Friday, August 05, 2016

Deaconess Commission: Building the Momentum

[Aug 5, 2016] Well, Pope Francis wants a commission to study the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate from a historical perspective.

Of course, the idea of female deacons is ludicrous. Historically, they were simply non-existent, and everybody knows that references to "deaconesses" in the New Testament (Rom. 16:1) and the Fathers refer not to the hierarchical office of Deacon as instituted in Acts 7, but to women working in the role of servants carrying out various auxiliary functions in the early Church. This confusion arises from the literal meaning of the Greek word diakonos, which means "servant." It can refer to a Deacon as a grade of Holy Orders, or it can refer to anyone who serves in general. References to "deaconesses" in early Church literature certainly use the word in the latter sense. Deaconesses as a grade of Holy Orders are specifically repudiated at Nicaea and other early synods. I thought everybody knew this. 

Now, for some, this fact gives comfort. "Don't worry! The Church won't approve female deacons. It can't. There is no historical precedent." Well...okay. Not having historical precedent didn't stop Mass facing the people or a host of other novelties...but whatever.

The real thing that bugs me is its like some people can't fathom that there are more sides to the problem than whether or not the Church will allow female deacons. Like, for some people, it's either the Church allows female deacons (lose) or she doesn't (win). Since we know the Church can't ultimately ordain female deacons, we know she won't; ergo, tradition "wins." Ergo, there is absolutely nothing to worry about, no cause for alarm, nothing to see here folks, move along, 12 things to know and share, blah, blah blah...

Look, the fact that the Church cannot ultimately ordain women deacons does not mean we "win." Simply because there are many other ways we can "lose" without getting to the actual ordination of female deacons.

I remember when I was in public office, there were times when merely creating a committee or commission to "study" something was a way of destablizing it, even if you knew in the end you could not get what you wanted. Like, so-and-so wants a certain public project done. But you know there is no funding for it and there's no way it can happen. But so-and-so says, "Well, let's just form a commission to study the various aspects of the question. The commission won't be able to make any decisions, just try to get a better knowledge of the issue. And you don't have any objection to just getting information, right?"

And of course, you don't want to look like you are afraid of information or mere knowledge, so you think, "Sure, go ahead and form your study commission. After all, they have no authority to make any changes. And if I don't like what they say, I can just disregard it." But the thing to realize is the mere fact of opening a subject to discussion makes it appear that its open for discussion. Even if there's no money for the project and it literally cannot happen, the fact it is being discussed makes people think it can.

And the impossibility of the project coming to fruition does not stop its partisans. They use the commission as a means of propagating their ideas and refining their arguments - of networking with the right people and putting the right mechanisms in place to further their agenda. Of putting out whatever message to the public they wish. Of building public support and leveraging pressure on those in charge to bend to their wishes.

In other words, they might know they are not going to get what they want, but they create a momentum towards it.

Why create momentum when they know it literally can't happen? Well, in politics nothing is ever ultimately impossible. But in the Church, literally women can never be ordained to the diaconate. It simply cannot happen any more than a woman could be ordained to the priesthood. But that does not mean its proponents - who think it is possible - will not try to create the momentum. And the momentum is what is so dangerous,  because even if we never have women deacons, the momentum is like a huge net that will drag all sorts of souls into error on this point, create dissension, false expectations, schisms, scandal, confusion and chaos. And the chaos itself is detrimental, whether or not we ever get women deacons.

People who think this is "no biggie" just because it "won't happen" don't understand the way people hijack parliamentary procedure and the commission-committee system to foment chaos to create momentum towards their goals. It is all destabilizing, and ultimately destabilization of the traditional Church structure is what the progressives are after.

The pope ought to have said, "There is no point in a commission to study. This can never happen, and if so, there's no point in studying it. I don't want to give Catholics the impression something could change when it can't." But by allowing a commission to "study" the question, Pope Francis is opening the door for partisans of women deacons to start building that momentum towards a female diaconate; whether they get it or not it irrelevant. The fact is, the traditional exclusion of women from Holy Orders is now open for discussion, and that fact alone - regardless of what conclusion they come to - is dangerous. 

By the way, if you are not clear on why there can never be a female diaconate, I refer you to the article "The Unity of Holy Orders" by Fr. Chad Ripperger, available as a PDF here. But essentially, there is only one sacrament of Holy Orders, and its characteristics are one across its three major grades. John Paul II infallibly taught that women could never be ordained to the priesthood in the 1994 encyclical Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Because there is only one sacrament of Holy Orders (not three), this infers necessarily that women could never be ordained deaconesses either. But I recommend the article of Fr. Ripperger for a much more thorough treatment.

In the meantime, get ready for more destabilization.


Marko Ivančičević said...

Father Ripperger presented the matter of the unity of the Holy Orders rather one-sidedly. Some theologians, among which most notable representative is Durandus, don't consider diaconate to be a sacrament, but a sacramental. There are still theologians who consider that. Even the old pontifical said this: "Hic solus Pontifex manum dexteram extendens, ponit super caput cuilibet Ordinando: et nullus alius, quia non ad Sacerdotium, sed ad ministerium consecrantur, dicens singulis: ...". And this "non ad Sacerdotium" is what Vatican 2 says too in Lumen Gentium 29, although it says that they're strengthened by sacramental grace. The document of the previous study on deaconesses says that those who hold that diaconate is not a sacrament aren't condemned and that V2 chose non definitive language since it didn't want to condemn anyone, since the doctrine itself isn't certain. Although majority of the theologians hold that it is a sacrament, they held the same of subdiaconate, which we know now certainly isn't a sacrament. Episcopate wasn't considered a sacrament by some up until V2 (e.g. Billot), but also, as in case with diaconate, the majority viewed it as a sacrament. V2 seems to have ruled in favor of sacramentality of episcopacy but as with everything V2 one can't be too certain, although the previous document says that V2 to does view episcopacy as a sacrament.

All that being said the deaconessate must be viewed in itself and not in relation to deaconate. But that is already settled by historical research. They weren't the female equivalent of a deacon.

I do agree that there is nothing to look into with another commission. What can be done is bringing back baptizing adults by immersion and thus bringing back deaconesses. That would be legitimate. But no, that won't happen. I think they will reinstitute deaconesses. I even think they'll be made at the level of lectors and acolytes, if not even prefferrable to them with all this SJW pandering to women's whims. Call me a pessimist, but things are going, i can't be an optimist.

A Daughter of Mary said...

I'm afraid I agree that there will be deaconesses in the future. What do you think Francis intends to do with all those contemplative nuns he's going to force into the streets? He will provide a category for them - to get them more involved in 'real' service to God and 'the people.' Perfect candidates for the FrancisChurch Deaconess Initiative.

Your description of the committee ploy made me laugh. Where I live we have a new hospital in the northern part of the city. But what of the south? We only have an old, smaller one. So a few months ago we saw a billboard erected in front of a cornfield that said: Future Home Of …..south Hospital! Pictured were a doctor and a couple of nurses all smiles.

A while after that, pasted on the bottom of the sign was a banner that stated: Hospital Planning Grant Approved! So I'm betting we get a new hospital. But, hey, I guess this keeps people busy and the tax dollar circulating through the community.

Andy said...

What happened to your resolution from back in April about "giving up making any effort to comment or follow the developments of the current pontificate"? (From your April 22, 2016 post titled "I Give Up")

Boniface said...

Haha. True. I think the essence of that post was that I no longer feel the need to follow the current events of the Vatican and offer a running commentary on them. It doesn't mean if something strikes my fancy I'm not going to write about it now and then. I think it just meant I feel no obligation to keep up with everything that's going on.

Anonymous said...

Pope Francis practises what he preaches and that is "make a mess". The goal here as with Amoris Laetitia and of his other actions since ascending to the papal throne is confusion and we know from whom that comes.

CCC 1577 -
"Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination." The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ's return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.
- The Innovators pretend to go to “the early days of the Church” when it suits them -
- Dr. Phyllis Zagano wouldn’t use the term “female deacons”; proceeds from “her fact that women were ordained to the office of deacon”, and hopes that after the study, the Holy Father will decide to restore women to the ordained diaconate -

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your article.
It bothered me on the day that I found out that the Pope raised Saint Mary Magdalene's Day to a Feast. I was at morning Mass when someone handed me a print-out detailing the Pope's decision to make it a feast day. Of course, I don't dislike Saint Mary Magdalene. After all, she is a saint. However, it just seemed to open up doors or rather Pandora's Box to the radical feminists constantly pushing for women's ordination. It seems the ones with Feast Days are Christ's Apostles and, now, Saint Mary Magdalene...
After shaking my head at all of questionable "stuff" coming from the Vatican, I wondered why it was so very important to upgrade her day to a Feast Day, now! In the hand-out there was an awful lot of patronizing of women to the point of nausea/ad nauseum! (I wish they would stop kowtowing to "women" and would, rather, bow down to Almighty God. The same goes for the bending over backwards to "entertain" the "youth" If they just taught solid doctrine, they wouldn't have to worry about appealing to everyone like politicians! We see how the solid orders have many vocations, but the lost, worldly orders are dying. However, the worldly orders are still trying to hold on by entertaining and patronizing "women" and the "youth", etc.)
I was so upset over the new feast day, that I went home and looked up the solid Catholic blogs and news stories, hoping someone else might have the same thought. Unfortunately, I never found any complaint about the new feast day...only glowing reports.
Thank you for your article, because it helps me to articulate what I was trying to say regarding the new upgrading of Saint Mary Magdalene's Day to a Feast Day. It's not that I have anything against Saint Mary Magdalene. It's just that her feast day is being added to the feast days once only held by the Apostles. Doesn't that make one think about the fact that the Apostles are the 1st priests/bishops and now Saint Mary Magdalene also has a Feast Day???...and wouldn't the pro-women-priests feminists use that to try to push forward their "cause"??? Also, the print-out piece was going on and on about women and how a woman was one of the first to be there at the Resurrection. I believe there was also a notation about women being there at the foot of the cross, etc., etc., etc. I could just hear the radical feminists wheels turning in their heads!
Even though Jesus never ordained women and never intended to ordain them and there will never ever be women priests in good standing in the Catholic Church, many souls can still be lost in the pride and arrogance in the railing against the Catholic Church's teachings. It just seems ill advised to raise her day to a feast day. I just wonder,... Why did her day have to be raised to a feast day?... and... Why did it have to be raised to a feast day, NOW that there is a committee looking into "deaconesses"?
It's just an observation. I thank you for your very interesting and excellent article. God bless you.

Boniface said...

I think you need to get the facts straight. Mary Magdalen has always had a Feast Day on July 22nd. All Francis did was elevate this Feast to a First Class feast. She has had a feast day on that day for centuries.

But I do object to making it about feminism though.

Marko Ivančičević said...

St. Mary Magdalen was an obligatory commemoration and was elevated to a feast. This was due to her being the "Apostle to the Apostles" (Apostolis Apostola), and since the Apostles have a level of a feast it is fitting that she would have the same rank too.

David L Alexander said...

I've seen the names of some of those on the commission. Dr Phyllis Zagano has been an outspoken proponent of a female diaconate, and has been appointed to the commission, but she will be met by those who have studied the sources identical to hers, without the burden of her erroneous preconceptions. Thus she will find herself outmatched.

Some of what sounds unbelievable on the subject, is actually more misleading than anything else. If writers of the ancient Church were to speak of "sacramental ordination" ("chierotonia" being the Greek for "ordination," which was the term applied to the deaconess), they would have meant something very different, much less specified or defined, than we would mean today. But, if you don't know that, among other things, and can convince an audience that you are correct (which in a sense you would be), it would be difficult to know whether one is being led down a garden path. That is one of the problems with the conversation on the subject, the other being the prospect of ill intentions ascribed to the Holy Father, where there may be none at all (which gives itself away in his answer to the assembled on the subject).

In 2012, I wrote an extensive piece on the history of the female diaconate, which was a revision of that which appears in the EWTN Online Library. It will likely be updated in the coming year to reflect more recent developments. In presenting it here, I stand by its fidelity to the teachings of Holy Mother Church, and in deference to the judgment of the Apostolic See.

man with black hat: Deaconess: A Rose By Any Other Name

Unknown said...

Most of the push for the ordination of women is coming not from nuns, but from barely observant lay women in the church. Since when did they have anything intelligent to say that ought to be listened to? Man is given the role of the spiritual divining rod for his wife. Women ought to be silent in the churches, as we are explicitly told. Now we know why!