Archbp. Müller (Prefect of the CDF): No need for deaconesses

In The Bitter Pill (aka The Tablet) I spotted something sure to irritate feminists:

No need for deaconesses: Müller

4 July 2013

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has questioned the notion that a special office could be created for women deacons.

Archbishop Gerhard Müller said that in order to create a specific, non-sacramental office for women deacons, it would be necessary to prove that such an office was necessary. He was responding to a proposal by Cardinal Walter Kasper to create a specific deacon’s office for women an expression of the common priesthood of all the faithful.

He pointed out that women were already doing charitable and catechetical work besides being pastoral assistants and recalled that, according to Church teaching, only men could validly be ordained as deacons.

“One would have to prove that a specific, non-sacramental ministry for women analogous to that of women deacons in the Early Church was necessary today,” Müller concluded.

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  1. *SMACK* “Sit down, shut up, hang on.” Muller did not issue that statement in a vacuum…I’m sure the non-Jesuitical Jesuit Holy Father put the word out…iron fist in a velvet glove…

    Never let a crisis (Benedict’s resignation) go to waste to try and lever some wacko notion in there and gain traction (though we know it’s been bubbling under the surface of the swamp for longer than that…) in the corridors of power in the name (of course) of ‘fairness, diversity, justice, etc’ when things seem confused, right?

    One wonders where these people come from and why the Holy Spirit permits them to rise to the positions they do (Kasper? Bernadin? Jadot? Weakland? ???).

    I take heart in realizing His Church will prevail regardless of how much her hierarchy does to destroy Her.

  2. Veronica says:

    Bravo Archbp Müller and a sad day for Phyllis Zagano! [Poor Phyllis. She is solid on pro-life issues. Very good, as a matter of fact. But she is off the rails when it comes to deaconesses and she seems to have a real animus for men in general, and priests/bishops in particular. Not a good day for her, I’m afraid.] Those have been exactly my thoughts when I have discussed the issue with some people that are fond of the idea that women must also have the “right” to be in the service of the altar. My argument is that there is no need whatsoever. These people’s counterargument is that women need a more prominent role. My response to that is that we already have lots of prominent roles in churches and Catholic institutions: teaching CCD and RCIA classes, coordinating soup kitchens, visiting the sick, singing in or directing choirs, readers (although I don’t lime this either, but let that pass), participating in prison ministry, directors of evangelization, etc. The list goes on and on. Those pushing for female deacons in reality would love to see the Catholic version of Episcopalian Bp. Katharine Jefferts Schori (*cringes*). But where will this end? Perhaps at some point the’ll be pushing to have a future Mama Francesca or Benedetta (*double cringes in sheer horror*).

  3. Christophe says:

    My take — this is not a “smack-down” of Kasper. It actually gives him and his crowd an opening. Abp. Müller says: “One would have to prove that a specific, non-sacramental ministry for women analogous to that of women deacons in the Early Church was necessary today.” Prediction — soon there will be a report detailing why a “non-sacramental ministry for women” is necessary and, presto, we’ll have women deacons. More Vatican II double-speak.

  4. Mike says:

    Muller wrote a book on this very issue; it’s published by Ignatius. It’s very, very good, and completely destroys the case for women’s entry to the Sacrament of Orders. Full stop.

  5. Fr AJ says:

    Someone please tell Cardinal Kasper we already have “non-sacramental ministry for women” – it’s called Religious Orders! I can’t think “non-sacramental ministry” is what the promoters of women deacons have in mind…they want diaconate ordination and sacramental ministry paving the way to women’s ordination to the priesthood. This all comes from making the ideal of equality the be all and end all of everything.

  6. Elizabeth D says:

    Somebody tell Deacon Greg Kandra this. He posted some time last year (I think) claiming women deacons in Holy Orders are possible and when I emailed to protest that promoting this kind of speculation is scandalous, he insisted, claiming that the question remains open. It does NOT.

    Zero confidence in promoters of “women’s ordination” of any kind, and promoters of married non-convert Roman Rite priests, a different kind of matter but also harmful. I do think a lot of confusion is sown by the phenomenon of married, non-continent (in other words not practicing chastity in accord with their (clerical) state of life) permanent deacons.

  7. Pingback: Müller: No Need for Non-Sacramental Women Deacons

  8. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    It’d be nice if someone gave some serious attention to reviving the Orders of Widows. Fr. Jean Beyer did a piece on them for Periodica de re Canonica some years back if memory serves.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

    [Do I hear an “Amen!”? I was just talking about that same thing this morning.]

  9. mamajen says:

    Of course it’s necessary today. Doesn’t he realize that people have feelings now?


  10. Robbie says:

    I agree with Christophe. I think Cardinal Muller gave Cardinal Kasper and his crowd an opening. By telling them it would be necessary to prove women deacons are needed, he gave them a roadmap to follow. Maybe the roadmap leads to a dead end, but who knows. If the reported rumors are true and many of the prefects will be replaced, who is to say the next prefect for CDF won’t be more welcoming to the idea.

    Clearly, the modernists forces have been on the march since Francis was elected. They feel reinvigorated and they act as if they know something the rest of us don’t. Maybe they’ve misjudged just who Francis is and isn’t, but they seem quite confident that he will reinvigorate the VCII movement.

  11. Fern says:

    There are, unfortunately, already more women on the Altar than men. Why would boys and young men want to be part of the feminization of the clerical state? They don’t, thus part of the problem in the lack of vocations. We could go back to baptisms in the buff so that the eager women could help out as the deaconess did in the early church and thus earn the “title” of deaconess. Just a thought.

  12. Elizabeth D says:

    I am in favor of the Order of Widows. This would make all the sense in the world.

  13. mrshopey says:

    I have to ask, what is the order of widows?

  14. iPadre says:

    In some places, women do what a deacon does and more. Priests that allow and encourage that nonsense need a smack down.

  15. Stephen Matthew says:

    What aspect of the historical “deaconess” is not currently present in the church?

    We have religious orders, in which the person is consecrated for a particular life of prayer and service to God and Church, which seems to me to be functionally equal to the roles of deaconess relative to prayer and charity, with the religious consecration even paralleling the supposed “ordination”.

    As to service in the sanctuary, it is certainly normative for women to do this in communities of women, which was another use of deaconess, and it is common for women to read the scriptures, be EMHC, altar servers, and to teach/catechise outside the liturgy, all things once possibly pertaining to deaconesses.

    The only role that seems not to be in current use is that of assisting in baptisms of women and girls, but standards of modesty have changed so much, as perhaps have baptismal practice (some suggest it may have been done more or less in the nude at one time), that it is difficult to see any point in this.

    The use of deaconess as a courtesy title for the wife a deacon seems to serve no purpose.

    So what am I missing?

    If we really made use of the instituted ministries of acolyte and lector I could understand some push to admit women to those or to create a similar role for women, but these ministries continue to be (in spite of the expressed intent) to be only stepping stones for candidates for holy orders (at least in the Latin church, which I think is a shame).

  16. Sandy says:

    Kasper must have his head screwed on backwards. Sorry, Lord. OK, Cardinal Kasper. I agree with Bryan, how do these people rise to such high places in the Church?! I guess that was discussed here recently; it goes waaay back.

  17. Elizabeth D…

    As you’ll note, I posted this update on my blog.

    Regarding the issue of ordaining women as deacons in general, canon lawyer Ed Peters wrote last year:

    John Paul II’s ap. lit. 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, …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.

    If there is a Vatican document that has definitely declared women may not be ordained deacons, ever, please let me know and I’ll post that, as well.

    Thank you.

  18. JARay says:

    Just because something is not said it does not mean that there is an opening for it to be said. I’m referring of course to the posting above this one from Deacon Kandra. There was a commotion when Canon Law did not repeat that Catholic men could not join the Masons. This caused Archbishop Ratzinger to draw up a special promulgation, which the Pope signed, saying that nothing had changed as regards the Masons and that Catholic men were still prohibited from joining that organisation.
    OK then.
    Ordinatio Sacerdotalis does not say specifically that women cannot be ordained as Deacons.
    But….and it is a very big BUT, the Deaconate IS…..and it is a very big IS part of the Ordained ministry of the PRIESTHOOD.
    Since the Deaconate is PART of the priesthood, it stands to REASON that the Deaconate cannot be conferred on women.
    This is called COMMON SENSE.
    Why on earth is it necessary to issue yet another declaration that, since women cannot be ordained to the priesthood, they also cannot be ordained to the Deaconate?

  19. JARay says:

    I feel that I must also add to my posting above.
    I am a Acolyte. I live in Western Australia. Archbishop Goody (God rest his soul), instituted the Acolytate when it was declared by the Vatican, that the Acolytate could be re-introduced and also a new Ministry called the Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist. This latter ministry was allowed to cater for women whereas the Acolytate is open only to men. Archbishop Goody, it is reported, said that he was not having women on the Altars in his Archdiocese and hence he would only institute the Acoyltate. This he did. I thus became an Acolyte. His successor immediately introduced Extraordinary Ministers because of the protests from the women!
    The same thing goes for Deacons as for Acolytes.
    Women may not be instituted into either of these ministries.

  20. mrshopey says:

    I wonder what Dr Peters meant by “strictly” ?
    This pretty well sums it up for me:
    Basic norms for the formation of permanent deacons:
    Through the Sacrament of Orders, the mission entrusted by Christ to his Apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time. It is thus the sacrament of apostolic ministry.(5) The sacramental act of ordination surpasses mere election, designation or delegation by the community, because it confers a gift of the Holy Spirit enabling the exercise of sacred power which can only come from Christ himself through his Church.(6) “The one sent by the Lord does not speak and act of his own authority, but by virtue of Christ’s authority; not as a member of the community but speaking to it in the name of Christ. No one can bestow grace on himself; it must be given and offered. This fact presupposes ministers of grace, authorised and empowered by Christ”.(7)

    The sacrament of apostolic ministry comprises three degrees. Indeed “the divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times have been called bishops, priests and deacons”.(8)

  21. mrshopey says:

    And finishing the thought, regarding female deacons not being allowed, since permanent deacons are considered in the order of apostolic ministry, and this order requires the person be male, and the Archbishop mention having to CREATE “specific, non-sacramental ministry for women analogous to that of women deacons in the Early Church ” that would indicate a big NEGATIVE regarding deaconess.

  22. mrshopey says:

    And if you are looking for something comparable in the the US Church today, it would be Lay Ecclesial Ministers who are the new “deaconesses”. Majority here are women and can perform most, but not all, functions of the priest, or should I say pastoral minister. They were put in place to keep parishes from closing. We are not flourishing in vocations here. Our vocations come from out of the country, majority. So, we have what is wanted of sorts and it is not going well. Not for vocations to the priesthood. No one has adequately explained to me either why my baptizing my son in an emergency situation had to be redone in a church and yet a woman LEM is given permission to baptize infants and young children under the age of reason. I will stop there. We already have them. They are just called LEMs.

  23. Mike says:


    That’s what Muller concludes in his book: ordained deacons partake of the sacrament of orders, and the sacrament of orders is open only to baptized males, therefore only baptized males may be ordained deacons.

    Relatively straightforward.

  24. Christine says:

    Deacon Kandra,

    With respect, you are wrong on this issue. Rome has spoken. The proper matter for the sacrament of Holy Orders (of which the permanent diaconate is a part) is to be a male. To my knowledge there are no documents that specifically say that women can not be ordained, there are however, plenty of documents that specifically say that only men can be ordained. I really can’t figure out how anyone could read what the Church has said about this and come away with the idea that there could somehow be women deaconesses.

  25. APX says:

    Fr AJ:

    The even more prominent non-sacramental position for women in the Church that would be more parallel than religious orders in this circumstance are consecrated virgins. Though, they tend to be more complimentary to the priesthood…theologically speaking. The problem there though is that one actually has to a) be an actual virgin (not something overly promoted these days) and b) has to have such a vocation.

    I really don’t see the point or need for “women deaconesses” anymore. I mean, like, what would they even do in the Church?? Restoring consecrated widows I can fathom a great need and benefit from, “women deaconesses” I just don’t see it.

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