More on the notion of Deaconettes: the last stitch?

When I am being optimistic, I like to think that His Holiness initiated this deaconess thing so that he can definitively sew the hammock shut navy style with a pair of cannon balls, put the last stitch through its nose (just to be sure), and sent it down to Davy Jones.

From Catholic World Report comes a hard-hitting editorial.  Again, this is an opinion piece.

Here are some excerpts.  Mind you, the original is salted through with quotes, so read the whole thing there, after getting the gist here:

Editorial: Pope Francis and the Matter of Female Deacons

by Carl E. Olson

Does Pope Francis have any idea of the needless can of worms he opened up with his statement earlier today, made to a gathering of superiors general of women religious communities, that the issue of female deacons should be revisited and possibly studied by a “commission”?


At length. In 2002, the International Theological Commission concluded a five-year study of the question of women deacons, initiated at the request of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


[T]he 42,679 word document concludes that 1) deaconesses in the early Church were not participating in some form of holy orders, 2) nor were they even equivalent to deacons. But, of course, many of those pushing for deaconesses today are doing so for the sole purpose of having leverage for the ordination of women to the priesthood.


The “Francis effect”, apparently, means that anything and everything prior to 2013 is up for grabs. Why worry about an exhaustive five-year study from 14 years ago when we can another commission! After all, as Francis likes to remind us, the Holy Spirit is full of surprises, which apparently means the Holy Spirit is also not too concerned about what has gone before, or the reasons for it.


Which brings me back to the Holy Father. Why did he say what he did? If he truly is oblivious to the 2002 ITL study and all that has already gone into this topic, then one has to wonder about how prepared and studied he actually is.


Francis’ comment about having discussed this matters years ago with a professor is perhaps more revealing than it initially appears. I also had conversations with professors about these and related matters; I also, despite not being a professional theologian or a priest/bishop, am well aware of what the ITC has studied over the years, not to mention what the CDF has stated about a whole host of questions in recent decades. Why must we continually revisit matters that have been addressed in detail and are, in many ways, already set to rest in terms of magisterial teaching? Why not recognize that even if the Church revived a female diaconate today, it would cause far more confusion and dissent than it would anything else? Rather than invest more time and effort into such matters, why not zero in on the real and substantial challenges faced by the Church in 2016?

Yes, the Holy Spirit is full of surprises, but being surprised is not the same thing as being confused.

Okay… that’s a “No” vote from Mr. Olsen.

Burial at sea… that’s what we need.

Preparations Prior to the Burial

The Ship: The sails should be adjusted so she is cocked up to the weather, some sails full of drive and some laid all a’back, so the ship is motionless.

Topgallant Yards a-cock-bill to signify a death and a burial. Lift lines out of trim to speak grief. The entry port on the starboard gangway to windward, and open.

The Body: canvas shrouded, with two cannon balls at the feet for weight, to insure sinking. The canvas should be sewn in place, starting at the feet, with the last stitch through the nose of the corpse, to check the person is indeed deceased. The body is then placed on an 8 man mess table, and covered with a Red Ensign.

Crew Formation: Crew gathered to witness the service, under immediate command of the Bosun. Position of the crew not specified due to various different ships’ deck configurations.

Forms of Prayer to be Used at Sea
From the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, 1662

The Order for the Burial of the Dead

Here is to be noted, that the Office ensuing is not to be used for any that die unbaptized, or excommunicated, or have laid violent hands upon themselves.

The Priest and Clerks meeting the Corpse […] and going before it […] shall say, or sing,

I AM the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. St. John xi. 25, 26.

KNOW that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shalt stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another. Job xix. 25, 26, 27.

HE brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord. 1 Tim. vi. 7. Job I. 21.

As the deceased and the burial party approach the entryway the Bosun orders: “Ship’s Company… Off hats.”

After they are come to the entry port, shall be read one or both of these Psalms following. Dixi, custodiam. Psalm 39.


Priest departs with burial party. Bosun orders: “Ship’s Company… Dismissed hats.”

Which it’s a burial at sea.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Elizabeth D says:

    I think he wants to resolve it on a definitive authority level equal to the matter of priestly ordination of women: it must be held by all the faithful that the Church has no authority whatsoever to sacramentally ordain women. That needs to be done, PRECISELY because we are all sick of hearing about this topic from people (Phyllis Zagano, Dominican sisters, etc) who believe in it. An ITC document, however correct it may be, is not the same in terms of resolving the matter, as a Papal statement that could come after some specific study of this question. It is pretty clear Francis does not have a liberal point of view about this. His handling of the issue of women giving Mass homilies was superb, and he promised he would have the CDW send the superiors general a written theological explanation. This too is an effort to settle the unreasonably-contentious issue through the weight of his authority.

    I like to think I did the little that I could do about this. If you want to read my own theological explanation of why sisters can’t give homilies, and also all about how sisters dissent about this, go here:

    (my book was personally examined by Cardinal Muller, and apparently the former nuncio also gave it to Pope Francis, though whether Pope Francis really looked at it I don’t know)

  2. threej says:

    The link to the CWR article is incorrect. Readers looking for it before Fr. Z fixes it can go here:

  3. Kathleen10 says:

    I’m doing too much editing these days on my own comments. It has become almost impossible.
    Rather than do more, I will parse it down to a molecule. There is hardly reason to discuss this. In my opinion he will go there, and why not. His will be done.
    We are far beyond anything that most people could have dreamed three short years ago. Far, far beyond.
    I have always been able to express myself fairly well.
    I am at a loss. The severity of our plight is obvious. Will Cardinals do their job and defend the faith and the sheep. That is all that is left. It is beginning to look very dim on that score. So if not, we can only look to the skies.

  4. chantgirl says:

    I would be very surprised if the Pope changed anything in regards to the teaching on ordaining female deacons. For whatever reason, this does not seem to be his hobby horse, and he’s been pretty clear about “gay marriage” as well. Looking at this from the perspective of dissident nuns, they are probably already upset about his lack of support for gay marriage, and they are probably upset that the Pope didn’t explicitly endorse the Kasper proposal in Amoris, although any honest person can see the intent to do so. It appears that the Pope is losing friends from all sides.

    I can only pray that, as a way of appeasement, the Pope doesn’t end up offering a quasi-female-deacon opportunity so that the dissident see a crack and keep beating the drum for further change.

    As of right now, the Pope’s intentions on female ordination seem to be orthodox, and I will have to assume they are until proven wrong. That doesn’t mean that this initiative isn’t naïve and imprudent at best, or nefarious at worst.

  5. LarryW2LJ says:

    Is it just me? This is the first Pope in my lifetime, that I can remember, anyway, that whenever he says something, the next day there are a gazillion articles and stories entitled “What the Pope really meant”.

    There’s something to be said for clarity.

  6. frjim4321 says:

    I’ve been occupied with a few pressing pastoral concerns these past few days so I’m not really up to speed on this latest kerfuffle. But I’ll weigh in anyway. It would come as no surprise to anyone here that I’m pretty okay theoretically with the ordination of women. The bigger question for me would be “Which women?” How would they be called forth from the community? How do models of formation need to change? I’ve worked with a good handful of women in ministry who were fierce proponents of open ordination. I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t want to work with any of them. They were all too agenda-driven to ever get any real work done. Every staff meeting became a battle over inclusive language (which we were already doing sufficiently) and the “family first communion” at Sunday mass as the ONLY acceptable practice. (Funny, that woman is now a CWP bishop! But that’s another story!) All kinds of crazy turf battles. On the other hand I’ve worked with a lot more women in ministry, not zealots for a cause, who would work out in orders much better than many of the men we’ve been getting the last 10 – 15 years. Also having women preaching from the ambo as a function of office as opposed to by exception would be enriching; and it would light a fire under most of the guys to start putting some time and effort into their preparation and delivery.

  7. Wryman says:

    Well, as a parent I can tell you that the last way to convince your kids that you’re not taking them to Disneyland is to say, “Hey kids, let’s talk about whether we should go to Disneyland!”

  8. frjim4321 says:

    “I’ve been occupied with a few pressing pastoral concerns these past few days”

    Sorry, I was just reading that and it could have sounded snarky. I apologize, I know that everyone here is pretty busy. Just that the last 48 hours have been trying in an unusual sort of way.

  9. Kathleen10 says:

    It didn’t sound snarky frjim. I hope you have a nice weekend to balance it out.
    No women deacons. My God, that would be the nail in the coffin. If I didn’t know better I’d think they were trying to finish off the church.

  10. un-ionized says:

    frjim I didn’t think you sounded snarky, just busy! May you have at least ONE day of rest this week. Or two even.

  11. Peter in Canberra says:

    I earnestly hope that you are right Fr Z, that Pope Francis is doing this to close the issue.
    However, everything about this pontificate suggests that the reverse will be true.
    The dogs are now running and I am not sure they can be rechained.

  12. Benedict Joseph says:

    How is it possible that the pope is unfamiliar with the theological and historical parameters of the nature of the diaconate? How is it possible that the pope is unfamiliar with the studies on the issue of woman and the diaconate that were concluded in 2002? The hubbub that orbited that study and its conclusions are not all that easily forgotten despite our best efforts. Pope Bergoglio appears to have forgotten his theological studies and has not followed events since that time except for those that, for whatever reason, capture his attention or suit his perspective. Thus it appears necessary to establish a commission to yet again reexamine an issue well studied. Why can’t he pick up a book or two and study it? Why can’t he reference the report published in 2002? Why can’t he pick up a phone and speak with a scholar or two?
    What were the qualifications this man had to be elected pope? What exactly is going on here? Deference offered once again to the wailing, whining and complaining of the aberrant heterodox, mastering their Alinsky tactics while undermining our confidence in the Church.
    When questioned regarding the pope’s consent to study the issue Father Lombardi responded, “I think it’s too early to say what [the pope] has exactly in mind.”
    That is the issue, really. What does the pope have in his mind?

  13. Perhaps the Holy Father has some specific people in mind for this commission. Maybe if they are kept busy with this issue, they will do less harm than if they are roaming around elsewhere. When the commission’s work is done, it can get that burial at sea without much fanfare.

  14. surritter says:

    To Peter in Canberra:
    I give your comment multiple thumbs up!! If the messages of this pope were historically clear, I’d feel fine. But this bit about studying deaconettes can only mean that he’s either confused or out to change the constant teaching of the Church. Neither bodes well for us sheep in the flock.

  15. Benedictus says:

    Unfortunately, I think Pope Francis follows the Western Media’s statisticians and media. I recall seeing or reading Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s commentary/interview on the Vatican’s reprimand of the Nuns in the US; Cardinal O’Malley opined that the Vatican’s response (at least to the general public/media) was horrendous (he essentially followed the general media which portrayed/viewed the Vatican’s response as a bully).

    Unfortunately, I think PF is trying to appease the western media.

  16. Orlando says:

    I don’t know about all of you , but it’s emotionally exhausting keeping up with the Holy Father. Why does he constantly speak in riddles or in a manner that sows confusion. Why not speak clearly so to be understood? He’s so concerned about the margins that he’s losing the center. I know , as Father Z has said , “pontificates are but a parenthesis ” ,but this parenthisis is during the formative years of my children lives and though I respectfully act as a counter balance , this is all they are hearing in there Catholic school. So I pary and pray to St. Monica to intercede on behalf of my family and keep them on the path of the true faith.

  17. McCall1981 says:

    Fr Lombardi has clarified the Pope’s comments on women deaconesses:
    “But one must be honest: The pope did not say he intends to introduce a diaconal ordination for women and even less did he speak of the priestly ordination of women,” he said. “In fact, talking about preaching during the eucharistic celebration, he let them know that he was not considering this possibility at all.”

  18. Christ_opher says:

    A good Priest said in his homily recently that Pope Francis has actually mentioned the act of going to confession more frequently than Pope Benedict (Who I hope is a Saint) and Saint John Paul II The Great (Who is a Saint).

    Pope Francis has as also made two or three requests for adoration in the churches for various causes such as world peace etc. Yes, some of his teaching has been garbled, confusing and possibly manipulated however he has spoken on gossip being the black art, statue like behaviour at mass, super catholics and he to date he hasn’t approved Medj.

    Pope Benedict suffered immensely from those around him that should have supported him to think that this problem would simply evaporate once a new pope was elected is fantasy. I’m hoping that Pope Francis has a master plan that surprises everyone that follows the truth of the faith and the truth of the Roman Catholic faith remains unadulterated, exact and precise.

  19. Augustine says:

    I actually think that a couple of popes whose statements were mostly solid, after all, neither were exempt form needing clarifications, faithful Catholics have an incorrect understanding of papal infallibility. It seems that, to them, the pope is automatically a deep thinker in the line St Thomas Aquinas and is incapable of holding any heretical opinion. Recent history notwithstanding, history proves this assumption to be unwarranted. Perhaps the complete lack of knowledge of modern thought, which murks truth with dialectics, places most of them in mental gymnastics, holding on to an Orthodox sentence uttered by Francis while ignoring his other less than Orthodox sentences in the same paragraph. As a contemporsry Jesuit, he was formed not in Thomism, but in the thinking a la mode of Kant and Hegel, in dialectics. To Francis, a statement can coexist with its contradiction in the search of a third statement, for, in modern thought, truth is not absolute, but relative, so it must be tested incessantly. In practice, this has been the modus operandi of those possessed by the spirit of VII, which Francis, at least in part, is haunted by.

  20. Athelstan says:

    I’m somewhat less sanguine.

    The prospect of deaconesses is just one more thing to throw at the wall, to enable impressions that more things are possible, to unsettle, to encourage the revolutionaries. It won’t happen, but when a big but more modest change like an expanded married priesthood is pushed through, it will seem less radical.

    The progressives in Rome and (most of) the episcopal conferences will keep working this way. Brick by brick.

  21. quotquot says:

    WDTPRS… What did the Pope really say?

  22. Peter Stuart says:

    Turning every teachable moment into an opportunity for discussion and study is like trying to feed the starving by sending them links to the Food Channel.

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