I reject sexism in every form, and all its pomps, and all its empty works.

At the Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter) there is an interesting piece by our old pal Phyllis Zagano which merits a little – just a little – attention.

She never misses an opportunity to work in tidbits about the disparity of men’s and women’s presence in leadership roles in the Church, and she got in a dig about deaconettes (her obsession).  That said, her main point was about how the Holy See handles communications with the wider world.

I must admit that she got a lot of this right.  The Holy See’s communications operation is seriously messed up.  I’ll give Phyllis this point.  I believe she once worked in communications.  But I digress.

Zagano criticized Pope Francis for not naming enough women as consultors to the new Secretariat for Social Communications.  Except for the consultors for the CDF, I’m not sure that consultors do very much.  Still, how dare Pope Francis not appoint more women!

And then there is the FACT CHECK:

Fact check: it was the deacon Phoebe who carried Paul’s letter to the Romans. In today’s world, that could be called “release of information.”

First, Romans 16:1 doesn’t say that Phoebe carried any letter.  Some people – not everyone – extrapolate that she did.

Commendo autem vobis Phoeben sororem nostram, quae est in ministerio ecclesiae, quae est in Cenchris: ut eam suscipiatis in Domino digne sancti: et assistatis ei in quocumque negotio vestri indiguerit : etenim ipsa quoque astitit multis, et mihi ipsi. … And I commend to you Phebe, our sister, who is in the ministry of the church, that is in Cenchrae: That you receive her in the Lord as becometh saints; and that you assist her in whatsoever business she shall have need of you. For she also hath assisted many, and myself also [DR].

It was a commonplace in the ancient world to commend the one who carried the letter.  However, the text does not explicitly say that Phoebe carried the letter.  There is a strong chance that she did, but this is not in any way clear.  Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t.  We don’t have to accept this premise.

Furthermore, she wrote:

In today’s world, that could be called “release of information”.

Or, in today’s world, that could be called “carrying a letter”.

In other words, Phoebe was the FedEx guy.  Paul didn’t trust the Italian post… or the Vatican post for that matter.  Perhaps Card. Burke should have found a “Phoebe” when he sent his books to the members of the Synod of Bishops.  They were stolen out of the mail slots, remember?  HERE  But I digress.

Next, Zagano calls Phoebe a deacon, which is scriptural, but that confuses the issue in the present day debates about ordination of women.  It would be better to refer to deaconesses (deaconettes), to distinguish their ministry from that of the ordained, that is, male, ordained (real) deacons.

Then it goes blah blah for a while.  But, toward the end, the last few paragraphs…

The question is not so much what is true and what is false, but rather what people perceive as true and what people perceive as false.  The first thing that seems “false” is what the church says about women in relation to how it acts toward them.  [Isn’t that the same as what is true and what is false?  Anyway, if there aren’t enough women in the Secretariat for Social Communication, as consultors mind you, then the Church’s credibility is compromised… for Phyllis.  But it gets worse.  Her argument is that if there aren’t enough women involved, as consultors, then the Vatican’s message itself is not credible.]

That is the very serious problem the Secretariat for Communication and its units face. [Never mind the meltdown of Vatican Radio, the bizarre content of L’Osservatore Romano, etc. etc. etc.] If the messenger is not to be believed, then what happens to the message?  [So… because Phoebe delivered the letter it was somehow credible in a way that it wouldn’t have been had a man carried it.]

You think maybe everybody needs to remember who announced the Resurrection?

Ummm… it was the angel.

In any event, I reject the notion that the Church’s message is not credible simply because men announce it.

I reject this, just as I reject sexism in every form, along with all its pomps and all its empty works.

The moderation queue is ON.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Venerable Fulton Sheen was so far ahead of this purported emancipation of women issue’s curve. As far back as 1947 he was unveiling both its lies, its contradictions which maligned actual history and its roots found largely within Communism , but not without its contributions from “Western bourgeois capitalistic civilization” as well. Here are several snippets from the “text of a radio program that was produced by the National Council of Catholic Men, in cooperation with NBC, and broadcast nationwide on The Catholic Hour of March 2, 1947” presented by Catholicism.org entitled Communism and Woman by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen :

    “One of the paradoxes of our irrational world is that a woman to­day is glorified when she produces an atomic bomb, but not when she can produce life. It is like praising violinists for producing sewer pipes instead of melodies.

    . . . Nothing is more historically erroneous than the belief that it was our modern age that recognized women in the profes­sions.

    . . . The result has been that woman’s imitation of man and her flight from motherhood have developed neuroses and psychoses that have reached alarming proportions. The Christian civilization never stressed equality in a mathematical sense, but only in the proportional sense, for equality is wrong when it makes the woman a poor imitation of man. Once she became man’s mathe­matical equal, he no longer stood when she came into a room, no longer gave her a seat in a bus, and no longer took off his hat in an ele­vator. The other day in a New York subway a man gave a woman his seat and she fainted. When she was re­vived she thanked him, and he fainted.

    Equality is law. . . Equity is love, mercy, understanding . . .Applying this distinction to wom­en, we are saying that equity rather than equality should be the basis of all the claims of women.”


    I just can’t help wondering if Fishwrap wasn’t around, or if it at least wasn’t marauding around – under its bogus catholic guise, whether that might improve the practical accuracy of Phyllis Zagano’s journalistic contributions.

    If, two years after the end of WW II Bishop Sheen was calling this place where we live “our irrational world”, how might he describe it now ?

  2. Simon_GNR says:

    Well said, Fr. Z: “In any event, I reject the notion that the Church’s message is not credible simply because men announce it.”

    “Next, Zagano calls Phoebe a deacon, which is scriptural, but that confuses the issue in the present day debates about ordination of women. It would be better to refer to deaconesses (deaconettes), to distinguish their ministry from that of the ordained, that is, male, ordained (real) deacons.”

    This is pretty much how things were in the Church of England in the 1970’s and 1980’s: there were deaconesses, but AIUI they were NOT ordained. They must have been in some way inaugurated into this role, but I don’t believe there was any laying on of hands etc. Only in the 1990’s did the Cof E succumb to the forces of feminism, really go off the rails and start “ordaining” women as “female deacons” as opposed to commissioning them as deaconesses. For a time the C of E had both deaconesses and “female deacons”; whether it still has any deaconesses, I don’t know. I’m glad I quit the C of E a few years before it started “ordaining” women and thus further distancing itself from the Holy, Roman, Catholic and APOSTOLIC Church.

  3. cwillia1 says:

    We need deaconesses to maintain order in the women’s side of the nave and so that we can reinstitute baptism of adults, unclothed, by immersion.

  4. Dan says:

    I have never understood this argument by people who supposedly want to elevate women’s rights. The idea that a woman has no value unless she is a man. Or at least does everything that a man would do. In my view it is far more degrading to women to suggest that they need to in some way abandon their womanhood to have any value and be respected. The women of the bible, The Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Phoebe, Elizabeth, …. many others, were greatly respected but it can be in no way be claimed that their roles were they same as that as the apostles, and to suggest that degrades their roles into a less than state. They were not less than roles, they were simply different roles, always greater than, because they accepted their role and did the will of God.

    Suppose Our Blessed Mother would have opted to tell the Angel NO because she felt called to carry letters instead of doing what she was being asked to do and didn’t have time at the moment to carry a baby.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  5. LCNana says:

    Why is this Secretariat for Social Communications exist? I do see the need for a group of people to work, in Rome, to put out statements, documents, translations, etc. on behalf of the Holy Father, and other groups who work for the Church. It is necessary to have some kind of filter so the Catholic message is accurate, consistent, and understandable. [There’s also the question of quality. Some central control and review is necessary. However, the result will depend on the staff. Right now… I’m not optimistic.]

    Other than that what is needed? A lot of fuss over nothing. Women? I risk offending everyone in this blog comment box but I believe women have other roles, fitting their natures, than sitting on committees who’s work should be short and to the point. We don’t need any more feminists to add to the general sophistry that pours out of Rome.

  6. Sonshine135 says:

    I’ve never been a fan of the argument for “Diversity”, and I work, mind you, in a business that hires “diversity coordinators”, pays them six-figures, and places a high priority on that department. They have minority resource groups for everything you can think of….Veterans, LGBTQABCDEFG, Latinos, Women etc….. What does it really get the company? Prevention of lawsuits is about it along with being able to say, “Look how diverse and tolerant we are!!! See See!!!!”. What value does it bring to a company? That question has always had a dubious answer to me. If logic is used, then group think doesn’t occur except to the extent that logic prevails. I have seen no empirical evidence to suggest that “diversity” adds to the bottom line or helps in any other substitive way, other than making people feel good and assuaging social guilt.

    The relationship to this article should be pretty clear. Folks like Phyllis are just trying to stir the emotive and sexist pot and create contention where there never was any. It is amazing how the same people who spout “gender equality” are the same ones that spout gender as a “social construct”.

    In any case, I am identifying as a potato today.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  7. Mike says:

    ‘Sexism’, like ‘islamophobia’ and ‘hate crime’, is a construct of cultural elites (to which the “Reporter” is in debt and in thrall) that disconnects injustice from its proper sphere of remediation and hijacks it as a casus belli for the ‘People’s’ State against the people themselves.

    The self-styled “Reporter” is a pestilence that needs, alongside the heresies it champions, to be condemned by the USCCB. That won’t happen any time soon, although the Democrat Party’s pro-abortion ukase will possibly discomfit a few among the bishops’ lobby sufficiently to issue the predictable equivocal bleats—but certainly not in such number or volume as to endanger their precious State money machine or tax exemptions.

  8. Spinmamma says:

    As a person who converted late in life, and a former (mild version) First Wave Feminist, I do not understand Catholic women who rail against the male priesthood or in general accuse the Church of sexism. (I grant there are cases of it;Mother Angelica comes to mind.) Never once have I sat at Mass or in the confessional and felt left out because I don’t see women priests. I have experienced real sexism in my profession, having entered it when there were very few women pursuing it. By a combination of misfortune and poor choices, I raised 3 children as a single parent, two of them sons. It sickens me to see the disease of mindless accusations of sexism entertained within the Church. How can anyone who reveres Our Lady, the apex of humanity, think there is something disordered about an all-male priesthood? Mary is the embodiment of the truly feminine–powerful, co-creator with God of the person of Christ, strong beyond measure, and absolutely loyal to the Truth. The Bible does not say she preached, carried messages, or become a priest or deacon. Yet how profound her influence on the Church and the world. It is she who will crush the serpent’s head. She is our Mother, but there is a reason our parish shepherds are called “Father.”

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  10. iprimap says:

    Why is it so difficult to understand that equality in dignity is NOT equality in function? Men and women are equal dignity, but unequal (not superior, not inferior, but different) in function. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 explains the differences we have in functions, and some of those differences are due to which sex – male or female – one may be.

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