Peters on Canon Law and deaconesses

From the blog of The Canonical Defender, Dr. Edward Peters, comes this:

Some thoughts occasioned by Bp. Wcela’s essay on female deacons
by Dr. Edward Peters

Writing in America magazine, Bp. Emil Wcela (ret. aux. Rockville Center) is encouraging wider public debate on the ordination of women to the diaconate. [Cui bono?] Those not familiar with the arguments favoring female ordination to the diaconate can find them outlined in Wcela’s essay. Counter arguments—and they are many—are available in, e.g.,

The best book on the subject.

Aimé Georges Martimort, Deaconesses: an historical study (Ignatius, 1986). (UK HERE)

Some canonical observations occasioned by Wcela’s essay.

1. Canon 1024 declares invalid any attempt to ordain women (presumably, first to diaconate). While Canon 1024 does not address the question of a woman’s ontological capacity for ordination, it leaves no doubt that any attempt to ordain a woman to any level of holy Orders is of zero sacramental force in the Church today.

2. John Paul II’s ap. con. Ordinatio sacerdotalis (1994) settles forever, negatively, and on ecclesiological grounds, the question of ordaining women to priesthood (and by logical necessity, to episcopate). Further agitation for the ordination of women to Catholic priesthood seems a violation of Canon 1371, 2º—Wcela does not do that. Ordinatio says nothing, however, at least in its dispositive paragraph 4, about ordaining women to diaconate nor, strictly speaking, does it address (at least not definitively) ontological questions about female ordination. In that regard, discussion may continue.  [Albeit pointless discussion, because it is not going to happen.]

3. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 2008 visitation of a latae sententiae excommunication, however, on those attempting to ordain women to the diaconate represents, I suggest, something more than a temporary disciplinary measure against prematurely implementing a sacramental development that might, in fact, never come. That such a severe sanction is levied at all suggests to me that some very significant—if not yet formally defined—values are being protected thereby.

Consider: sanctions for the invalid and/or illicit conferral of sacraments are relatively few in number, at least when compared to the total number of ways that such conferrals can be abused. Specifically in regard to ordination, only the illicit conferral of episcopal orders contrary to Canon 1382 is punished with excommunication; other violations of law in the context of ordination (say, conferral of orders without proper dimissorial letters, per c. 1383) carry lesser penalties. The same lighter touch marked the Pio-Benedictine Code (see, e.g., 1917 CIC 2364).
Therefore, it seems to me that the CDF excommunication for attempted female ordination (especially in light of the roll-back that excommunication has undergone over the last 150 years) should be taken as a sign that ecclesiastical authority regards female ordination, even to diaconate, with at best grave reservations; the enactment of such a sanction certainly does not suggest that female diaconal ordination is coming, and that all we need is time to work out the details.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

Ehvv-ur.

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43 Responses to Peters on Canon Law and deaconesses

  1. DeaconJR says:

    Dear Fr. Z–
    In addition to Martimort’s fine work on at least a ‘diaconal’ subject is the book “Priesthood and Diaconate” (another Ignatius Press title) by…you guessed it…our new Prefect of the CDF, Bishop Gerhard Mueller. (Perhaps another indicator that the Church is by no means moving in the direction of “women deacons”. )

    Not only this, but the evidence seems quite clear that not only *will* this never happen, but it also never *has* happened in the history of the Church–the “deaconesses” of Martimort’s book were obviously never recipients of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, as some claim.

    It has recently occurred to me that one of the better points to raise with those claiming all sorts of historical evidence of “women deacons” is to ask the amazingly simple question: “If deaconesses were simply the female equivalent of male deacons, why is there no historical evidence whatsoever for ‘female equivalents’ of the *minor* orders–subdeacons, acolytes, porters, lectors, etc.? ” That is, why would the Church single out deacons–and deacons alone–to be an order for both men and women??

    God bless you,

    Deacon JR

  2. vox borealis says:

    I am by no means a scholar on this subject. What the arguments concerning Phoebe, mentioned the Pauline letters, and referred to as diakonos (deacon), not Diakona, vel sim (deaconess)? Invariably those in favor will argue for scriptural evidence for women deacons, rather than deaconesses—that is, they will point to evidence for women (a woman) serving as (a) deacon(s), and thus sidestep the argument about deaconesses.

  3. dcheney says:

    I just wanted to note that the author, Dr. Edward Peters, was named this morning as an Expert to attend the upcoming (next month) Synod of Bishops on the topic of New Evanglization.

  4. AnnAsher says:

    I’m so thankful for this Hierarchical Patrimony which guards the dignity of women. Really. I am.

  5. RichR says:

    God Bless Dr. Peters for his clarity. When you talk to the bishops, Dr. Peters, tell them the WDTPRSers are praying for them!

  6. Austin Catholics says:

    “Not. Going. To. Happen.

    “Ehvv-ur.”

    Never say never. Might not happen in our lifetimes, but 200 years from now? I would put the odds at least 50/50.

  7. Matt R says:

    @Austin Catholics
    Fr Z’s right here.

    The bishop is just…out to lunch. “Ordinatio says nothing, however, at least in its dispositive paragraph 4, about ordaining women to diaconate nor, strictly speaking, does it address (at least not definitively) ontological questions about female ordination.” If the ordination to the diaconate did not convey some ontological and spiritual change, then why is it considered part of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and a necessity before the priesthood is conferred? It seems this bishop, and others like him, see the priesthood and diaconate as function-based items to be fulfilled by anyone to better minister to the broader Church community, without any regard to the sacramental nature of Holy Orders. Using the word ordination works against him considering that only elevation to the major orders is done through ordination; this includes the subdiaconate, which is not sacramental, but one cannot deny that it was a step in the formation of one preparing for the sacrament of Holy Orders.
    Also, I think the Bishop ignores that in Acts, the 7 deacons were all men.

  8. JacobWall says:

    @Austin Catholics;

    You seem to be looking at the Church through Progressive lenses, assuming that the only thing that is preventing this is the Church’s slowness and lethargic ability to move forward; “since we move forward only slowly” (you seem to be saying) “in 200 years we’ll finally get there.”

    This is a misunderstanding of how the Church works; it doesn’t move forward slowly – in fact it doesn’t “move forward” at all. It grows; yes, it grows slowly – like a ancient tree. Growth that has no place in the Church is cut off. So, if you are right, that this will happen in 200 years, it will not be because we’ve finally moved forward enough. It will be a group of confused people, no so different from those doing the “wymym pryst” thing these days. It will be a sad branch, waiting to heal (hopefully,) or should that fail, die and fall off or get the axe.

    This kind of process can be seen in the messes that happened in the past couple of decades; they are not a part the Church “progressing.” They are simply not a part of the Church, and little by little they will disappear.

    Fr. Z is right to say “never.” If it does happen at some time in the future, it will not mean that it’s OK then, but it will simply mean that some people will be acting on their own behalf and not as stewards of the Church. I pray that no one ever tries it, not because I’m afraid of it, but only because the healing process would be so painful.

  9. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Austin Catholics,

    Do remember that there is a difference between what is “allowed” and what is “possible”. Can an unmarried woman get pregnant? Certainly, she can. Is it allowed by the moral law? No. On the other hand, can an ostrich (in nature) give birth to a turtle? No. It’s not possible. This is not the result of turtles or ostriches being mean, but it is simply a matter of nature.

    So as to anticipate the argument (which, if you’re still reading, you may want to consider), the Church has both human and divine elements. Some elements are subject to change, while others are not. The form of the sacraments and the matter of the sacraments are things which can’t change because these are not of human, but of divine origin. No matter how many times one attempts to baptize a dog or a worm, that baptism will not take — for the sacrament requires an unbaptised person. Of course a woman isn’t either a dog or a worm, but equally obvious should be that a woman isn’t a male of the human species. If a male is required matter for ordination (as the Church tells us that it is) then such a decision is irreformable. There is, therefore, no point in waiting 200 years for such a decision to change. In this regard, one of the saddest part of Cardinal Martini’s death-bed interview was his insistence that the Church is 200 years behind the times. What many want changed simply can’t be changed because these are elements of divine origin, rather than of human origin.
    If you don’t accept that the Church is of Divine institution, then of course you want the Church to change, and don’t see anything preventing the change except hide-bound, pointy-hatted men. If I refuse to accept the existence of Mars, does that fact make it any less there?

    God bless,

    Chris

  10. iPadre says:

    Not in our lifetime, not in God’s lifetime!

    These people see Holy Orders in terms of function. Yes, we priests offer Holy Mass and confer the Sacraments, but it is not about function. We only do what we do because we are configured to Christ,we are other Christs – Alter Christus. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

    When we see priesthood only in terms of what we do, problems abound, but when it is in terms of who we are, it makes all the difference. If I am In Persona Christi, I have the obligation to be like Christ in the whole of my life, to become a saint. If priesthood is only about doing, anyone can do what I do, an probably much better than I can do it.

    God identified Himself as I AM. The priest identifies himself, I am because He IS.

  11. Gail F says:

    As a woman who has looked into this, and who is studying for a lay degree at a Catholic seminary, I wish we had deaconesses but I am quite sure we never will. It’s obvious that the “deaconesses” in the NT are not women deacons — that is, ordained — but are simply women who helped the Church in designated ways, just as women do today (although probably in more proscribed and limited ways), and who possibly had some sort of commissioning ceremony. THAT’S IT. And as pleased as I would be to have such a thing available to me I know it won’t and I’m sure it should’t be — because even if everyone swore up and down it wasn’t an ordination, people would think it was. At best it would confuse people and at worst it would make people agitate for priesthood for women. Who needs that?

  12. Austin Catholics says:

    OK, I have no desire to argue, and it’s mostly a situation of “we’ll see” even if we are all long dead when we do see. I do think that if there are female deacons in centuries hence, there will also be plenty of people insisting that the Holy Church never changes, that female deacons have always been legitimate, that a male-only deaconate was a discipline, a custom of the time, and not a central dogma.

    I have no horse in this race; I just think it is funny how people insist the Church never changes.

  13. Imrahil says:

    I think it follows from priesthood and deaconate being essentially one sacrament that whatever essential (!) requirements are to be asked from priests must also asked from deacons.

    That said, dear @Gail F does hit the nail on the head, i. e. poses an interesting question, when she says that nevertheless she would wish to have the option to be a women deacon.

    Where’s the good in male-only clergy besides the true, but, standing alone, not really thrilling argument that the Lord has so directed? Here’s the question for the theologians to answer (remember: science, including philosophy and theology, means answering, not asking questions); but I’ll say beforehand that you won’t get an answer without annoying feminists and gender-mainstreamers.

    Another thing, dear @Gail F, there is such a thing available, viz. the commission of the pastoral assistants (at least in Germany), and many do say it’s all made up to look like an ordination…

  14. “[W]hy would the Church single out deacons–and deacons alone–to be an order for both men and women??”

    They wouldn’t. Deacons and deaconesses are not the same thing. A cursory reading of their mutual history would bear this out.

    An essay written for the Arlington Catholic Herald in 1996, now appears in the EWTN Online Library. It is in the process of being updated in another venue, one belonging to its author. That update will appear in the coming week. Until then …

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

  15. Scott W. says:

    because even if everyone swore up and down it wasn’t an ordination, people would think it was. At best it would confuse people and at worst it would make people agitate for priesthood for women. Who needs that?

    Exactly. One of Fr. Longenecker’s horror stories in England was when he was told by unnamed diocesan officials point-blank that they wanted priest shortages precisely so that female lay-administrators could be appointed as an end-run around a male only priesthood. Bishop Clark in the Dicocese of Rochester has done the same thing. (Thankfully, his resignation has been accepted with embarrassing speed, so hopefully the healing can begin).

    Now before someone squawks that lay-administrators are permitted, yes they are. But it is abundantly clear that this, and the women’s deacon thing is being exploited by the usual suspects to chip away at the perimeter of sound doctrine and practice and as such, ought to have a moratorium of sorts put on them at least on until a time when the disease of modernism has abated.

  16. acardnal says:

    Hey, Austin Catholics: Get your quotes right. Fr. Z didn’t say “never”; he said “ever” . . .well, actually “Ehvv-ur.”

    Be that as it may, let’s be clear: it will never, ever happen because God has said so and God does not change. He does not change because He is perfect . . . a basic tenet of philosophy and the Catechism.

  17. Ralph says:

    Let’s see – we have women lectors, emhc, alter servers, parish administers, rcia instructors, etc etc.
    Why in the world are we surprised that people think we should have women decon and priests? I am a convert from evangelical Christianity so the amount of leadership positions that women hold in our church really shocked me when I first entered the church some years ago. I still find it difficult to accept.

  18. Cathy says:

    Since when does a settled question – by the Holy Father and given accordance in the Code of Canon Law, get to be questioned and debated, rather than affirmed by a Bishop? It’s gotten to the point of being accused of being opinionated or self-righteous, rather than faithful when such an issue is brought up among fellow Catholics, because Bishop or Father so-and-so, believes it’s a-ok. Whether the topic is altar girls, or parish yoga or makings sure there are an abundance of EMHC’s and Schutte music in the parish, it seems to be very important NOT to clarify, but to make a case for support against Church teachings on such matters. I am not a rad-trad, I’ve never been to an EF Mass, but I am tired of being freaked out and being considered a weirdo for the crime of being concerned. A Bishop has the authority to authorize teaching materials for the diocese. How wrong is it, then, when he freely writes his own literature in defiance against Church teaching?

  19. acardnal says:

    Ralph, I’m not clear on your position. Do you think there are too many or too few women in leadership positions in the Church?

  20. Austin Catholics says: I have no horse in this race; I just think it is funny how people insist the Church never changes.

    The Church is the Holy Bride of Christ. She can’t and doesn’t change her doctrine, which she received from her divine Spouse: its integrity is safeguarded by the Holy Spirit. She can, however, change matters of discipline (though whether she should in any given case is another issue).

    Scott W. says: One of Fr. Longenecker’s horror stories in England was when he was told by unnamed diocesan officials point-blank that they wanted priest shortages precisely so that female lay-administrators could be appointed as an end-run around a male only priesthood.

    I have been saying for years that liberals like priest shortages, because they think it will force the Church to get rid of priestly celibacy and ordain women.

    Ralph says: Let’s see – we have women lectors, emhc, alter servers, parish administers, rcia instructors, etc etc. Why in the world are we surprised that people think we should have women decon and priests?

    Exactly. Women have always been active and important in the Church (cf. the Blessed Virgin), and have always played prominent roles in religious education (cf. teaching orders of women religious), but they have not, until very recently, thrust themselves into the foreground, taking over functions traditionally reserved to priests. This change was deliberate, and for the purpose of distorting people’s understanding of the priesthood and of authority, and ultimately to overthrow order within the Church; it was inaugurated by persons who essentially reject the divine institution of the Church and view her as just another purely human political organization.

  21. Sissy says:

    “I have no horse in this race; I just think it is funny how people insist the Church never changes.”

    We all have an interest in the unchanging integrity and fidelity of Holy Mother Church to the doctrine delivered to us by Christ. To say that She will change is like saying the gates of hell will prevail. But, we know that will never happen.

  22. Oneros says:

    I have no particular opinion on this question, and err on the side of caution.

    However, I’ll point that whether deaconesses are the Sacrament of Holy Orders or just a sacramental comparable, perhaps, to minor orders or something like that…is really an abstract debate.

    Given that deacons have no “new” sacramental powers…this question will never affect the validity of any Sacraments, it is of no PRACTICAL effect.

    So saying it will never happen is, in some sense, a completely non-falsifiable declaration, because it is merely equivalent to saying “No woman will ever receive the indelible character of the Sacrament of Holy Orders in any of its three grades” which is an invisible reality.

    It doesn’t mean, however, that a ceremony (possibly even involving a laying on of hands) wouldn’t take place (with similar language to a deacon’s ordination) to create something called a “deaconess” again. It just means that the speaker is of the opinion that this would be a sacramental rather than the Sacrament of Holy Orders. But, as the Catholic Encyclopedia article on sacramentals says, they “are named sacramentals because of the resemblance between their rites and those of the sacraments properly so-called.”

    So “it will never happen” is a non-falsifiable claim. Because even if something “looking like” an ordination of deaconesses occurred, supporters of this opinion could just say, “Yes, but that’s just a sacramental resembling Holy Orders, like the minor orders, but not the Sacrament proper, just as it also was in the early church.”

    Don’t expect most lay people, however, (nor the Eastern churches) to grant much importance to this theoretical theo-ontological distinction, however, when there wouldn’t have to be any difference practically speaking.

  23. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    @acardnal: I’m sure Ralph was shocked that there are so many women in “leadership positions” in the Church.

    @Ralph: the thing is, of course, that readers, EMHCs, etc. are not in leadership positions. They might think they are, and they might give that impression. But they are not!

    @Miss Moore: I think your point about a deliberate attempt to distort understanding among the faithful, by those who have a tendency mistakenly to view or at least treat Christ’s Church as if She were a political organization, is close to the mark.

  24. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The whole point of allowing laypeople to be lectors, EMHC’s, etc., was supposed to be that nobody could possibly confuse these with “leadership positions”. An EMHC is just a handy extra pyx or ciborium to make distribution more efficient, a non-instituted lector is just an extra mouth, etc. — participatory, yes, but not sacred or power-grabby. Nobody thinks that choristers are MWAHAHA leadership positions, even though we “lead” the singing at times; and nobody confuses us with clerics, even though singing in choir was originally a privilege reserved to religious and clerics.

    Now, there’s actually plenty to argue that lectors and choir people and EMHC’s are more intrinsically clergy-like than the traditional deaconess jobs of running the parish orphanage, the parish guesthouse/homeless shelter/furriner inn, and the parish chapter of canonesses.

    So unless you’re prepared to give EVERY SINGLE CHOIR MEMBER EVER minor orders and clerical privileges, including some kind of liturgically better parking places, it’s probably better not to try to ordain deaconesses.

  25. Suburbanbanshee says:

    But of course, if you’re going to tonsure all choir members and music ministers, you might have some problem getting paid soloists and organists from the Protestant and non-believing world. Just sayin’.

  26. Pingback: “Ecclesiastical authority regards female ordination, even to the diaconate, with grave reservations…”

  27. Perhaps sone insight from the Eastern Church might help. The order of deaconess was never abolished but simply went into dis use or taken over by nuns. The formulary for the ordintation of deaconess is the same as for the order of deacons, with the obvious change of gender specific reference. Essentially there ministry is comparable to extraordinary ministers with reference to taking communion to the sick women. Herein lies the reality of their service, ministry to women. In some places the only function they had in the altar was to vest in the diaconal stole and to receive at the altar after the deacons. That is it. Do you think this is something the feminists want? O by the way they were also celibate, like consecrated virgins.

  28. Matt R says:

    @Suburbanbanshee, logically, it might not be a very good claim, but the confusion, ambiguity, and misunderstandings which will be exploited from every reason you laid out in your first post is why deaconesses or women deacons will never come about.
    “Now, there’s actually plenty to argue that lectors and choir people and EMHC’s are more intrinsically clergy-like than the traditional deaconess jobs of running the parish orphanage, the parish guesthouse/homeless shelter/furriner inn, and the parish chapter of canonesses.” Yes, hence the minor orders, and the significance of its abolition.

  29. Oneros says:

    “it seems to me that the CDF excommunication for attempted female ordination…should be taken as a sign that ecclesiastical authority regards female ordination, even to diaconate, with at best grave reservations”

    Well, duh. Of course the current authorities have grave reservations, and consider the excommunications as about more than just “preventing premature development” but as about guarding against [potential] invalidity. But if guarding against that risk is significant, what’s also significant is (thus far) a lack of a totally definitive declaration. I mean, that would have been easy enough to include in Ordinatio. But they didn’t, in fact it seems deliberately excluded from decision one way or the other. Leading one to believe that if they have grave reservations, they also aren’t quite ready to rashly close the door completely without further study and discussion.

  30. Oneros says:

    As for first tonsuring choir members, ordaining altar boys as acolytes etc…I say why not?

    You don’t have to extend to these people in Minor Orders any “clerical privileges.” All “clergy” means, essentially, is having a public liturgical role, is being deputized as a public minister of the Church for such purposes. Therefore, these “lay” ministers are already preforming clerical functions, are already functioning AS [pseudo-]clerics. Other clerical privileges (and clerical obligations) are a canonical construct accidental to the idea of clergy as such.

    Indeed, the Minor Orders were not obligated to celibacy or recitation of the Office, even after Trent. As Catholic Encyclopedia says in its article on the Minor Orders: “they are not bound to celibacy, and may lawfully marry. Marriage, however, causes them at once to forfeit every benefice. Formerly it did not exclude them from the ranks of the clergy, and they retained all clerical privileges, provided they contracted only one marriage and that with a virgin, and wore clerical costume and the tonsure (c.unic., “de cler. conjug.” in VI) they might even be appointed to the service of a church by the bishop (Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIII, c. vi). This earlier discipline, however, is no longer in accordance with modern custom and law. A minor cleric who marries is regarded as having forfeited his clerical privileges.”

    However, as I said, “clerical privileges” and being a cleric…don’t necessarily need to be the same. In fact, I’d argue, it’s a sign of sickness in the Church when we “essentialize” the clergy in such a way as to make something other than the liturgy primary. The fact that there is a difference between a deputized altar server and a minor-ordained acolyte…is revealing of very problematic dynamics in even the pre-Conciliar church. “Lay participation” in public liturgical roles…should be an oxymoron. Unfortunately, a certain form of clericalism, ironically, eventually led to just that contradiction (inasmuch as exclusion from the “clergy” came to mean something associated with accidental canonical “privileges” and “obligations” rather than relating first and foremost to being a public actor in the sanctuary.)

  31. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Hieromonk Gregory: Pretty much the same thing happened in the West. So long as canonesses and their abbesses/deaconesses flourished, the title continued. Even now, the traditional symbols of a deaconesses are still around for abbesses of ex-canoness places old enough to have that right. I’m pretty sure that French book on deaconesses talks about all this, so check it out. :)

    Oneros: I suspect the big difference between a minor orders acolyte and a just plain server acolyte is that minor seminaries and cathedral schools intended to produce priests have mostly gone away. Minors can’t legally/canonically promise the things they once could, or rather, the age of consent for some vocational matters has gone up.

  32. St. Epaphras says:

    @iPadre (22 Sept. 9:32 p.m.)
    Yes and AMEN! Not function, like a job or a career, but a permanent change in who you are that is so real it sometimes scares me. It is a very great mystery.

  33. Lori Pieper says:

    I have the same question as Oneros. Rome has never given a definitive “no” on women deacons. If the answer was clear, wouldn’t they would have said something by now?

    If I remember right, there was a document of some kind in preparation at the CDF even under Paul VI, so they have been considering it a long time.

  34. Matt R says:

    Does anyone else feel that, if the diaconate and minor orders had remained in the status quo, the question of female deacons would not be an issue?
    I believe the hasty erection of the permanent diaconate with little apparent theological or legal consideration regarding the role and obligations of permanent deacons has caused a lot of trouble, which needs to be undone.

  35. robtbrown says:

    We’ve been through these issues before.

    On the one hand, ordination to the diaconate imprints an indelible character on the soul. On the other, this ontological changes imparts no Sacramental power. There is no function of the deacon that cannot be done in a pinch by a layman. Thus:

    1. Unlike episcopal and sacerdotal ordination, there are no real consequences to invalid ordination to the diaconate. Although the Church says that diaconate ordination should be done before presbyteral ordination, I don’t think the Church has ever said that invalidity of the former would invalidate the latter.

    1. If the diaconate can be considered part of Holy Orders, there is no reason why the subdiaconate and Minor Orders should not also be. Christ did not institute the diaconate.

    2. I agree with the comments above that this mess was caused by Ministeria Quaedam, which suppressed the subdiaconate and Minor Orders.

    3.

  36. Random Friar says:

    An article of interest: http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/ITCDIACO.HTM

    Under the heading:
    CLARIFICATION ON ITC STUDY ON THE DIACONATE
    Fr. George Cottier, O.P.

  37. THREEHEARTS says:

    Her is where for me it gets rather comical. How many of you know the real history of the Church, I took this from the book the Sacrament of Holy Orders an account of the findings of the French Church in 1955. Present were some of the notable peritiu of Vatican 2., Frs. Congar, Danielou, Bouyer, Martimort and other noted theologians of the French Catholic Church. It was in the Chapter/Session on the presbyteriate they are adamant that in the early days of the Church, the diaconate were not members of the priesthood. They were the helpers of the Bishop, who alone was the sacrificial minister.
    Here are some other salient historical facts. Women were included in this group because, besides caring for the bishop etc they were there for other reasons. The bishop, in the performance of their duties visited the fever hospitals, Italy and the Mediterranean basin was rife with malaria. The patients were naked on stones and cold, cold water was thrown over them to lower their temperature and a chaperone had to be present when the presbyter gave the last rites. This was obviously to avoid scandal. It was the same at baptism naked women and Young girls clad only in a white lined gown were dipped in water and again women were used to do the dipping thus again avoiding scandal.

  38. DeaconJR says:

    Hi, Robtbrown:

    You state above that “Christ did not institute the diaconate.” This is not what the Church teaches.

    Deacons receive the *Sacrament* of Holy Orders. A Sacrament is most assuredly instituted by Christ. This is the teaching of the Church for all Seven Sacraments.

    Furthermore, diaconate, presbyterate, and espicsopate are the *only* orders of Apostolic origin, which is why they–and only they–represent the three degrees of the *Sacrament* of Holy Orders.

    You also state that “There is no function of the deacon that cannot be done in a pinch by a layman.” But this is demonstrably false; there several things deacons do as clerics that no lay person is permitted to do, regardless of circumstances (proclaim the Gospel at Mass, preach the homily at Mass, give blessings in the name of the Church, etc.)

    God bless you,

    Deacon JR

  39. The Masked Chicken says:

    While reading the comments, I had a frightening thought – there could very well be “deaconesses” in 200 years after the lab accident occurs that turns the entire human race into hermaphrodites :) I’m just sayin’…

    The Chicken

  40. Oneros says:

    “this is demonstrably false; there several things deacons do as clerics that no lay person is permitted to do, regardless of circumstances (proclaim the Gospel at Mass, preach the homily at Mass, give blessings in the name of the Church, etc.)”

    Giving blessings is not true; lectors had a blessing assigned to them specifically when the Minor Orders existed, and since “blessing” is a canonical designation, ultimately, the Church could delegate it to whomever.

    The Gospel and Homily at Mass thing seems true, though I notice you specify Gospel “at Mass” because perhaps you were aware, regarding Carthusian nuns that (even in the old days, according to Catholic Encyclopedia): “It is a consecrated nun who sings the Epistle at the conventual Mass, though without wearing the maniple. At Matins, if no priest be present, a nun assumes the stole and reads the Gospel.”

    But, of course, I doubt who sings the Gospel or gives the Homily is a matter of “validity” or would be classified as something absolutely forbidden by Revelation, as opposed to merely a long-standing liturgical discipline.

  41. Lori Pieper says: I have the same question as Oneros. Rome has never given a definitive “no” on women deacons. If the answer was clear, wouldn’t they would have said something by now?

    Actually, it is when the answer is NOT clear that the Church speaks out.

  42. robtbrown says:

    DeaconJR,

    1. It is true that Christ instituted the Sacrament of Orders. According to Scripture, however, the diaconate was instituted by the Apostles. Further, acc to the Council of Trent the subdiaconate is also a grade of Holy Orders, and it has been suppressed

    2. There is no diaconate function that requires Sacrament power

    3. Deacons cannot give a priestly blessing.

  43. DeaconJR says:

    Oneros–not sure what your point is–a deacon “is” a deacon regardless of what the deacon ultimately “does”–the soul of the deacon receives the indelible character of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. And I am not aware that anyone in minor orders could impart the Church’s blessing upon someone else. I stand by my statement that, as clerics, deacons can impart blessings that lay persons cannot impart (just take a look in the “Book of Blessings”).

    Robtbrown: The diaconate is of *Apostolic* origin, as I stated above. This by no means indicates that it was not instituted by Jesus Christ, as the Church has always taught. Just as Christ instituted the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, and Marriage. The *subdiaconate* is not of Apostolic origin and was instituted later by the *Church*; it was counted among the major orders but *not* considered to be a participation in the *Sacrament* (which the diaconate always was). The Church had every right to suppress an order that was instituted by the Church and not by Jesus Christ.

    Participating in the Sacrament of Holy Orders is first about ontological identity, not “function”. It’s the “power” and authority of Jesus Christ supplying the grace of the Sacrament that *makes* him a deacon.

    And, of course, deacons don’t give “priestly” blessings–they give “ecclesial” blessings–they bless formally in the name of the Church.

    God bless you, btw, :-)
    Deacon JR