German theologian on women deacons

I’ve been looking around for information on the members of the newly appointed Commission that will study the question of deaconettes.

I found an interview with the German theologian Karl-Heinz Menke at Die Welt.   HERE   It doesn’t have an auspicious headline, but it winds up being fairly good.

For example (my fast translation, which I am sure could be polished.):

Denn das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil hat die Frage endgültig geklärt, ob der Diakon das Sakrament des Ordo empfängt. Das Sakrament des Ordo wird nicht nur vom Bischof und vom Priester, sondern auch vom Diakon empfangen. Wenn es also nur ein einziges Sakrament des Ordo (in drei Stufen, also Diakon, Priester, Bischof) gibt, würde die Zulassung der Frau zum sakramentalen, durch Weihe übertragenen Diakonat ihre Zulassung auch zur Priester- und Bischofsweihe bedeuten.

The Second Vatican Council conclusively clarified the question whether the deacon receives the Sacrament of Orders. The Sacrament of Orders is received not only by the bishop and the priest, but also by the deacon. If there is only one Sacrament of Orders (in three stages, that is, deacon, priest, bishop), the admission of women would be sacramental, transmitted through ordination, diaconate would mean their admission to priestly and episcopal ordination.

Which is clearly impossible.

Women cannot be admitted to the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

The diaconate is a grade of Holy Orders.  Since the diaconate is a grade of Holy Orders, women cannot be deacons, not in any sacramental sense.  It could be possible to cobble up some legislation to let women do some additional things that don’t require Holy Orders, but, whatever they would be called (e.g., nuns), they wouldn’t be deacons in the sense that men can be.

Whatever might be unearthed about the ancient deaconettes (that hasn’t already been unearthed), the decisions about modern deaconettes would have to depend on our modern understanding of the Sacrament of Orders.

Anyone out there who says she is interested solely in the diaconate for women, should instantly, clearly, publicly, renounce any hope for sacramental ordination.

Ceterum autem censeo unicam stolam umquam feminis induendam esse mustelinam.


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  1. Suburbanbanshee says:

    But Father! But Father!

    The “stola” for women was the distinguishing garment of all respectable married women in the Empire! It was a large cloak worn over the head and around the body, and survived in European fashion for centuries. For example, one’s Irish great-great-grandmother wore a shawl in much the same way and for many of the same reasons that a Roman lady wore a stola.

    So although I approve the sentiment, and although a modern woman probably should only be wearing mink stoles so as not to be confused with a Muslim woman wearing an abaya… there are a few problems with the wording.

  2. Benedict Joseph says:

    Surely the word from THE council will allow all this bickering to be put aside. But, I betcha it doesn’t work that way this time.

  3. Bthompson says:

    If we are thinking of reviving old roles in the Church, perhaps we should go from most modern to most ancient. Let’s bring back subdeacons (et al.)

    Then, if they want to revive deaconesses, go ahead. That way, whenever I am baptizing a naked woman, I’ll call for them.

  4. APX says:

    It could be possible to cobble up some legislation to let women do some additional things that don’t require Holy Orders, but, whatever they would be called (e.g., nuns), they wouldn’t be deacons in the sense that men can be.

    Do we really need something like this, though? Is there any real value in it, or is it just an artificial attempt to make women feel good about themselves? Maybe restoring the Order of Widows, and promoting the Order of Virgins and the privately vowed life of chastity and the various ways of authentic service of the lay apostolate.

    To be honest, I can’t really see an ecclesiastical reason for female deacons. I don’t understand why anyone (who isn’t part of a certain agenda) would even care about this so called “issue”. Are there not more pressing matters to address right now?

  5. JabbaPapa says:

    Women cannot be admitted to the Sacrament of Holy Orders

    The doctrine established by Pope Saint Gelasius I 1500 years ago and declared ex cathedra by Pope Saint John Paul II to be dogmatic (not simply disciplinary) is that no Bishop may ordain a woman into the priesthood.

    No such clarity exists concerning the deaconesses, whose Order has never been formally abolished by the Magisterium.
    [Perhaps you should review the top entry.]
    Questions of Sacramentality are above our pay grade.

  6. Geoffrey says:

    I am no scholar, but it seems to me that this old office of deaconess would be equivalent to what Mother Church now refers to as the instituted ministries, as opposed to the ordained ministries. The instituted ministries have their origins in the old minor orders, with a clearly defined purpose, roles, duties, etc. Just what would an “instituted deaconess” do today in the 21st century? They would not do anything that an ordained deacon does. So, what would be the point?

    [The point is… the REAL point is that they really want sacramental ordination in order to have hierarchical (hence, visible, liturgical roles) because they want POWER. It’s not about service.]

  7. Lavrans says:

    I agree, Geoffrey. And with Cardinal Muller, Fr. Menke, and (presumably) Fr. Dodaro against the ordination of women, I am cautiously optimistic that Dr. Zagano will not have her way.

  8. Hidden One says:

    Perhaps Professor Zagano will come to change her mind.

  9. ClavesCoelorum says:

    Be careful, Father. While Menke did say this, he also said some worrying other things in that interview. Such as women becoming cardinals, [ROFL] electing the Pope, women “deacons, just without the sacrament” doing exactly what deacons do (including funerals, baptisms). [The real goal for them is sacramental ordination, because that’s the only possibility of obtaining real power. For these gals, power is The Big Tamale.]

  10. Chris Rawlings says:

    At the risk of belaboring an obvious point, isn’t it precious how some will leave no stone unturned to prove relevant and vivify dubious ancient practices while poo-pooing those of us who desire to protect and propagate sure traditions from just 50 years ago?

  11. JARay says:

    Thanks for the laugh Father. Yes I agree. The only proper stole which should be put on a woman is a mink one!
    Ceterum autem censeo unicam stolam umquam feminis induendam esse mustelinam.

  12. albinus1 says:

    Ceterum autem censeo unicam stolam umquam a feminis induendam esse mustelinam.

    Doesn’t the passive periphrastic take the dative of agent, rather than a/ab + ablative? Or am I missing something?

    [Good catch. Much better.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  13. THREEHEARTS says:

    Moses when faced with the false claims to the priesthood did as God ordered and had them the falsehoods, lined up outside their tents and he prayed thus. ” By this you should know hath sent me, to do all things that you see and I have not forged them out of my own head: If these men die the common death of men, and if they be visited with a plague, wherewith others are wont to be visited, the Lord did not send me. But if the Lord do a new thing and the earth opening her mouth swallow them down and they go alive down into hell and you shall know they have blasphemed the Lord”.
    Immediately as he had made a end to his prayer the earth broke asunder under their feet and opening her mouth devoured them with their tents and all their substance, and they all went down into hell and they perished from among the people.

    Look what so many can look forward to unless God’s actions were lies and He has changed His mind and outlook on the dignity of the Priesthood. If you truly have faith and wish to defend both the priesthood and God’s dignity say Moses Prayer daily. reminding God in words of His truth and like Moses you are asking for nothing new just no more insults and dismissal of His promises.

  14. Father, if I may? Owing to the length of your vest(ment)al decree – and my boredom – I figure you need a short form of reference, as do most laws. So I took the initials, put them through an anagrammer and indirectly came up with fusia caec(or)um which, poor (Latinist) that I am, seems to translate via Whitaker’s Words to spindle of the blind. Make of that what you will.

  15. Ben Kenobi says:

    Francis has taken a trick out of the same playbook that the Anglicans used. Appoint women because ‘only women could possibly be representative.’ I am not heartened by his counsel, nor am I heartened by his identity politics. The Church is not a democracy and thank God for that. I, too would like to know the names, but it seems to me that the 7-6 is Francis’ way of revisiting an issue that has already been settled. He complains about folks sticking their finger to the zeitgeist and ‘misinterpreting his intent’. Part of me suspects that Francis is more concerned that any incremental moves might be lost. We shall see. Thank you for your vigilance, Father.

  16. The problem is though that (quote from wiki): “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was not issued under the extraordinary papal magisterium as an ex cathedra statement, and so is not considered infallible in itself.” So, sadly, it could be changed. I am praying it will never happen but there seems to be no legal obstacle in its way.

  17. TWF says:

    CatholicCoffee: that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood is indeed an infallible teaching. It cannot be changed by any pope or council – even Francis has stated as much. You are right, however, that no dogma has been proclaimed ex cathedra. Pope St John Paul did not exercise papal infallibility in this way. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then under Cardinal Ratzinger, explained that the teaching is and always was infallible by virtue of the ordinary magisterium – the consistent teaching of the popes and bishops down through the centuries. No dogmatic clarification was required.

  18. Athelstan says:

    Women cannot be admitted to the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

    Which won’t keep Phyllis Zagano from continuing to argue that they can, alas – including in the meetings of the Commission.

  19. JabbaPapa says:

    CatholicCoffee :

    The problem is though that (quote from wiki): “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was not issued under the extraordinary papal magisterium as an ex cathedra statement, and so is not considered infallible in itself.” So, sadly, it could be changed. I am praying it will never happen but there seems to be no legal obstacle in its way.

    wiki is wrong.

    The Pope wrote, extremely clearly, “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

    The words in bold signify in and by themselves that this teaching is definitive, cannot be revised, and that ALL of the Faithful, including all Popes, theologians, and Bishops, including when they are in Ecumenical Council are required to give assent to its contents.

    Furthermore, Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, clarified that :

    This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.

    This clarification was approved by the Pope, who ordered it to be published as an Act of the Holy See.

  20. Lavrans says:

    @Athelstan: Of course, but she is up against several members who are against such an idea or do not believe it to be possible, as well as Cardinal Muller, who will likely review and sign off on anything they come up with, and then the Holy Father himself, who has seemed rather against the ordination of women since his pontificate began. Not once has he suggested it was possible, and was rather annoyed when the media suggested that he had. Commissions come and go, and some have come along to produce terrible ideas, only to be shot down in the end. My mind immediately goes back to the 1960s, when a theological commission’s majority report recommended that the Church change her teaching on contraception. The minority report recommended no change. Pope Paul VI then issued Humanae Vitae, and the rest is history. The point is, do not be overly surprised if one of the reports from this commission (the one with Dr. Zagano on it, most likely) recommends that the Church ordain women to the diaconate. I do not believe, based upon the members of the commission, that this will be the majority report, but I do believe she or someone will leak it to the press and cause a huge media response and lots of excitement and, in my circles, anger, all over the world. And then….women will not be ordained. It is like the 1960s all over again. I would rather hope that Cardinal Muller or the Holy Father will simply intervene and kabosh the pursuit of women deacons and remind the commission that this is a mere historical study, and nothing more. That would seem to be the most prudent way of handling this, but I am but a layman.

  21. oklip955 says:

    First of all with the overall discussion, all parties need to get the question correct. It is not ” and cannot be since women cannot be ordained and men cannot be consecrated virgins. The question then has to be about deaconesses. If we look at their role and what they did, do we need them? Do we need all the legislation in Canon Law and elsewhere? Also we need to look at who the deaconesses where drawn from. They were consecrated virgins and consecrated widows. A Rite of Consecration of Widows will soon be release by the Vatican. Now who is pushing for this. Liberal Sisters. Can they be consecrated as Consecrated Virgins (rite for religious) ? No, only communities that have had a long history of using the rite. (Cloistered Benedictines and Cartusian nuns) Humm, I guess that leaves out the liberal sisters pushing for the renewal of deaconesses. Now the other question of can an existing “order” in the church do what they would do. Yes. So why reinvent the wheel. Check out a friend of mine’s article (she is also a consecrated virgin) in Crisis Magazine Nov 11, 2015 In Lieu of Deaconesses, a Proposal! I don’t think there is a need for the reestablishing of deaconesses.

  22. Christ_opher says:

    It would be more beneficial if the powers that be, were to focus more on teaching the faith correctly, had the faith been taught correctly in the first place we wouldn’t be in the mess that we are in.

    I’m 44 (tomorrow) and in my life I believe that our generation were failed with the teaching of unsound doctrine. When I look around at the mass there are most probably 4 or 5 families within our age group attending mass.

    Below our age group there is a complete void, for the past few years maybe one or two new families have appeared. Every year, some children take up the catechism, take their first holy communion and in reality are never seen again.

    The older generation are dying off and many of the hard line, liberals with this crazy modernism and cum bya mentality reside in the 70+ age group and it’s here where their solution is to introduce new age ideas to bring more people to the mass seems to be emanating from.

    If these people were to visit one of the many parishes surrounding us here in France they would witness that the gradual tinkering that has been going on during my lifetime has led to a complete disaster.

    Within a 26 km radius of us a Priest has already allowed another person in this case a woman to perform funerals. A recent synod document was sent out to the parishes of France discussing how we would feel about experiencing oddities such as the one mentioned above and overall it was quite disturbing. So the future for France at this moment seems to be heading further into the abyss.

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