers, and a manuscript titled Book of Hours, dated 1653.’
…To appreciate more fully the role of the deaconess in the church, Father Abel Oghlukian’s book, The Deaconess In The Armenian Church, refers to Fr. Hagop Tashian’s book Vardapetutiun Arakelots… (Teachings of the Apostles…), Vienna, 1896, and Kanonagirk Hayots (Book of Canons) edited by V. Hakobyan, Yerevan, 1964, in which a most striking thought is expressed:
If the bishop represents God the Father and the priest Christ, then the deaconess, by her calling, symbolizes the presence of the Holy Spirit, in consequence of which one should accord her fitting respect.
“Over the centuries, in some instances, the mission of the Armenian deaconesses was educating, caring for orphans and the elderly, assisting the indigent, comforting the bereaved, and addressing women’s issues. They served in convents and cathedrals, and the general population…
Check out the links for more.
UPDATE: A priest friend points out that you don’t really have to look East; the Carthusian nuns (Latin Rite)sometimes wear vestiture similar to clergy: 
After her solemn profession or perpetual donation, the nun can, if she wishes, receive the Consecration of Virgins. This is a special rite where the Bishop gives the nun not only the veil and ring, external signs of an indissoluble union with the divine Spouse, but also the stole. This confers on the recipient certain liturgical privileges the most significant of them being the proclaiming of the Gospel on certain occasions.
My friend seems to recall that the nun who proclaims the gospel in the Carthusian house wears a deacon stole to do so.


Anonymous said...

So, are you saying you like the idea of women deacons?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

which variety do you ask of, the unordained deaconesses which has roots in the early Church and which many Orthodox Churches maintain to this day, or the ordained deaconesses as in the Anglican Communion, which has no basis in the early Church?

Anonymous said...

You are dissembling. Either one.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

No you are setting me up. And thus I would say to you that the unordained deaconesses deserves study by the pope and bishops in union with him as they are the only ones who can authorize it or deny it altogether. I believe in Catholic ecclesiology. How about you?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I believe in Catholic ecclesiology, too. I would like to see some.

Anonymous said...

Well, if the pope allows female deacons (i.e. He teaches from the throne that females can receive The sacrament of Sacred Orders to the diaconate) then I will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Catholic Faith is false. I will then like my life doing whatever makes me feel good and not think about the consequences. Truth CANNOT change. Either the Church has been correct for the last 2000 years or she hasn't. It's that simple.

And gee Father I thought your crystal ball told you 2 years ago that it was silly to worry about this synod. You told us that all that was going to happen was the annulment process would be streamlined. I said we didn't need a synod for that. Cardinal Burke could have restructured it, PROPERLY, in a month. Instead we have a pope who is allowing the Vatican spokesman to present false interpretations of the majority of the synod fathers to the world. We have a pope who sits there and let's bishops, BISHOPS ! discuss accepting sin. Bishops are openly talking about allowing sacraligeous communions to take place with the blessing of the Church. We have bishops who are so arrogant that they think just because they are bishops that they can change Truth. This is insanity. Luther would be scandalized by what these men are doing. And it is crystal clear the pope is allowing all of this to happen. This is the filth that Pope Benedict spoke off. Everyday is another scandal. It is outrageous. I can't do much but what I can do is keep the money I earn and stop giving it to a bunch of judases. That's a start. And I am sure other faithful Catholics will do the same.

Rood Screen said...

There's no apostolic prohibition on ordaining women as lectors, acolytes, sub-deacons or even deaconesses, but such ordination would be non-sacramental.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

D, I don't think it is appropriate to use the term "ordained" for any of these but especially for deaconesses. More appropriately would be "consecrated" such as a "consecrated virgin" dedicated, if you will. Deaconesses in the early Church were not a part of Holy Orders which was reserved only for men and till this day even in the Eastern Orthodox Churches that maintain deaconesses.

A above you sets up yet another straw man in saying that the Pope if going to allow ordained women deacons. How silly.

And I will say now, that the revised annulment procedure is the pastoral solution to difficult marriage cases, there won't be any more solutions such as communion freely given to those in unrecognized civil unions, be they straight or gay.

To do so would collapse the whole need for annulments, the need for Baptism and subsequent Confession for those seeking to receive Holy Communion if someone in a public state of sin, be it adultery or something else, like belonging to a hate organization such as the Neo-Nazis or the KKK, would be allowed to receive Holy Communion. It ain't goin to happen, despite the Francis haters who listen more to the anti-Catholic, anti-Francis blogs and press.

Marc said...

I know that when I have questions about what the Church should do, the first question that I think to ask is "How would the monophysites answer this?" or "How would the Nestorians answer this?" Because, you know, doing what the heretics do is really the best way.

And FYI -- there are no deaconesses in the Eastern Orthodox Churches (or, if there are, they are hiding in a monastery somewhere and people have only heard rumors of their existence).

Anonymous said...

The Eastern Orthodox have never issued a statement of ecumenical authority (that is, a statement adopted at an Ecumenical Council) that states women cannot be ordained. However, they follow the time-honored tradition of ordaining only men to the priesthood and episcopate, basically that Christ being a male, so must a priest and deacon. Not sure if the deacon/deaconess question has come up among them, but most Orthodox parishes of which I am aware do not have permanent (non-transitory) deacons, a tradition Pope Paul brought back in the 1960s, and an essential ministry in fast-growing dioceses like Atlanta, where deacons (like at my parish) often preside at baptisms and take charge of adult education.

Anthony said...

Mr Mcdonald stop lying to your parishoners! The coptic church is orthodox not Roman catholic!

Jusadbellum said...

My understanding was that the ancient deaconnesses were called to assist at adult baptisms (immersion) of women. Now, we all know what happens to white linen when wet and human nature not having changed, the idea that the modest Christian would risk men assisting grown women in such situations is a bit much. Of course they'd delegate women to assist for propriety's sake!

But as all have said, it was never an ordained thing.

The tragic thing is how feminism makes everything out to be about power and power to be about position or role when the important thing has always been authority and that comes from holiness.

Mother Theresa had no "power" but she was more well known and loved and had more moral authority than any priest or bishop in all of India. But for some reasons feminists don't want that kind of moral authority. They want POWER... and as we all know, anyone who has that sort of creepy monomaniacal drive for power is the last person to be trusted with it.