To which I respond:
First, I’m not sure that we care much about a single Armenian bishop does in Tehran.
Secondly, the claim in the story is that Armenians had a long tradition of ordaining deaconettes. Oh, really? Then why is this a big story?
Thirdly, if they had them, and then they disappeared… maybe there’s a good reason.
Fourthly, you can’t simply declare something to be a long-standing tradition.
The best thing written to date about women and the diaconate, Deaconesses: An Historical Study by Aime G. Martimort (French 1982 & English – Ignatius Press, 1986) [US HERE – UK HERE] has a chapter: “Were there deaconesses among the Armenians and Georgians?”
The answer is as you have already guessed.
As Martimort explains, there isn’t any reliable evidence for their early practice. Moreover, they were explicitly forbidden from the 5th century onward. In the 12th c. there was discussion of deaconettes in strict cloisters, but reading on in Martimort we find that even that seems dodgy. Martimort concludes:
“Even though it is not always easy to fix the exact date of its desuetude in the various churches, it does seem pretty clear that, by the end of the tenth or eleventh centuries, deaconesses had pretty much disappeared in the East, even though the memory of them continued, anachronistically, to be revived in the recopying of liturgical books, and – in a defective and imprecise fashion – in the tradition of canonists.”
“But Father! But Father!”, you libs bellow from your fainting couches and behind your quivering fans, “You are always talking about TRADITION! Here they are using their tradition! Right? So, you are a hypocritical, patriarchalist who clings to laws and … and … YOU HATE VATICAN II!”
A former professor of mine in Rome, Fr. Giles Pelland, SJ explains:
In order to speak of a “tradition” or “practice” of the Church, it is not enough to point out a certain number of cases spread over a period of four or five centuries. One would have to show, insofar as one can, that these cases correspond to a practice accepted by the Church at the time. Otherwise, we would only have the opinion of a theologian (however prestigious), or information about a local tradition at a certain moment in its history—which obviously does not have the same weight.
In a nutshell, it is possible to find any number of isolated incidents of this or that aberrant practice in the ancient Church. We see this in our own day. Just because some group does or says X today doesn’t mean that it is accepted Catholic practice or teaching. A serious problem arises when you try to found your arguments on those isolated aberrant practices as if they were accepted.
Everyone… just refer the promoters of deaconettes to Martimort. It is a little dated, now, but it is at least sober and fair.
The Pelland quote, by the way, comes from a discussion of ancient marriage and divorce practices, but it is entirely appropriate for other discussions of ancient practice as well. Gilles Pelland, S.J., “Did the Church Treat the Divorced and Remarried More Leniently in Antiquity than Today?”, L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, February 2, 2000, p. 9. Quoted in the magnificent, highly useful, deeply influential, hated by libs, stolen from Synod mailboxes, Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church (in English by Ignatius Press HERE – UK link HERE).
Not everyone is on board. HERE