ASK FATHER: Msgr. Mannion supports ordination of deaconettes. Fail.

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One of our Diocesan (Salt Lake City) Priests [Msgr. M. Francis Mannion] wrote an op-ed for our local Diocese Newspaper entitled “Some Items That Caught My Attention Recently”. In this piece, (HERE) he talks about how the Eastern Rite has ordained numerous Deaconesses (Africa). He then goes on to opine how he agrees with women Deacons and see this move by our Eastern friends as a boon and boost to the cause for women Deacons in the Roman Rite.

First, is it true that women have been ordained in the Eastern Church Rite as Deaconesses?

If so, is there merit to it lending support to the same in our beloved Rite?

Let’s drill down in what the good Monsignor posted concerning deaconesses (aka deaconettes).

What did Msgr. Mannion publish?  He has several topics, but eventually gets down to the issue of deaconettes.  He wrote (with my numbers):

On Deaconesses: [1] The Catholic Church is always concerned never to do anything that would offend the theology and practice of the Orthodox Churches. [2] On the matter of the ordination of deaconesses, however, the Orthodox Churches might be ahead of us.
[3] Recently, the Patriarch of Alexandria appointed six deaconesses. [4] The Patriarch is no minor ecclesiastic; he is, in fact, the head of the entire Orthodox Church in Africa.
[5] The move follows years of discussion within the various branches of Orthodoxy on whether to reinstate the office of women deacons. [6] Closer to home, this comes at a time when the Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas is studying the matter.
As one who favors the institution of the diaconate for women in the Catholic Church, I think the decision of the Patriarch of Alexandria should give a boost to the current Vatican study about the diaconate for Catholic women.

There is not a single sentence in what Msgr. Mannion wrote that is correct.

Let’s break it down… in a moment

Some of you might be saying, “Who?”  Msgr. Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul parish in Salt Lake City. He was founding president of The Society for Catholic Liturgy in 1995 and the founding editor of the Society’s journal, Antiphon, which I really like. He founded the Mundelein Liturgical Institute in 2000.  So, he is is considered to have some chops.  However, he took a position against Benedict XVI and Summorum Pontificum.  HERE

That aside, let’s drill into Msgr. Mannion’s claims about deaconettes and Orthodoxy.

First sentence: “The Catholic Church is always concerned never to do anything that would offend the theology and practice of the Orthodox Churches.”

No, the Catholic Church isn’t concerned never to do anything that would offend, etc.  Is he kidding? True, the Catholic Church would prefer not to offend the theology and practice of the Orthodox Churches, but, no, the Catholic Church does not let that preference stop it from contradicting Orthodox Church theology and practice.

For example, the Catholic Church continues to elect Popes who claim universal jurisdiction (Lumen gentium 22; CCC 882: “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered”, a claim that the Orthodox Churches reject out of hand.  Might I add that Pope Francis has not shown himself reluctant to exercise this power?

Other examples are the infallible proclamations of the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which the Orthodox Churches reject completely.

So, no. WRONG.  Let’s move on.

Second sentence: “On the matter of the ordination of deaconesses, however, the Orthodox Churches might be ahead of us.”

Apart from the assumption in this statement that ordination of deaconettees would represent some kind of theological progress, the statement errs by implying that all of the many Orthodox Churches ordain women to the diaconate. In fact, only 1 out of 14 does.

This is not a matter of what the Roman Catholic Church does versus what the Orthodox Churches do. But if the Roman Catholic Church were to ordain women to the diaconate, then the Catholic Church and the vast majority (and certainly the largest) of Orthodox Churches would be at odds!

WRONG.  Next.

Third sentence:

“Recently, the Patriarch of Alexandria appointed six deaconesses.”

Technically speaking, this statement can be read as true. But it is also somewhat incomplete and could be misleading.

Firstly, there are three Patriarchs of Alexandria, two “Orthodox” and one Catholic. Msgr. Mannion referred to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa.  However, there is also a Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and a Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, the latter of whom is in communion with the Pope of Rome.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria today numbers only 300,000 members, mostly in Egypt and East Africa, though its jurisdiction includes the entire African continent.  The Coptic Orthodox Church claims millions of followers.

Folks, there are American Catholic dioceses with more members than some Orthodox Churches, for example the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, just to put matters in perspective. It doesn’t take an ecclesiologist to recognize that in Eastern Orthodoxy it is certainly easier for a Synod of a small autocephalous Church to arrive at a major decision that involves significant change than it would be, say, for the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece, or the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, let alone for a Pan-Orthodox Council.  It’s a matter of scale.

The other troubling detail is Monsignor’s word “appointed”.

We are told by Mannion that the Patriarch “appointed” six deaconesses.  So, were these women “appointed” or were they “ordained”?  That’s unclear.  Some reports of the ceremony claim that the Patriarch “blessed” the women, a technical term which introduces a distinction that is NOT without a difference.

In antiquity there is a difference between the “ordination” of deaconettes and the “blessing” of deaconettes. The different understandings of the nature and intent of the ritual act and the specific functions it authorized remains today a matter of scholarly debate.

Nor does the use of the title “deaconess” add clarity.  It is not prima facie apparent whether a claim is being made that the women were sacramentally ordained to holy orders or, instead, instituted into a public ecclesial ministry that does not entail a sacrament, an ordination, or an order.

It is also not clear how the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria and All Africa understands the relation between these six “deaconesses”, on the one hand, and ordained male deacons within its Church.  Nor is it clear how the 13 other autocephalous Orthodox Churches understand the ecclesial status of these women. They are an anomaly within Orthodoxy. Most likely they could not exercise their ministry outside of their own autocephalous Orthodox Church.

So it is patently false to claim, as Msgr. Mannion does, that the Orthodox Churches recognize the ordination of women to the diaconate.

WRONG.  Next?

Fourth sentence:

“The Patriarch is no minor ecclesiastic; he is, in fact, the head of the entire Orthodox Church in Africa.”

This, again, is erroneous to the point of being risible.

First of all, there is no such thing as “the entire Orthodox Church in Africa”. The Coptic Orthodox Church in Africa claims to be Orthodox as much as the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. The two Churches trace their divergence back to the sixth century schism that finalized the break between the Chalcedonian (Melkite or Greek) patriarchs or popes and the the Non-Chalcedonian (Coptic) patriarchs or popes. There are estimated to be between 10 and 14 million Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt alone, and hundreds of thousands elsewhere in Africa (though these are not called Copts because they are not Egyptian). And let’s be clear: the Coptic Orthodox Christians are NOT the subjects of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, which, as I said before, has about 300,000 members total. Moreover, there are millions of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians currently living in Ethiopia. Hence, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria is in no way the head of the entire Orthodox Church in Africa; in fact, he is the leader of the smallest.

None of the others ordain women to the diaconate.

Ergo… WRONG.  Moving on.

Fifth and Sixth sentences:

“The move follows years of discussion within the various branches of Orthodoxy on whether to reinstate the office of women deacons. Closer to home, this comes at a time when the Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas is studying the matter.”

This statement is true.  But … it misleads by making it appear that the issue is a more important one for the Orthodox Churches than it really is.

Ordination of women deaconettes was nowhere near the agenda of the Pan-Orthodox Council held in June 2016 in Crete. Discussions between bishops and theologians in the Orthodox Church rarely have the kind of official significance that they can have in the Roman Catholic Church because of vast differences in ecclesiology and Church governance. Hence, the actions of individual bishops within any Orthodox Church has far less significance than an action of a bishop within the Roman Catholic Church, because of the relation of the Catholic bishop to the Pope (papal primacy).

Need I say… WRONG?

So much for Msgr. Mannion’s support of deaconettes in the Catholic Church based on this Orthodox aberration.

Finally, don’t be confused about “Eastern” Churches.  There is no attempt in any of the Eastern Catholic Churches to ordain women to the diaconate. Nor could there be, given the current state of the question.

I hope this helps.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Thank you for this, Fr. Z.

    If I am not mistaken, I believe Msgr. Mannion used to have a Q&A type section in Our Sunday Visitor. He occasionally gave some answers that left one scratching their head.


  2. servulus indignus Christi says:

    Mannion…chops? With whom? When I lived in SLC St. Vincent de Paul was known by the devout as a mess of a parish (and it remains so), even if it was a ‘success’ parish by the estimation of the diocese. I remember being told by a priest there “hey stay for mass a second time on Sunday because you’ll get to have a second snack (the Holy Eucharist)”. Msgr. Mannion never did anything at the parish to arrest the gross liturgical abuses consistently found there…and he is supposed to have liturgical chops?

    P.s. the parish itself is a horror of a building that even as a child the strange stained glass windows caused me not a little confusion.

  3. WesleyD says:

    An excellent takedown of every single point! I hope that everyone who read Fr. Mannion’s original piece will read your correction.

    One minor quibble: You mentioned “the infallible proclamations of the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which the Orthodox Churches reject completely.” It is true that the Orthodox Churches reject the Catholic Church’s belief that Pius XII’s definition of the Assumption was infallible ex sese.

    Nonetheless, the Orthodox do firmly believe in the Assumption of Our Lady.

  4. Gregory DiPippo says:

    “The Catholic Church is always concerned never to do anything that would offend the theology and practice of the Orthodox Churches.”

    An Orthodox who is very friendly to Catholics once said to me that if Paul VI had ordered Bugnini et co. to come up with a reform so offensive to Orthodox sensibilities that it would permanently and comprehensively destroy all possibility of ecumenical rapprochement between Rome and the East, they would not have had to do one single thing differently.

  5. Mike says:

    The eagerness about “getting ahead” is unaccountable. A child can see where all the “getting ahead” has got the Church and society in the past century—and it’s not ahead.

  6. aquinas138 says:

    Regarding the fourth sentence, I think it’s pretty clear Msgr. Mannion is talking about the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch, and so comparisons to the Coptic Orthodox, who are generally regarded by Eastern Orthodox as monophysite heretics (though relations have warmed), are not really relevant. [What is clear is that he wrote what he wrote.] For the Eastern Orthodox in all of Africa, the Patriarch of Alexandria IS their primate and holds the second place in the taxis after the Ecumenical Patriarch. [I don’t think that matters much.] I would imagine the Eastern Orthodox in Egypt think the purity of their faith matters more than their numbers, as do the Coptic Catholics who number significantly less than 200,000.

    All that said, Msgr. Mannion is certainly off-base in thinking this is any sort of parallel to what Western advocates of female pseudo-ordination want.

  7. As a preface to this post, I want to make it clear that I disagree with Fr. Mannion’s proposal to revival the female deaconate (“deaconesses”). But the situation in the current and historical Eastern Orthodox churches is rather complex. It is historically incontrovertible that the Byzantine Church (in those days not in schism from the Catholic Church) instituted (sometimes using the word “ordained”) women into an order of deaconesses (sometimes calling them “deacons” using the same word applied to men). It is also clear that, other than baptizing adult (naked) women and taking Communion to female shut-ins, and singing during Liturgy, their functions were all what would today be considered “non-liturgical.” There is a carefully done study on this here:

    And those women ordained deaconesses in Alexandria recently are not the only women so ordained in the past 100 years or so. And the movement to reinstitute the Order has some support among Orthodox bishops and theologians. Although it is an advocacy site, examples of this can be found here:

    Again, what the Eastern Orthodox do is their business. Personally, would consider further Orthodox moves in this direction very unwise. It will allow Orthodox feminists (of both sexes) to imagine that the modern deaconesses might also be given liturgical roles identical to those of male deacons–for which there is no theological or historical warrant.

    For us it would be even more unwise. One should note that all the known examples are in the Greek, not the Latin, Church. In addition, such a move would encourage the fantasy that women will be ordained priests. To encourage people in this fantasy is a formula for disillusionment, resentment, and bitterness. And probably, in the end, schism.

  8. RobS says:

    One would hope that an editor of a diocesan publication would not allow this sort of thing to advance to publication as being, y’know, utterly un-Catholic.

  9. BenFischer says:

    Regarding the sin of giving offense to the Orthodox, my parish once hosted a rather liberal priest for a Lenten Retreat and he explained away the Catholic refusal to ordain women as at attempt to keep close relations with the Orthodox. As the priest described it, the Orthodox would never speak to us again if we ordain women. At the time I thought that was rather patronizing: “Those poor benighted Orthodox. They aren’t as enlightened as us. We’ll just have to keep our women un-ordained until they see the light.” Kind of like keeping the good china off the coffee table so the dog doesn’t knock it off with his tail. After all: he’s just a dog.

    Unexplained was why we care about the Orthodox when it comes to running the Church, but it’s all ecumenism, you know.

    It’s interesting to read this post as it seems that that priest isn’t the only one waiting for the Orthodox to catch up to the New Church the liberals are singing into being, and in a strange twist of fate, we now have to catch up with them!

  10. rbbadger says:

    The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria has had some fairly progressive patriarchs (which also bear the title of Pope). According to Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, whose book The Orthodox Church is perhaps the best introduction to the Eastern Orthodox churches, mentions Parthenios III as an advocate for the ordination of women to the presbyterate.

    Another former patriarch, Meletios II (also known as Meletios IV of Constantinople) unilaterally recognized the validity of Anglican ordinations. He was also a Freemason, something which is generally not permitted for Orthodox Christians.

    Even still, with the ordination of deaconesses in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, I understand that there is some confusion over what precisely was done. In one account I saw, mention was made that the deaconesses were “blessed” as deacons rather than “ordained” as deacons.

  11. amenamen says:

    The Irish monsignor from Utah once had a well-known choir school at the cathedral in Salt Lake, and he was the founding editor of Antiphon, but he has distanced himself from Antiphon, saying that it has been “a great disappointment” to him in recent years.

  12. gracie says:

    At least he spells his name right.

  13. rbbadger says:

    I came into the Church in Salt Lake City in the Cathedral during the years that Monsignor Mannion was Rector there. I am sad to see this. He has done a great deal of good for the Church, both in Utah and beyond.

    Surely, he is familiar with Canon Aimé-Georges Martimort’s lengthy study on the whole question of deaconettes. Canon Martimort was a member of a group whose work he highly esteems, namely the dreaded Consilium ad Exequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia. Canon Martimort comes down on the side of them not being ordained and gives a vast amount of documentation to prove his point.

  14. There are misconceptions about the history of the female diaconate on both sides of the issue, but especially those who see it as a matter of allowing women to be “ordained” deacons. Even in the Orthodox Churches (not all of which are of the same mind on the subject), it is nothing of the sort. From there, what a deaconess is and is not varies. I wrote a piece several years ago, a revision of an earlier piece that made its way to the EWTN Online Library …

    Deaconess: A Rose By Any Other Name

    … which faces the misconceptions head on, and whatever the extent of its speculation, I stand by its fidelity to the constant teaching of Mother Church. As to any future for a female diaconate on the part of Rome, it needs to be said that it was largely a phenomenon of the East, and was never well received in the West to begin with.

    So much for looking to history for a revival.

  15. StMichael71 says:

    I would just follow up on Fr. Augustine Thompson’s clear scholarly presentation on two points: first, the Greek Orthodox Holy Synod, in 2004, officially decided to restore the female diaconate. This is what permitted the Patriarch of Alexandria to perform the consecration of deaconesses. the Greek Orthodox are, from what I understand, rather more ultramontanist (ultra-Bosphorist?) than the Catholic Church. The Greek Orthodox have a very centralized administration where the Ecumenical Patriarch appoints and runs quite a lot in their church directly. But, as Fr. Z noted correctly, Alexandria isn’t too big – the Patriarch by himself is not setting precedent as such. Rather, he is acting in accordance with a synodal decision. What I think may have been more his initiative was to ordain non-monastic women. The synod spoke of monastics (nuns) rather than laywomen.

    Second, it is also to be noted that the Greek/Russian sacramental books (their equivalent of the Pontifical) have continued to retain a form for consecrating deaconesses, which has only been continually used in Russian monasteries. The Greek synod’s document, as far as I can see, is somewhat ambiguous as to whether deaconesses are ‘ordained’ or not; it decrees that the bishops may use the form in the current books to consecrate deaconesses among senior nuns in their monasteries. But it seemed to me that the ceremony in Alexandria treated the women as instituted into a minor order – it looked like an ordination to the subdiaconate (which for both Latin and Greek is ‘non-ordained’, even if we call it a ‘major’ order in the West).

  16. Deacon Nicholas says:

    Make no mistake (I’m an Orthodox deacon). The issue of deaconesses is very much a wedge issue, the thin edge of which is intended to widen the gap for priestesses and also for homosexual clergy and homosexual so-called marriage. Whatever the reasons for the ordination of women as deacons in parts of the Orthodox Church for limited times (and then the conscious decision to end it and do that no more), it is a very bad idea for our times.

  17. joekstl says:

    It’s very disappointing to see the language used here to decry the role of women in ministry – or in roles that are permitted now. The use of terms “deaconesses” “deaconettes” or “altar-ettes’ and “altar chicks” recalls to me the arguments in the early 1900’s against women having the right to vote or later into our times the right of women to serve in the military, or as doctors, lawyers or members of congress in the latter half of the 20th century. [The fatal flaw is that none of those things require a sacrament. Holy Orders is a sacrament. It is impossible for women to receive that sacrament.]

    The role of women as deacons in the first millennium should not be contested. We have ordination rites just about identical for men and women – including the laying on of hands by a bishop and investiture with stole. [Ummm… no, we don’t.]

    If you want to argue about the indelible spiritual character of ordination relative to priesthood, have at it. Whether or not you want to consider women deacons as sharing in the character of priesthood should be irrelevant. [No. Holy Orders…remember?] Even if women don’t share in the priestly character, there is no reason they can’t be ordained to preach, baptize or officiate as witnesses at marriage. I repeat – we have ordination rites from the first millennium that theologians can argue over. [Arguing over them doesn’t change the fact that women cannot receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.]

    I still can’t understand the aversion to women as service ministers in the sanctuary – as altar ministers, lectors or Eucharistic ministers. [It’s about the integrity of the sacrament of Holy Orders.]

    The fact that the Pope has established a commission to look at women as deacons tells me that the issue is not closed. Same as the birth control commission of Pope Paul VI. [HUH? You are off the rails, Father.]

  18. Kerry says:

    “…the Orthodox Churches might be ahead of us”. What? Where, here on earth?

  19. Dear Deacon Nicholas,
    You are exactly right. Just as I said in my earlier post. And you should take a look at the website I linked and start to work against it. It seems there are plenty of bishops and theologians in your denomination who are working for the ordination of women. Don’t fool yourself.

  20. WesleyD says:

    Aquinas138 wrote:

    For the Eastern Orthodox in all of Africa, the Patriarch of Alexandria IS their primate and holds the second place in the taxis after the Ecumenical Patriarch.

    True, but it’s worth noting that his title is almost as fictional as those of our titular bishops. The Eastern Orthodox might not like the monophysites’ theology, but the fact is that virtually all Christians in Egypt and Ethiopia are monophysites. The Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria has, as his flock, little more than Greeks and Russians and other Eastern Europeans who happen to live in Africa.

    So while Constantinople considers him the rightful “primate of all Africa”, this has about as much impact as the fact that Karl von Habsburg is the rightful King of Jerusalem. Which he is — but nobody consults him on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  21. Akita says:

    In the not too recent past it was Monsignor’s parish, where he still resides, that hosted the Dominican Father Radcliffe on tour, he of the “gay love is Eucharistic” notoriety. Methinks Monsignor is increasingly open-minded in his dotage.

  22. Akita says:

    Haha, the Intermountain Catholic is a pretty lightweight newspaper. On a scale of 1-100 with regard to Catechesis/Church History/Explanation of the Liturgy/Analysis of News Out of Rome, etc., WDTPRS is a 99 and the Intermountain Catholic is a 3.

  23. stuartal79 says:

    BenFischer, without giving the priest’s name, do you remember which order he belonged to? The Lenten retreat experience you described reminded me of someone I have encountered.

  24. robtbrown says:

    Gregory DiPippo,

    Cardinal Ratzinger also made the point that the present state of the Novus Ordo liturgy takes us farther away from the Orthodox.

  25. Father G says:

    Firstly, there are three Patriarchs of Alexandria, two “Orthodox” and one Catholic.

    There is actually one more Catholic Patriarch of Alexnadria.
    In 1838 Pope Gregory XVI granted Melkite Patriarch Maximos III Mazloum the titles of Patriarch of Alexandria and Jerusalem, and from then on the full title of the patriarchs of the Melkite Church has been “Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church”.

  26. tho says:

    Ther is a small, but annoying group within the church that makes me long for the Inquisition. We now have a Cardinal here in New Jersey that posts pictures of his weight lifting body, like that will make us hold him in reverence.
    This whole feminist thing is utter nonsense. No matter what law you pass or glass ceiling that you break women and men are very different, to not recognize that you must not have had a sister or raised a daughter. To illustrate my point, try naming a great woman philosopher, or mathematician, or musician. or even a great writer like Tolstoy.

  27. un-ionized says:

    tho, Gertrude Stein. And she’s a saint. [WOW. Gertrude Stein… no, she really isn’t a saint. Edith, however, St. Teresia Benedicta of the Cross, is amazing.] Hildegard of Bingen did several things excellently. Julian of Norwich too. Need we branch out to physics?

  28. robtbrown says:

    Msgr Mannion seems to reveal himself as a progressive with his use of the phrase “ahead of us”. In ecclesial matters that phrase should be used principally only with the Sacraments: Number of Baptisms, Good Marriages, Practicing Catholics (Church attendance, Communions AND Confessions. Or in certain Apostolates like schools (number of students). At one time Catholic hospitals could have been added, but now I’m not sure.

    Anyway, his comments confirm what I already knew: Neo cons can get blown around by the wind. Their ratio between neo and con changes with changing circumstances.

  29. acardnal says:

    you gave me a good laugh with your reference to Saint Gertrude Stein.

  30. acardnal says:

    Gertrude Stein was an active lesbian during her life and it’s doubtful she would be considered a good candidate for sainthood.

  31. joekstl says:

    To tho: yes women and men are different. Duh! That doesn’t mean women have inferior mental or spiritual qualities equal to men. [As the history of the Church has borne out again and again, intellectual abilities are not a deal breaker when it comes to priesthood. However, mental or spiritual abilities (not sure what you mean by that) are matters of being human.] Of course due to discrimination against women as equals until recently you may think a lot of ground has to be made up. [We don’t accept your premise. Male-only ordination is not the kind of discrimination you claim. However, if you reduce priests to functionaries, if you make priesthood a social or political thing, then sex doesn’t make a difference.] Nonetheless since 1901 48 women have won the Nobel Prize in the Sciences including Marie Curie who won twice once for Physics and once for Chemistry. [So what? Another Italian woman, Leonarda Cianciulli, is famous for being a serial killer.] Emily Dickenson is one of our greatest American poets. [So what? Elizabeth Alexander is one of the worst poets around, yet libs love her. HERE]
    And we have two great women Doctors of the Church. [Which two of the four female Doctors of the Church are the “great” ones? My money is on St. Hildegard of Bingen and St. Teresa of Avila. Being named a Doctor of the Church isn’t connected to priesthood, except by accident. And I refer you to my previous comments about intellectual and spiritual ability.]

    Thin about it! [Fatten up your stance on this issue by a prayerfully obedient reading of Ordinatio sacerdotalis.]

  32. Ages says:

    WesleyD says, “The Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria has, as his flock, little more than Greeks and Russians and other Eastern Europeans who happen to live in Africa.”

    Not exactly correct; the Patriarchate has done a good deal of evangelism throughout the continent, with a lot happening in Kenya in particular. But yes, small by the numbers, but the Gospel is being preached and that is a good thing.

    As for the deaconesses, they do not possess holy orders. The rite for blessing a deaconess omits the priestly language. And as I understand it, these women are either monastics or widows beyond childbearing age—as the deaconesses were in the early Church.

    I would venture to say that having females serve as Eucharistic Ministers is far more dangerous than even this very limited female diaconate. In fact, the whole existence of EMs is problematic in my opinion.

  33. joekstl says:

    To Fr. Z. : I apologize in leaving out two of the four women Doctor’s of the Church. My bad! So I add two more women to tho’s claim that women haven’t really accomplished much. Again, not related to ordination, just a response to the charge that wonen don’t amount to much in society.

  34. joekstl says:

    To ages: I can’t believe you actually made this statement ” I would venture to say that having females serve as Eucharistic Ministers is far more dangerous than even this very limited female diaconate. In fact, the whole existence of EMs is problematic in my opinion.” Really?

  35. WesleyD says:

    Ages, that is good to hear! Too often it seems as if the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches are sociologically fossilized: they have perfected a way of passing their faith to their children and grandchildren, but they do not proselytize*. Of course, this is mostly due to living for centuries as dhimmis in Muslim lands, where cradle-Christians were (usually) tolated but conversion from Islam to Christianity resulted in a death sentence.

    So I’m glad to hear that they are indeed expanding!

    * Or “evangelize” for those who have bought into the nonsensical claim that “proselytize” is a dirty word.

  36. benedetta says:

    So funny as to people not getting which women are doctors of the church.

    One sees how some people are so very invested in attempting to force an opinion in order to justify a result. One can easily see historically that female believers from the early Christians continuing straight through do not lack for spiritual, mental prowess, or dignity in the Church just for not getting what some insist on now.

    Yawn I’m pretty tired with people having to persuade the rest of us that we need outright condemn everyone who believed before in order for them to have the shrill paltry progress they shriek and threaten they need. I’m certain I’m not alone.

    Also the piecemeal borrowing if one can call it that of things Eastern, if any, to the Latin side is bizarre. It’s rather disrespectful to the Eastern traditions. How would Latin side like it if another Rite just self selected out some seemingly random liturgical tradition in order to justify what is really an American ideological, partisan goal, without theological or grassroots need or desire but mostly designed to once again condemn and shame the entire Church from inception onwards as so many things, for partisan bling primarily. If we are going Eastern, why don’t we all just go Eastern? I say, if we wish to borrow something, let’s borrow prostrations praying before icons, for a good while, see how that goes, and then start discussing incorporating other elements, disciplines, and traditions, once we all go over organically. If we are going to borrow traditions from Early Christianity, or bygone eras…well.

  37. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    One of the errors of Russia that has spread around the world is that the role of wife, mother, and homemaker is stultifying and beneath the dignity of women. The plan for the new Revolutionary culture of the Bolshevists was that marriage would be eradicated, along with all distinctions between the sexes. Homosexual relationships were celebrated for these very reasons. Religion, of course, would go. The proletariat of the workers would now become the individual’s home, family, country, and God. Until then, the workers’ State would fulfill those functions. And always, all able-bodied adults would be in the factories producing GNP for the State (and for the Party leadership to live off the fat of the land) and, when needed, military equipment. Instead of half of able-bodied adults wasting their time at home minding their offspring. (Daycare and abortion were to keep that second half of the workforce gainfully employed, producing for the State. )

    While these changes were put in place virtually overnight in Russia, it was foreseen that in the West, Capitalistic and Reactionary forces would be too powerful to do so successfully. It was seen to be necessary that these changes be introduced little by little, and bit by bit into the culture, while at the same time to gradually wear down the entire belief system of Western Christendom.

    The Catholic Church has remained one of the very few institutions that has resisted these errors of Russia. The Church has always promoted the value and dignity of women and the value and dignity of woman in her role as mother and homemaker. The Church has also always taught that God created unique temporal and spiritual roles for each of the sexes; one for the male, one for the female. The male-only priesthood and diaconate, and the male-only service in the sanctuary are manifestations of this God-ordained difference (and compare with the Marxist-Leninist insistence that all cultural differences between the sexes should be eradicated.)

    The fact that the Catholic Church – among a handful of institutions – continues to maintain these differences in the roles of the sexes, when virtually all other Western institutions have caved in on this question, reinforces for me the that God truly is the Shepherd of our flock, and the Commander of our barque.

  38. robtbrown says:


    You sound more like a Marxist (or more accurately, the successo–a Post Modernist) than a Catholic.

  39. robtbrown says:

    should be: the successor

  40. joekstl says:

    To robtbrown: not a Marxist or post modernist. Just an American Catholic that [“who”] believes each person can strive to be what they [“they” is plural, doesn’t go with “person”] are capable of [women are not “capable” when it comes to reception of Holy Orders] being without being told that some occupations or rights [priesthood is not an “occupation” and nobody has a “right” to priesthood] are barred to them because of their gender [“gender” is a linguistic term. The word you are looking for is “sex”.] as was the case for the most part in this country a hundred or so years ago: such as the right to vote, [1920 – 19th Amendment] being a member of congress, [Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, went to the US House of Representatives in 1917] serving our country in the military [Women served in WWI] or serving people as doctors. [Elizabeth Blackwell, MD, graduated from medical school in 1849. None of these occupations or activities are like priesthood.]

  41. benedetta says:

    Why is joekstl trying to speak for tho? His point was clear. He did not in fact say that “women haven’t accomplished much” — that’s what you say, joekstl. He said that people should name names, to illustrate his point, and then, in an odd way, un-ionized somewhat proved his point by then naming, Gertrude Stein… [EDITH!!!]

    I find joekstl’s strange standards for “women accomplishing much” rather offensive as I happen to be a woman, and I am engaged in a certain labor for which I am not interested in any glass ceilings or placards or rewards for it in the eyes of men. That women aren’t lauded or haven’t been lauded in certain spheres with the same degree of frequencies as male persons doesn’t necessarily tell you that modern day iteration of feminism is needed, that the Church has failed the feminine genius, or that we need to smash more glass things…it merely is a reflection that while some men were chasing after particular noble pursuits, many women likewise were pursuing enormously beautiful and important callings, for which, well, to paraphrase better thinkers than I, whose names are enshrined on the google for my quick reference and consultation herein, oftentimes, goodness is its own reward.

  42. benedetta says:

    Yes, yes, Father, I know…I am one who has actually read, both of those, Edith and Gertrude…

    I feel that in this thread people are unburdening their hearts here, as it were — there is tho up there, pining away for the Inquisition days of yore. I can’t say that I relate, to that, exactly, having little experiential point of reference. Still the points are well taken. Any time one has an organization ruled by mostly men, or, mostly women, on this earth, as flawed as we mortals are, there is going to be a fair amount of weakness, and corruption.

    With the smashed glass ceilings and the feminism, still, we don’t lack for bad clericalism and corruption of cliques in certain places in the Church, and one would have to be an idiot to actually believe that to accede to these demands in the name of feminism that these would simply go away. There are places, not the same Holy Mother Church, but ecclesial communities nonetheless which have all of that and by and large, they too do not lack for big corrupt and serious issues.

    But since we are here tonight talking from the heart — I just want to say that as the arguments put forth are not really theological but of a different sort, then why can’t we all just be honest about this situation. joekstl, bless his heart, is not here because he likes hanging out with us. No, he is here to criticize, and scold us according to his dogmas, dogmas which we are all too familiar with being doled out. Which gives me pause as to longing for Inquisition times. I suppose that could actually be a relief comparatively? Anyway…we can be honest, no? The people who want to dole out deaconesses are the same people who made the deals with the devil, who want a lot of Big Abortion for all and everyone mostly the unborn, in exchange for sundry desired things as political bloc or allied coalitions. This is not the kind of feminism, this is not any real sort of feminism, but this is hardly, a politco back room deal, the sort of foundation for a major earth shattering theological event of women’s ordaining, is it? I for one should be so ashamed if I were to tell my grand daughter one day “And so the bigwigs made a back room deal with certain select ladies that they would support more money to PP in exchange for votes for what they desired…and they called it the new theocracy…they took our children from us…they called it the Nuovo Theocracy…and they all what were left lived happily ever after”. No, I could not scandalize young people by that sort of a thing. This is why this on the very assertions that joekstl’s oeuvre herein is all about, must fail, on their very face, and it’s laughable for them to window dress it as “feminism” as if bad clericalists ever cared about women, mothers, or their babies…

  43. joekstl says:

    To benedetta and/or Fr. Z. Please re-read tho’s and Fr. Z.’s comments. Here is the comment from tho: “This whole feminist thing is utter nonsense. No matter what law you pass or glass ceiling that you break women and men are very different, to not recognize that you must not have had a sister or raised a daughter. To illustrate my point, try naming a great woman philosopher, or mathematician, or musician. or even a great writer like Tolstoy.” So tho did say that women haven’t accomplished much. My response was to indicate that his disparagement of women’s accomplishments was absurd and I made my point with the women winners of the Nobel Prize and an example of a great woman poet.

    Now, if those commenting on my post would have read my entire comments they would have seen that I was NOT arguing the issue of ordination of women as priests. I was arguing the role of women in society in objection t0 the comments of tho.

    As to Fr. Z’s comments: he too missed my point. I specifically commented on the role of women in society as of one hundred years and earlier Note the “one hundred years”! Women did not have the right to vote prior to 1917. Women had no combat role in the military until recently; cf. Tammy Duckworth who lost both her legs in service to here country. [And they should NOT have one now.] (Some women served in the Civil War by disguising themselves as men. ) Yes, women served in the military as nurses and support, but that is not what I meant by reference to women in the military. [Ummm…] No woman could serve in congress until the mid teens of the 20th century. [No. No woman did serve.]

    By gender I meant male/female. Don’t know what the substitution of the word “sex” does to clarify anything. [Because words have meanings. Gender and sex don’t mean the same thing.]

    Lastly, there is a great reluctance on this board to recognizing the existence of information that should be looked at. We have diaconate ordination rites for women. [So what? At some point, some where, someone came up with rites for all sorts of oddities.] And the Eastern Orthodox woman theologian I referenced has looked at this in great detail and should be evaluated by posters here. I have no idea what is gained by deleting this info. It does a disservice to the readers here and to our Church. [And yet, no matter what they go through in some occasional rite in some place where aberrant practices were recorded, the women were not ordained to anything, because women are incapable of receiving Holy Orders.]

    Also – to Fr. Z: thank you for correcting my grammar. Seriously.

  44. robtbrown says:


    I referred to Marxism and Post Modernism because your comments indicate you are concerned with social and historical forces. You obviously think the Church is to be subordinate to them. And no one has a right to the priesthood, excepting a transitional deacon.

    Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis (The Cross stands while the world turns).

  45. joekstl says:

    To robtbrown: no, I don’t think our Church should be subject to social and historical forces, although our Church’s practice had been somewhat influenced/determined by existing societal norms e.g. slavery going back to biblical revelation.

    I separate diaconate from priestly ordination mainly due to the historical record of women’s ordination to diaconate separate from priestly ordination.

  46. un-ionized says:

    benedetta, you are right. The old guard feminists were mainly interested in allowing women of aptitude to pursue their chosen field. I chose to be in a traditionally male field because the subject was fun and interesting. There was a lot of unreasonable difficulty especially in graduate school, subjective grading of exams, etc. But people who go through that are usually better for it. I was one of the lucky ones. I would not have done well in the kind of situation that Marie Curie had. So academics, no, not for me. Once I was out in industry things were fine because all a company is interested in is getting its money’s worth in terms of my salary.

    Interestingly, Edith Stein wrote quite a bit about what careers were suitable for women.

  47. Fr. John says:

    For what it’s worth, as Orthodox we absolutely do believe that the Virgin Mary was taken up bodily into Heaven. Like you (I believe) we celebrate it on August 15th. On Tuesday, we begin a two week fast to prepare ourselves for this feast.

    What we don’t believe, however, is that she was taken up to Heaven before she died. Rather, we believe that she first died and then was raised by Her Son and then taken by Him bodily into Heaven.

    As far as I understand it, Catholic dogma doesn’t take a position on whether or not she died physically. Traditional Catholic belief held that she did, but over time, many Catholics have come to believe that she didn’t. If that were ever dogmatized, we would disagree with that.

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