Synod on Scripture proposes making women Lectors… er… Lectrices

Here is a story from CNS by my friend in Rome and fellow Minnesotan Mr. John Thavis:

Remember that once upon a time, Holy Church had the minor order of Lector.  Paul VI suppressed the minor orders in favor of "ministries" of Lector and Acolyte.  These are open only to males.  However, an interpretation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law (a mistaken one, I think) allowed that women could substitute for officially installed Acolytes.  This introduced a theological confusion into our praxis as a Church, a violation of continuity in our tradition.

Now, we read that not all the discontinuity embracing aging-hippies stayed home when they were invited to the Synod this year:

An opening on women lectors?
Posted on October 25, 2008 by John Thavis

VATICAN CITY — Probably the most newsy — and somewhat unexpected — item in the final propositions of the Synod of Bishops on the Bible was a proposal to allow women to be officially installed in the ministry of lector. [Quod Deus avertat.]

The issue was raised in Proposition 17 on “The ministry of the word and women,” and on Saturday morning it passed with 191 votes in favor, 45 opposed and three abstentions, according to our sources.

“It is hoped that the ministry of lector be opened also to women, so that their role as proclaimers of the word may be recognized in the Christian community,” the proposition states in its final sentence.

What Pope Benedict XVI will do with that proposal is unclear, according to Vatican people I spoke with shortly after the synod vote.

The issue, of course, is not whether women can act as lectors, or Scripture readers, in Catholic liturgies. They already do so all over the world, including at papal Masses.

The question is whether women can be officially installed in such a ministry. Until now, the Vatican has said no: canon law states that only qualified lay men can be “installed on a stable basis in the ministries of lector and acolyte.” At the same time, canon law does allow for “temporary deputation” as lector to both men and women, which is why women routinely appear as lectors.

The reasoning behind church law’s exclusion of women from these official ministries has long been questioned. For centuries, the office of lector was one of the ”minor orders,” generally reserved to seminarians approaching ordination. While seminarians still are installed formally as “acolyte” and then as “lector”  before being ordained deacons, since the 1970s service at the altar and proclaiming the readings at Mass have been seen primarily as ministries stemming from baptism and not specifically as steps toward ordination.

“It’s important to emphasize that any proposition for women lectors would simply arive from their baptism and not from any presumptive opening for orders,” said one Vatican source.  [I disagree.  I think reading in liturgy is tied closely also to Holy Orders, and not just baptism.  I wonder if this proposition doesn’t come from a confusion of the two modes of priesthood.]

The synod took up the question because some have suggested that in promoting greater scriptural preparation and presentation, the church designate “ministers of the word.” Lectors were seen as natural candidates.

It’s interesting that this proposal, while passing overwhemlingly, drew the greatest number of “no” votes than any of the other 54 propositions, most of which passed with fewer than five opposing votes.

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137 Responses to Synod on Scripture proposes making women Lectors… er… Lectrices

  1. Jordanes says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf said: I wonder if this proposition doesn’t come from a confusion of the two modes of priesthood.

    I think you put your finger right on it, Father.

    While the Church needs to be tightening up her canon law regarding the role of women in the light of her liturgical tradition, this proposal would take the Church even further from her tradition. It’s a bad idea that hopefully the Pope will reject.

  2. Henrici says:

    I have a sense of unease when a synod of bishops is meeting — similar to what I feel when our local state legislature is in session, fearing that nothing good can be expected to come of it.

    I wonder whether it might be the case that the couple hundred bishops meeting in synod — from among how many thousand bishops in the Church — come mainly from more senior ones ordained or appointed in the couple of decades following Vatican II, and who in the last couple of decades have been most heavily involved in the politics of their national bishops conferences.

    If this is so — and I’m not sure that it is — then the caliber of recommendations that typically come forth from these synods may not be so surprising. A synod consisting more of the most faithful rather than the most political bishops might produce a different quality of results.

  3. It don’t see the necessity for the reader of the first and second readings at Mass to be instituted in the ministry of lector. I just don’t see the need for it at all. In fact, it would be better, I think, not to confuse the reader with the ministry of lector.
    Jordanes is right. The recent vote for women lectors was a bad idea. Let us hope this idea is going nowhere. Otherwise, they will be voting next for women acolytes. And then ..

  4. Copernicus says:

    Not all the discontinuity embracing aging-hippies stayed home

    The usual disappointing story, Fr Z: you disagree with some of your fellow Christians (in this case including a significant number of the successors of the Apostles), so you feel at liberty to insult them. Why do you feel personally exempt from standards of Christian charity mandated by the Gospel?

  5. Jordanes says:

    Dr. Wright said: It don’t see the necessity for the reader of the first and second readings at Mass to be instituted in the ministry of lector. I just don’t see the need for it at all. In fact, it would be better, I think, not to confuse the reader with the ministry of lector.

    Except “lector” means “reader,” the one who publicly reads or chants the lections from Holy Scripture proper to that day. Historically a “lector” is one who is given the authority and responsibility of readings the lections during the liturgy. Separating “lector” from “the person who reads the first/second lections during Mass” would leave “lector” as a title without a function. Instead of dividing “lector” from “reader,” or redefining “lector” to include women, the Church ought to go back to St. Paul’s law of not permitting women to speak or to usurp the authority of men in the liturgy.

  6. Mike says:

    I say this slightly tongue in cheek… if this ministry is open to women lectors, then I too will be able to become one. I have directly asked both the ordinary and his secretary (in the opposite order) about the lay ministries and they both said that the diocese will not install ANY ministers unless they are on the way to the priesthood/diaconate because of the male exclusivity.

  7. Vianney33 says:

    Copernicus,
    At times we all get frustrated when it is clear that our Church is being damaged by “dicontiuity embracing aging-hippies”. Perhaps just the last word is what you don’t like. Leave that out and what do you disagree with? Don’t you think enough “innovations” that did not work, or worse, caused the Liturgy to be watered down, have been been given birth by these people?
    Frankly, I find these “insults” refreshing compared to the limp wristed shepherds whose “pastoral” approach has allowed the irreverent Masses that are still too common today. How can we be surprised that half of Catholics don’t believe in the real presence? It is precisely these “hippies” who are responsible for this. Besides, I believe our Lord insulted a few churchmen in his day.

  8. Victor says:

    Did anybody read the “nuntius”, the Synodal message? It is so utterly unreadable…

  9. a catechist says:

    I’ll be looking forward to a reasoned and calm discussion of the pros and cons of this. I hope that might happen on this blog. In any case, I’ll look forward to whatever the Pope’s decision and remarks are, which will doubtless reflect his love of liturgy and love for women.

  10. truthfinder says:

    JMJ
    As a young woman who reads at Mass, I would resist with all my might being installed as a lector/rice. I think it would give approval to those who think women’s ordination is acceptable.

  11. katie says:

    Lads, lads, this is a question about the theology of the priesthood. Why not discuss this and leave off the tones of anti-women rhetoric (including, carissimo padre, the word ‘lectrices’). As B16 reminded us recently, the Church ‘belongs’ to God, not to us and (if I may add) not to males as opposed to females. If you guys would talk in constructive terms about the Christology of priesthood and how the reading and preaching of the word cannot be separated from the sacramental action, you might find more women understanding the tradition. At the moment it (sometimes) sounds like a turf battle: we men control the church and you women are trying to get your collective toe in the door.
    May I add a related but slightly different. It looks from over here (Italy) as though we are going into a period of out and out cultural warfare. Am I wrong or is this election like no other? Without the Americans, that is with the marginalisation of pro-life and pro-U.S. people in the new Obama world, the bio-ethical or rather bio-unethical legislation in England and elsewhere will usher in an age of the unimaginable. Either the Catholic Church will become a sect for anti-diluvian moaners with interesting haberdashery, but no effect on the world in which we live, or we will have to fight a war of persuasion against abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, moral equivalency etc for many years in the future. This cannot be done without the active support of Catholic women. Of course it can’t be done without prayer and sacraments which is why I read this excellent blog. But we will have to think about the role of women (nuns and lay people)in the Church. This has nothing, as far as I am concerned, to do with the (closed) question of women’s ordination.

  12. Kradcliffe says:

    This is the first I’ve heard of this. I’m actually confused. What does this mean for those of us who read at Mass? I would never volunteer to do it, but I have been asked to do it. I think the locals like my accent or something, and the priest wants to help me get involved in parish life. (My town has a pretty insular community, so as a newcomer, I appreciate being given an “in.”) But, I honestly have always felt strange about women up around the altar. Is being a female lector similar to being an altar girl or extraordinary minister of communion?

    I am really unsure. Do you suppose I am doing wrong to read at Sunday Mass?

  13. TJM says:

    I readily admit that I like the scholarship to comment on this from an historical, theological or liturgical perspective. I find the subject matter and the vote puzzling,however, particularly when we have the supreme pontiff, Benedict XVI encouraging and fostering a healing of the rupture which resulted from the execrable implementation of the directives of Vatican II. I’m starting to think these “votes” with majority rule carrying the day is a very, very bad thing when it comes to Holy Church. The truth is the truth, no matter how certain bishops (who may lack the historical, theological or liturgical training to weigh in on these matters) vote. What’s next? A vote as to whether the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ at Mass? My gut tells me, Father A is correct and this “august body” is mistaken. Tom

  14. tekmgt says:

    I see other side issues if this recommendation is implemented. Those instituted in the ministry of Acolyte and Reader have a right to act in these roles at Mass over those who are the regular volunteers in the parish. This is usually not observed, especially when seminarians come home between semesters, because it will “hurt the feelings” of the volunteers. Something tells me that this would immediately go the other way, with people demanding their “rights” to read as instituted Readers in parishes and causing real problems.

    Just the opinion of someone who’s been through this all for many, many years.

  15. TJM says:

    Fraudian slip. I meant to say Father Z. Tom

  16. Brian Day says:

    Katie writes:
    Either the Catholic Church will become a sect for anti-diluvian moaners with interesting haberdashery, but no effect on the world in which we live, or we will have to fight a war of persuasion against abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, moral equivalency etc for many years in the future. This cannot be done without the active support of Catholic women.

    I agree that women must be active in the culture wars if the Church is to win the battle you listed. But I think you are raising a false dichotomy. You imply that women will become (or are) involved only if they are allowed to be involved in liturgical functions. I disagree. How involved Catholic lay people are in the culture wars are a result of catechesis, not liturgical involvement.

  17. Joshua says:

    I hate to say this, but it is a logical extension of two things

    1. The suppression of minor orders, and the opening up of lector/acolyte as lay ministers

    2. The erosion of the principle that a substitute for a role must be one eligible for that role. Hence only men could receive the minor order acolyte, therefore only men could serve Mass in place of them.

    If lector and acolyte are no longer orders, and if women are permitted to do perform the roles, then it seems that they should also be able to receive the blessing for those roles. While I would take this as a time to reexamine women substituting for them, they are taking it the other direction. I say that it is more fitting for a man to handle the body of Christ as an EHMC, because at least he is, ontologically, eligible for the priesthood. But then only men should be instituted acolytes (who are inherently ehmc´s), but then only men should substitute for them, etc.

  18. Steve says:

    I always thought laymen who wanted to insert themselves into the sacrifice of the Mass as ‘greeters’, ‘lectors’, ‘EMHC’s’ and such were somewhat infantile in their motivation.

    Their desire to ‘participate’ reminds me of the father who brings his six year old son out to the driveway to ‘help’ fix the car. It might make the kid ‘feel’ good but it really serves no purpose.

  19. OK. A simple word from our complex language, drawn from a variety of languages including Latin and Greek: “lectrice”. It is a feminine form of the word “lector”. Have our parochial schools, and institutions of higher learning, lost all compass of real language? Some years ago, certain Epsicopalians were ofended by the term “priestess” applying to their women (so called) priests. I pointed out that even the Oxford English Dictionary defines a priestess as simply “a female who holds the office of a priest”.

    So, this is just another example of the overbearing weight of Political Correctness, that ALL words that pertain to persons MUST be unisex in their grammatical nature!

  20. It is indeed interesting that the proposal drew the greatest number of “no” votes. People often mistake votes in these assemblies as following a democratic “majority” (simple or 2/3) model. As I understand it, the Church usually looks for “consensus” and will not move forward if there is a clear lack of consensus, i.e. a significant minority opposing.

    I hope that this proves to be the case because the “lay ministries” of lector and acolyte are already a source of confusion and are, practically speaking, largely limited to seminarians. It would be better to leave this as it is for the time being and, eventually, to restore the minor orders which are of great antiquity and a help to those preparing for the priesthood.

  21. toomey says:

    Some very good posts here, but I can only wonder: When is the “smoke of Satan” going to be driven out of the Sanctuary?

  22. Robin Lennon says:

    I am coming to understand that Jesus is specially present in the readings as the Word of God-though not in the same way as He is present in the Eucharist, of course. Think of the story of the road to Emmaus in which the disciples hearts burned within them (transfigurative power of the the Word?) as Jesus opened the Word of God to them, yet it wasn’t until the “breaking of the bread” that they recognized them.

    Coming to see the Body of Christ as a mystical joining with Christ and thus the Trinity and coming to sense the the transformational power of the Word which we then must cultivate and allow to transform us to the roots of our beings and actions, I too think that Lectors should also reflect presence of Jesus, Who said that the Word had been fulfilled in His reading of it.

    I am a good reader, but do not read at Mass for the same reason that I have never had my feet washed on Holy Thursday, even though I was invited to do so. Symbols have meaning, and our faith is filled with them even when we no longer recognize them.

    In Christ’s peace and joy,

    Robin L. in TX

  23. Martin_B says:

    Contrary to most of you, I do really look forward to women being able to be instituted as lectors for a number of reasons:

    1.) By eliminating the minor orders, Pope Paul VI turned those functions over to the laity. And laity means men AND women.

    2.) It would fulfill the aim of the council to bring together again function and office.

    3.) It would eliminate one of the, in my opion, worst explanations in church law. Namely the exclusion of women out of reasons of tradition, after having first eliminated the minor orders contrary to tradition.

    4.) If the church is entrusting women (and lay men) with the distribution of the most holy sacrament (in certain situation only), than why shouldn’d women be entrusted with the proclamation of the non-evangelic lectures?

    And I don’t see such a move as an “first step” towards woman-ordination, because, as said before, we are not talking about any orders (not even minor) any more.

    Moreover, it would give our bishops a kind of “nihil obstat” about the selection of those, who would then regularly act as lectors in our parishes.

  24. jpg says:

    Two observations.
    The only opinion that will count is that of His Holiness.
    At which point Roma locuta est causa finita est. This is a potential Trojan horse of the innovators. I also think the minor orders need reviving and if they wish to confer these on layman such as myself all the better. I think being a towel holder at Mass will only enhance my devotion and spiritual life.
    JPG

  25. katie says:

    Dear Brian,
    With all respect, I didn’t say anything or imply anything about women participating in minor orders to participate in the Liturgy. I was simply raising in this context that if women CANNOT be ordained (non possumus)and cannot be lectors, this doesn’t let the lads (from our beloved Pope downwards) off the hook as far as women and the Church are concerned. This is the whole of my point.
    May I suggest that there are two aspects to our current ‘situation’ as Catholics. The first is the retrieval before it’s too late of the whole of our Catholic tradition and making sense of it. (Hence our heroic theologian-Pope, Father Z and the mattone dopo mattone.)
    The second is the bio-ethical culture wars which is a matter NOT UNRELATED to the tradition. Women are needed to work for Catholic issues (POSSUMUS!)in the public, political domain and that, I think, is going to require a very different sort of catechesis and theological education. Catholic women have assumed post V2 that the only thing that counts for true personhood and equality in the Church is who stands at or near the altar and has the ‘power’ or the authority. This is a magical, pagan, attitude towards the Liturgy and the priesthood.
    What matters for the Church, is how women argue and present the Catholic case in bio-ethics to the world; for this it will not be enough simply to own a nice set of mantillas.
    My recipe: lay off the altars, ladies, love and understand the liturgy as the centre of your prayer and your relation to God through Christ, but leave the performance to the clergy who are set apart for this reason, and start using yr Catholic brains in family issues, social, educational matters and politics.
    Men simply cannot (non possunt!) witness against abortion and for marriage in the way that women can. Look at the storm of anger and hatred that brewed up against Sarah Palin and Trig. Against the picture of a woman holding her own baby! But where O where were the Catholic women, including nuns, who could/should have given her a hand?

  26. First, just a question: What language do the bishops debate and discuss in? Is it Latin?

    Second, if women can be instituted lectors why not acolytes? And since acolytes can function as subdeacons, how long before bishops try to force parishes to use female subdeaconesses in the TLM?
    Hey maybe this is their way of trying to promote the TLM among certain circles!

    Third, isn’t it funny that none of the bishops who voted yes (and I think I am safe in this assumption) has a cadre of instituted lectors and acolytes in his diocese who alone are commissioned to aid in the liturgy? Will instituting lectors mean they will also institute only men as acolytes and hence as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion?

  27. Another Tom says:

    Babelfish translation of Le Proposizioni approvate dal Sinodo per il Papa from http://www.zenit.org/article-15914?l=italian

    [Wow…. I had to remove that. Let’s never do that again… okay?]

  28. mitch#2 says:

    Another one of Pope Paul VI’s “suppressions” leads to more confusion and disorientation within the well established faith………Will it ever end? Decades from now we will still be speaking of suppressions and allocutions from his Papacy…The confusion and open challenges to tradition are reason enough to think we have been turned upside down and need to be righted.

  29. Mila says:

    I, like truthfinder, am a woman who reads at Mass. And, like truthfinder, I will resist with all my might being installed as lector/trice. Reading out loud in front of a large number of people is a challenge. The Good Lord has given me a talent to do it well, and I this is my way of giving back to Him what is rightfully His. However, I don’t aspire in any way, shape or form to being a “minister”,as I feel this plays into the hands of those who think women’s ordination possible. Women do not belong anywhere near something that might be construed as leading to ordination.

  30. Mila says:

    By the way, don’t trust translations of material done by babelfish or any other computer program. Such translations are notoriously poor, as the program cannot supply the fine points of language. Check out Proposizione 51 to see how the English is mangled.

  31. Richard says:

    Given the Protestantized (mis)understanding of the priesthood that now obtains through wide swaths of the Church, I have to think that this is a singularly ill-advised – certainly ill-timed – proposal.

    While I think some of Katie’s post is a little overcooked, I second one thing she said: “If you guys would talk in constructive terms about the Christology of priesthood and how the reading and preaching of the word cannot be separated from the sacramental action, you might find more women understanding the tradition.” Indeed.

  32. Brian Day says:

    Katie,

    Thank you for your reply and clarification. I found it most helpful.

  33. Jim Dorchak says:

    And there were bishops in the early 1970s who allowed altar girls in direct disobedience to the Churches teaching.

    what will they, our bishops, do with this new invention?

    It brings to mind a line from a great movie; “here’s a stick to beat the lovely lady with”.

    Jim Dorchak

  34. Hieromonk Gregory says:

    I hope that the Pope checks out the Byzantine order for the making of a reader/lector. The admonition that the Bishop gives states: Behold my son you are to be set aside as a Reader of the Church, the first step to the Holy Priesthood. As you know the Byzantine Catholics tend to incorporate elements from current Latin Catholic usage, including female acolytes. Just what the church needs, more confusion and partisan backlash.

  35. ALL: There is a difference between being “able to read well” and being the “right person to do the reading”.

  36. Michael says:

    I don’t think the proposal would make much difference if applied to the Novus Ordo which is so bad that the new proposal can’t make it worse. After all, women are already “eucharistic ministers” which is the matter more serious than the readings. What I am afraid is that the proposal, if implemented, would be used as backdoor to introduction of these “ministries” into the TLM.

    A statistical data about the attitude of those who voted “yes” and their readiness to introduce the TLM, compared with those who voted “no” and their attitude toward the TLM might prove telling.

    The proposal will surely entrench the SSPX, and I wouldn’t blame them for that.

  37. Michael says:

    HIEROMONK GREGORY

    Your Patriarch should have distanced himself from this novelty in his address in Rome, instead of praising the Synod with nice words.

  38. Nick says:

    Between the end of V2 and the beginning of the (Bugnini) changes there actually was an office of Lector in my diocese. To be a Lector one needed to be a man (in good Catholic standing) have a background in Gregorian Chant with appropriate singing ability — (5 or 6 years under a competent chior as I remember) and reach a minimum proficiency in Latin.

    I qualified at a Benedictine abbey and received a really spiffy git up sewn by the priory nuns — with do dads on the sleeves (the nun sewing the du-dad would say a prayer at each stitch, mine prayed a lot!) And of course topped off with a (very, very) blessed St. Benedict medal to be worn around the neck…

    I did serve as an official Lector for a few years at the 6 am Mass at my local parish, in fact I sang the last Tridentine Mass that would be allowed in the diocese for 35-years….

  39. Martin-II says:

    http://holywhapping.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html

    Where Andrew makes some pro-change points

  40. Geoffrey says:

    I think the instituted ministries are one of the many things that are misunderstood, misused, and not used at all. Imagine the possibilities if used to their full potential: an instituted lector chanting a reading or two in Latin in the Ordinary Form… an instituted acolyte acting as a subdeacon at the Extraordinary Form of Mass… Oh well!

  41. RichR says:

    I will refrain from commenting too explicitly, but I will just say that I am very sad to read this. Pray for Pope Benedict. His role is one that requires divine assistance in the most serious way.

  42. Volpius says:

    This in the year of St. Paul of all years are they crazy? (don’t answer that) Did they actually read their Bibles at this synod on the Bible?

    The more this goes on the more I appreciate God’s wisdom in not making the Church democratic lol.

  43. Volpius says:

    Pros: None.
    Cons: Go’s against the teachings of the Apostles.

    Should be all you need to know. This is not a complicated topic.

  44. Volpius says:

    And yes go’s should be goes lol, just shows you even someone as simple as me can get this!

  45. Shin says:

    I always prefer to see no women in the sanctuary or performing the readings. It is an inappropriate sign, and one to be resisted — The evil of the reversal of gender roles today is only exacerbated rather than fixed by such.

    If I might compare it, it is like men wearing women\’s clothing, or women wearing men\’s — in extremis, there are occassions where it can happen without sin, but it is never normal and when such leads to evils.

    But people are so overly concerned with reversing gender roles as a virtue today rather than seeing it as a vice as we see regarding the vote. The devils at work!

  46. Boko says:

    At first I thought no good could come of the Synod, as it operates. Non-magisterial pronouncements by a quasi-magisterial body only lead to confusion, especially with voting and tallies and without the guarantees of the Holy Spirit. But on reconsideration, I see much good in this. The goats, so to speak, have been separated from the sheep. I hope (in vain, probably) that we shall soon see 45 promotions and 191 stalled ecclesial careers.

  47. Josiah Ross says:

    …And the last vestiges of the minor orders, going back to the third century are going away.
    Why do we keep casting off the practices of the early church in the name of inclusiveness? Tertullian and Hyppolytus , among many others would be horrified at the modern church.

  48. Chris says:

    Do you want properly instituted and trained ministers or not? As long as the ban on women remains, due to a spurious link with ordination, these ministries will not be used. It is that simple.

  49. GCC Catholic says:

    Do you want properly instituted and trained ministers or not? As long as the ban on women remains, due to a spurious link with ordination, these ministries will not be used. It is that simple.

    Hardly. To suggest this is a ‘ban’ implies that it was at one time legitimate. Just like priestesses in the Christian tradition, it never was legitimate.

    This is about everyone knowing his or her proper role in the Church. As men in minor orders, it is the proper duty for lectors and acolytes to act in those roles when they are available. That might mean that pastors need to at times to thank their volunteer lay readers (who serve as a privilege, not a right) while informing them that their role is fulfilled by its proper minister for the day, and that they will be rescheduled.

    Pastors and bishops need to do their jobs.

  50. Can such a change in the traditional institution of lectors even happen? If such a change occurred it couldn’t happen in the traditional form, so then the two forms would no longer reflect the unity of the single Roman rite. This is also divisive with respect to the 23 Oriental Rites of the Church. There is an unbroken tradition of the Church, both from the East and the West which even the Novus Ordo respects. This rupture, on a minor but significant matter, would challenge the underlying theology of the Liturgy of the Church in all its rites. Not even the Novus Ordo attempted this. In fact, this whole issue demonstrates the need for knowledgeable liturgists. Where are they? The now completed synod was about scripture, not about liturgy. Were the 191 bishops knowledgeable in the liturgy of the Roman Rite? If 191 bishops voted for the proposition, there are still thousands of bishops throughout the world that will need to be consulted. The next step is a wider consultation, and serious liturgical study, a synod of bishops on the liturgy. The next synod should be on the liturgy!

  51. I agree with Boko. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is abundantly clear that the bishops do not share among themselves a unified underlying theology for the Liturgy. What happened to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church? There is a split, it has surfaced, and now the rupture needs to be addressed and amended.

  52. Julian says:

    I would be really sorry if the Pope accepted this proposal. Humanly speaking, we can be sure that Church feminists will make a big show of the “ordination” of such women to the post of Lector. It will be an official foot in the sanctuary. There will be media coverage, much talk of the breaking down of barriers, and general hoopla.

    Contra the notion, there are objections from St Paul on women and “silence in the assembly”. And I do think it is a priestly function of a kind. It used not to bother me when women read in Church but I have increasingly come to see it as a tolerated abuse, at best.

    I suspect – and hope – that Benedict will reject this proposal. That is, after all, what Popes are for :-)

    In any case, since I generally attend the Latin Mass, it will not be a problem for me personally. Just one more reason to attend the Latin Mass.

  53. dominic1962 says:

    First, I think it was a huge mistake to supress the Minor Orders. No one can say they were merely “medieval accretions”. Trent even opened the way for them (i.e. porter, lector, acolyte) to be held by laymen, but I would venture to guess that they would be a rather exclusive group for men who were actually trained and able to lector as lectoring has been traditionally done. This would have been nice if we could have utilized such people and kept it at such a standard.

    Unfortunately, the liturgical aspect of proclaiming the word has lost much of its rich symbolism. Just compare what generally happens at a Solemn High Mass and your average parish NO. The TLM keeps a strong sense of ritual and reverence for the readings, the NO (generally speaking, I know some places don’t do this) reminds one more of someone getting up to read a section of newspaper or an announcement. Its sad, really.

  54. dominic1962 says:

    Furthermore, it is simply ridiculous that even though it is allowed to install permanent acolytes and lectors, maybe one or two dioceses in the U.S. actually do so. Why do other dioceses not follow suit? From what I’ve heard (take it for what it is), it is not done simply because women can’t be lectors and if you had a sizeable number of instituted lectors available, one couldn’t reasonably “deputize” women to read. It is funny how people get all ticked off when they are not allowed to do something they have no right to do.

  55. Lydia Brown says:

    Father, your point about there being a difference between “being able to read well” and “being the right person to do the reading” is well taken, but I hope that at least “being able to read (period)” is still a worthwhile criterion in your book. This morning at Mass my family to a woman with a croaky, wavering voice read to us about the lands of Macadamia and A-chee-ah.

  56. Ioannes Andreades says:

    One aspect I find so frustrating is the sheer amount of tinkering with the liturgy without solid rationale forthcoming from Rome. Pope Paul’s supression of minor orders was written in the context of an alarmingly short letter devoid of the meaningful reasoning that it really needed. Explication of dogma as it relates to the varieties of ministry is simply insufficient at this point.

  57. Maureen says:

    Speaking in my capacity as proprietress of the podcast Maria Lectrix, I’d like to make a few comments here.

    1) The preferred word is ‘lectrix’, of which the plural is indeed ‘lectrices’. ‘Lectrice’ is okay, I suppose, but unlovely. The Old English term was ‘raedistre’, which in Modern English would have become “readster”. The Cornish was ‘redior’.

    2) A ‘lectrix’ was originally a type of female slave in a Roman household — a very rich or literary household. Later, it became the name of a job in convents. A ‘lectrix’ was the woman who read to the community in the refectory, or read the readings in the Office. There is nothing inferior or condescending about this. But it was not an installed order; it didn’t make you clergy or anything.

    3) I don’t think there’s anything wrong about women reading the readings at Mass. It may or may not be optimum, but there’s nothing wrong with it. The question is whether it’s a good idea to install women in the office of lector.

    I think it’s not. If an “emergency” lectrix is able to read the readings, why does she need to be installed? Why are we going to start doing

    And if you’re not going to precede a woman’s installation as a lector with her installation as a permanent acolyte and a porter, and then follow up by installing her as an exorcist, then I think she is getting shorted! Door-slamming and demon-dispelling powers or bust!

  58. Maureen says:

    Oh, and she should get tonsured, too! Lectors used to get tonsured!

    Finally, if lectors get installed, then you have to install psalmists, too, or you are totally dissing the music ministers and cantors and psalm-lectors and everybody.

    Welcome to ye grand opening of ye gigantick canne of wormes.

  59. Maureen says:

    Oh, and St. Thomas Aquinas says that, if you have been installed in an Order and you exercise it while in mortal sin, you’re guilty of a mortal sin in doing it! Yow! Are they going to brief women on this stuff? (Heck, do they even brief men?)

  60. phy1729 says:

    Truth is not determined by a majority vote
    -Pope Benedict XVI

    I think he will remember his own words when considering the proposal.

  61. dcs says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong about women reading the readings at Mass. It may or may not be optimum, but there’s nothing wrong with it.

    Except for St. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians that women should be silent in church (1 Cor 14:34-35).

  62. Boko says:

    I did this lay reader bit once, in front of a bunch of buddies, and the first reading mentioned the land of “Shittim.” I just said “Shuh-TEEM” quickly and moved on. Good times. Have fun, ladies. You too, ROTRers. I’ll be at the OF.

  63. Andrew says:

    Pardon my ignorance, but I look at this subject in a very common sense way.

    As noted in the article, women already are lectors throughout the world, even in papal Masses.

    If that is the case (and I am far from saying this is desirable either) perhaps there is no reason to exclude them from the ancient minor order.

    If they are to be excluded, (and some I know do a good job at this in the new rite) it is very wrong that this phenomenon of female readers of the Word even exists.

    The Church cannot do one thing in theory, and another thing in practice. (We can differentiate between the minor order of lector and female lectors, but such a distinction is lost on the faithful). That is illogical.

    But it is only a synodal proposal, and it will be up to Pope Benedict to examine the merits of this.

    In all matters, we must adhere to the Holy Father, even if in our hearts we don’t like the decision.

  64. truthfinder says:

    JMJ
    I very much like Maureen’s proposal of a tonsure. What would really get rid of the women is tell them that the Church is going to use the Franciscan style tonsure. I think that would eliminate any woman wanting to be installed as lector.
    I also must say, that on several occasions I have seriously considered stopped reading. My priest wanted me to read in the first place, so that is why I’m doing it. I much prefer silence in church. Pray that I’ll ask him for a TLM and that it will be granted.

  65. Matt Q says:

    This bit about wanting to allow women to be to lectorettes is unwise and dangerous. Lector and Acolyte all ultimately lead up to sacerdotal ordination. As John Paul said ten years ago or so that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women and the matter is moot. In light of this then it follows that women cannot be admitted to Lector or Acolyte. As Father Z said, “This introduces a theological confusion into our praxis as a Church, a violation of continuity in our Tradition.”

    I firmly pray, hope and encourage His Holiness The Pope not even to consider such a suggestion or desire of his ill-thinking bishops.

  66. CarpeNoctem says:

    Hold on folks, here’s a slick way that B16 can take another significant step in the “Marshall Plan” for the Church:

    How about, as per Martin_B above, let’s have women (and men) instituted as “Readers” under the current plan of ‘lay ministries’ for the reasons he proposes… BUT, let’s also have a proper minor order for seminarians, and perhaps other men. Then, let’s stick to having instituted “Readers” only. The effect is that this ministry would, in effect, become ‘licensed': training, formation, standards. Hmmm?

    Obviously “Readers” would only serve in the NO and in the absence of an ordained “Lector” serving in that role. The present lay-ministry setup is not a contemporary rendering of minor orders… it is a different beast altogether, thus there is nothing to be lost by tweaking them into something potentially useful.

    I am a little less convinced of the wisdom of doing this for acolyte, but that’s a separate discussion.

  67. (another) Peter says:

    Perhaps this has been said already, but WHY, WHY, WHY does the Church have to call synods where there is NO demonstrable need to do so. One might have hoped that at least they might do the carbon sums on all those airfares and called it off on environmental grounds …

    As to the makeup, in Australia’s contingent was one Bp Foley from N. Queensland. Every diocese in Queensland could vie for the honour of home of a heresiarch. Makes you wonder how they got picked. On the plus side, Cardinal Pell went but I wouldn’t hold my breath on what his view on this would have been – chances are all the Australians were imbued with the same ‘backyard cricket’ mentality – every one gets to have a bat even if they don’t know which end to hold.

    Depressing, deeply depressing.

  68. Janny says:

    This debate, as worthwhile as it may be, would go over the heads of 90% of the readership…I know, because much of it is going over MINE, and my truly devout Catholic husband would be sitting here saying, “What in the WORLD is the big deal? Women read at Mass already.” He ought to know. His wife does. :-)

    The point is, if we don’t know we’re truly not supposed to be doing something, we’re going to do it. It has nothing to do with a power-grab in most cases…it has to do with lectors who truly desire to serve God and consider it a privilege to read at Mass. Please don’t start pointing fingers at us in the pews and say, “Well you OUGHT to have known it.” Even St. Paul said, “How can they know if no one tells them?”

    I’m on the verge of being officially “commissioned” as part of the Lector ministry in my parish–this very weekend. Does this mean my parish is doing something wrong, and has been all these years? If they are, why hasn’t the bishop told them? Why does our very young, very earnest Liturgical/Pastoral Assistant know this stuff? Why hasn’t he explained to us women who are willing to serve–SERVE, mind you, not push for ordination!–that there may be a very good reason why we’re not allowed on the altar anymore? And does that mean that the sung ministries of Cantors and such will be next to exclude women?

    All this does is add to confusion which is already rife in the pews. And I’d hate to think that someday, my parish will have one of you come in for Mass, hear me read and blog about it here as a “scandal” when all I’m trying to do in the first place is use a gift I have for the glory of God. Maybe it’s time some of the experts among us got off their high horses and wrote something instructional that all of us could access and understand…instead of ranting here about ancient orders very few ordinary Catholics know ANYTHING about whatsoever. Start us with the milk, guys, don’t lambaste us because we don’t know the “meat” yet. We were never given the foundation to begin with!

    JB

  69. Brian Mershon says:

    191 to 45? You’ve got to be kidding me? These prelates obviously don’t realize the long-term damage and credibility problem they are doing to their own tradition and priesthood. Unbelievable.

    Oh, and so much for that apparent “antiquated” Holy Ghost inspired passage by St. paul about the role of women (or lack thereof) of teaching and preaching (and extended to lectoring) in Church. Silly, St. Paul… (tongue in cheek). What a misogynist.

    This continued breakdown of the minor orders destroys the Church’s continuity with tradition. Don’t think the SSPX and the FSSP and the ICR and the Institute of Good Shepherd aren’t watching these happenings very closely.

    Yes. The modernism condemned by Pope St. Pius X is obviously alive and well still in Scripture “Scholarship” so-called, in the Church of 2008. Infiltrated by it, actually.,

  70. dcs says:

    It is ironic that a Synod dedicated to Holy Scripture would propose something so clearly contrary to Scripture…

  71. tony says:

    DCS, my thoughts exactly.

  72. paul says:

    On issues like this I think we need at least to listen to the Eastern Orthodox as they are noted for being sticklers about tradition. What is there practice? How about the Coptic Orthodox- what is their practice? In this age of ecumenism are we helping or hindering reunion? Just a few thoughts… God bless you all

  73. Boko says:

    I meant “EF” at 10:16. Distracted by the ballgame. Go Phils!

  74. Stephen says:

    “Let women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted them to speak, but to be subject, as also the law saith. But if they would learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church’ (1 Cor 14)

    And this is the year of St. Paul…what irony…! what tragedy…!

  75. Hiberniensis says:

    My interpretation of St. Paul’s prohibition of women speaking in church has long been that he intended thereby to prohibit women *gossipping* in church, not that he meant they couldn’t speak at all.

  76. toomey says:

    There is already much debate about this proposal on the internet. Some strong opinions are emerging. I am starting to wonder if this might be a ploy to derail, or at least throw some logs on the rails to impede that train known as Summorum Pontificum. I would like to see the list of the 191 who voted for this, the 45 who voted against and the 3 who abstained. Who among these bishops are open to the TLM, and who are not.

  77. Michael says:

    PAUL (paul), you are right, but it seems that to the many Western prelates, the reunion with the East is the last item on their agenda (if at all).

  78. dcs says:

    My interpretation of St. Paul’s prohibition of women speaking in church has long been that he intended thereby to prohibit women gossipping in church, not that he meant they couldn’t speak at all.

    St. John Chrysostom does not agree:
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/220137.htm

  79. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Stephen and Hibernensis,

    Some go so far as to say that the injunction is actually a scribal intrusion into the text and not genuinely Pauline. A little earlier in the epistle, Paul says that women may prophesy. However, I think this solution is not entirely necessary, as I’m not sure that the gathered assembly is the only place where prophecy took place. Was the injunction on women’s speaking absolute? It seems to me more likely that the injunction was against women’s speaking authoritatively, perhaps in the way that rabbi’s spoke. Still, on which side should one err?

  80. TJM says:

    Gentlemen, let’s not go the mysogynist route in this serious discussion. Women are a very necessary part of human creation and the Faith. Would you not
    let the Blessed Mother read at Mass? That does not imply that I believe the Blessed Mother should necessarily be installed as a lector, if the Holy
    Father concludes that to install women as lectors is detrimental to the tradition and the all male priesthood. I think that’s where our focus should be.Tom

  81. dcs says:

    Gentlemen, let’s not go the mysogynist route in this serious discussion.

    I’m not sure I see the misogyny here. There is no misogyny in the sexes having different roles.

    Would you not let the Blessed Mother read at Mass?

    I tend to think that Our Lady would not want to read at Mass.

  82. dcs: I tend to think that Our Lady would not want to read at Mass.

    From one of the great sermons of this century — Fr. Calvin Goodwin in EWTN’s 9/14/2007 solemn high Mass telecast:

    “The most perfect participation in that sacrifice is in fact exemplified by Our Blessed Lady at the foot of the Cross. And what is it that she does there at the foot of the altar of the Cross – nothing, in fact, that mortal eyes can perceive. What does she say there – nothing that mortal ears can hear. And yet no human being ever was or ever could be more fully or more intimately involved in that Sacrifice than she was at that moment. As always, she shows us the way. Thus with Our Lady at the foot of the Cross, we too can only be present and wonder, asking ourselves in union with the prayer of the priest at the altar, ‘Quid retribuam…..,’ what return shall I make to the Lord for all that He hath GIVEN unto me……….. This is both the beginning and the goal of participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Everything that fails to lead to that reverence and interior union, or which impedes it, impedes authentic participation. And all elements of exterior participation consonant with these principles will inevitably have the character of authenticity.”

    http://ewtn.edgeboss.net/download/ewtn/multicast/audio/mp3/latin830.mp3
    http://www.ewtn.com/library/Liturgy/goodwinmass.HTM

  83. TJM says:

    dcs, I think you are presuming a lot. I think the guiding principles of the discussion should focus on tradition and upholding the principle of an all male priesthood. The rest is just a distraction and based on emotion. Tom

  84. Jon K says:

    Ecumenically (I am thinking of the only realistic ecumenism – with the Orthodox), this would be a tragedy. It would make more or less permanent the breach with tradition inflicted by Paul VI when he suddenly decided to abolish minor orders in the Latin rite. It would also give the impression that the Church is made of slaves and governed by a tyrant ruling at whim. It would make the hermeneutic of continuity so much less plausible.

    Clearly, abolishing minor orders was a terrible mistake, influenced by the spirit of the 70s. It has created a great deal of confusion but also encouraged liturgical poverty. I hope tradition will be restored. It would solve this whole matter.

    I have always refused to serve Mass in lay clothes. And always refused to do the readings. It is a matter of one´s conception of the liturgy. To me, the sacred liturgy is not a meeting with readings for people who refuse to buy their own copy of the Bible, but a divine craft opening the gates of Heaven. No one ought to be allowed to do anything liturgical without serious craftsmanship and formation. And preferably holy orders. Minor orders were a part of that mentality. I don´t believe sacredness will ever be restored until this way of viewing things return.

  85. dcs says:

    Ecumenically (I am thinking of the only realistic ecumenism – with the Orthodox), this would be a tragedy.

    I’m not sure about that, since some Orthodox are currently looking into whether the order of “deaconesses” can be restored.

  86. dcs says:

    I think the guiding principles of the discussion should focus on tradition

    I agree, especially the tradition of not permitting women in the sanctuary during Holy Mass. Lectors, like acolytes, stand in the place of sacred ministers and it really isn’t fitting for women to take on this role.

  87. Jim of ADW says:

    Jon K
    I wasn’t sure how I felt on this issue until I read you post. Very good argument.

    And Henry
    Thanks for reminding us of that great sermon by Fr. Goodwin. I think I will re-watch it.

  88. Brian Mershon says:

    Yes DCS. What are you thinking by bringing St. John Chrysostom, Saint and Doctor o fthe Church into this issue anyway?

    What could you have possibly been thinking? :>)

    Anybody read the St. John Chrysostom commentary? Any women read it? Or better yet…
    Any male feminists read it?

  89. “…some Orthodox are currently looking into whether the order of “deaconesses” can be restored.”

    This is not necessarily what you might imagine it to be (that is, a female duplicate of the male diaconate). Years ago, I wrote a piece for my diocesan newspaper, that eventually found its way to the EWTN Online Library.

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/liturgy/aroseby.txt

  90. Ephrem says:

    What Martin B. said:

    Contrary to most of you, I do really look forward to women being able to be instituted as lectors for a number of reasons:

    1.) By eliminating the minor orders, Pope Paul VI turned those functions over to the laity. And laity means men AND women.

    2.) It would fulfill the aim of the council to bring together again function and office.

    3.) It would eliminate one of the, in my opion, worst explanations in church law. Namely the exclusion of women out of reasons of tradition, after having first eliminated the minor orders contrary to tradition.

    4.) If the church is entrusting women (and lay men) with the distribution of the most holy sacrament (in certain situation only), than why shouldn’d women be entrusted with the proclamation of the non-evangelic lectures?

    And I don’t see such a move as an “first step” towards woman-ordination, because, as said before, we are not talking about any orders (not even minor) any more.

    Moreover, it would give our bishops a kind of “nihil obstat” about the selection of those, who would then regularly act as lectors in our parishes.

  91. “Yes DCS. What are you thinking by bringing St John Chrysostom, Saint and Doctor of the Church into this issue anyway?”

    Maybe it’s because I only go to the Traditional Mass these days, or maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking so much about the election, and what it means for us. But I have found it very hard to get excited over this issue. Still, I looked forward to what John Chrysostom had to say on that passage from St Paul. Yet it was so densely written, that I had a very hard time following what he was saying. That doesn’t happen very often.

    Anyone wanna give it a shot?

  92. joy says:

    Interestingly, at my parish we currently have a seminarian and an instituted acolyte (on his way to permanent diaconate). When they are at the Mass (OF), the lady lector reads the first reading, while either the seminarian or acolyte reads the epistle. It seems to me that as the Mass progresses, so does the ranking who does what. It may have no bearing on the discussion, but it reminds me of the separation in the Temple, as one got nearer the Holy of Holies, there was more separation/’set apartness’ required.

    Just an observation.

    BTW I think they ought to just un-suppress the minor orders. I’d like to see some tonsures around… ;+)

  93. TMG says:

    The Minor Orders should be brought back to encourage vocations to the priesthood. I am sick of all the “lay ministers” of this ministry and that gradually usurping the roles belonging to the formation to the priesthood. I was told that as a volunteer on the Arts & Environment Committee at my parish that I was a “minister” …no, I’m a volunteer. What will the end result of all this experimenting be – no more priests?

  94. dcs says:

    Here’s the money quote from St. John:

    “Do you see the wisdom of Paul, what kind of testimony he adduced, one that not only enjoins on them silence, but silence too with fear; and with as great fear as that wherewith a maid servant ought to keep herself quiet. Wherefore also having himself said, ‘it is not permitted unto them to speak,’ he added not, ‘but to be silent,’ but instead of ‘to be silent,’ he set down what is more, to wit, ‘the being in subjection.’ And if this be so in respect of husbands, much more in respect of teachers, and fathers, and the general assembly of the Church.” [emphases added]

  95. dcs:

    Thanks for the “money quote.” Now, how would you answer those who accuse the writer of misogyny? In answering, keep in mind that the inquirer might not see a case of differing or complementary roles, but a scenario where one part of the human race is allowed to speak, and the other part is not. Where is the corresponding role that renders the two parts complementary to one another?

  96. dcs says:

    Now, how would you answer those who accuse the writer of misogyny?

    I’m not sure it’s immediately apparent how the two parts are complementary in this instance, so I’m not sure how I would answer that question. Do we really need a “men-can’t-do-this-however” for each instance of a “women-can’t-do-this”? Yes, in the whole grand scheme of things the sexes are complementary but does that really mean for each role (or, in this case, function) that men have, there must be a corresponding role (or function) for women? I doubt one could even build an argument from complementarity (is that a word?) for limiting ordination to men – all we have to guide us are the authority and tradition of Holy Mother Church.

  97. “I doubt one could even build an argument from complementarity (is that a word?) for limiting ordination to men…”

    Really? I can.

    The priest has a nuptial relationship with the Church, to correspond to that of Christ Himself. That is why a priest is an “alter Christus.” The priest is endowed with the charism to “conceive in the spiritual matter,” as I once heard it described. This is why only the ordained can give the homily. So to associate the proclamation of the Scriptures with the priesthood, or steps leading thereof, is to call into question whether one can allow women to enter into what were once called “minor orders,” without calling the integrity of that process into question.

    So, whether we can allow women to be installed as lectors, depends upon what these installed ministries are really for to begin with. Are they an extension of our baptism, or are they a prelude to Orders? We have to answer that question before we go any farther, and I’m not satisfied that we have. Such is very dependent upon the tradition behind them, and whatever it is Paul VI had in mind when he suppressed the minor orders in favor of the “installed ministries.”

  98. Michael says:

    dcs (DCS)

    “I’m not sure about that, since some Orthodox are currently looking into whether the order of “deaconesses” can be restored.”

    Yes, but the question is what they mean by the deaconesses? Whether they mean the sacrament of the Holy Orders.

    The fact is that a woman is forbidden to enter the sanctuary according to their ancient canons. And I think that an idea of a woman functioning as deacon in the Byzantine Liturgy is inconceivable.

    Doctrine on Seven Sacraments was defined by Trent, but before St.Thomas it was not so clear even in the Catholic Church. The Orthodox speak of Seven Mysteries, but make a point that there is no clear distinction between Sacraments and what we call Sacramentals.

    So, any debate about practice during the first Millennium must take into account that the word “deacon” doesn’t necessarily mean the notion of diaconate as we have it today.

  99. Michael says:

    I understand that the Holy Sea has forbidden any debate on female diaconate, some time ago. Anyone knows more ?

  100. 1.) By eliminating the minor orders, Pope Paul VI turned those functions over to the laity. And laity means men AND women.

    Except that Pope Paul VI explicity didn’t do that:

    “In accordance with the ancient tradition of the Church, institution to the ministries of reader and acolyte is reserved to men. (Ministeria quaedam, 7):”

  101. dcs says:

    David L Alexander writes:
    Really? I can.

    The priest has a nuptial relationship with the Church, to correspond to that of Christ Himself. That is why a priest is an “alter Christus.” The priest is endowed with the charism to “conceive in the spiritual matter,” as I once heard it described. This is why only the ordained can give the homily. So to associate the proclamation of the Scriptures with the priesthood, or steps leading thereof, is to call into question whether one can allow women to enter into what were once called “minor orders,” without calling the integrity of that process into question.

    I’m not sure I see the relation of this to the complementarity of the sexes. It’s a good argument, but I don’t see how it relates. I also doubt that it would convince someone who has the preconceived notion that excluding women from the sanctuary is misogynistic.

    Michael writes:
    So, any debate about practice during the first Millennium must take into account that the word “deacon” doesn’t necessarily mean the notion of diaconate as we have it today.

    I agree that it does not, but you will find Orthodox arguing that deaconesses are the same as deacons. Here is Bp. Kallistos Ware on the subject:

    http://www.stnina.org/journal/art/1.3.7

    First of all, we should try to go ahead with the revival of the order of deaconess. That has been discussed for many years. Some people were already discussing it at the beginning of this century in the Orthodox world. Nothing has yet been done. The order of deaconess was never abolished, it merely fell into disuse. Should we not revive it? If we do, what are to be the functions of deaconesses? They should not necessarily, in the twentieth or twenty-first century, be doing exactly what they were doing in the third or fourth century. The order may be the same, yet shouldn’t we rethink the functions that the deaconess might have? On my understanding of the evidence, they were regarded as ordained persons on an equal footing as the male deacons. (There is some dispute in the Orthodox world about that, but my reading of the evidence is quite clear—that they have not just a blessing but an ordination). Let us go beyond that, however. The minor order of reader, cannot that be conferred on women? It wasn’t done in the early Church (as far as I know), but why shouldn’t women now be admitted as readers because, as you say, that is what they are doing. In the early Church that was not so except in the women’s monasteries. Those are two, as I understand it, fairly noncontroversial possibilities. [emphases added]

    If memory serves, he states the same thing in his book The Orthodox Church. Now I don’t know how widespread this opinion is, but if Bp. Kallistos regards it as “noncontroversial” I would imagine he is not alone in holding it.

  102. Ephrem says:

    J.R.

    “Laity” doesn’t include women?

  103. dcs:

    Bishop Kallistos would have a hard time backing him claim historically, that deacons and deaconesses were the same. All the evidence says that they most certainly were not. Unfortunately, there is a streak of modernism running in some Orthodox circles in the last decade or so. It started with contraception (which the Church Fathers all condemned, but which some “modern” Orthodox theologians support), and has extended to the issue of women’s ordination. This trend has coincided with the spread of Orthodoxy beyond the traditional homelands into the diaspora. It could be quite some time before such dissention extends beyond select academic circles, but it bears watching.

  104. TJ says:

    I think this is GREAT!!! And I hope the pope, listening to the Holy Spirit, makes the right decision for our diverse Church. And I must say humbly Father, that I disagree with you that the proclaiming the word of God is closely tied to priesthood. Priesthood is rooted in baptism and therefor proclaiming the word of God is just one part of every person’s call to live the gospel in whatever vocation they feel called to pursue. Praise be the Lord!

  105. dcs says:

    Bishop Kallistos would have a hard time backing him claim historically, that deacons and deaconesses were the same

    I very much suspect that is the case, but I am not trying to make an apology for Orthodox thinking on the subject – just to note that they are not monolithic and that their opinions are not always as “traditional” as we would like to believe.

  106. Jordanes says:

    TJ said: Priesthood is rooted in baptism and therefor proclaiming the word of God is just one part of every person’s call to live the gospel in whatever vocation they feel called to pursue. Praise be the Lord!

    Balderdash. It doesn’t follow that because priesthood in rooted in baptism, therefore a lay person of either sex can be a lector.

    The medieval Waldenses claimed pretty much the same thing and were excommunicated for heresy because of it.

    P.S. Feeling called to pursue a vocation does not necessarily mean that one has a vocation. One never discerns a vocation without the Church.

  107. Shin says:

    What I think is missing in all this high and low is tradition, and respect for it rather than applying human wisdom to it and prospective changes.

    To those who think it should be done:

    It’s never been done, therefor it never should be done. We’re not in the business of new Revelation, nor do accusations of millenia of gender bias hold water against the Holy Spirit, the saints and sainted popes.

    In the past few decades we’ve seen less respect for tradition in the Church than has been seen in all her existence, and it is tradition that makes the Church. Let’s not give in to making attempting to create a Church along the lines of human wisdom rather than Revelation — because it won’t be of God, that much is simple to understand.

    Find me a saint who wants this change, then we can have the discussion. Or become one and say it then if you can — I doubt it would be possible to open your mouth.

  108. Ephrem says:

    Shin,

    The development of the liturgy in the Roman Rite has always been thus: reasonable change.

  109. Maureen says:

    Being a lector or above, back in the day, meant that you were not just reading but also chanting the readings. This clearly derives from Jewish practice in the synagogues; men chanted the readings there, too, and still do in all but Reformed synagogues. In fact, that was and is the big thing you did at a Bar Mitzvah that marked the boy becoming a man — he went up and chanted a reading.

    I’m just not seeing instituted lectors as being a unisex job, folks. Nope. Not at all. It never seems to have been one, and I don’t understand why we’re rushing to make it one.

  110. Ioannes Andreades says:

    “I think reading in liturgy is tied closely also to Holy Orders, and not just baptism.”

    As this is still the main issue under discussion 109 comments later, I’d love to read from the writings of church doctors, ecumenical councils, encyclicals, etc. that bear on the issue of ministries. The John Chrysostom piece was helpful, but I’d like to read something that discusses precisely in what way ministries are “tied closely” to Holy Orders or to the priesthood of baptized. Suggestions?

  111. “Laity” doesn’t include women?

    Sure it does, but “male laity” to whom the stable ministry of lecture was actually “turned over” doesn’t.

  112. Hiberniensis says:

    “My interpretation of St. Paul’s prohibition of women speaking in church has long been that he intended thereby to prohibit women gossipping in church, not that he meant they couldn’t speak at all.

    St. John Chrysostom does not agree:
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/220137.htm

    Well, I still see my interpretation as being plausible, so unless there exists either an authoritative interpretation of the verse from the magisterium or the unanimous consenus of the Fathers on its interpretation, I think it is a legitimate theological opinion, especially in the light of the current practice of the Roman church.

  113. Kradcliffe says:

    I am still confused… am I doing anything wrong by being one of the readers at my parish?

  114. Julian says:

    No, Kradcliffe, I don’t think you are, personally. (I assume you are a woman asking this question.) It has, for better or worse, become the custom for women to read at the vernacular mass. It does seem inconsistent with tradition and a case can be made against it. But I think there is room for differences of opinion on these matters, notwithstanding what I wrote in my first post.

    That said, I always tend to want to apply a “hermaneutic of doubt”. That is, if you are not sure that what you are doing is licit, don’t do it. If I were a woman, I would not read at Mass because maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t.

  115. Michael says:

    FATHER Z.,

    I suggest, publish the final document in sections for comments. I have a “gut feeling” that it will be a lengthy text without much substance; so, they had to show that something had been “done”. I wish I were mistaken.

  116. Melody says:

    Honestly, I think Katie has an important point. With all this talk (some of it quite rude and meanspirited) about what women can’t or should not do, someone needs to point out and emphasize what we can do. I thought the teaching of the Church emphasizes that women and men have different roles but are of equal dignity.
    I also disappointed in Father Z. If you truly wish to resurrect a traditional society, then it would behoove you to act as gentleman towards the ladies. [For pity’s sake! What does that have to do with … anything… having to do with this topic?]

  117. Julian says:

    Melody, I agree with some of the women here who feel that women in the sanctuary for whatever purpose is not seemly, for want of a better word.

  118. Brian Mershon says:

    Melody? Rude and mean-spirited? Who? Where? Rash judgment on your part perhaps? Stop plaiing the victim. I see an honest theological discussion and you come out with accusations of sin? Come on!

    Someone already posted many posts ago the sermon from Fr. Goodwin’s TLM at EWTN on Marry’s role at the cross of Calvary. This should be taken as a model for laymen of both sexes–but particularly for women–as Mary as the penultimate model for them.

  119. Jordanes says:

    Hiberniensis said: Well, I still see my interpretation as being plausible, so unless there exists either an authoritative interpretation of the verse from the magisterium or the unanimous consenus of the Fathers on its interpretation, I think it is a legitimate theological opinion, especially in the light of the current practice of the Roman church.

    In order for it to be a legitimate theological opinion, you’d need to find patristic support for it, and it would have to make sense. Just read St. Paul’s words: he’s obviously doing much, much more than telling women they shouldn’t gossip in church (as if gossipping outside of church were okay). If that’s all he was doing, he wouldn’t require that they not speak at all, that if they have any questions they should ask their husbands at home, that the Torah says they are to be subject to their husbands. Sorry, but your interpretation has absolutely nothing going fo rit, and is unquestionably erroneous.

  120. Ioannes Andreades says:

    To my mind, and I don’t think what I say contradicts St. John Chrysostom, Paul is putting a boundary around women’s ability to make authoritative pronouncements by barring them from speaking entirely. It’s a very Jewish idea to protect a specific divine law by creating a more general human law. The sentence that follows Paul’s prohibition deals with women’s lack of authority and how they should be subject. Moreover, was the prohibition intended only for the church in Corinth where problems had to be corrected (they had a lot of them)?

    I’m not sure an early Church father needs to be adduced to support a modern take on the scriptures. Some early church fathers had some whacky interpretations. I generally fast-forward through Augustine’s flights into numerology.

    Another possible phenomenon to keep in mind here is that rabbinic teaching (including some of Christ’s teaching) make some very strong statements whose literal implementation may not have been intended. Are we really to cut off our left hand if it causes sin? No; it’s a teaching trope. Is the complete prohibition of women’s speaking in church really what St. Paul deisred? Perhaps not, though Catholicism and Orthodoxy thought so for 1900+ years.

  121. katie says:

    Thanks Melody!!!!!!
    Some of these posts ARE mean spirited and Melody is not playing the victim. The difficulty, gentlemen is not to keep the women out of the sanctuary but to find some good, intelligent, dedicated, men to put there.
    Many posts above, someone suggested that to sort the women out, lectors should be threatened with tonsure. Implication: women are so vain, they wouldn’t then WANT to be lectors. (Laughter). But in the old old days when women ‘took the veil’, their hair was cut quite drastically and unfashionably. This did not stop hordes, gents, rampant hordes of women from becoming nuns. The question, may I say, is not of punishment and rewards, who gets the goods and sweeties and who is excluded. If you can’t offer a theological or Christological reason for not separating the Liturgy of the Word from the sacrament of the altar, then you just aren’t going to convince. You can eject and scorn, but not convince.
    It is an important part of our tradition to give reasons for the things which the Church teaches. To cite a well-known German theologian who had some sharp things to say about this at Regensberg, the relation between reason and freedom is one of the things which distinguishes the Catholic Church from other faiths. The Catholic Church and its understanding of truth, including ther sacraments, is not based on the irrational commands of a capricious god.
    May I also say in reference to other posts that speculation about what the Blessed Virgin would or would not have done at Mass is like asking who God would vote for in the U.S. election. The difficulty with these questions is, of course, is what they imply about the nature of the person who asks the question(what philosophers call the ‘subject’): a claim is put forward to personal knowledge or to the right to speculate about God or the BVM which goes beyond revelation and the tradition of the church. One runs the danger of placing oneself and one’s form of reasoning above them, so to speak.
    Absolutely extraneous point for the gents on this blog: who on earth is supposed to give birth to and educate all the intelligent, committed, Latin speaking priests needed for the long haul of the mattone dopo mattone approach? You men can’t do it ALL by yrselves.

  122. Charivari Rob says:

    Brian Mershon – “Rude and mean-spirited? Who? Where? Rash judgment on your part perhaps? Stop plaiing the victim. I see an honest theological discussion …”

    Well, here’s one example (scroll back about 55 or 60 posts):

    “What would really get rid of the women is …”

    That certainly doesn’t do anything constructive to promote an honost theological discussion.

    I have a question about the practice. Several of you have made concise statements referring to use of lay readers as a permissable substitution when there is nobody available who is in the ministry of the lector. What obligations would there be upon a lector? Would they be expected to make themselves available for more than one Mass (assuming their parish had only one or two lectors) on a Sunday, for example? Would they be obligated to present themselves any time they participate in Mass and there is ‘only’ a lay reader, not another lector?

  123. ALL: If people persist in the “boo hoo” comments I will delete comments and lock out IP addresses.  Let’s stick to the issues, please.

  124. Melody says:

    Father Z, I have long been a dedicated reader of yours. I’m not a feminist. I do not support women priests and wear a mantilla at every mass I attend.

    Now, some of these comments are indeed very meanspirited, expressing an attitude that is more a puerile complaint of “no girls allowed” than ontological differences. I do not have to give a summary as others have already done so. Although I might mention that I found the tonsure comment particularly biting.

    As katie put well, scorn and mockery are not the way to go about this. I only plead that someone talk about the positive examples of what women can do because it is for a lack of such teaching that women inject themselves into the sanctuary.

    How is this relevant to the discussion? Because I’m saying that a faulty attitude towards women creates more of the problem you are railing against.

    With greatest regards,
    Melody Vito

  125. Hiberniensis says:

    \’Thus, \”not only, as it seems, are they not allowed to speak,\” says he, \”at random, but not even to ask any question in the church.\” Now if they ought not to ask questions, much more is their speaking at pleasure contrary to law.\’
    St. John Chrysostom.

    *This* seems to me to be the \’money-quote\’. In the context of a general admonishment against unruliness in the assembly (people prophesying and speaking in tongues out of turn, everyone speaking at once, interupting each other, etc.), St. Paul orders the women of Corinth to stop speaking and asking questions *at random* and *at pleasure*. That is, they are not to speak *spontaneously*. There is, then, nothing in First Corinthians, or in St. John Chrysostom\’s homilies on it, to prevent a woman from saying aloud \”Et cum spiritu tuo\” etc., or even from reading the lessons from the Bible. All that is forbidden is to speak spontaneously out of turn, a rule which applies to everyone, as even those who *are* allowed to speak spontaneously (i.e. preachers) must do so in the right way at the right time.

  126. Jordanes says:

    Hiberniensis said: All that is forbidden is to speak spontaneously out of turn, a rule which applies to everyone, as even those who are allowed to speak spontaneously (i.e. preachers) must do so in the right way at the right time.

    If your interpretation is correct, why did St. Paul go on to insist that “it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church”? If it’s only speaking spontaneously out of turn that he was objecting to, why does he say women are bound by a law that he never says men are bound by? And indeed, St. John also doesn’t stop at a prohibition of speaking at pleasure, but insists that women not speak in church at all.

    We should not forget that besides what St. Paul says in I Cor. 14, there is also his instruction to St. Timothy in I Tim. 2:9-12. St. John Chrysostom commented on those verses in his 9th homily on I Timothy:

    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/230609.htm

    Now, I don’t necessarily advocate St. John’s interpretation and commentary as correct, but for the purposes of this discussion I think it does help to explain why the Church has never had lectoresses, and why until the latter half of the 20th century women never even read aloud the Scripture lections during Mass. It shows just how ancient this custom of the Church must be, and explains the reasons for the custom: it must have been seen as founded on apostolic commands.

  127. Brian Mershon says:

    Melody: “I only plead that someone talk about the positive examples of what women can do because it is for a lack of such teaching that women inject themselves into the sanctuary.”

    Perhaps you missed this post. Don’t know how you could, but here it is again. It answers your question specicially. The whining is really annoying, by the way, in all charity.

    dcs: I tend to think that Our Lady would not want to read at Mass.

    From one of the great sermons of this century—Fr. Calvin Goodwin in EWTN’s 9/14/2007 solemn high Mass telecast:

    “The most perfect participation in that sacrifice is in fact exemplified by Our Blessed Lady at the foot of the Cross. And what is it that she does there at the foot of the altar of the Cross – nothing, in fact, that mortal eyes can perceive. What does she say there – nothing that mortal ears can hear. And yet no human being ever was or ever could be more fully or more intimately involved in that Sacrifice than she was at that moment. As always, she shows us the way. Thus with Our Lady at the foot of the Cross, we too can only be present and wonder, asking ourselves in union with the prayer of the priest at the altar, ‘Quid retribuam…..,’ what return shall I make to the Lord for all that He hath GIVEN unto me……….. This is both the beginning and the goal of participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Everything that fails to lead to that reverence and interior union, or which impedes it, impedes authentic participation. And all elements of exterior participation consonant with these principles will inevitably have the character of authenticity.”

    http://ewtn.edgeboss.net/download/ewtn/multicast/audio/mp3/latin830.mp3
    http://www.ewtn.com/library/Liturgy/goodwinmass.HTM

  128. Michael says:

    MELODY, you are right in what you say, except in your assertion that it is relevant, because the subject is not the attitude of men or the capability of ladies to read, but the proposal that the women be, as Fr.Z. has put it, “officially installed in the ministry of lector”, which has theological implications.

    Many, even myself at the moment – hopefully I will not be excommunicated, keep going astray in spite of his appeal to all of us to adhere to the subject. Had you not addressed him personally, appealing to his gentlemanship as if he had done something wrong himself, I am sure he wouldn’t have made a comment that you find offending.

    Please, be assured of my respect.

  129. dcs says:

    St. Paul orders the women of Corinth to stop speaking and asking questions at random and at pleasure. That is, they are not to speak spontaneously.

    Well, one would imagine that men aren’t supposed to speak randomly and at pleasure, either, so why does he direct his admonishment to women? Are women more given to gossip than men? I haven’t found this to be the case, even if it is a stereotype (women might be more given to certain kinds of gossip than men, of course). St. Chrysostom says that a woman’s demeanor in church should be that of a maidservant. I would think that this does not mean total silence, but that she speaks only when spoken to (so that she might say the responses and that sort of thing).

  130. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Hiberniensis wrote, “St. Paul orders the women of Corinth to stop speaking and asking questions at random and at pleasure.”

    St. Paul’s injunction was absolute: “As in all the churches of the holy ones, women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church.” (NAB)

    We may ask whether St. Paul put this absolute injunction in place to safeguard some more crucial teaching, but on the literal face of it ALL speaking was prohibited–not only asking questions (the most potentially reasonable and least authoritative use of speech). In other words, if being able to ask questions is illicit, a fortiori, no other speech is licit.

    Like I said earlier, I think the St. Paul’s goal is primarily to ensure subjection/subordination in terms of authority. Is it permissible to speak in Church in some way that does not threaten the authority of legitimate teachers? If we let women make responses and sing in the choir, we are clearly already going against St. Paul (Ottaviani’s point). Once we have gone this far, is there an additional reason for prohibiting them from reading the lessons? That’s more to Fr. Z’s point about this ministry’s being tied to the priesthood.

    P.S. My earlier comment, “Moreover, was the prohibition intended only for the church in Corinth where problems had to be corrected (they had a lot of them)?” needs to be retracted.

  131. Hiberniensis says:

    ‘My earlier comment, “Moreover, was the prohibition intended only for the church in Corinth where problems had to be corrected (they had a lot of them)?” needs to be retracted.’

    Ioannes Andreades,

    Not necessarily. The translation you quoted has, ‘As in all the churches of the holy ones, women should keep silent in the churches…’ etc. However, the ‘as in all the churches’ part can be taken as applying to the previous sentence, which is how the Douai-Rheims translation has it: ‘For he is not the God of dissension, but of peace: as also I teach in all the churches of the saints. Let women keep silence in the churches…’ etc.

    That said, I am more inclined to think that this prohibition *does* apply to all the churches rather than just Corinth, especially in the light of 1 Timothy 2:12. I bring up the issue of varying translations and interpretations merely as a reminder of how difficult it can be to interpret the Scriptures correctly, especially since the original Greek doesn’t have any punctuation or verse numbers or anything like that.

    ——————

    ‘Well, one would imagine that men aren’t supposed to speak randomly and at pleasure, either, so why does he direct his admonishment to women? Are women more given to gossip than men? I haven’t found this to be the case, even if it is a stereotype (women might be more given to certain kinds of gossip than men, of course). St. Chrysostom says that a woman’s demeanor in church should be that of a maidservant. I would think that this does not mean total silence, but that she speaks only when spoken to (so that she might say the responses and that sort of thing).’

    dcs,

    First of all, you’re right about men being as inclined to gossip as women are. Having gone back and looked at 1 Corinthians 14, I don’t think my earlier interpretation about gossipping is tenable, at least not in the sense that it *only* refers to gossipping.

    As for speaking at random, the men (of the church at that time) weren’t to speak randomly and at pleasure either (two or three only to speak in turn, etc.), but they were allowed to speak spontaneosly — whether by speaking in tongues or by interpreting what was spoken in tongues or by prophesying spontaneously. The fact that St. Paul orders that two or three prophets are to speak and then the others are to ‘judge’ what has been said seems to me to imply some sort of general (but orderly) discussion, a kind of ‘communal homily’, if you will.

    All in all, the speaking in tongues, the prophesying and the general discussion seem to me to be the equivalent of present-day preaching and presiding over liturgical prayer. It is this ministry of preaching and presiding that is reserved to men, not the right to speak at all. 1 Timothy 2:12 makes this explicit when, speaking in the context of the liturgy, St. Paul forbids women from teaching or exercising authority.

    It does not seem to me that reading the lessons from the Bible constitutes teaching or exercising authority, nor does it compromise what St. John Chrysostom refered to as the ‘silence of a maid-servant’. Only (spontaneous) preaching and/or presiding would do that.

  132. Michael says:

    The news (today’s Post above) from Australia: “On the line for parishioners of St Mary’s and several other parishes in Queensland and NSW are fundamental church doctrines such as who can celebrate Mass, [and even more fundamental] whether Jesus Christ was God, whether Mary had as many as six children, the bodily Resurrection…”

    All this is a direct consequence of the present biblical “scholarship”, and our 191 participants of the talking shop have nothing to do but vote for the Lectrices.

    Plainly, one doesn’t know whether to cry or to laugh.

  133. Hiberniensis says:

    Another thing occurs to me: The fact that reading the lessons is a *ministerial* function rather than a ‘presidential’ or a priestly one seems, in my eyes, to be a further confirmation that it is indeed compatible with the ‘silence of a maid-servant’.

    And lest anyone object to the view that reading the lessons is not a priestly function, it is well to remember that the deacon (whose function of reading the Gospel is beyond dispute) does not possess the priestly office. In other words, if the deacon’s reading of the Gospel is not a priestly function, then, a fortieri, the lector’s reading of the other lessons is not a priestly function either.

  134. Melody says:

    To Michael and also Father Z: I apologize that it sounded as if blaming Father Z directly. I do him responsible for not being more firm at times.

    Brian: I can see where you think my “whining” is not helpful, but I am trying to address a root cause and offer a partial remedy. I suggest that such things as Mary role (beautiful quote) need to be addressed from the pulpit.

    Hiberniesis: Although not liturgical, I wonder if the long practice of nuns teaching the catechism and the Bible might answer your question in the affirmative.

  135. Hiberniensis says:

    “Although not liturgical, I wonder if the long practice of nuns teaching the catechism and the Bible might answer your question in the affirmative”

    Melody,

    I’m not sure what you’re referring to, as I don’t think I asked any question, but for the record, it seems to me that St. Paul’s prohibition, in 1 Timothy 2:12, on women teaching or having authority (i.e. preaching or presiding) is applicable only to the liturgy, as it is given after the call for prayers to be offered everywhere with up-lifted hands.

    As you point out, there is a long practice of women teaching catechism and the Bible *outside* the liturgy, and no one ever felt that *that* was a violation of St. Paul’s prohibition. The historical example of St. Catherine of Siena speaking to the crowds springs to mind also, as well as the fact that St. Catherine, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux are all Doctors of the Church (i.e. *Teachers* of the Church).

    I might add, also for the record, that — as I understand it — a woman leading a gathering of the faithful in the recitation of the Divine Office does not violate St. Paul’s prohibition any more than a woman reading the lessons at Mass does. When a lay-person, whether man or woman, leads the Office in the absence of a priest, he or she, being equal to everyone else present, is not exercising any authority over the others, and so does not go into the sanctuary, does not sit in the presider’s chair and neither greets nor blesses the others.

  136. Antonio says:

    Why not recovering (in a very “fashion” way) all the ancient orders?
    Ostiariate and Lectorate for the laity (including women, if we can not avoid it).
    Acolytate, exorcistate and subdiaconate as ministries “ad ordinem sacrum”.
    If you can read Spanish:
    http://la-buhardilla-de-jeronimo.blogspot.com/2008/10/ya-que-estamos-en-tiempos-de-reformas.html

  137. Anthony Ozimic says:

    My understanding is that individual bishops have the discretion within their dioceses to confer the traditional minor orders, a discretion which exists separate from any legislation relating to the liturgical books of 1962. Perhaps this could be encouraged as an antidote to the Synod’s proposal?