Who are the members of the new “women deacons” study group?

The Holy Father appointed a committee to study – again – the notion of ordination of women as deacons.  This was already studied by the International Theological Commission, which leaned away from the possibility of sacramental ordination.

It is good to know who the people in this new study group are.  I know some of them already, personally or by reputation.  I’m looking around for more on those whom I don’t know.  So far, from what I can tell, the commission as a whole will probably lean in the direction of the impossibility of sacramental ordination.  Several members will desire that outcome and are already “out” and in favor of it.  Several members don’t seem to have pronounced themselves on the matter, but are “conservative”; they will not be in favor.

Of course we know Fr. Robert Dodaro of my old school the Augustinianum.  He was the editor of the Five Cardinals Book™. [UK HERE] That was an extremely important book in defense of matrimony, brilliantly conceived and executed simultaneously in five translations.  It is now in ten languages.   He is a patristicist as well as a patrologist and serves also as a consultor to the CDF.   He is a serious theologian and will be on the side of Truth.  Have a look at his amazing (and hard) Christ and the Just Society in Augustine. [UK HERE]

In searching this my own blog for the names of the other members and about the issue of deaconettes, I ran across an old entry on the topic wherein I posted a precis of and link to a post on the blog Laetificat written by a sometime commentatrix here, Elizabeth Durack (no, she’s not a member of the commission). Elizabeth participated in an online seminar called (I’m not making this up) “WOMEN DEACONS MOOS” held by one of the members of this new commission, the infamous writer for the Fishwrap, Phyllis Zagano [HERE and followup HERE].

Elizabeth recounts her experience of the MOOS.  The comments under her post, in which she responded to people who took her to task, are telling.  HERE

I’ll keep digging around for insights into other members.

Furthermore, I think the only stoles that a woman should ever wear are mink.

How would that look in Latin, I wonder? Something like: Ceterum autem censeo unicam stolam umquam feminis induendam esse mustelinam.

I don’t think the ancient Romans knew minks, and if they did, they would have thought them a kind of weasel.  Weasel in Latin is mustela, which is used in the scientific name for mink. I see, however, that the American mink has been distinguished from the European mink as vison (which is not Latin) rather than mustela.   Mustelinus, -a, -um is the adjective. It works for me.  Maybe some of you will have your own versions.

Moderation queue is ON.

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  1. AndrewPaul says:

    If this is meant to research the history of women and the diaconate, I’m actually pretty excited about this if anything else because it’ll put the debate to rest…

    I graduated from a Jesuit university in a large liberal city and had two conservative (for that department) professors that were on opposite ends of the issue. One (a Jesuit) had nothing but great things to say about Zagano’s research on the subject and made it seem that even though the priesthood was out of the question, the diaconate was not. However, the other in a conversation with me pointed out that in his limited research on the topic, deaconesses did not serve a liturgical role.

    So let’s say it’s decided to bring back deaconesses, if they historically did not serve liturgical functions would their role not be liturgical and only follow the historic roles? If so I can see certain women (and some nuns) yelling about “separate but equal.”

    It should be interesting. One point EWTN Radio mentioned: There are no representatives of the Eastern Rite in this study group.

    Quick question for Fr. Z: I seem to remember it mentioned in an article or on the radio that some nuns pushed for this. Seeing that “permanent deacon” and “consecrated religious” are two separate vocations, it seems like these religious sisters would be ineligible for the diaconate (unless religious brothers could also be deacons and if that’s the case forgive my ignorance).

    Honestly, what it comes down to is we need better catechesis on the role different vocations play in the Church and why they are ALL needed. Then we can dismantle this clericalism the Holy Father talks so much about!

  2. Elizabeth D says:

    Don’t you know the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called me first to invite me to be on the commission*, and I gave my spot to Phyllis Zagano as a Year of Mercy gesture**. I support including Phyllis Zagano in the commission, because believers in sacramental women deacons will be confident that she would present the best case for that idea, which she has been an aggressive promoter of. They therefore cannot dismiss the commission’s work so readily as they might otherwise be prone to do. It is uncertain whether she will convince any of the other commission members what she claimed to me, that Jesus didn’t confer the grace of Holy Orders on the Apostles (all men) at the Last Supper. It is a mistake to assume that “womens ordination” supporters think just like normal Catholics except for their belief that women could receive some degree of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. They seem to always have some different basic assumptions and beliefs. With Zagano those differences are less than the differences between a “womens ordination conference” person and a normal Catholic, so it’s possible for her to be on this commission. She doesn’t really promote women priests (according to her she abides by Ordinatio Sacerdotalis), her issue is “women deacons” (sacramental ones, not the non-sacramental deaconesses). I saw she gave an interview with Crux in which she implies that she thinks the commission will be able to gloss over the idea of whether women were ever sacramentally ordained (even though that is what Pope Francis called for the commission to study) and talk about issues relating to women being ordained deacons in today’s church. So Zagano is going to have a hard time being on the same page with the commission since she really is not interested in discussing the topic they are commissioned to study, which is deaconesses in the early Church and whether there ever was such a thing as sacramental women deacons, with people like Fr Dodano. The reality is that there may be an activist subgroup led by Zagano that wants to forge ahead confidently assuming there is such a thing as sacramental women deacons and force discussion of “ordaining women deacons today” which is not what their mandate is quite clearly, and if she wants to play games like that then shame on her. Since I and others find it absolutely implausible there could be different criteria for validity of Holy Orders in its different degrees, that would be nothing but a conversation about forcing deep schism on the Church.

    *This is not true
    **Ergo it was definitely not my idea to include her

  3. Lavrans says:

    I rest a bit easier knowing that Cardinal Muller is in charge of the CDF. Here is His Eminence, in his own words, about women and the diaconate:

    Is the diaconate a sacrament in its own right?

    Müller: The Church teaches clearly that the sacrament of orders is one of the seven sacraments of the Church; as the full exercise in the Holy Spirit of the mission, unique in its origin, of the apostles of Christ, exercised in its fullness by the bishop. According to its degree of specificity, the differentiated participation in it is called presbyterate or diaconate.

    Q: Is it possible to separate the diaconate of women from the priesthood of women?

    Müller: No — because of the unity of the sacrament of orders, which has been underlined in the deliberations of the Theological Commission; it cannot be measured with a different yardstick. Then it would be a real discrimination of woman if she is considered as apt for the diaconate, but not for the presbyterate or episcopacy.

    The unity of the sacrament would be torn at its root if, the diaconate as ministry of service, was opposed to the presbyterate as ministry of government, and from this would be deduced that woman, as opposed to man, has a greater affinity to serve and because of this would be apt for the diaconate but not for the presbyterate.

    However, the apostolic ministry all together is a service in the three degrees in which it is exercised.

    The Church does not ordain women, not because they are lacking some spiritual gift or natural talent, but because — as in the sacrament of marriage — the sexual difference and of the relation between man and woman contains in itself a symbolism that presents and represents in itself a prior condition to express the salvific dimension of the relation of Christ and the Church.

    If the deacon, with the bishop and presbyter, starting from the radical unity of the three degrees of the orders, acts from Christ, head and Spouse of the Church, in favor of the Church, it is obvious that only a man can represent this relation of Christ with the Church.

    And in reverse, it is equally obvious that God could only take his human nature from a woman and, because of this, womankind has in the order of grace — because of the internal reference of nature and grace — an unmistakable, fundamental, and in no way merely accidental importance.

    Q: Are there binding doctrinal declarations regarding the question of the feminine diaconate?

    Müller: The liturgical and theological tradition of the Church uses unanimous language. It is a binding and irreversible teaching of the Church on this matter, which is guaranteed by the ordinary and general magisterium of the Church, but which can be confirmed again with greater authority if the doctrinal tradition of the Church continues to be presented in an adulterated manner, for the purpose of forcing the evolution of a specific direction.

    I am amazed at the lack of historical knowledge of some, and the absence of the meaning of faith; if it wasn´t like this, they would know that it has never been possible and never will be to place the Church, precisely, in the central ambit of her doctrine and liturgy, in contradiction with sacred Scripture and her own Tradition.

  4. JabbaPapa says:

    French “vison” seems to be from a Late Latin viso, -onis. A Late Latin Accusative “vison” actually makes sense BTW — vis-o-n-(e)-m can lead to *vis-o-n/m –> vis-o-n.

  5. JabbaPapa says:

    The Greek Orthodox have already recreated the deaconesses, but last time I looked I came across an interesting historical point in a discussion about them from the Orthodox point of view which I think is relevant to the Catholic, because it concerns a period of History prior to the Schism.

    The point was that even though the deaconesses played no part in the Sacrificial Rite of Holy Mass, at the time neither did the deacons. The deacons changed from what they were originally into what they are today over the course of about 1000 years, during which time no deaconesses existed.

    It might then help to rephrase the debate along the lines of a question : which changes since Antiquity to the Ministry of the deacons are universal to the diaconate, and which are reserved to the men ? I would assume that one part of the answer to the latter part of the question must involve the matter of sacerdoce as such.

    There is no question anyway that the men’s and women’s ministries in the diaconate were separate and different in several respects, even if the differences between the two were certainly lesser in Antiquity than the differences between the deacons of today and the deaconesses of old.

  6. TWF says:

    I believe ancient deaconesses received a special sacramental – akin to the consecration of virgins or the blessing of an abbess. A subdeacon is also ordained, but he doesn’t receive the sacrament of holy orders. If the commission reaches the same conclusion, what then? A deaconess who isn’t true clergy, who doesn’t perform the same functions as a deacon, won’t satisfy those pushing for it.
    That being said, don’t Carthusian nuns receive a stole from the bishop during their rite of profession? I’ve heard it said this may be a remnant of the office of deaconess.

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  8. Rob83 says:

    My recollection from how this question was treated by a Dominican professor in Rome years ago is that the order of deacon has not been as well studied in theology as the order of priest or bishop, and there remains uncertainty about the sacramental character conferred by Holy Orders on a deacon (not uncertainty that it does confer it, just uncertainty about the details).

    Hopefully the commission develops the theology of the deacon so as to put this question to rest.

  9. JabbaPapa says:

    AndrewPaul :

    I seem to remember it mentioned in an article or on the radio that some nuns pushed for this. Seeing that “permanent deacon” and “consecrated religious” are two separate vocations, it seems like these religious sisters would be ineligible for the diaconate (unless religious brothers could also be deacons and if that’s the case forgive my ignorance).

    There is no conflict, indeed I believe most deaconesses were nuns, that the last deaconesses were always nuns, and the title “deaconess” even subsisted for some time as an honorific (attached to no real ministry as such) for certain superiors of a convent in the early Middle Ages.

  10. TWF says:

    JabbaPapa – I think you’re right. I believe even today the deaconesses that do exist among the Greeks and Armenians are chosen from among nuns. A nun can also receive the additional vocation / sacramental of consecration as a virgin. As I mentioned above, Carthusian nuns receive a stole from the bishop at their profession. This could be a remnant of a time when some (or all?) Carthusian nuns were also ordained as deaconesses.
    For what it’s worth, my Orthodox cousin is quite certain that their deaconesses are a separate order, not women deacons… And they are rare and taken from among nuns at any rate.

  11. Mary says:

    I see that it is not Muller who is heading the commission – “The new commission will be headed by the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer….”
    Also I am told by my friends on the International Theological Commission that Schlosser is trustworthy and faithful and that Coda and Dodaro should be good.

  12. Lavrans says:

    I think that Archbishop Ladaria was involved in the 2002 study and document, or at least has been around the CDF long enough to be on the same page as Cardinal Muller. At any rate, Cardinal Muller will be one of the stops for their findings prior to His Holiness, Pope Francis, and both Francis and Muller have never given any indication that they support the idea of ordaining women to the diaconate. In fact, Muller is on record as being against the idea, and Francis seemed dismissive of it in recent interviews. Are there some besides Dr. Zagano that support the idea? Sure, but it has been limited to quite liberal prelates such as a bishop from Germany and one from Canada (Dorocher, I believe). Both of these men have raised the idea in the past and it has been largely ignored or dismissed by the rest of the Church, and certainly by the CDF and the Vatican at large. In reality, I think it is safe to say that the vast, vast majority of cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, and deacons do not believe that it is possible to ordain women to the hierarchical clergy at the level of the diaconate, and they do not support such an idea even if it were possible. As it has been said, regardless of what Dr. Zagano believes, this commission is not charged with studying the “art of the possible” with regard to creating women clergy. It is a historical study, and as such, probably will have very little to unearth that the 2002 study has not already unearthed. Ladaria, Dodaro, and others will have little patience for Zagano’s advocacy and selective-reading of tradition and Scripture. She is a true believer that women were sacramentally ordained as deacons (not even as “deaconesses”) and that Holy Orders as we know it now, was primarily a medieval invention, and therefore can be changed. I believe that the only reason she does not pursue female priestly-ordination is because she values her position as a “Catholic” theologian and does not want to touch that third-rail of dissent, and lose what she has. After all, she found her way on this commission despite the fact that she is not an objective agent and is there purely for lobbying on behalf of her cause celebre. If she was an overt-women-priest-advocate, she would not have gotten this far. I believe, and I may be wrong…but I doubt it, that she really does believe women can be priests, bishops, cardinals, and even popes, but this is the best she can do for the cause at this point. I sincerely hope and pray that the rest of the commission, particularly Father Dodaro and Archbishop Ladaria, will not be deceived by her. I believe the Church will fall into schism if women are ordained, sacramentally, to the diaconate just as men are…with women preaching homilies, baptising, and operating as clergy. There is no way that men like Cardinal Sarah, Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Muller, and many, many others will go along with such a plan. Zagano wants each bishops conference to decide whether to ordain women or not. This will destroy not only the unity of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, but also the unity of the Church. Some regional conferences or dioceses will have women deacons, while they will be banned in others. That may work for altar servers (sort of…..), but for hierarchical clergy? No way. There will be a deep schism and massive confusion if women are ordained, and it will lead to a further disintegration of the Church. I think Zagano’s presence here is worrisome for this reason, and I would support writing letters to Cardinal Muller asking for her to be dismissed.

  13. Cafea Fruor says:

    @TWF: The thing with Carthusian nuns and the stole was that the choir nuns still maintain the tradition of a separate consecration of virgins (although it’s now optional and has also been opened up to the converse nuns as well) in addition to religious vows, some time after their final profession. The stole is received at the time of consecration of virginity. They only use it on rare occasions, though – like maybe a couple times a year. For instance, a nun who’s also a consecrated virgin is the one to read the Gospel during their Holy Thursday chapter. That may be because the monks wouldn’t enter their chapter house (which is in enclosure), and rather than having any nun at large read the Gospel, it would make sense to have someone specially designated to do so. The Carthusian nuns used to use the stole more often, during Matins I believe, when a nun who was a consecrated virgin would read the Gospel, but if I recall correctly from some months I spent discerning at a charterhouse, Father Vicar reads the Gospel at Matins now. The Carthusian nuns always have one or two Carthusian priests to serve as chaplains, since their semi-eremitic life is so unique that they really need fellow Carthusians for confession and spiritual direction. And Father always attends Office, so unless Father’s sick or away for some reason, there’s pretty much always a priest on hand to read the Gospel during the Office.

    The point being that Carthusian nuns’ use of the stole was connected to the consecration of virgins, rather than to the order of deaconesses.

    My stay in the charterhouse was, come to think of it, the only time I ever saw someone wear a pink/rose stole and NOT comment on whether it was pink or rose… :-)

  14. Cafea Fruor says:

    Interestingly enough, too, when a Carthusian nun does wear a stole, she does so not over one shoulder and crossing over to the other side like deacons do (including Carthusian deacons), but over both like priests do. A picture of a nun with a stole, and one of a Carthusian deacon, can be seen here: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2012/10/more-interesting-snippets-from.html#.V6TGhlsrK9I. One would think that if the nuns’ use of the stole were connected to the ordination of deaconesses, they would wear their stoles the same way as Carthusian deacons do, so it would seem an indicator that there’s not a connection with deaconesses.

  15. William Tighe says:

    JabbaPapa wrote:

    “The point was that even though the deaconesses played no part in the Sacrificial Rite of Holy Mass, at the time neither did the deacons. The deacons changed from what they were originally into what they are today over the course of about 1000 years, during which time no deaconesses existed.”

    The person who told you this shows himself by that very fact to be completely and utterly ignorant of the subject. All early Church Orders/ordination rites, both Eastern and Western, of the first millennium, link the ministry of the deacon(s) to the “Sacrificial Rite of Holy Mass” (originally in his/their capacity as assistant, servant, and “right-hand man” to the bishop, liturgically as well as otherwise) far more explicitly than they do to the idea of the deacon being the dispenser of charity, “server of tables,” and the like: these latter ideas, when they even appear at all in them, are very much secondary or even tertiary. In most of them, the OT “analogue” of the deacon is the Levite.

    Not so the deaconess – but for more on that subject, go get and read Martimort.

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