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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Roman Catholics Debate Women Deacons

The article "Backing women deacons" [News, Sept. 27] contains a statement from a canon lawyer that " 'there is no possibility that women will ever be ordained to the diaconate' because canon law forbids it." It is a true that current canon law forbids it, but that is irrelevant as to a future decision by the Holy Father. To conclude that there is no possibility is quite a leap.

The question of whether women can be validly ordained as deacons is a doctrinal one, not canonical. The real question is whether the prohibition of such an ordination is, when applied to diaconate, repeating an unchangeable doctrinal teaching or, alternatively, expressing a legal prohibition that can be altered -- something that has happened in many areas of law in the past.

In fact, recent amendments to the canons by Pope Benedict XVI suggest that this is a legal prohibition and that a change in this matter is quite possible. Bishop Emil Wcela, a retired auxiliary bishop from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, addresses this question in the article when he notes that, three years ago, a significant paragraph was added to distinguish the diaconate from the episcopate or priesthood. The key role of bishops and priests as iconic representations of "Christ the Head," which is one of the principal arguments for a male priesthood, was explicitly removed from the description of deacons.
Read the rest here.

Of course it's a non-starter from an Orthodox perspective. The ancient office of "deaconess" often cited by advocates of women's ordination was a lay office, in no way related to that of "Deacon" which is part of holy orders and exclusively male. For the record I think this nonsense is just rumblings from the aging (and dying) Catholic left. The likelihood of the Pope ever going along with it is basically nonexistent. Unfortunately there will always be people who just can't handle being told "no."

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Uh... its likely most Orthodox Churches will have Deaconesses in the next few decades. There is something very weird about Orthodoxy in America, especially with converts. The more I experience it, the more concerned I get.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Your a day late and a dollar short. Some Orthodox churches already have deaconesses, including the Russians and the Greeks. But they are not in holy orders. It's just a revival of the ancient lay office that died out over the centuries. I see no point to it. But it is not a threat to Orthodoxy because the nature of the office is clearly understood.

August said...

It can't work. The word from Rome, or patient bishops who have to put up with the occasional womanpriest thing tends to come down to authority- i.e. the Church has no authority to ordain women, much like we have no authority to go create unicorns.
Deacons take holy order, so presumably the womandeacon is similar to a smaller imaginary creature, perhaps a snipe.
Now, some sort of lay office might make sense, assuming we really want to continue down the road of completely demasculinizing everything.

Jon Marc said...

What is a "lay office" to you? Reader? Parish warden? 'Cause unlike the latter, the former has blessing prayers appointed for it, as did the old order of deaconess (or ordination prayers, depending on your perspective of course). I agree that deaconesses didn't have the same functions as deacons in the Byzantine Rite, but at the same time deaconesses were certainly more than parish secretaries...

Daniel McLain Hixon said...

I thought I had read somewhere that Bishop Kalistos Ware had aruged that women deacons were a possibility in the Eastern Church. Anyone know anything about that...

Anonymous said...

Oh brother... Women were ordained by the Bishop at altar and communed with the clergy. So it was not a lay office.

Things are rarely so simple, I have been to Orthodox seminary and I have to say the idea of a lay office itself isn't very clear.