Deaconettes? Not gonna happen

Here is some of the Q&A with Francis on the airplane for the Bulgaria visit.

Josh McElwee, [for pro-women’s ordination] National [c]atholic Reporter:Thank you so much, Holy Father. In Bulgaria you visited an Orthodox community that has continued a long tradition of ordaining women deacons. In a few days you will meet with the International Union of Superiors General*, that three years ago requested a commision for women deacons. Can you tell us something you have learned from the report of the commission on the ministry of women in the early years of the Church? Have you made some decision?

Pope Francis: I did not hear the first part of your question. McElwee: [repeats a part of the question.]

Pope Francis: The commission was made, it worked for almost two years. They were all different, all toads from different wells, [that must be an Argentinian idiom] all thinking differently, but they worked together and were in agreement until a certain point. But each of them then has her own view [HER own view… wonder who that might be…] that does not agree with that of the others. And there they stopped as a commission and each is studying [how] to go forward.For the female diaconate, there is a way to imagine it with a different view from the male diaconate. For example, the formulas of female deacon ordination found until now, according to the commission, are not the same for the ordination of a male deacon and are more similar to what today would be the abbatial blessing of an abbess. This is the answer of some of them. I’m speaking a little from the ear, from memory.Others say that it is a female deacon formula, but they argue that it is not clear. There were female deacons, but was it a sacramental ordination or not? And that is discussed, it is not clear. That they helped in liturgy, in Baptisms by immersion, when the woman was baptized the deaconesses helped, also for [unclear] the woman’s body. Then a document came out where diaconesses were called by the bishop when there was a matrimonial argument for the dissolution of the marriage or divorce or separation. When the woman accused her husband of beating her and the bishop called the deaconesses to look at the woman’s body for the bruises and so they testified in the judgment. These are the things I remember.But fundamentally, there is no certainty that it was an ordination with the same form, in the same purpose as male ordination. Some say there is doubt, let’s go ahead and study. I am not afraid of studying, but up to this moment it does not proceed.Then it is curious that where there were deaconesses it was almost always a geographic zone, especially in Syria. And then in another part, it does not touch or nothing. All these things I received from the commission. Each one continues to study, and [they have] done a good job, because up to a certain point [they were] in agreement. And this can be an impetus to go ahead and study and give a definitive answer, yes or no, according to the characteristics of that time.An interesting thing. Some theologians of a few years ago, 30 years ago for example, said that there were no deaconesses because women were in the background in the Church, not only in the Church. Always women… But it is a curious thing: in that period there were so many pagan priestesses, the female priesthood in pagan cults was ordinary in that day. As it is understood as a female priesthood, a pagan priesthood in women, it was not done in Christianity. This is being studied also. They have arrived at a point, now each of the members is studying according to her theory. This is good. Varietas delectat.

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  1. VP says:

    It’s good to be grateful for the Pope’s words (and so many of them, too) about deaconettes. But all I can think of is that quote from Attorney General John Mitchell: “Watch what we do, not what we say.”

  2. Hidden One says:

    Was this question originally asked and answered in English, or in Spanish or Italian?

  3. TomG says:

    In the words of the estimable Captain Binghampton: “I could just scream.”

  4. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    To me, this is the path he takes to get to a “compromise” position of creating a new (transitional, permanent and now female) class of deacons, but who are instituted instead of ordained. They would not administer sacraments, but would use the title of deacon and have the right to preach. Bergoglio is way too smart to walk away from all this with nothing for the left.

  5. mike cliffson says:

    After summarizing and having nothing against studying things “It does not proceed” looks like a false friend mistranslation of “no procede” which is different . In European Spain
    at least “procede/ no procede” is administrative or legal register for what next step or full stop is/is not in cumbent according to rules or laws and similar . It occurs in written reports a lot. If, eg, an autopsy finds no natural causes for an oddly dead body found in bed, “procede” further possibly murder investigation., if natural causes are found “no procede” much more action on anybody’s part than to tidy it all up and archive the case.
    This is impersonal, saying nothing
    of what the Holy Father himself might or might or might not do , merely that the situacion , findings etc so far , warrant nothing further in themselves (in terms of Catholic rules tradion etc, being understood as the context.) The further details mentioned back up the lack of a case for doing anything.
    What is the term in Italian?

  6. Benedict Joseph says:

    What Pope Francis puts forth is what I was hearing in college theology in the early seventies. Not much has changed. How long can they, will they enjoy beating a dead horse?

  7. Ms. M-S says:

    There must be a saint to be invoked in cases requiring the application of common sense. Clearly enough, certain trustworthy women were designated for cases in which female modesty needed protection. Then followed a formula for commissioning and perhaps a title for identification. Clearly enough, no one foresaw in this practical step the first step of women into the priesthood. Whoever you may be, Dear Saint, pray for us!

  8. exNOAAman says:

    Mostly inconclusive.
    But, now I can’t stop wondering if Hollywood ever made a western in which Slim Pickens exclaims “well if that ain’t a toad from a different well!”.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  9. ajf1984 says:

    Ms. M-S says: “There must be a saint to be invoked in cases requiring the application of common sense…”

    While not yet canonized, may I make a plug for the Apostle of Common Sense, Mr. Gilbert K. Chesterton? Perhaps, if we all ask his intercession (privately, of course), and the whole women’s diaconate/priesthood/etc. kerfuffle finally dies down, that could count as one of his required miracles?

  10. gaudete says:

    The original says, “Ma ognuno di loro poi ha la propria visione,” which is, “But everyone of them has his own view” – visione being female noun requiring female possessive pronoun, that is in the Italian language grammar always referring to the object (view) and not the owner (everyone of them). The same goes for the “ognuno dei membri sta studiando secondo la sua tesi” = “each of the members is studying according to his theory”

    “her own view/her theory” seems to be a purposefully tendencial and misleading faulty translation, as someone with some notion of Italian grammar would know this principle – the more so considering the rest of the text is translated correctly.

  11. JesusFreak84 says:

    I’d only heard of “deaconettes” in the context of ancient baptisms. If there’s any truth to their having a role in verifying claims of spousal abuse…well, that’s quite interesting. It would show, though, that the Church WAS getting input from women, that it wasn’t “just a bunch of old white celibate guys in robes,” as my mom would call the hierarchy when I was a kid, any time they accidentally said something conservative or traditional.

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