The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


A deacon named Phoebe

posted by jmcgee

She pops up in one of Paul’s epistles, and now an Anglican priest has blogged about her.

While debate continues about female deacons (or deaconesses), here’s some interesting context:

As is often the case with these first century saints, we do not know much about them, outside of their names being mentioned in Paul’s epistles or their names appearing ion the martyrologies of that time. Phoebe is mentioned in the letter to the Romans, and different translations list her as either a deacon, a deaconess, a minister, or a helper, from Cenchreae, a city near Corinth, in Greece. The actual Greek text uses the word diakonon; there is no distinction between masculine or feminine forms in that word. Some have tried to say that a woman deacon was not a member of an actual holy order, unlike a male deacon, but I don’t agree, because Paul’s list of qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy chapter 3 mentions both men and women: Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Women, likewise, must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. I read that as applying to both male and female deacons, but I know that the Roman Catholic church still thinks that the term deacon in this context means co-worker in the missionary enterprise. Phoebe is also described as a helper of Paul and many others, and it is quite possible that she was a Patroness of the house-church in Cenchreae; she may have owned the house in which the Christians of Cenchreae met, and that she took legal responsibility for the activities there. Some scholars believe that Paul’s mention of her in the epistle to the Christians in Rome was a letter of recommendation to the Christians in Ephesus; perhaps Phoebe was moving from Cenchreae to Ephesus.

The office of Deaconess was mentioned by St. Paul in the letters to the Romans and to Timothy, but we also have evidence of the office in a letter from Pliny, a Roman governor who was writing to the Emperor Trajan for advice on dealing with Christians. He mentions two women ministers among the Christians in Bithynia. The office of Deaconess is also mentioned in the Apostolic Constitutions of Hippolytus, and the office developed greatly during the third and fourth centuries, although it is quite different from the office Phoebe held. The Council of Chalcedon, held in the year 451, legislated that women could become deaconesses at the age of 40. A deaconess was to devote herself to the care of sick and poor women; she was present at the interviews of women with bishops, priests, or male deacons (so that the clergy wouldn’t be alone with strange women) and kept order in the women’s part of the church. Her most important function was the assistance at the baptism of women. For the first five centuries of the Church, people were baptized naked, and so, for the sake of propriety, male deacons couldn’t baptize women. When adult baptism became rare and was eventually replaced by infant baptism, he office of deaconess declined in importance. The office was actually abolished by the Council of Epaon in the year 517, but in the Nestorian Christian communities in Syria, and later in India and China, deaconesses administered Holy Communion to women and read the scriptures in public.

You can check out more at the link, though it’s worth noting that his approach is from an Anglican point of view.  But the history he expounds is compelling. 

It’s worth remembering that, while the Church has closed the door on ordaining women as priests, that door remains ajar on the possibility of women deacons.
 



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oldestof9

posted September 3, 2010 at 2:14 pm


The history IS compelling and likely could be true!
If that is so and their interpretation is right on, then it seem it’s also true that the role of the deacon and the deaconess was very differend and were NOT equal – an argument that the “womens libers” make.
In many ways I think it would be great to have deaconesses around for not only the things mentioned in the article, but they could be in charge of washing and pressing vestments and altar linen….(tee hee hee)



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Jakian Thomist

posted September 3, 2010 at 2:18 pm


“It’s worth remembering that, while the Church has closed the door on ordaining women as priests, that door remains ajar on the possibility of women deacons.”
I really wouldn’t bother building up the hopes of the ‘liberal’ branch of your readers Dcn. Greg!
It would be mighty foolish of the Church to follow the mistakes of the Anglican Communion in the deacon regard.
Pheobe was a good women, let’s pray for her instead of using her to advance a political rather than spiritual campaign perhaps?



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Bill Wilson

posted September 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm


The “church”–that is, the people of God–has not banned ordination of women. The Rome-based,male-dominated bureaucracy that runs the institution, interested primarily in preserving the privileges reserved to its male caste system, has imposed the ban and backed it with automatic excommunication. This is about power and control, not about theology or serving God’s people.



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anthony

posted September 3, 2010 at 2:48 pm


Bill, the vatican has not closed the door to women’s ordination to the diaconate. it has said a number of
times that it is more a pastoral issue under study. it is the ordination of women priests that is a closed issue for Rome.



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Deacon Norb

posted September 3, 2010 at 3:06 pm


The author mentioned why “diaconesses” were needed in the first century church — and the arena of adult baptism of women by immersion stands out historically as their main ministry.
Maybe we should now be asking if there are are areas of pastoral ministry to women where having a male as a minister can be inappropriate in our times as well:
–Some time back, secular society, through their police forces, decided that women police officers are far more effective in working with victims of male sexual crimes (rape/incest/domestic violence) than male officers are.
–Some time back, prison officials decided that women prison/jail ministers were far more effective in women’s wards/women’s prisons than men were. (As an aside, the Polish Federal Prison Chaplain General once told me that he has over 200 priests working for him as prison chaplains but for the women’s prisons he has an additional fourteen consecrated women religious).
–Then take a look at “post-abortion” ministry. My guess is that the women who minister in that pastoral fiield outnumber the men by 20/30 – 1.
While having women as deaconesses is one approach, another (maybe just as revolutionary) idea is to have some women who are already Nationally Certified as Clinical Pastoral Counselors ( or Nationally Certified as Prison Counselors) be given an indult to be “Extraordinary Ministers of Reconciliation.”
My prayer is that the Holy Spirit of God — “Hagia Sophia” in the Eastern Church tradition — inspire us all with the grace of Divine Wisodm.



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wineinthewater

posted September 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm


Deacon Norb,
I think you raise some very interesting points. But I would have to question the “Extraordinary Ministers of Reconciliation” idea. Sacramental absolution is something that has repeatedly throughout Tradition tied to the priesthood. Deacons can’t do it, and I don’t see a theological foundation for *any* laity doing it. With Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, they only bear the Blessed Sacrament to another, but they do not confect it. I don’t see a way that someone else could bear the Sacrament of Reconciliation to another.
But I think this gets to another point. The Confessional is not the only place for spiritual direction, not the only place for us to confess our sins. I think we need more widespread spiritual direction, and that is a role that capable laity can fill just as well as clergy.



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RomCath

posted September 3, 2010 at 3:38 pm


“interested primarily in preserving the privileges reserved to its male caste system, has imposed the ban and backed it with automatic excommunication. This is about power and control, not about theology or serving God’s people.”
What utter nonsense. As though the hierarchy, espeically several POPES, has not repeatedly presented the theological reasons for not ordaining women to the priesthood. You may not like them, but please don’t try to convince anyone that they have not presented their case.



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted September 3, 2010 at 3:51 pm


Bill, et al:
You might want to read and ponder this take on the issue before condemning the church’s treatment of women.
Dcn. G.



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BobRN

posted September 3, 2010 at 4:01 pm


An indult is an exemption from a particular law. An indult could not be granted for lay people to administer the sacrament of Reconciliation because absolving sins is reserved to the priesthood, not by matter of law, but sacramental theology. The idea that an indult could be granted to create Extraordinary Ministers of Reconciliation is a fiction based on the false belief that the Church’s understanding of the priesthood, and ordained ministry in general, is something that’s been made-up by the powers that be, and not part of the deposit of faith.



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Dante

posted September 3, 2010 at 7:14 pm


While it seems that neither the pro nor con side of the ordained-deaconess concept can claim history on their side, the theological foundation seems more to exclude the possibility. We know that the laying on of hands mentioned in ancient texts is explained in historical documentation as a commissioning and blessing not an de facto sacramental ordination.
If, as we Catholic believe, Holy Orders is but one sacrament instituted for the teaching, sanctifying and shepherding of the People of God, the fullness of which resides in the bishop, then the answer is stongly in the negative. The presbyterate and the diaconate are in simple theological terms, an extension of the bishop’s ministry/authority and as we can naturally see how the all-male charism would apply to the diaconate. While I always love to read history from an Anglican (they seem so thorough at it!) I think we need to recall that “ordained” deaconesses are found in churches without a valid Sacrament of Orders and thus it would matter little – ontologically – if the candidate “ordained” was male or female.



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anthony

posted September 3, 2010 at 7:37 pm


Dante, you are giving one opinion but it is not the current teaching of the church. The sacrament of orders has three distinct orders each with its own proper consecration. Deacons are not ordained to the ministry of the priesthood, but to the ministry of service. if you can obtain the theological introductions to the rites of ordination, it is very clearly taught how different the ordinations are and the unique ordination of each.. also the vatican has never stated that the ordination of women to the diaconate is closed topic, but that it is open for more reflection and study.



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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted September 3, 2010 at 7:49 pm


Deacons, like priests and bishops are ordained to Holy Orders. As can be seen in the Episcopal Church opening Any level of Holy Orders to women’s ordination just starts the ball rolling to complete radical change.
On the other hand, by a historical or theological trick some would drop the order of deacons from Holy Orders and then proceed to have non-ordained, but vowed, “deacons” and “deaconesses.”
And, of course it all depends on how far back in history you want to look for direction. There were no women chosen to become a deacon in the first batch with St. Stephen.
Coming forward, why should we even consider copying untraditional policies and practices that are ripping apart and rapidly shrinking the Episcopal Church as well as just about every other mainline Protestant Church?? And why are we always being pushed to follow failed Protestant practices and not looking to our True sister churches of the Orthodox East for inspiration.



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Fiergenholt

posted September 3, 2010 at 8:10 pm


Deacon John:
A question. I thought that the Eastern Churches (not sure if it is Orthodox or Byzantine) already have “deaconesses.” Seems to me I read they do and that they are primarily consecrated religious (“nuns”) who have been selected by their communities as Spiritual Directors. While their official ministries are primarily for those in the community, they are not restricted to that role and can minister to lay-women as well.
Try looking in a periodical index that lists the articles in AMERICA — the Jesuit weekly. As I write this, I am not in my office and cannot check my files for that article.



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted September 3, 2010 at 8:25 pm


John…
I’m not an expert on our siblings from the East. But I know that while the Byzantine Catholic Rite doesn’t have women deacons, some of the Orthodox churches do.
Complicating matters is the fact that the Catholic Church recognizes the validity of Orthodox sacraments. (And then, of course, there’s Benedict’s ongoing efforts to try and bring about unity with the Orthodox. Where women deacons would fit in with that remains an interesting question.)
Anyway: where all this will lead is anybody’s guess. The Holy Spirit knows. All we can do is watch and wonder.
G.



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted September 3, 2010 at 8:28 pm


F and John …
Here’s something of interest, from Phyllis Zagano.
Dcn. G.



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Dante

posted September 3, 2010 at 10:17 pm


I guess this issue is a good example of why Jesus established his Church on the foundations of Scripture and Tradition as interpreted by the Magisterium. Unlike the Orthodox we have a Living Magisterum that applies revelation to the here and now. And unlike the Anglicans we have Tradition which is not to be breached for the sake of contemporary “isms”. (That is a parphrase from my former archbishop John R Quinn, by the way…and yes the Anglicans have indeed turned 180 degrees from the Tradition in the past 40 years or so). So really for us the only question is: what is the Holy Spirit saying to the leadership of the Church on this issue? While it may be, according to some, an open question the conclusion is pretty clear from the Magisterium.
History while inconclusive, is also rather clear that the deaconesses of the past were more what we would call Sisters or consecrated women today. And lastly, while the Eastern Church is a part of the Church founded by Christ we must also keep in mind that it has been ins chism for over 1,000 years cutting itself off from the Living Magisterium. So they, along with Protestants, are not the most solid examples to use in this issue. And no this does NOT call into question any sincereity of faith or holiness of heart among them, It is simply plain and simple historical and theological (and ecclesial) fact.



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anthony

posted September 3, 2010 at 11:21 pm


Dante you wrote “While it may be, according to some, an open question the conclusion is pretty clear from the Magisterium.” I am not sure who you mean, but the magisterium has clearly said it is a issue for more discussion. The magesterium has clearly stated that the priesthood is reserved for males only. there is no definitive teaching that the diaconate is reserved for males. it is the current law, but not a teaching.
Also i am curious with this talk about extraordinary ministers of reconciliation, and lumping all three ordained orders into a generic “holy orders” if deacons study sacramental or liturgical theology in their formation. sounds like some guys were sleeping in class??



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Dante

posted September 4, 2010 at 12:03 am


While I was indeed tempted to sleep in class since the textbooks we used were of extremely dubious theological quality (e.g., Martos, Osborne, etc.)I indeed did not sleep in diaconate classes…nor in my undergraduate philosophy or theology classes nor in my graduate theology courses or those of post-graduate studies either. I am stating my education in this area not to be pomppous but to let you know that I am not uninformed. Perhaps I do not write as succintly and thoroughly as I should but then this is a blog…
There is no “generic” holy orders as you implied but there was and is given to us by Christ ONE Sacrament of Orders bestowed upon the Twelve with the fullness of this sacramental authority and ministry. Jesus did not ordain the Twelve bishops, then tohers priests and finally others deacons. In that one sacramenr of Orders is found all three levels.
The successor to the Apostles is at once bishop, priest and deacon. This is why, for example, the bishop may wear a dalmatic under his chasuble on some occassions. He possess full divine commission to celebrate all the sacraments, legislate for his people and teach with full authority as shepherd of his local Church.
And when a man is ordained to the prebyterate he does not cease to possess as well the charism of the diaconate. For clarity sake he is not at once both deacon and priest. In addition to the ministries of the diaconate ghe now may also celebrate Mass, Reconciliation, and annoint the sick. With individual permission and on a case-by-case basis he may celebrate Confirmation as the DELEGATE of the bishop. He may never ordain another to any of the three levels of the Orders. Note that it is only at Vatican II that the church begins to strongly emphasize the priest’s role beyond that of the “altar” or “confessional”: preaching and community action, premminently diaconale ministries. Thus the priest is the bishop’s primarily sacramental-representative on the parish level and this is not a pre-Vatican II idea, unless one wishes to call the theology of the Apostolic and Church Fathers “pre-Vatican II”.
The deacon is of course ordained to share in the “entry level” form clerical ministry and is commissioned to participate in the bishop’s authoritative ministries of Word, Liturgy and Charity. Look at the Book of Acts which the Church has always held as showing us the example of the first deacons (Acts 6; even though some contemporary diaconal authors love to go overboard and gush about how Stepehn et al were NOT deacons even in seminal form). What nministry dioes the inspired text show us about deacons? Is it social work/charitable action? No, that is given as a possible reason why they were first instituted (not all scholars agree that “ministry” and “table” means these things in the material sense). The Book of Acts shows us Stephen and Philip as preachers, catechists, baptizers. In other words the Book of Acts makes passing reference in ONE sentence to charitable work as a reason for the diaconal ministry but then takes us into a couple of chapters sdedicated to the ministries of Word and Liturgy.
I bother to go into all this because I wish to show what the Church has taught: that Holy Orders is ONE sacrament with THREE levels of participation in the ONE ministry of Christ, the fullnes sof which is found in the BISHOP. This is the most basic and fundamental reason why all levels of this sacrament as celebrated by the one subsisting true Church of Christ has always been reserved to males. If the Holy See has not declared female diaconal ordination as an impossibility in the Catholic sense (not the Orthodox or Protestant senses) then perhaps it is because this is only a western european/American idea and it hasn’t reached pandemic proportions in the universal Church or perhaps because those in the Curia think that saying no to females in the prebyterate logically says no to the diaconate.



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Dante

posted September 4, 2010 at 12:08 am


Excuse me but I have a typo in my previous entry. 4th paragrapg, 2nd sentence should read: “For clarity sake he is at once both deacon and priest.”



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Dante

posted September 4, 2010 at 12:26 am


Sorry for another “excuse me” but I forgot to give the link to the latest word on this topic in relation to the unity of the Sacrament of Orders. You can read it at http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/ITCDIACO.HTM



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Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher

posted September 4, 2010 at 12:41 am


Charles painted a beautiful icon of the Synaxis of the Holy Deacons and Deaconesses for his ordination. It includes, among the other holy men and women, St. Phoebe the Deaconess. We named our daughter Phoebe, after her great grandmother and also after St. Phoebe!



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Fiergenholt

posted September 4, 2010 at 7:22 am


Dante said: ” If the Holy See has not declared female diaconal ordination as an impossibility in the Catholic sense (not the Orthodox or Protestant senses) then perhaps it is because this is only a western european/American idea and it hasn’t reached pandemic proportions in the universal Church or perhaps because those in the Curia think that saying no to females in the prebyterate logically says no to the diaconate.”
I’m not sure that the Vatican Curia agrees with Dante.
Back in December of 2009, the Vatican published a “Moto Propio” (that’s a Latin phrase for an “Executive Decree”). Most of the issues that document addressed were obscure administrative items dealing with the formation and ministry of permanently-ordained deacons. It was not widely read nor widely acclaimed.
There was a theological insight within its text, however, that is generally overlooked and has a direct bearing on this issue. This Vatican document insisted (if my memory serves me well) that the presbyterate functioned “in persona Christi” but that the diaconate functioned “in imago Dei.”
By making that distinction, the Vatican was insisting — in its own obscure way — that the presbyterate was masculine only since Jesus of Nazareth was male. The diaconate was described in gender-neutral terms since God is gender-neutral.
I am suspicious that someone, very high in the Vatican, is laying the theological groundwork for all this to happen.



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted September 4, 2010 at 8:08 am


For more on the subject, especially in regard to the points that Dante raises, there’s this essay, which refers to recent writings by Pope Benedict and notes in part:
In the Middle Ages, the three orders of bishop, priest and deacon were unified in the priesthood with the focus on Eucharistic sacrifice. However, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) rejected this view. Deacons are ordained “not to priesthood but to a ministry of service” (Lumen Gentium #29). This, however, does not destroy the unity of the one “ministry exercised on different levels by those who from antiquity have been called bishops, priests and deacons.” (#28)
Some scholars (Martimort and Müller) denied that deaconesses had ever been ordained in the church and saw diaconate as simply a stepping stone to priesthood. Women, they said, were neither ordained deaconesses – nor ever could be – in the sense that men were, and are, deacons. This centuries-old misunderstanding ‘absorbed’ the diaconate into priesthood.
It would seem that such a position may now have been undercut by Omnium in mente, a recent motu proprio issued by Pope Benedict. (A motu proprio is a document issued by the Pope on his own initiative and personally signed by him). In it, Benedict clarifies canon law on the distinction between the diaconate and priesthood. In a radical move, he upholds the constant teaching of the church that diaconate does not necessarily imply priesthood.
A distinction is to be made between priests and bishops on the one hand and deacons on the other, in ways that do not lessen the importance of diaconate or change the notion that it is included in the priesthood. The role of the permanent deacon has been clarified. Priests and bishops are ordained to act in the person of Christ, the head of the church; deacons are ordained to serve the people of God in and through the liturgy, the Word, and charity (canons 1008, 1009).
Dcn. G.



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BobRN

posted September 4, 2010 at 9:00 am


Thanks for the link to the Tui Motu essay by Kath Rushton, RSM. I thought it a well composed, balanced and respectful contribution to the discussion of women deacons. I only wish Sister had included a bibliography.
In perusing Tui Motu, I came across another fine article by Fr. Edmund Little on Galileo, science and the Church. I recommend it to anyone interested in the topic, especially pertinent in light of your recent post on Stephen Hawking’s claim that the universe is responsible for creating itself.
Once more, thanks for the good work you do, Dcn. Greg.



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted September 4, 2010 at 9:20 am


One more thing, the motu proprio from 2009, which states:
Art. 1. The text of can. 1008 of the Code of Canon Law is modified so that hereafter it will read:
“By divine institution, some of the Christian faithful are marked with an indelible character and constituted as sacred ministers by the sacrament of holy orders. They are thus consecrated and deputed so that, each according to his own grade, they may serve the People of God by a new and specific title”;
Art 2. Henceforth can. 1009 of the Code of Canon Law will have three paragraphs. In the first and the second of these, the text of the canon presently in force are to be retained, whereas the new text of the third paragraph is to be worded so that can. 1009 § 3 will read:
“Those who are constituted in the order of the episcopate or the presbyterate receive the mission and capacity to act in the person of Christ the Head, whereas deacons are empowered to serve the People of God in the ministries of the liturgy, the word and charity”.
Dcn. G.



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Dante

posted September 4, 2010 at 9:59 am


Please note in the essay by Sister Rushton that references to Vatican II and B16 is made obliquely and any conclusions drawn are simply her own and not those of the Council or the pope. It also helps to “consider the source” of this commentary and realize that the theologizing done by British Mercy Sister Rushton (called by some a “scripture scholar”) is acclaimed much by Anglicans and Protestants more than Catholics. A public example of Sister Rushton’s theological leanings can be discerned simply by reading the title (let alone content) her her PhD dissertation: “The Parable of John 16:21: A Feminist Socio-Rhetorical Reading.” And her presence on staff with the Ecumencial Theological Institute would be enough information for someone in the magisterial Catholic theological world to know where she is “coming from” in an academic theological outlook on the topic of females and ordination.
However, more importantly to the point of the essay is the fact that diversity of mission is not in opposition to unity of the Sacrament of Orders. To state that the deacon is not ordained unto sacrifice (priesthood) but to service in no way chamges or distorts the unity of the sacrament. The affirm that this is one ministry with three levels is not to say that there cannot be a distinct permanent diaconate. To restate the truth that a bishop possess all three levels and a priest two, does not imply that a deacon must most purely be a transiotional step upwards. If such were true then one would also have to falsely say that we have a “transitional priesthood” with the episcopate being the true goal of the sacrament. (In seminary guys who have the “climb the ladder” mentality are jokingly referred to as transitional priests! LOL)
UNITY is not in opposition to diversity and distinction does not imply separation as seems to be the implication in the essay and comments posted in reference to Sister Rushton. And in levels of papl acts, a motu proprio is found among the least authoritative t the faith of the Church. This does not lessen our respionse to it but it simply informs us that such an action is more prudential than magisterial. A subsequent pope can easily overturn it with his own motu proprio as Church history shows. Yet even B16s “Omnium in mente”
was met by reputable faithful theologians who opined that this must now be studied in the light of the Catechism (whose teachings on diaconate would be a good re-read for us on this topic) as it seems to be somewhat in contrast to its teaching and the tradition of the Church that deacons share in the triple ministry (hierarchy) as sanctifiers, teachers and leaders. This unity of sacrament and sharing in the triple-mission is indeed proclaimed in consecratory prayer of the Rite of Ordination to the Diaconate (“a threefold ministry of worship and service”) which is NOT referring to what we would call the triple munera of the deacon.
As someone who did his initial theological education in the 80s (and survived this remnant of 1970s theology)and has been actively involved in ecclesial life and ministry ever since I can attest that there has bveen a not insignificant concerted effort on the part of the good-intentioned leadership of the permanent diaconate in the USA and the West (along with others among the ordained at every level) to blur and lessen the ontological fact that the deacon is a cleric. These people tend to dismiss such obvious external signs of the clericla state as address (Rev. Mr.) and dress (the “collar”) yet when a permanent deacon lays claim to these thingsa which are by right if ordination and law his, he is dismissed as “too clerical” when in fact he is simply being who he is. It doesn’t matter one bit if a deacon is married, has a secular profession and lives in a regular neighborhood like others. The fact remains that in the eyes of God and the Church he is no longer a layman but a clergyman. I being this up as germane to the debate on female deaconesses because I have come to see and strongly believe over the past 25 years that there is a very strong connection between the downplaying of the clerical reality of the permanent deacon and the movement for female ordination. The more we can distance the deacon from the clerical life the easier, so some think. will it be to bring about the deaconess.
And lastly (sorry for being long-winded but it needs to be said) we must never forget that all sacraments need valuid matter and form. If Orders requires the “matter” of a male (as most magisterial theologians attest) then it is insignificant if another Church that has a vlaid ordination rite has ordained females. This would simply mean that in such cases they carried out an external ceremony that had no ontological effect to configuration with Christ as servant. The woman may look and act as a deacon but in reality she would be and remain a laywoman, much the way a invalid couple who underwent a Catholic wedding rite may look and act as a married couple when in fact no sacramental reality ever took place.



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anthony

posted September 4, 2010 at 10:38 am


Dante, yes it is good to refer to the catechism. There it clearly points out that “Holy Orders” consists of three distinct groups each with its own specific consecration/ordination. Only the episcopacy and presbyterate share in the ministerial priesthood of Christ. (CCC #1554), the term sacerdos only denotes a bishop or priest (same number). “the diaconate is intended to help and serve them”.
The diaconate does not share in the ministerial priesthood, that is the clear teaching of the church. READ the introductions to all three ordination rites, read the rites and study the consecrations prayers… and it is very clear what the teaching of the church is on this matter.



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Dante

posted September 4, 2010 at 10:59 am


Yes I agree totally. Nowhere will you read that I state that the diaconate shares in the ministerial priesthood. And yes the ONE sacrament has THREE distinct levels. but again this does not result in an admixture. To state the faith of the Church that the bishop possess all three levels, the prebyter two levels and the deaocn one level is not saying that all are the same…so I guess I am confused as to where you think I am stating that. If we wish to make such a distinction as to excise the diaconate from the other two levels of ministry then we would fall into the heresy of believing that there are 2 sacraments of orders. Recall what is perhaps the most ancient non-scriptural teaching on the unity of Orders from St. Ignatius of Antioch where he states that the three form but one eccledsial hierarchy: “In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church.” I think a huge contibutor to this confusion is the sad historical fact of the diaconate having morphed in the West into his transitional status.



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Fiergenholt

posted September 4, 2010 at 11:27 am


Deacon John
A follow-up to my posting of Sept 3 at 8:10pm. I was able to get into my office on this Labor Day Weekend Saturday and quickly found that article.
Phyllis Zagano, “Grant Her Your Spirit: The Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Orthodox Church of Greece.” AMERICA (Feb 7, 2005). pp 18-21.
I find it fascinating that this article was by the same lady who wrote that scholarly treatise Deacon Greg posted a link to.



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Deacon Bill

posted September 4, 2010 at 11:51 am


This has been a wonderful conversation on the matter. For those interested in such things, I have joined with colleagues Dr. Gary Macy and Dr. Phyllis Zagano in writing “Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future” for Paulist Press. It’s still in production, so I can’t tell you exactly when it will be out, but our three individual essays are nearing completion, so it should be within the year.
God bless,
Deacon Bill Ditewig



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anthony

posted September 4, 2010 at 12:07 pm


Dante, the point is that the diaconate is not ordained to the ministerial priesthood. Rome has said that the ministerial priesthood is reserved for men alone. that is why it has left open for more study and reflection the question of women serving in the diaconate. it has not closed the door and asks for more reflection; individuals may offer their own opinions of the outcome, others may join in the process of discernment and reflection….but the issue is not closed. sometimes it is better to listen and reflect with the whole church and not just come up with ready made answers?



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Dante

posted September 4, 2010 at 1:31 pm


I agree, Anthony, and thank you for your response. My thoughts come from the perspecitve of the theological reflection done by many and are not ready made answers. But the answers that we do receive indeed come from theologians doing what we are doing here: debating both sides of an issue. And before a final answer comes, one can easily see the “writing on the wall” from the reports of various commissions of theologians. This is why one of my previous posts made reference to the 5 year-long research and study of the ITC wirth its report of 2002.
That commission stated quite clearly in its initial reports that neither ancient documents nor history can attest one way or the other to the reality of what a “deaconess” was and it did not have an a priori bias. The result? To our best theological knowledge, in harmony with the mind of the Church and magisterium, the ITC concluded that they cannot see the possibility of females admitted to the diaconate. And if you look at a listing of who sits on this commission you will see that it is definitely not a fortress of “conservatives” only. As a matter of fact this marvelous research is available in book form from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Diakonia-Christ-Apostles/dp/159525000X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1283620048&sr=8-3
And one significant reason for their highly professional theological conclusion was exactly what I have been emphasizing: the UNITY of the Sacrament of Orders EVEN THOUGH it has three distinct levels. They are intimately related/interconnected as symbolized in the person of the Bishop as successor to the Apostles. And once again this does NOT mean a deacon is ordained unto the miniterial priesthood. And with the ITC I also say: now it is simply time for the magisterium to declare its conclusion.
See the thing is that, just as was the case with women in the priesthood years ago, many refused at that time to see the inevitable direction that THAT theological debate was taking and they kept alive the hope for women priests. It was quite clear what the answer would be but its proponents did not want to admit the conclusion and even after JPII made it definitive by his authority as successor of Peter, many STILL persisted in unfounded hope. I hate to see the same thing happen again with the diaconate. YES the magisterium has not yet made its definitive statement. But likewise the theological writing is indeed on the wall.
Are there theologians who disagree with the ITC? Of course just as there were/are those who disagreed with the decision of the magisterium about women in the priesthood. But theologians do not share in the charism of the authoitative magisterium as do the pope and bishops. The academic title “theologian” does not guarantee someone who is in harmony with the magisterium not is it a stamp of approval by the Church on whatever they write. I am sure books are being and will be written to support the idea of the deaconess. You can find books by “experts” about anything pro or con the Church. And many of the popular mainline theologians published in our country by big-name publishers are those who are proponents or inheritors of the Theology of the 70s, which is dying and almost gone. Within a generation this theology so rooted in discontinuity with the Tradition will only be something recalled in church history books, just as are the religious orders who wholeheartedly espoused it. These communities confederate with other dying ones or desperately seek non-vowed “members” to sustain their existence a bit longer while the Missionaries of Charity, the Dominicans of the Eucharist, many other orders and dioceses that have embraced the renewal/reform of JPII and B16 are all scrambling to find more room for thiose who seek to join them.
So its really not a matter of “ready made answers”. The magisterial decision will not come out of some vacumn…its a matter of us being able to read the theological signs leading up to it. Some think that this question (like that of women priests) is simply a matter of custom or practice, but as with women in the priesthood it is realyl a matter of doctrine and this doctrine rests upon the ontological reality and untiy of the Sacrament of Orders.



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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted September 4, 2010 at 2:23 pm


The books I have read that mention Orthodox “deaconesses” say pretty much what some earlier commenter said–that, like with early Church “deaconesses”, a better analogy in the West is consecrated religious women.
One thing is certain, that in patience there is wisdom. Considering the chaos and collapse of the mainstream Protestant churches who have made just about every change that people are supposedly demanding (here in the elitist West, now also losing ground to viruently anti-feminist Islam–surprisingly attracting BOTH men and women, many on feminist issues),now is the time for patience. Considering the anarchy and disintegration in some Protestant churches, a good case can be made that they took some wrong turns at important forks in the road–including on ordination issues.
It is good to see the debate here though. A lot better situation than at some other venues and sites.



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anthony

posted September 4, 2010 at 4:30 pm


Dante, you have presented one voice in this debate and perhaps in time your view will be considered the mind of the church on this matter.
I would only suggest that your strong convictions on this matter might make it hard for you to hear what the other voices are saying. I am not talking about superficial or popular theories that have an agenda or ideology. But rather deeper theological reflection.
I have no doubt the Papal pronouncements on restricting the ministerial priesthood to males could have easily restricted all of holy orders to males. We are talking about statements from Paul VI, John Paul II and the current Holy Father. And under JP2 and B16, it has clearly been left open for more reflection.
There are two theological reasons for this, one has been mentioned, and that is because the current understanding is that the ministerial priesthood is restricted to males. Since the diaconate does not participate in the ministerial priesthood, there would have to be another reason to restrict it to men.
The other major reason (which I have mentioned before on this blog), is that the priesthood was instituted by Christ and the church feels compelled to follow exactly the mind of Christ in this matter and ordaining men is part of being faithful to the mind of Christ.
The diaconate is part of holy orders, but it was instituted by the Church for the current needs of the Church. Christ instituted the priesthood at the last supper,
But the church instituted the order of deacons, this is the central importance of the its creation in the book of Acts (and they are never called deacons in that account.)
It was created by the apostolic leaders of the church for the needs of the church, and this is why there is greater freedom in how it can be expressed…it is in response to the needs of the church.
I have no agenda on this matter and have no need for a certain conclusion; I have confidence that when all this is clear in the church…they will say something definitive. But so far they have not, so I wait.
If anyone is interested in some very good theological insights into the diaconate by a Greek orthodox theologian…. they should check our DIAKONIA by John Chryssavgis.



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Dante

posted September 4, 2010 at 5:08 pm


Dear Anthony,
Again thanks for the thoughtful reply. You are someone I would very much like to spend an evening with in theological discussion! I do not have time now to locate the references as this is a busy weekend on many levels but I do want to mention that your second reason (insituted by Jesus) is EXACTLY what the no-deaconess view rests upon.
I am sure you are well-acquainted with the concept of the development of doctrine and I am sure you know that Jesus instituted but ONE Sacrament of Orders. And yes he did so at the Last Supper. And yes he bestowed it upon males. So yes the Church feels compelled to abide by his example.
Experience has shown me that this is perhaps a major reason why some in the pro-deaconess camp emphasize the distinction even unto quasi-separation of the diaconate from the episcopate and presbyterate. If one confesses that there is but ONE Sacrament of Orders (even if each of its expressions unfolded gradually in time)then one must also confess to its institution personally by Jesus and upon an all male group of candidates.
As to the development of doctrine concept…there are now some among theologians and Scripture scholars who see in the foot-washing of the Last Supper a possible institutional event for the diaconate. I find this to be an intriguing idea and it certainly makes sense as to why the foot-washing has for centuries been a quintessential diaconal paradigm.
Finally, in general I wouldn’t go looking for the most authentic theological ideas on the diaconate from someone whose theology rests upon a Church that is not been in communion with the living Magisterium of Rome for centuries. If their teachings were approved as authentic by the Holy See then that’s another matter (as was often the case with JPII and Orthodox teachings on spirituality). To me that would be like using a Protestant Scripure commentary without putting it to the test according to Catholic standards. You will get some interesting and very academic insights (such as those by Anglican bishop NT Wright or the late Church of Scotland theologian William Barclay both of whom are perennial favorites of mine) but their theology may be leading them to some incomplete conclusions.
Have a great holiday weekend!



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anthony

posted September 4, 2010 at 7:36 pm


Dante, not to over simplify a deep subject, but that is the rub…did Christ institute one sacrament of Holy Orders, restricted to males, where three different orders participate with varying degrees? Or does holy orders consist in three distinct orders, two of which participate in the ministerial priesthood and one of service, yet make one Holy Order in the church.
One other voice in all this is the ecclesia orans, the praying church, and reading the rites of ordination; especially the consecration prayer for bishops, priests, deacons….it is not so black and white. But there is no more to share on this without presenting study papers!
We will have to see how the washing of feet and the diaconate develops. The long tradition of the church has always looked to the book of Acts as the creation of the diaconate. The more traditional understanding of the washing of the feet was for Christ to show the spirit that should animate all ministries in his name. And since washing of feet was a duty of a slave he was also giving a prophetic gesture of his whole mission (the kenosis that Paul proclaims in Philippians), that would come to completion at Calvary where emptied to death, once lifted up he will now draw all to himself. Unfortunately triumphalism and clericalism have often replaced humility and self-sacrifice in the church’s ministry.
Dante if I can just offer one word of advice (since I cant contact you privately I have to do it here), you are obviously bright, sincere and can articulate your thoughts and position well. Just don’t be afraid to listen, I mean really listen to other’s views. It will not infect you with some heresy virus, you do not need to rush in with the correct answer, sometimes this inner tension from listening deepens our core convictions more than debate and it just may enrich you more than you realize…IMHO



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Dante

posted September 4, 2010 at 9:38 pm


Thanks, Anthony, I appreciate your thoughts and prayers. God bless.



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Rick

posted September 5, 2010 at 12:12 am


Carthusian nuns are, or were until the recent past, ordained deaconesses. They didn’t have an active ministry, but they were a remnant of the ministry.



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Rick

posted September 5, 2010 at 12:21 am


Here’s a citation from the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia. It appears that Carthusian Nuns did have a liturgical role in some circumstances.
The Carthusian nuns have retained the privilege of the consecration of virgins, which they have inherited from the nuns of Prébayon. The consecration, which is given four years after the vows are taken, can only be conferred by the diocesan. The rite differs but slightly from that given in the “Pontifical”. The nun is invested with a crown, ring, stole and maniple, the last being worn on the right arm. These ornaments the nun only wears again on the day of her monastic jubilee, and after her death on her bier. It is a consecrated nun who sings the Epistle at the conventual Mass, though without wearing the maniple. At Matins, if no priest be present, a nun assumes the stole and reads the Gospel. There are also lay sisters, Données, and Saeurs Touricres. Famous among Carthusian nuns have been St. Roseline of Villeneuve and Bl. Beatrix of Ornacieus.
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03388a.htm



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anthony

posted September 5, 2010 at 12:25 am


Rick, I have read that until very recently (before Vatican2), some of the Carthusian nuns were ordained and would wear the diaconal stole and proclaim the Gospel. I remember seeing pictures of one in spain wearing the stole and reading the Gospel. Of course before the council the carthusians had their own rite, and the number of nuns was very small but it would be interesting to know “the rest of the story”hichangs hichangs THEORY



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anthony

posted September 5, 2010 at 12:26 am


sorry typed the captcha at the end of the last post!



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Deacon Norb

posted September 5, 2010 at 7:19 am


Let’s get back to my original post.
What ministries within our church are now inadequately met BUT can be met effectively with the formal recognition of diaconal vocations in women?
Earlier I mentioned three: two dealing with women as victims and another dealing with women as prisoners.
–Every congregation of women religious that I know about has a member of their community assigned as “Spiritual Director” or “Pastoral Minister.” Perhaps it is time these slots are recognized by the wider church.
–I have worked with a lot of women in campus ministry and the Catholic Campus Ministry Association as a nationally accepted certification for “Professional Campus Minister.” Well over 50% of these are women and may of them minister in women’s colleges exclusively.
–Then there are the many hundreds of women — most but not all being consecrated religious — who are in hospital/nursing-home/hospice ministries. It is my awareness of their work that prompted that wild dream about “extraordinary ministers of reconciliation.” More than one has told me that they hear far more confessions that any outsider would ever realize — its just that they cannot absolve the sinner in the name of the Church. They then have to call in a priest, if and when one is available, to “complete the rite.” Obviously, sometimes it is too late and the penitent dies before that happens. God’s mercy certainly heals the dying penitent — but in our living human church, this is all very inadequate.



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted September 5, 2010 at 8:01 am


I know that some bishops were reluctant to bring the diaconate into their dioceses because they thought it would hurt vocations to the priesthood.
I wonder if there are similar concerns about how a female diaconate might impact women’s vocations to the religious life.
Dcn. G.



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anthony

posted September 5, 2010 at 8:03 am


Deacon Norb, I am not sure what you are talking about? If you are talking about the possibility of women deacons, we have had a long discussion (for a blog) on this topic.
If you are talking about you idea of “extraordinary ministers of reconciliation”; then I have no idea where you are coming from. In the roman church only a priest can give absolution. And only males can be ordained. So what is your point?
We have a discussion on orders, the nature of diaconate, its role in the church ….
Have you been reading the comments? I am just trying to understand where you are coming from with a suggestion about this extraordinary ministers? I am not against you personal opinion, but as Deacon of the Church you should stay on the reservation and give suggestions that are grounded in current sacramental theology and practice of the church.



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Rudy

posted September 5, 2010 at 12:01 pm


Dear Deacon Kendra:
I think that if women were allowed in the Catholic deaconate, they would soon dominate it, outnumbering males and bringing a complete “feminization” of the office. I hold no opinion for or against it, it is just what I think would happen.



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Deacon Eric Stoltz

posted September 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm


I am not a theologian, but it seems to me that the “institution of the priesthood” by Our Lord at the Last Supper is often conflated with the ministerial priesthood when it should not be.
Part of this is that in English we have only one word for priest, while in Latin there are two: sacerdos and presbyter (presbyter being where we get the word “priest”). Because so much of our theological development took place in Latin, it was easy to make a distinction between the two, whereas in English we are somewhat hobbled by having to use the same word for two different concepts.
So as I understand it at the Last Supper Jesus instituted the role of sacerdos, which is proper to the bishop (sacerdos sometimes being translated as “high priest”), that is, one who offers sacrifice. Later, after the Ascension, those who were “sacerdos” (sacerdotes) chose to share their munus with the presbyters, who we call priests.
So while Jesus did institute the priesthood at the Last Supper, he did not then institute the presbyterate. This is an important distinction. I often wince when I hear priests on Holy Thursday talking about the institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper as though it was then that the presbyterate, i.e. the second of three orders, was specifically created. The priesthood (sacerdos) was conferred on the Apostles, which were the ancestors of bishops, not of priests. It was later that bishops shared this munus with presbyters–and I don’t know–but perhaps even after the death of the apostles.
I’ve often heard bishops refer to the presbyterate of their diocese as “My brother priests,” and by that I understand them to mean not that the bishop is still somehow part of the presbyterate, but that he has shared his munus of sacerdos with them.
So while I may seem to have gone off on a tangent, this is related to the issue of the role of deacons. The three orders of clergy were created by the Church to provide wider application of the authority given by Jesus: two of these orders have to do with being a sacerdos, one does not. So the arguments against women being priests have no bearing whatsoever on whether they may be members of the diaconate.



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anthony

posted September 5, 2010 at 1:46 pm


Deacon Eric, it would help if you could sight some documentation for your theory.
It seems like a pretty novel idea, some official documentation would help and it does not seen to be in line with the catechism. In the catechism it states that Christ instituted the one order of sacerdos that is shared by bishops and priests.
The only High Priest in the NT is Christ; he shares this priesthood sacramentally with those ordained to the priesthood. This sacrament was instituted on Holy Thursday. It would help to give some real information on how you came to your conclusion and where the church teaches it.
As to sacerdos it is Latin for Priest, and prebyerium is Greek for an elder or council of elders (at least in NT Greek). We do get the English work priest from presbyterium, since they are the council of elders sharing in the one priesthood of Christ with the Bishop.
But at least in the Catholic understanding, it seems way off the reservation to say the sacrament of the priesthood was not instituted by Christ at the last supper.
PLEASE some references to official church teaching!



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Dante

posted September 5, 2010 at 2:01 pm


The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes into great detail about the Sacrament of Orders and takes pains to deal with those aspects that apply to all three levels and those that are unique to each. It is very illuminating that the teaching given about valid ordination to this sacrament (and not only to some levels of it) can be found in #1577: “Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination” (which it then makes referecne to canon law). Note that this comes under the overall catechesis on the one Sacrament of Orders.
Not sure if anyone has posted this link yet beut here is a thorough look at “deaconnesses” throughout Church history. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04651a.htm
You can have an interesting but limited read of the (as yet)most official research and conclusions on deaconesses by the Holy See through its International Theological Commission at http://www.books.google.com. Just enter the title of the ITC book, “From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles” (even better order the book from Amazon.
For those who are more theologically inclined you can get the above work and MORE on various studies of the ITC by ordering their collected works at Amazon. The “Diakonia” study is included in this second volume http://www.amazon.com/International-Theological-Commission-Vol-1986-2007/dp/1586172263/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I3F94HOPKDHSV6&colid=2E3RVMC3XTMJR#_



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Deacon Eric Stoltz

posted September 5, 2010 at 2:43 pm


Anthony,
From the Catechism:
1562 “Christ, whom the Father hallowed and sent into the world, has, through his apostles, made their successors, the bishops namely, sharers in his consecration and mission; and these, in their turn, duly entrusted in varying degrees various members of the Church with the office of their ministry.” (Lumen Gentium) “The function of the bishops’ ministry was handed over in a subordinate degree to priests so that they might be appointed in the order of the priesthood and be co-workers of the episcapal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission that had been entrusted to it by Christ.” (Pius XII, Fidei donum)
I don’t think you will find anywhere in the Catechism the statement that Christ instituted the order of presbyters at the Last Supper. Rather he conferred on the apostles a new sacerdotal office, and the apostles or their immediate successors then shared this office with a new order called presbyters.



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anthony

posted September 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm


Deacon Eric, since this is a blog by a Catholic deacon and you are a Catholic deacon I feel it is important that it represents the teaching of the Catholic Church to the rest of the blogs o’world.
Please cite some official documentation on your novel theory as a real interpretation of the Church’s teaching. The priesthood of Jesus Christ was revealed during the great Pascha, and reached it climax on Calvary, where the Lord on the cross became the definitive and final Priest, altar and sacrifice at Calvary. This was manifested in his resurrection and ascension as the Lord who now sends the Holy Spirit to all who have faith in him. The eve before he reveals himself as High Priest, he instituted the sacramental order of his Priesthood. This is passed down through apostolic succession of the bishops and those who are ordained to the priesthood.
CCC #1554 “the constant practice of the church that there are two degrees of participation of the ministerial priesthood of Christ: the episcopacy and the presbyterate. …… For this reason the term sacerdos in current usage denotes bishops and priests but not deacons.”
Your theory that a second priesthood was created with the presbyerate is way off the reservation and not a Catholic understanding of it. Perhaps it might be better when you give theories like this to just use your name and not you title? Once you identify yourself as a Deacon, we expect for you to proclaim the actual teaching of the church.
I am challenging you to do the research and discover the real teaching of the church and then perhaps next Holy Thursday you will not “wince” but enter the mystery with gratitude and praise for the gift of the Lord’s priesthood sacramentally present among us through his priests.



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Deacon Eric Stoltz

posted September 5, 2010 at 3:37 pm


Anthony,
I did not say a second priesthood had been created with the order of presbyters. I clearly said that the bishop shares his sacerdotal munus with the presbyter. There is one priesthood held in its fullness by the bishop. The bishop shares a part of this priesthood with the presbyter. I don’t see how sharing divides something into two. The quotation you provide from the Catechism aptly communicates this by the word “degrees.”
I think sometimes people think that a bishop is a priest because he was previously ordained a presbyter, when in fact he is a sacerdos because he is ordained a bishop. The definition of a Church is a community gathered around a bishop. It’s the bishop who is essential. The fact that the bishop shares his ministry with presbyters and deacons does not lessen the bishop’s role, nor does acknowledging that presbyters share in the sacerdotal office of the bishop lessen the importance of presbyters.
Christ did not institute the order of presbyter at the Last Supper. That does not make priests any less important to the Church. I can still wince when some priests over-simplify things to the point that misunderstandings arise. I assure you it does not affect my celebration of Holy Thursday!



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Deacon Norb

posted September 6, 2010 at 7:23 am


Deacon Eric:
Greatest blessings on your ministry! Your theological understanding of the creation of the sacrament of Holy Orders — in that Jesus’ actions (both at the last supper but also throughout His life) empowered the “Twelve” as the primitive roots of the episcopacy alone — was probably just what Anthony needed to read.
To carry that a bit further, since the bishop alone has the fullness of sacerdotal orders, he can delegate portions of that to whomever he pleases. And there is plenty of historical data to show that delegation of those ministries is a pastorally driven one, culturally attuned to each era’s time and space.
Our church’s bishops very jealously guard that right to delegate and it takes some interesting twists: not all bishops have the right to select and ordain men to the diaconate or the priesthood; some bishops delegate their powers to preside at the Sacrament of Confirmation, some do not; Eastern Church bishop have not delegated their right to witness marriages to their permanently ordained deacons, but Western bishops have done so; all bishops have the inherent right to preach but priests or deacons have to deliberately receive that faculty from their bishops.



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anthony

posted September 6, 2010 at 8:49 am


Deacon Eric and Norb, actually your novel theories are not new to me. And unfortunately they seem to be way to common among people coming out of diaconate and pastoral formation programs. A certain mumbo jumbo of terms but total confusion of theology.
Two clarifications (out of many needed from your posts): there are not two words for “priest” as you mentioned. The latin word for priest is sacerdos; the greek word for presbyter means a college or groups of elders. When one becomes a teacher at a local school he becomes a member of the faculty, but he was already a teacher first. He received his teaching degree at graduation, got his license from the state, and became a member of the faculty when he was hired at a school. When one is ordained a priest, and is granted permission (faculties) by the bishop to be a sacramental minister in the local diocese, he then becomes a member of the presbyters of that diocese.
The unique sacramental powers of priesthood cannot be given by delegation, “they can only be received by ordination to the priesthood. Read the prayer of consecration for a priest and it is clear. And there is no way a Bishop can delegate the powers of absolution to an “extraordinary minister”. This is catholic sacramental theology 101.
Of course the powers received by the priest at ordination can only be used in a diocese with permission of the Bishop. But the granting of faculties only allows what was already given at ordination.



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Deacon Eric Stoltz

posted September 6, 2010 at 1:18 pm


anthony, You may want to explain to the Vatican that there are not two Latin words for priest. They seem to be laboring under the idea there is such a Latin word as presbyterus, and they use it frequently in documents, such as Presbyterorum Ordinis, and throughout the Catechism. At times they use sacerdos and at times they use presbyterus to mean different things. I also recall this distinction from my six years of studying ecclesiastical Latin. So you may want to contact the Holy See and put an end to their espousal of this “novel theory.”



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anthony

posted September 6, 2010 at 3:13 pm


Hey Eric, I guess when all you have left is sarcasm and flippancy there is no more chance for commincation. I just hope you have read the documents you have cited. I said the greek word in the NT is prebyterum and that means the college of elders, and in the church it came to mean the college of ordained priests that are in communion with the local bishop. So I am not sure what your point is? Unless resorting to sarcasm helps to prove a point?
The main distinction in the church regarding the priesthood has been in the ministerial priesthood of those ordained (at the time of priestly ordination and at the fullness at the time of Episcopal ordination) and the royal priesthood of all who are baptized in Christ.
God bless you !



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Deacon Eric Stoltz

posted September 7, 2010 at 2:39 am


Whatever.



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anthony

posted September 7, 2010 at 7:31 am


hey Eric, “Whatever” ? your theology may be messed up but you are becoming very clerical in your communications! anthonyca



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Eric

posted September 7, 2010 at 12:30 pm


Deacon Eric, I read your postings from time to time and usualy enjoy them. Why on earth would you post something that contradicts the authority of the Church? Unless these are simply your personal opinions in which case maybe you could state that? Surely you are not saying that the “Orders” you recieved might also be given to a woman? Surely you understand that these same “Orders” are recieved by Priests and Bishops a like? While you stated that the Priesthood is closed to women you are all but arguing that the Holy Orders a Deacon recieves are open to women.
[Eric -- the commenter, not the deacon ...
As a matter of fact, the Church has not ruled definitively that only men can be deacons. Indeed: "the Holy Orders a deacon receives" could one day be open to women.
This essay from Phyllis Zagano concludes:
Before the Vatican issued Georges Cottier’s comments, the Rev. Thomas Norris, a professor of dogmatic theology in Ireland who is a member of the commission, affirmed that the question of restoring the female diaconate was left open. “It will remain a matter for the magisterium of the church to decide,” he said. Fifteen years ago in New York City, I asked Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger the same question: Will the church return to the tradition of ordaining women deacons? He responded that it was “under study.”
Dcn. G]



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Eric

posted September 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm


Wow! This sounds a lot like the same arguement people have made for ordaining women priests! The Fact is the “Ordination” of Women to Holy Orders is closed! VI. WHO CAN RECEIVE THIS SACRAMENT?
1577 “Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.”66 The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.67 The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.68
I know, I know you might ague that this is refering only to Priests and Bishops but if you read it in context of section III. THE THREE DEGREES OF THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS one can clearly see that it pertains to all three Offices of Holy Orders. If you read the section on- The ordination of deacons – “in order to serve” this clearly has a masculine tone abou the men who are to recieve it. It talks about the Deacons role “In Persona Christi” with regards to service. Christ was and is a man! None of this in anyway is “unfair” to women!



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Eric

posted September 7, 2010 at 1:15 pm


Sorry! I am quoting the Catechism of The Catholic Church.



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Fiergenholt

posted September 7, 2010 at 11:10 pm


Let me cite Deacon Greg Kanda’s post from Sept 4 — earlier in this discussion:
“It would seem that such a position may now have been undercut by Omnium in mente, a recent motu proprio issued by Pope Benedict. (A motu proprio is a document issued by the Pope on his own initiative and personally signed by him). In it, Benedict clarifies canon law on the distinction between the diaconate and priesthood. In a radical move, he upholds the constant teaching of the church that diaconate does not necessarily imply priesthood.”
Then in a later post, Deacon Greg also cites what changes in Canon Law were implemented at the same time by that same decree.
Bottom line: Benedict himself is changing the parameters! AND the Catechism may already be obsolete in this situation!
Stay tuned, folks!



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carol

posted September 10, 2010 at 12:06 am


Unlettered comment:
When I look at this situation, what I see is a situation where the evolution of mankind and society has changed to the extent that the patirotical ministry of the Roman Catholic Church, (RCC) and the orthodox churches needs to be updated to fit into currant era in the history of humankind. No where, that I have seen, in the Holy Gospels as currently published in English is there any place where Jesus says that women are not to be in ministry. Look at Mary Magdalene and other women who waited on the Lord and his disciples. Jesus without using words, commissioned/ordained women by accepting this ministry of service that was rendered to him by these women. Women aren’t here just to clean and do the work that some men think is too menial for them to do. Look at the Virgin Mary, Jesus, s mother who had the honor of serving Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior by doing some, seeming, menial jobs such as cleaning him before he was, potty trained, remember he was human and divine, thus in this service and ministering to Him, he was showing that a woman was more than qualified to minister to the community of Christians in the early church, as well at today. Women and girls are just as worthy to administer the sacraments as males. God made mankind male and female so that they could be joined in the love of marriage, and thus bring forth children in love, not for the purpose of shoving the one who carries the child in pregnancy a lesser member of the human race.
In my unlettered opinion, I see no reason why women can’t participate in all levels of ministry, the gender of the minister or priest isn’t what matters, it is what the individual teaches that matters. Jesus wants worthy ministers who teach the truths of his Church, and that truth can be taught by all, woman and men.



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pup137

posted September 14, 2010 at 11:07 am


To have some fun, read the recent (last decade) document from the Vatican about what a church is (Dominus Iesus?).
It is reasonable to conclude therefrom that the Greek Orthodox Church is considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be, in the technical sense, a Church.
Then read the minutes of the last several synods of the Greek Orthodox Church (again last decade). Note that they include a discussion of the ordination of women to be deacons and the history therof. Note the comments about a bishop of about a century ago (now considered “a saint” (Hagios?)) who performed such an ordination and used the same words as used for men, not some special words used only for women. Rome has not condemned them for this.
I am convinced that there is a manila folder (or 2 or …) somewhere in the Vatican with an analysis of all this waiting to be processed. Noone has the courage to do so.
p.s. there is a report of a Church in the Middle East, in union w/Rome, which has ordained vowed women (nuns) as deacons.
Rome has not condemned them for this.



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Jim SE GA

posted September 26, 2010 at 9:08 pm


I just reread 1 Timothy 3. Looking at how it was written. It is interesting how verse 11 shifts to women but at least in the English translation it seems clear it is addressing wives of deacons. Seeing how important the wife is to a deacon and how disastrous to the church body it would be to have the wives be gossipers, uncontrolled, and untrustworthy with the issues that are confided between a deacon and his wife. The Deacon and his wife are one body and as such are an invaluable team to Christ. Of course that goes for the man as well. In verse 12 it immediately says let the deacons be the husband of but one wife. Only a man can be a husband. It would be interesting to read the section of 1 Timothy 3 in the original Greek to see if further clarification is there. One could read into this section of Timothy that it is a requirement for a Bishop and a Deacon to be married.



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+Edmund

posted December 10, 2010 at 9:58 am


Deacon, I’m afraid that all you prove is what higher clergy have known for decades: that deacons are not intellectuals. Your construal is not only faithless to the Magisterium to which you owe total obedience, but objectively false and inaccurate. Please, in the name of God, stick to the compassionate ministries to which you are called.
As to the purported Orthodox female deacons, please, posters, lay that to rest too. They are not in Holy Orders. You have so very much to learn about church history, theology, practice and terminology.
Let me leave you with the thought that the early Church would have grown faster and more easily had the Apostles bought in to the Gentile practice of the Priestess. This would have been a natural accommodation, like the dropping of circumcision and kosher rules. Why didn’t they do it? Because Almighty God, in the person of Jesus Christ, absolutely forbids it.
No woman, ever, since the days Jesus was walking the earth, has held or transmitted Holy Orders.



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+Edmund

posted December 10, 2010 at 10:00 am


Let me clarify, because you are going to nit-pick till the cows come home. When I distinguish Magisterial obedience and objective reality, I intend to mean that the two are congruent and coextensive. You owe obedience to the Holy Father BECAUSE he speaks objective truth.



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Deacon Bill

posted December 10, 2010 at 2:36 pm


Dear +Edmund,
What utter nonsense.
1) Define “intellectual” as you are using the term, please. There is truth that not ALL deacons are intellectuals, just as there is equal truth that not all presbyters, bishops, cardinals and popes are intellectuals. Do write such an absolute statement undermines any other argument you might propose.
2) Despite the fact that you adopt the conceit of signing your post as a prelate (with the cross in front of your name), it would seem you actually do not know many bishops. Speaking from my own experience of serving at the USCCB for a number of years in several different capacities, I can assure you that many deacons are appreciated by the “higher clergy” as intellectuals who contribute significantly to the intellectual life of the church. The same higher clergy also appreciate many presbyters and even certain brother bishops in the same light.
3) Statistically, it is demonstrable fact that as many deacons commence their period of pre-ordination formation having already completed graduate degrees as do seminarians. In fact, there is growing evidence that more deacons per capita have earned doctorates than do presbyters. So, if by “intellectual” you are describing persons capable of higher level research in a variety of fields, I think you must really revise your opinion by an appeal to facts, not simply your emotional reaction or perhaps to outdated facts from 30 or 40 years ago.
4) The “magisterium” of which you write is the teaching office of the church, not simply the body of bishops. Deacons and presbyters promise respect and obedience to their bishops and their bishops’ successors. But your understanding of the theological reality that is “obedience” is terribly inadequate. In Catholic theology, obedience is far more substantive than “following orders” blindly. I suggest you might find some additional reading on this subject illuminating and I would be happy to suggest some resources for you if you like.
5) To the question of women ordained in the Orthodox churches: that also is simple fact. They are ordained and incardinated into churches which the Catholic church recognizes as having a valid sacramental life. We readily acknowledge the validity of their orders, specifically. I do not deny that the ordination of women in these churches is causing some agitation at present in Catholic circles, but the matter has not received any kind of final adjudication. Your position, however, is far from that of the official teaching of the Catholic church.
6) Your allusion to the “priestesses” of the Roman empire is quite interesting, but does not reflect the state of the Roman religion at the time of subapostolic and patristic Christianity. You attempt to create a straw man argument and then disprove it; unfortunately, your straw man fails simple historical veracity.
7) Where does “Almighty God, in the person of Jesus Christ” ABSOLUTELY FORBID any of this? Please point me to a document that conveys this divine truth. Also, your statement is again too broad and again makes claims that the Church herself does not.
8) I would suggest that your statements are far too sweeping, too unfocused, and too emotional to be taken seriously. I would also suggest that your conclusions are not only fatally flawed, they do NOT convey the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Perhaps we should all do well to continue our studies and prayer on these and other issues.
God bless,
Deacon Bill
(and, if this is important to you:
BA, Thomistic Philosophy; MA, Education; MA, Theology; Ph.D., Theology)



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One of the best Latvian TOPSITE

posted November 29, 2012 at 5:29 am


Its like you learn my thoughts! You seem to grasp a lot about this, such as you wrote the book in it or something. I feel that you can do with a few p.c. to drive the message home a little bit, however instead of that, this is fantastic blog. A great read. I’ll certainly be back.



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