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Women deacons? Best not to talk about it.

The archdiocese of Philadelphia is looking for someone to address its deacons this spring. Former heads of the USCCB's secretariat for the diaconate need not apply. Not, that is, if they have publicly acknowledged the unsettled question of whether women may be ordained deacons. That might be "doctrinally confusing," and Catholics these days are just so easy to confuse.

Last week the National Catholic Reporter's Joshua J. McElwee reported that William Ditewig, former USCCB staffer and co-author of Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future, had been denied permission to speak "to the [Philadelphia] archdioceses deacons, [deacons'] wives, and deacon candidates" this coming March, based on the decision of the archdiocesan "speaker approval commission."Just so we're clear: it is an open question whether it's possible for the Catholic Church to admit women to the diaconate. The latest Commonweal happens to have an article by Phyllis Zagano, one of Ditewig's Women Deacons co-authors, explaining where the matter stands today. "The conversation continues," she reports -- even among bishops. Was the speaker approval commission in Philadelphia unaware of this fact? They wouldn't comment, but an archdiocesan spokesperson said it didn't matter:

[Kenneth] Gavin said that since the matter is still considered unanswered Ditewig's presence for the deacon event wasn't appropriate.This wouldn't be the best setting for an open question or something that is a matter of debate theologically at this point in time and how the diaconate is structured within the church itself, said Gavin. It wasn't the setting for discussion on theological debate-like topics. This was ongoing formation. It's educational for the deacons and their wives.

Uh-huh. Ditewig, not surprisingly, tells NCR he wasn't planning on introducing any "debate-like topics" when he spoke in Philadelphia. But of course the commission didn't get in touch with him before they made their "negative recommendation."I knew the paranoia was getting pretty bad out there. Nobody wants to risk running afoul of the orthodoxy police; easier to just preemptively cancel any speakers/visiting professors who might give you trouble, regardless of whether the objections are well founded. But this is the most ridiculous example I've heard of yet. This diocese is afraid to allow the former head of the USCCB office for the diaconate to speak to its deacons, because said deacon has demonstrated an awareness of and interest in scholarly study of...the diaconate? As the NCR article reminds us, "In his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II declared that the church 'has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.'" And as you know, that was followed by orders that the matter must not be spoken of again.

This is where that policy has gotten us: nearly two decades later, the mere mention of the words "women" and "ordained" in the same sentence, even in a sentence that does not actually run afoul of the no-women-priest-talk rule, is enough to shut everything down. It's a farce. It's like that Monty Python sketch where anytime anyone says "mattress" to the mattress salesman, he puts a bag over his head. Very hard to get anything done in that environment. In this case the archdiocese doesn't even have anything coherent to say for itself -- except this: "Speakers for archdiocesan events, said Gavin, are supposed to be reviewed by the speaker commission before an invitation is extended to them, which did not occur in Ditewig's case." That's an excuse I've heard before. It means, "It's not our fault you found out about this indefensible decision we were hoping not to have to defend." It's not really an explanation at all, and -- hey bishops! -- you should probably stop using it.

When the mere thought of someone maybe provoking a discussion of the possibility of women's ordination is enough to freak everyone out, I can't help wondering why the people who are most dedicated to supporting the official line -- that Rome simply doesn't have the authority to ordain women priests -- don't act like they believe it. This, I guess, is what I'm confused about. Because here's what they say: It's not sexism at all. It's not that the all-male hierarchy is unwilling to share any sort of authority with women. It's just that this particular role isn't open to women -- our hands are tied! If that's true, and if the members of the speaker approval commission in Philly (for example) believe it's true, shouldn't we all be thrilled to discover other areas in which the sharing of authority with women might be possible? Shouldn't the response from bishops and diocesan officials be: "Look, the historical record suggests that women might be eligible for the diaconate! Surely we should investigate this carefully, and respect the work of those who are doing just that, because ordaining women as deacons, if possible, would be an excellent way to live up to our church's own teachings about the equal dignity of men and women and their equal responsibilities as members of Christ's body." Or you might look, as you know I like to do, at the case of female altar servers. Rome has clarified that there is no doctrinal reason, absolutely none, that women cannot serve in this lay ministry alongside men. Here, then, is an opportunity to prove that the refusal to even discuss the possibility of women serving as priests is not, at its root, just squeamishness about the idea of women serving at or near the altar. "We can't admit women to the priesthood," I keep waiting for conservative bishops and theologians to say, "but happily we can include them in the fullness of the church's life and worship in a variety of other ways. What a positive thing for our church."I keep waiting for more bishops and diocesan officials and self-appointed keepers of orthodoxy to say things like that. Why don't they, do you think?

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Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an associate editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.

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Also in the movie Lincoln, Lincoln quotes Euclid by saying Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another, his simple reason for abolishing slavery. The same applies to women in the ministry, as all people are children of God and thus equal in the most important characteristic we have. It's not our job to prove why women should be ordained, it's the job of the Church to prove why we should not, which they have not done by any means grounded in reason or revelation.

FWIW, I don't perceive that so-called permanent deacons are "second-class" deacons in comparison to so-called transitional deacons. As a practical matter, their paths rarely cross. Lisa, you're right that seminarians are kept separate from candidates for the permanent diaconate. Part of it is purely practical: seminarians are full-time students whose classes generally meet during the day, whereas deacon couples generally do formation on evenings and weekends. (In this, it is not too different from certain professional tracks, like law or business, that have both full-time and night students). It's also generally and cynically suspected that seminarians also are kept apart from permanent deacon couples, because nearly all of the latter are married and in formation with our wives, and our on-the-whole-pretty-good marriages are on display in the classrooms.Deacons do occupy a lower rung in the hierarchy than bishops and priests. So I suppose we're "lower class" in that sense, although the priests in Chicago don't treat us like we're groundlings. And one bit of theology that was stressed to us in formation - which I don't know is universally held, but it does make sense to me - is that, when a transitional deacon is ordained to the presbyterate, he doesn't stop being a deacon. The one ordination doesn't cancel out the other. So we have that in common with priests and bishops.

The best writing in the US on the diaconate is by Deacon Bill Ditewig (Paulist Press). But of course that's what started all this in the first place.

I would recommend to the Philly archdiocese that they trust Bill Ditewig to do the right thing in this presentation. No deacon I know of has served the bishops and the church as he has. FWIW, he led a retreat for my class (including wives) during our formation. Somehow we emerged from the experience without visible theological bruises.

This business of not allowing someone to speak on anything because of some issue that is not in the Catholic Catechism is making the Church a laughing stock. Here is the complete statement from the Philidalphia Archdiocesan Speaker Approval Committion:"Reason: The Archdiocesan Speaker Approval Commission recommends that Deacon William T. Ditewig not be approved to speak in the Archdiocese. He has publications and blog postings in whcih he argues for women deacons based on a reading of historical data that is not in accord with the data of Tradition considered globally. He also holds that his ordination as a deacon as well as his ministry somehow includes the deacon's spouse so that the two sacraments of marriage and diaconate [sic] ordination become 'one in the person of the deacon.' This also is not in accord with the Tradition considered globally. While the Magisterium has not made a definitive pronouncement on these positions an argument can be made that the ordinary magisterium has moved against the positions of Deacon Ditewig. Approving him as a speaker would introduce the possibility of doctrinal confusion rather than helpful instruction so the Commission holds that it is more prudent to give him a negative recommendation."The doctrinal determinations give above are beyond the writers' competence and authority. To be fair, the three members of the Philadelphia Commission whose names have been discovered to date were not appointed by Archbishop Chaput. They are: Msgr. Joseph Gentili, Chairman; Rev. Joseph T. Shenosky; Rev. Robert A. Pesarchick. There are three other priests and one secular woman on the commission, she a member of the St. Charles Borromeo (Philadelphia) Seminary faculty, as are Fathers Shenosky and Pesarchick.

"While the Magisterium has not made a definitive pronouncement on these positions an argument can be made that the ordinary magisterium has moved against the positions of Deacon Ditewig."SINCE the Magisterium has not made a definitive pronouncement on these positions an argument can be made that the ordinary magisterium has NOT moved against the positions of Deacon Ditewig.Did everybody catch the commission's profoundly respectful, not to say fawning, switch from capital letter to lower case in the two uses of the dreaded m-word? Whether it's up or down is sort of like what you an learn from the length of tassels.

I just wonder what "publications and blog postings [Deacon Ditewig has] ....that is not in accord with the data of Traditiion considered globally? What is meant by 'considered globally'? At the time Pheobe, the Deacon was ministering---the infant Church certainly was not 'global'. Nor was the Church global for the next several centuries. But anybody who has seriously studied church history KNOWS that there were women deacons. The Speaker Approval Commission is about as clear in its rational of denying approval to Deacon Ditewig to speak, as is a tub of wet cement (and just as mixed up).I believe that the officials of the Archdiocese of Philadephia should hide themselves in shame. They are sooooo slow in admitting their own serious sins but so quick to discredit the excellent work of one of their finest deacons, Deacon William T. Ditewig.

And what is that rustling sound I hear? Just a few thousand more women and girls standing up, gathering their integrity, and walking out the door of unHoly Mother the Church. People who have no vote tend to vote with their feet.Smaller, purer? you got it! " .. historical data that is not in accord with the data of Tradition considered globally." Isn't that a simple admission that unHMTC is guilty of "pick and choose" scholarship?"Never attribute to conspiracy that which can be explained by incompetence." (Napolean Bonaparte)

BTW, the word "data" is plural, so the above should have said "data that ARE not in accord...." The good Sinsinawa Dominicans sisters taught me that wayyyy back when, before nuns were a suspect class.

Yeah, let's ordain lots of deaconesses - that will help!Ugh -

"Catholics these days are just so easy to confuse."Tim Unsworth of blessed memory knew about that and said as much in a collection of his articles in NCR between 1982 and 2007, published by Acta Publications in 2008 ...."Bishops break out in shingles in the face of ambiguity; laity live with it each day in their homes, jobs and social life.Chancery offices constantly view the faithful as so befuddled that, without unctuous instruction, they would confuse the holy water fountain with a birdbath."

" Or you might look, as you know I like to do, at the case of female altar servers. "NCR/s "Cry Pax" did as well, back in the 1960s:"Ladies, Ladies, soon you'll agreeThis altar girl crumb from the Holy SeeGives truth to the adage that you'll always be,Rarely the dog, but most often the tree."

Of course conservative bishops and theologians are happy to include them in the fullness of the churchs life and worship in a variety of other ways. It is fitting with Tradition that they iron the linen of the holy liturgy and polish the sacred vessels. How much closer than that can you get to the mystery of our faith? As the church adapts to modern times, new rules keep being found for them. They can help transmit the faith by photocopying song sheets, a very important part in getting people to participate at Mass. They can help minister to people in need by answering the phone and being present at the reception area of the rectory, a humble but essential role, central to the life of a parish. What more could they possibly wish for?

rules -> roles

And don't forget that women can be servants in the rectory as well, cooking and cleaning for the men. Altar linens AND presbyteral laundry! What REAL woman would want more?

If it came up in catechism, I'd just have to chalk it up to mystery: I've talked about the mystery of the Trinity and the mystery of the Real Presence; I would have to add the mystery of No Women Ordained, which is something so mysterious that, unlike the other two, we should not even try to understand it: it is the Ultimate Mystery.

Just another contribution to this: http://www.thetablet.co.uk/latest-news/4867

"What REAL woman would want more?"Maybe lots and lots and lots of kids ...?

Claire, I think you were right in the first instance about new "rules" being found for them.+ don't ask or discuss anything about women's ordination, under any circumstances+ don't study theology alongside candidates for the Catholic priesthood+ don't think if you're married to a deacon, your marriage contributes anything whatsoever to his ministry+ don't imagine you'll get a job in the curia or in a Vatican congregation any time soon+ don't think your daughter might someday become (shudder) a cardinal, as Abbot Martin recently suggested + don't imagine you get to define your own ideas about femininity because they have already been determined completely and permanently by men, to wit, "the eternal feminine"+ don't use the word "feminist" in a positive manner unless you want to be put under permanent heresy watch+ don't break out of the "pelvic girdle" of considering women totally in terms of their reproductive capacities as their sole contribution to human civilization+ don't think we can't keep you out of the sanctuary any more, because we can, witness the return of that exclusion via Summorum pontificum and the 1962 rite+ don't think an individual bishop doesn't have the right to stop having altar girls any time, as an issue of "pastoral prudence"+ don't imagine that we won't put the feelings of altar boys (possible candidates for priesthood someday) ahead of the feelings of girl servers+ don't imagine if you are part of a religious community of women that we won't run roughshod over your own structures of authority

I suspect that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is reluctant to have Rev. Dietwig speak because those advocating for women deacons generally are also advocating for women priests, despite the clear and unambiguous teaching of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Those wanting to see women in the diaconate would be well advised to clearly state that they accept what Ordinatio Sacerdotalis teaches about ordaining women to the priesthood.

I think it's obvious to pretty much everyone that the reason the church will not allow women to do anything in the realm of authority is sexism. The contempt in the word Ken uses for women deacons ... deaconesses ... is an example of this. When NT scholars like Sandra Schneiders and even the Pontifical Biblical Commission conclude there's no scriptural reason women can't be priests, it's hard to come to any other conclusion.

I hope I'm wrong, but I see a likely outcome of this controversy. We could get an Infallible Statement, carved in marble in all-caps and set in cement; to the effect that the Church is incapable of ordaining women to ANYTHING, full stop. And we would be stuck with it until the Parousia, along with the dubious theology used to justify such a statement. The Church may be ready for women deacons (or even, gasp, women priests) but the hierarchy are light years away from being ready for it. Given the present mood of paranoia, maybe discretion is the better part of valour. If people try to force the issue right now, the outcome is virtually guaranteed. We have to have enough faith in the Holy Spirit, that if it's meant to happen, it will, in God's time. Formal schism is a destructive possibility that should give everyone pause.

During Dr. Ditewig's tenure with the USCCB, he directed the drafting and promulgation of the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States. Not only was this a very notable act of service to the church and the diaconate, but I can't think of a task that would better illustrate his commitment - loyalty -to the church and its teaching authority.

But why would a woman want to become a deacon in the first place?

Katherine: informal schism is OK, but formal is not? I suspect that the former is more of a reality in terms of many issues than many people wish to admit. But to be truthful .... that's scarey? I don't think so.

There is no one who is more knowledgeable about the diaconate here in the US than Bill Ditewig.As a Philadelphian I am embarrassed and getting ready for righteous anger.

Jim McCrea, I don't know if scary is the right word. Tragic and sad would be more like it, given that Jesus prayed "that all may be one". I think you're right that we have some informal schisms on a lot of things. But a formal break takes it to the next level; we have one of those that hasn't healed in over a thousand years.

Jim Pauwels and Helen, I agree with both your comments about Bill Ditewig. I find it disturbing that they seem to be giving the men in deacon formation in Philadelphia about as much credit for wisdom and discernment as a class of seventh grade Confirmation students.

Ms. Zagano - this reminds me of Sr. Elizabeth's book's ban and researching the experience and credentials of the USCCB committee that made that decision.Rev. Shenosky - ordained in 2000; spent four years & completed his STD in Rome in 2008 with a dissertation on ecumenical theology and comparing the works of Weigel, Peters, Dulles. His STD is in dogmatic theology. Taught for one year at Borromeo; four years at high schools; spent three years in parish work.Rev. Pesarchick - ordained in 1991; got STD in Rome in 2000 in Systematic Theology (dissertation on Trinitarian Foundation of Human Sexuality according to Hans Urs von Balthasar); worked in parish for three years. Current academic dean at Borromeo. Does teach sacraments of marriage, priesthood, diaconate; published article entitled - "Why abolishing Celibacy will not lead to more vocations"; workshops on "Contrasting Perspectives on the Participation of the Laity in Priestly Ministry, "The Sacramental Identity of the Deacon"; "Ordinary and Universal Magisterium in the Thought of John Paul II

Just a few comments on the string: Deacon Ditewig is a deacon of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC; he has made it quite clear that deacons are not priests, and arguing for women as deacons does not imply arguing for women as priests; as the writer of the original post notes, it seems those most frightened about women deacons meaning women priests do not believe the Church teaching about women priests; yes, it is tragic that the Archdiocesan Speaker Approval Commission does not think its deacons capable of being exposed to the US expert on the diaconate.

What does it mean that Christ gave to Peter the power "to bind and to loose"? I have always thought that it meant that Peter (and his successors) were empowered to make operational decisions as well as doctrinal clarifications for the Church. And the earliest Christians seemed to look to him for such guidance.Paul and Barnabas traveled from Antioch to Jerusalem to seek guidance from Peter and the other presbyters on the question of circumcising non-Jewish male converts. It was a momentous matter for a group of Jewish men, who had scarcely begun to think of themselves as adherents of a new religion, to set aside that sign in the flesh of God's holy Covenant with their people. But they did it, secure in the belief that they had that authority.Now Catholics are told to believe (or to shut up about it) that the Church "has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women." So a benighted norm in a remote backwater of the long-gone Roman Empire must be the standard for all time in the universal Church. And amazingly, popes and bishops are ignoring Christ's explicit grant of authority to them and claiming in this one case that they are powerless to govern their own church.A lover of absurdity could ask for no more.

Slippery slope "theology" is no more credible than slippery slope politics.

Mr. Prior,The pope has exercised his authority on the matter of women's ordination. This is what John Paul II wrote: "Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."As you say, faithful Catholics follow Peter. Peter has spoken on this matter.

"Definitively" is Vaticanese for "I can't establish this on the basis of historical fact or Scripture, so I can't call this an infallible statement, so I'll call it something else and hope nobody noticces I couldn't say it was "infallible"".

"shouldnt we all be thrilled to discover other areas in which the sharing of authority with women might be possible? "MAKE WOMEN CARDINALS

I keep waiting for conservative bishops and theologians to say, but happily we can include them in the fullness of the churchs life and worship in a variety of other ways. What a positive thing for our church.I keep waiting for more bishops and diocesan officials and self-appointed keepers of orthodoxy to say things like that. Why dont they, do you think? It is kind of hard to hear someone talking when you refuse to listen.It's not that Catholics these days are just so easy to confuse, it is that so many take obstinate pride in their confusion and then use that to launch into non-sequiturs and attacks on strawmen.

"As you say, faithful Catholics follow Peter. Peter has spoken on this matter.""It is kind of hard to hear someone talking when you refuse to listen."Thorin--Peter has clearly contradicted himself throughout church history. So check your church history first. Bender- Please tell us how you are listening. The church has clearly had deaconesses. Or is that not part of your listening or are you hearing what you want to hear?

The implosion is coming, the implosion is coming; the sooner the better.Ah, what fear of women has spawned. The sense of threat must feel excruciating to beleaguered bishops with fingers in the dike.I shudder to think that Fathers Shenosky and Pesarchick are training today's seminarians. "While the Magisterium has not made a definitive pronouncement...the possibility of doctrinal confusion..." Ann O - your definition of definitive is vintage Vaticanese. (pardon the alliteration)Here is what Peritus Joseph Ratzinger wrote:Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands ones own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal [God], and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official Church...Joseph Ratzinger, Part I, Chapter 1, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Vol. V of COMMENTARY ON THE DOCUMENTS OF VATICAN II, ed. Herbert Vorgrimler (New York: Herder and Herder, 1969, p. 134)I do not accept that my conscience is informed only if it agrees with definitive pronouncements from Rome. I must assume responsibility before God and pray for guidance.

Following up on Carolyn Disco's comment: Could it be that this is a moment when the emphasis should be on challenging the church and even disobeying it? Such moments have occurred before. One person who recognized that was Joseph Ratzinger. Paul Knitter heard him say this at a press conference in Rome in1963, during the Vatican Council. Knitter, who teaches at Union Theological Seminary, said that Ratzinger told us that throughout the history of the Roman Catholic Church it has happened that the bishops so lost touch with the message of Jesus that it became incumbent upon the laity to exercise their prophetic role given in Baptism and to stand up and refuse to obey. http://unionindialogue.org/paulknitter/2011/03/15/kung-ratzinger-vs-bene...

Thorin,If you read my comment a little more carefully, you will see that I was not addressing the Pope's authority in general or his use of it in the case under discussion. I merely remarked on his assertion that in the matter of women's ordination, and apparently no other, he has no authority to alter the constitution of the Church even if he wished to. I believe that claim of powerlessness is false, ridiculous, and craven. But it's all the argument he's got. If he was honest, he would say, "We boys just don't want the competition."

Gene, do you have examples of such moments? What caused them and what was the effect of confrontation? Rita's list shows that the current evolution is in the direction of increased rigidity, and Katherine's worries seem warranted to me. Maybe if we just wait for a couple of generations the problem, which now looks so knotted, will resolve itself easily, with fresh thought coming from the non-Western Catholic world. Is there such an urgency?

John Prior makes the common mistake of speaking about "women's ordination." There are several ordinations: deacon, priest, bishop. The discussion Deacon Ditewig has been involved in involves only returning to the Tradition--the tradition of women ordained as deacons. The seminary teachers who wrote about Deacon Ditewig do not seem to understand that Pope Benedict XVI clearly distinguished between the ordination of priests and bishops on the one hand and the ordination of deacons on the other, stating that deacons do not share the priestly ordination or ministry. See Can. 1008-1009 as amended in 2009.

Bill Ditewig has posted two long responses to criticism of him on Fr. Z's bloghttp://wdtprs.com/blog/2012/12/promoter-of-women-deacons-cant-speak-in-a... posted as "Deacon Bill"His lede is:Dear Father Z.,I would normally not respond to much of what has been written here; however, there is so much being misrepresented that I feel I must see your piffle and raise you a kerfuffle.

This is the Fr. Z, expert on all things Catholic (except canon law) who was given a bit of a slap down by Cardinal Burke for writing that attendance at one mass this past Saturday-Sunday would fulfill the obligation of attending mass on both Sunday and a Holy Day of Obligation.Fr. Zuhlsdorf is generally very good, but here hes just plain wrong, said the Cardinal. This is the same Fr. Z who is hosting a seven-day Caribbean cruise/retreat with Michael Voris during Lent next year. (minimum price = over $1,000) - first night cocktail party. I am fairly sure that if the good father were in a parish, his bishop (liberal or conservative) would have strong words about this cruise. As for Michael Voris He too has no oversight.

John Hayes - thanks....the two responses from Deacon Bill are enlightening. Posted the background, credentials, education, and experience of two committee members. If you compare Deacon Bill's experience with these two - well, the differences are significant.Like the Sr. Elizabeth situation - Deacon Bill states that committee objections revolve around the question of *history*. In fact, the book in question has three chapters - Deacon Bill did not write the chapter about history and yet that is what the committee highlights (similar to Sr. Elizabeth's book when some USCCB committee folks acknowledged that they had not read her book but, none the less, voted to sanction it).If you take the responses by Fr. Z and compare to the Phil. committee - you can only be disturbed. Deacon Bill's clarifications of the issues is nuanced, precise, and clear.Would suggest that the Phil. committee doesn't have the experience or background to actually provide a valid response - which leaves us with the usual power play....because they can. Note especially Deacon Bill's clarifications about Magisterium (whether small M or capital M)

John Hayes, thanks for those links to Fr. Z's blog. They are Ditewig at his pastoral best.FWIW, my view on the question of ordaining women to the diaconate is as follows:* Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, an exercise of the church's teaching authority, very precisely excluded the diaconate from the scope of its teaching. In other words, there is no direct appeal to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to answer the question, "may women be ordained to the diaconate?"* There are at least two sets of questions to be answered: (1) does the church have the authority to ordain women to the diaconate? and (2) if the answer to (1) is yes, then is it prudent for the church to do so now? Appeals to history may help to discern the answer to (1), but it is possible that the answers to the two questions could be, respectively, Yes and No. Thorin's first comment points to one reason that it could come out that way.* Just speaking as one deacon: I wouldn't feel threatened or upset if the answer to the two questions I raised in the previous bullet turns out to be Yes and Yes. There are something like 15,000 of us in the US alone, and a group that large is bound to have a wide range of opinions and preferences on any given question (including nut-job views at either extreme :-)), but I think that most deacons would view it the way I do. Most of us went through formation with our wives, and have had the opportunity to think, pray and discuss the question pretty extensively.

From the Committee's (unpersuasive and detracting) explanation: "[Ditewig] also holds that his ordination as a deacon as well as his ministry somehow includes the deacons spouse so that the two sacraments of marriage and diaconate [sic] ordination become one in the person of the deacon."This claim also deserves closer scrutiny. I doubt that this one-sentence summary does justice to Ditewig's views on the relationship between the sacraments of marriage and Holy Orders. The Committee's statement overall seems to go out of its way to detract Ditewig.

Over on FB, Deacon Ditewig noted that at least one part of the statement from the Philadelphia commission, evidently quoting him, is something he never wrote and he has no idea where it came from. Nor does it reflect, even remotely, anything he has written. He also has indicated that they appear not to have read his published work -- since they attribute to HIM scholarship undertaken by someone else. So this is what we've learned: 1) a commission banned a speaker for published writings of his that it never even read; 2) this same commission banned that same speaker for scholarship that he never even authored; 3) the aforementioned commission jumped to conclusions about the speaker without checking its facts or verifying its sources, and attributed to the speaker things he never said or wrote. Makes perfect sense.

The fact that a person with Deacon Ditewig's reputation and credentials feels the need to defend himself from a person like "Fr. Z" is as vivid an illustration of the alarming state of affairs in the church as I can think of. Talk about morbid symptoms.I think it bears repeating that the commission's essential complaint about Ditewig, as articulated by the diocesan spokesperson in McElwee's article, is that he has written about the question of whether women might be ordained to the diaconate. Which is in no conflict with papal teachings or settled doctrine. The speaker approval commission seems to feel responsible for protecting the people of Philadelphia -- and not just any people, but the people in its diaconate program -- from finding out that issue is even being discussed. Either they're wrong about what their job requires, or they've been given some very bad instruction from their ordinary. Either way, Archbishop Chaput has an opportunity to make it right. Will he? Will any bishop now say, "I am grateful for the many years of faithful service Deacon Ditewig has offered to our church, and he is welcome to speak in my diocese whenever we are fortunate enough to have him"?

The fact that a person with Deacon Ditewigs reputation and credentials feels the need to defend himself from a person like Fr. Z is as vivid an illustration of the alarming state of affairs in the church as I can think of. Talk about morbid symptoms.Agree.

A related "Speaker Approval" issue is the letter sent to pastors on behalf of Bishop Morlino of Madison telling them not to allow two Sinsinawa Domincan sisters to be involved in any programs at their parishes:"Until further notice, based upon ongoing investigation into this matter of grave concern, any past, present, or future staff or members of Wisdoms Well Interfaith Spirituality Center, including at this time, Paula Hirschboeck, Ph.D., Sr. Maureen McDonnell, O.P., Sr. Lynn Lisbeth, O.P. and Ms. Beth OBrien, Oblate of Holy Wisdom Monastery, are not to be invited or allowed to preach, catechize, lead spiritual or prayer instructions or exercises, or to provide spiritual direction or guidance at churches, oratories, or chapels within the Diocese of Madison, whether as individuals or as official representatives of Wisdoms Well Interfaith Spirituality Center. This includes, but is not limited to, all parish church property or any type of parish sponsorship. No stand-alone or collaborative programs, workshops, series, panel participation, or moderation of fora involving Wisdoms Well members, past, present, or future may be held, distributed, or shown until further notice. Any existing events of these individuals should be cancelled or modified so the above individuals are not involved. The aforementioned speakers will not be approved under the Diocese of Madison Speaker Approval Policy until further notice.No distribution of materials of whatever media for Wisdoms Well or its individual past, present, or future members, is allowed at parishes, churches, oratories, or chapels within the Diocese of Madison until further notice. No advertisements on parish property or in parish bulletins for any of the above items are allowed until further notice. This includes, but is not limited to, advertisements for Centering Prayer by any of the individuals named above. Centering Prayer is a type of contemplative prayer, yet contemplative prayer is a charism usually only given to those advanced in the spiritual life, and in the absence of sound spiritual direction accompanied by orthodox doctrine, attempting contemplative prayer can be counterproductive and even seriously harmful."http://www.madisoncatholicherald.org/bishop/41-bishop-category/3720-misl... links at right side of that page for the letter quoted above.I suppose that it's possible that vowed religious are teaching error as Catholic doctrine and should not be invited to do it under church auspices but, as in the case of Deacon Bill, this raises the question of whether what these people do goes beyond the limit of allowable investigation and discussion wihin the Church. In explaining "indifferentism", the attachment to the letter mentions Gregory XVI's "Mirari Vos." but not the Vatican II documents on ecumenism.

I think the initial question in John Pryor's 12/11/2012 - 8:20 PM post, and his reflection on the question, are the most arresting thing I have read in a year or so of following this blog.

Hi all,I just wanted to say thanks for all the insightful comments on this issue. It's been very useful.One thing I might add, both in response to John Hayes and to illustrate the wider point, is the Madison, Wis., diocese's very strict speaker approval policy. No person (besides diocesan staff and priests, but not sisters) is allowed to speak in that diocese without prior approval of Bishop Robert Morlino.In the process of attaining that approval, speakers are required to submit their CV and a letter from their parish priest or superior indicating they are in good standing with the church. Theologians must provide their mandatum, or say they do not have one.Given those restrictions, you've got to wonder how many people aren't even considered as speakers (or are outright denied) and what that does to a sacramental community.Link to the full regulation on the matter: http://www.madisondiocese.org/Portals/0/Communications/Speaker%20Policy%... McElweeNCR

I don't think it's wrong for a bishop, or any member of the church, to be vigilant about what is taught in the church's name. There *is* a lot of nonsense and error floating about. (Cf the recent topics here on Bill Donohue). And I do think that a public speaker can compile a track record of nonsense and error sufficient to make him or her an untrustworthy speaker - someone who is no longer entitled to the benefit of the doubt.What I bristle at is the suggestion by the Philadelphia Archdiocese that Bill Ditewig is one of those people.

"What does it mean that Christ gave to Peter the power to bind and to loose? I have always thought that it meant that Peter (and his successors) were empowered to make operational decisions as well as doctrinal clarifications for the Church. And the earliest Christians seemed to look to him for such guidance."He gave Peter, alone, the keys of the Kingdom, but also gave the disciples (only the Apostles?) the binding an loosing power:Matthew 1617 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.But then in Matthew 18:18 He says to all the disciples present:18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.I suppose the issue is to what extent the successors of Peter and the disciples are free to exercise prudential judgement in binding and loosing and to what extent they can they bind and loose only after discerning the will of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Disciplinary requirements on the order of requiring everyone to attend Mass on Sunday under pain of mortal sin are clearly in the prudential category. Dogmatic definitions, like the Immaculate Conception are clearly in the second category. Where a decision about priestly ordination of women falls is not obvious, but I take it that the Pope said that he had discerned that it was God's will that this should not be done.

St. Paul had a problem that included, but was not limited to, unauthorized speakers, preachers, talkers, expositors, explainers and others in Corinth and environs, including house churches, synagogues, agoras, street corners and stables. St. Paul did not respond to it in the boilerplate legalese of the Madison diocese, which demonstrates how those Christians named below herein are going to get injunctions against one another. Any shepherd who baas like that at his sheep should be required to raise the money for his legal fees by participating in a diocesan dunk tank until every billable hour has been covered.

theres no scriptural reason women cant be priestsCrystal,That maybe a sufficient analysis for followers of Luther, but its only a part of the analysis for a Catholic. At least, one must also consider the Councils, revelation, oral tradition as passed down from the apostles and safeguarded by the Church, and the consensus of the body of Christ which includes all members since the founding, living and dead.

I think the bottom line is that yes, a bishop of course has the right to vet who speaks in his buildings to his clerics in his diocese. In this case, the local bishop is not vetting by means of a committee of his own choosing. Further, the committee is basing its negative recommendation on its own interpretation of materials it has not reviewed, and further, making a statement of doctrine beyond its competence and authority. If they refuse Deacon Ditewig the opportunity to speak to deacons in a closed meeting, what is next? If Archbishop Chaput allows such silliness in his diocese, who will listen to him on anything else? An answer, if not the answer, would be to examine the competence of the individuals who make such recommendations and replace them where necessary.

Bruce,The Pontifical Biblical Commission is not Lutheran :) ..."On whether the New Testament settles, in a clear and final way, the question of whether women can be admitted to the presbyterate, they [the Commission] unanimously voted against the proposition (170); on the question of whether there are in the Scriptures sufficient indications to exclude the possibility of women priests, they voted against the proposition (125); and on the question of whether the Church would be able to entrust the ministries of the Eucharist and Reconciliation to women, without going against Christ's original intentions, they voted in favor (125)." - Catholic Church doctrine on the ordination of womenIf the church has other reasons besides what Jesus said/did for keeping women from being priests, what are they?

" --- the consensus of the body of Christ which includes all members since the founding, living and dead."That must have been one HELL of a survey! Where can I read the questions and an analysis of the answers?

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Consensusconsensus noun, often attributive \kn-sen(t)-ss\Definition of CONSENSUS1 a: general agreement : unanimity b: the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned BRUCE: would you like to change your choice of terms?

Jim,No. We know what the consensus was for the past 2000 years. Current votes are only a small percentage of that.

John hqyes ==I wonder if the "indiferentism" referred to was the Quietist movement which got hung up in a sort of practice which leads the mystic to think that she is God and thus beyond sin. This often leads to a arrogance and indiffrent to other people. The experience is what R.C. Zaehner calls 'isolaiton mysticism", and it's found in many different mystical traditions besides the Catholic one.

Bruce,I believe the consensus over two millenia has been mostly in favor of capital punishment, especially when it was exercised by the church herself. More recent votes are only a small percentage against.

Ann Olivier, the term came up in a list of definitions they provided in the "Synopsis" attached to the letter to pastors:"Indifferentism - In Catholic theology, indifferentism is the belief that no one religion or philosophy is superior to another. The Catholic Church ascribes indifferentism to all atheistic, materialistic, pantheistic and agnostic philosophies. There are three basiv types of indifferentism in Catholic theology: absolute, restricted, and liberal or latitudinarian indifferentism. Indifferentism was first explicitly identified and condemned by Pope Gregory XVI, in his encyclical "Mirari Vos."http://www.madisondiocese.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=31gaeERUy_8%3d&t... of the SSPX's questions about Vatican II is whether it attempted to change the views expressed in "Mirari Vos".Here's a sample of "Mirari Vos", which was issued to counter Lamennais: "14. This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error, as Augustine was wont to say.21 When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly the bottomless pit22 is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy lawsin other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty."

Bruce, see again:a: general agreement : unanimity b: the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned Exactly how was judgment from MOST OF THOSE CONCERNED arrived at?Where is the UNANIMITY?What you are talking about is the biased decisions of a very few with the most to gain without ever consulting the rest of those affected.That is NOT consensus. That is authoritarianism, i.e., the Catholic position on this matter.

John Hayes --Thanks for the information. That is a different definition, and it certainly fits the context.

John Hayes,Your posts are outstanding. Thank you.I see Gregory XVI (1765-1846) only adds to the list of popes whose writings have been subsequently revised if not fully negated. Since freedom of conscience is basically 50 years old in the Church's time frame, count Mirari Vos among positions held for millenia, that are now discredited. A genuine hermeneutic of rupture/discontinuity, IMHO. Seeing some of the text is a vivid example of time-bound, erroneous thinking; JPII's quotes here will hold up as poorly.Gregory did publish an encyclical against the Atlantic slave trade, something that does wear much better over time.In the movie Lincoln, politicians worry that emancipation could lead to horrors like Negroes and women voting, holding office, or even intermarriage. Slavery was defended as a Gospel value. But what sounded so unthinkable and ludicrous then is accepted now. I believe the same will be the case for married men and women priests in perhaps less than the 140 or so years it took before a Black man was elected president. Today's debate will ring just as hollow in the next century, a curious anachronism. VII's genuinely open window will prevail, a welcome discontinuity.IOW, liberation from the literal beckons. Besides, which qualities of ministry attach to the sexual organs of men over those of women?

Bruce,there are currently about 7 billion people alive. The total number of people who have been born in the last 2000 years is estimated as roughly 60 billion, of which a large number died in infancy. If we venture the guess of about half, then about 30 billion people have ever lived long enough to have an opinion about anything. I don't know how many of those were Christian, but if, for the sake of simplicity, we take it to be a constant fraction, then we currently have about a quarter of Christians that ever lived: enough that any opinion that is currently a minority opinion can no longer be considered a consensus, even if it was prevailing in the past.

John Hayes,Thanks for that splendid quote from Gregory XVI. It made me so hungry for more that I read the entire text of Mirari Vos. I have never encountered anything quite like it in style or substance. Though a non-expert, I take it to be a fair example of timeless Church teaching. If I have any criticism, it is that the Holy Father saw fit to devote only two paragraphs to the important duty of banning and burning impious books.

Jim and Claire,Lets do a little math. Even assuming that half of todays Catholics agree with you, which is a wild exaggeration, thats only an eighth of the entire population of the body of Christ. So 88% disagree with you. Thats a consensus in my book.

Bruce, why don't put the matter out for vote among Catholics to see if there really is a consensus? When polls consistently show that Catholics prefer changes to the Church we get met with the protest that the Church is not a democracy. So in my view, it is illogical and pointless to talk about consensus regarding any Church doctrine. The point is, it doesn't matter to you who disagrees, and this resort to consensus as an argument is nothing more than a magician's trick to avoid having to discuss merits of any kind.

This episode recalled a letter that the distinguished historian of Christianity, Eamon Duffy, wrote to "The Tablet" concerning the decision by the University of San Diego to withdraw an invitation it had issued to the theologian Tina Beattie. Duffy wrote: "I fear that by publicly withdrawing the invitation, the University of San Diego is colluding in the sovietisation of Catholic intellectual life, which many feel is one of the saddest features of the contemporary Church." If the shoe fits....

"the sovietisation of Catholic intellectual life"Once in a while, a phrase comes along that allows one to see something for what it is.

the sovietisation of Catholic intellectual lifeI second that accurate and sad description. It is an inexorable outcome of autocratic governance.

"I take it to be a fair example of timeless Church teaching"I think Benedict wwould say that, like other church documents, it expresses both principles and "contingent" applications of those principles to specific conditions of he time in which it was written - and you have to distinguish between the two categories in deciding how it applies today:As he said:In the 19th century under Pius IX, the clash between the Church's faith and a radical liberalism and the natural sciences, which also claimed to embrace with their knowledge the whole of reality to its limit, stubbornly proposing to make the "hypothesis of God" superfluous, had elicited from the Church a bitter and radical condemnation of this spirit of the modern age. Thus, it seemed that there was no longer any milieu open to a positive and fruitful understanding, and the rejection by those who felt they were the representatives of the modern era was also drastic.In the meantime, however, the modern age had also experienced developments. People came to realize that the American Revolution was offering a model of a modern State that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution....it was necessary to give a new definition to the relationship between the Church and the modern State that would make room impartially for citizens of various religions and ideologies, merely assuming responsibility for an orderly and tolerant coexistence among them and for the freedom to practise their own religion....[next], linked more generally to this was the problem of religious tolerance - a question that required a new definition of the relationship between the Christian faith and the world religions....In this process of innovation in continuity we must learn to understand more practically than before that the Church's decisions on contingent matters - for example, certain practical forms of liberalism or a free interpretation of the Bible - should necessarily be contingent themselves, precisely because they refer to a specific reality that is changeable in itself. It was necessary to learn to recognize that in these decisions it is only the principles that express the permanent aspect, since they remain as an undercurrent, motivating decisions from within. On the other hand, not so permanent are the practical forms that depend on the historical situation and are therefore subject to change.Basic decisions, therefore, continue to be well-grounded, whereas the way they are applied to new contexts can change Thus, for example, if religious freedom were to be considered an expression of the human inability to discover the truth and thus become a canonization of relativism, then this social and historical necessity is raised inappropriately to the metaphysical level and thus stripped of its true meaning. Consequently, it cannot be accepted by those who believe that the human person is capable of knowing the truth about God and, on the basis of the inner dignity of the truth, is bound to this knowledge.It is quite different, on the other hand, to perceive religious freedom as a need that derives from human coexistence, or indeed, as an intrinsic consequence of the truth that cannot be externally imposed but that the person must adopt only through the process of conviction.The Second Vatican Council, recognizing and making its own an essential principle of the modern State with the Decree on Religious Freedom, has recovered the deepest patrimony of the Church. By so doing she can be conscious of being in full harmony with the teaching of Jesus himself (cf. Mt 22: 21), as well as with the Church of the martyrs of all time. Sent from my iPad

"I take it to be a fair example of timeless Church teaching"I think Benedict wwould say that, like other church documents, it expresses both principles and "contingent" applications of those principles to specific conditions of he time in which it was written - and you have to distinguish between the two categories in deciding how it applies today:As he said:In the 19th century under Pius IX, the clash between the Church's faith and a radical liberalism and the natural sciences, which also claimed to embrace with their knowledge the whole of reality to its limit, stubbornly proposing to make the "hypothesis of God" superfluous, had elicited from the Church a bitter and radical condemnation of this spirit of the modern age. Thus, it seemed that there was no longer any milieu open to a positive and fruitful understanding, and the rejection by those who felt they were the representatives of the modern era was also drastic.In the meantime, however, the modern age had also experienced developments. People came to realize that the American Revolution was offering a model of a modern State that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution....it was necessary to give a new definition to the relationship between the Church and the modern State that would make room impartially for citizens of various religions and ideologies, merely assuming responsibility for an orderly and tolerant coexistence among them and for the freedom to practise their own religion....[next], linked more generally to this was the problem of religious tolerance - a question that required a new definition of the relationship between the Christian faith and the world religions....In this process of innovation in continuity we must learn to understand more practically than before that the Church's decisions on contingent matters - for example, certain practical forms of liberalism or a free interpretation of the Bible - should necessarily be contingent themselves, precisely because they refer to a specific reality that is changeable in itself. It was necessary to learn to recognize that in these decisions it is only the principles that express the permanent aspect, since they remain as an undercurrent, motivating decisions from within. On the other hand, not so permanent are the practical forms that depend on the historical situation and are therefore subject to change.Basic decisions, therefore, continue to be well-grounded, whereas the way they are applied to new contexts can change Thus, for example, if religious freedom were to be considered an expression of the human inability to discover the truth and thus become a canonization of relativism, then this social and historical necessity is raised inappropriately to the metaphysical level and thus stripped of its true meaning. Consequently, it cannot be accepted by those who believe that the human person is capable of knowing the truth about God and, on the basis of the inner dignity of the truth, is bound to this knowledge.It is quite different, on the other hand, to perceive religious freedom as a need that derives from human coexistence, or indeed, as an intrinsic consequence of the truth that cannot be externally imposed but that the person must adopt only through the process of conviction.The Second Vatican Council, recognizing and making its own an essential principle of the modern State with the Decree on Religious Freedom, has recovered the deepest patrimony of the Church. By so doing she can be conscious of being in full harmony with the teaching of Jesus himself (cf. Mt 22: 21), as well as with the Church of the martyrs of http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2005/december/do...

Church of the martyrs of all time

Agree about the "sovietisation of Catholic intellectual life." So very sad. Duffy himself, of course, has had opprobrium heaped upon him by the pipsqueaks.Paging through the 600+ biographical sketches in Catholic Authors, by Matthew Hoehn, OSB, 1947, gives a little glimpse into how different things were just 65 years ago.

John Hayes,What an interesting exercise is the sorting out of principles versus their contingent applications; the source, perhaps, of "as we've always taught." The twistings and turnings of language and meaning can also be so convenient.So, what is the basic, timeless principle of limiting the priesthood to women, and getting nervous about them in the diaconate? I certainly am no expert but why do I get whiffs of self-serving rationales?

"Thats a consensus in my book."When I use a wordit means just what I choose it to meanneither more nor less. Humpty Dumpty in 'Through the Looking Glass.'

Bruce, 88% is getting close to borderline for consensus. Given that my back-of-the-envelope calculation could have huge mistakes, I wouldn't be so confident if I were you. But it's a fun puzzle. What fraction of the adult Christians who ever lived are alive today?I think that it's one of those rare questions that google can't answer.

"In this process of innovation in continuity we must learn to understand more practically than before that the Churchs decisions on contingent matters for example, certain practical forms of liberalism or a free interpretation of the Bible should necessarily be contingent themselves, precisely because they refer to a specific reality that is changeable in itself. It was necessary to learn to recognize that in these decisions it is only the principles that express the permanent aspect, since they remain as an undercurrent, motivating decisions from within."John Hayes,Thank you again. The paragraph above seems to apply directly to the question of priestly ordination of women. For although the subordination of women has been taken for granted in most societies from time immemorial right into our own age, it is now seen to be a widespread cultural artifact, not a rule of nature. And so it is a contingent matter on which the Church 's decision should necessarily be contingent itself.In choosing twelve men and no women to be his apostles, Christ may well have been exercising his own prudential judgment. He was setting out to preach a message so radical that it scandalized many who heard it and eventually got him killed. Did he want to add to his difficulties by defying convention and raising women to prominent places in his entourage, probably encouraging lurid gossip about "hippie" shenanigans. What would anyone have thought about a male stranger saying to a woman, "Come, follow me"?In any case, this was the eastern Mediterranean. There would have been far more men than women out and about on the byways and seashores of Galilee, and those women who were out may have been chaperoned and unapproachable. So he could have chosen twelve men by an entirely random selection.Christ was not shy about stating what was important in the kingdom of heaven. If it was the divine will that only men should hold positions of authority in his Church, he could have declared that. But he did not.

"So, what is the basic, timeless principle of limiting the priesthood to women?" Oops.I obviously meant "prohibiting" the priesthood to women...

Why would or should women be satisfied with ordination to the diaconate? Nothing but scraps from the papal table. I would like to see B16 infallibly proclaim that women may not be ordained to the Catholic presbyterate and episcopate. In the event, I would love to see Catholic parishes recall laicized clergy back to "active duty" on weekends or other times and occasions as appropriate. I would love to see parishes call women to preside at their weekend eucharistic liturgies. I would love to see Catholics have a "no confidence" vote re: the lack of genuine leadership demonstrated by too many of our bishops, i.e., guys who lack cojones and/or suck up to the Vatican.We do need to take the Vatican, turn the damn place upside down, and shake the literal hell out of it.

Thorin, you wrote two days ago:"The pope has exercised his authority on the matter of womens ordination. This is what John Paul II wrote: 'Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Churchs divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Churchs faithful.'Can you not recognize a work of fiction, even that from the hand of a pope???????

But its a fun puzzleClaire,Agreed. There are supposedly about 1.2 billion Catholics alive today. I wonder how many Protestants? Before Luther, they all would have been counted as Catholic and maybe the Catholic proportion of the total population would have been larger, dunno.I think in the US we have about 60 million Catholics today. Only about 5% if both numbers are correct. Humbling...

"Why would or should women be satisfied with ordination to the diaconate? Nothing but scraps from the papal table."Ahem.There is actually a great deal of satisfaction to be found in answering a call to a way of life. Not everything is about power and glory. Power and glory can be spiritually perilous.

Jim Pauwels:You wrote, There is actually a great deal of satisfaction to be found in answering a call to a way of life. Not everything is about power and glory.Im not sure how you meant that, but it could be taken as saying that the priesthood as opposed to the diaconate is about power and glory. But the women seeking ordination arent looking for power and glory. Theyre seeking the great deal of satisfaction which youve found in answering a call to the diaconate; they simply feel that their call is to the priesthood, and that thats where theyd feel the great deal of satisfaction that youve found in being a deacon.

Carolyn Disco: "So, what is the basic, timeless principle of limiting the priesthood to women, and getting nervous about them in the diaconate?...'That's THE question, isn't it? I'd guess it would have been more satisfying even to those who agree with the teaching if JPII had invoked some rationale for not ordaining women over and above a mere lack of precedence for doing so. But he apparently couldn't discern one, and yet believed so profoundly in the authority of ecclesial tradition that the bare fact that the Church had never ordained women became in itself equivalent to a timeless principle.

Gene: I was objecting to the characterization of the diaconate as "crumbs from the papal table", as though the diaconate is a stepping-stone or a consolation prize for what women *really* want.

To add to my previous comment: my observation of men who discern for the permanent diaconate is that those who actually wish to be priests but are "settling" for the diaconate, typically because they're married, are not ordained. In the same way, I'd expect - and hope! - that women who are "settling" for the diaconate wouldn't be ordained to the diaconate.

Carolyn and Beverly: John Paul II's apostolic letter on the matter of women being ordained to the priesthood is itself based on a CDF document called "Inter Insigniores", from the 1970s, during the reign of Paul VI. This declaration engages in more in-depth argumentation than Ordinatio Sacerdotalis did.I provide this for informational purposes, for those who are interested. I should also note that, like Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, it is silent on the subject of women's ordination to the diaconate.http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Paul06/p6interi.htm

And while we're looking into the tradition, it's important to consider WHY it is argued that women are not validly ordained (whether to presbyterate or diaconate.) A historical survey shows that the arguments have shifted over the centuries...because they tend to be flimsy or embarrassing in our time. Here's Thomas Aquinas on why being female is an impediment to orders: "since it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection, it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of Order." (Summa Theologiae, Suppl.,39.1c.) In his sed contra he provides this howler: "the crown or tonsure is not befitting to women according to 1 Corinthians 11. Neither therefore is the receiving of Orders." So women cannot be ordained because they are naturally subservient and because it would occasion a bad haircut. Great...St. Jerome's opposition to ordaining women was argued in the context of savage misogyny. It is sometimes mentioned now that women cannot "image" Christ. But deep in the tradition we hear of Christ, "what's not assumed is not redeemed." So this argument seems to be based on a Christological heresy, viz., that Christ is fundamentally different from women, so, logically, can't be redeemed by him. Apparently it is better to defame Christ's salvific work than to admit women to orders. An "iconic" argument is ultimately circular, istm, too. Who decides, and on what criteria, what characteristics are essential to the iconic signification of Christ? Symbols are not arbitrary, but that doesn't mean they can be abused, either. Can only Jews be ordained, since all the 12 were Jews? Can there be only 12, since the 12 represented duodecimal completion? Come on. Arguments count, and when people heap up flimsy arguments to support a position, (as seems clearly the case concerning women deacons,) then something else is at work. Sexism? Misogyny? Take your pick.

But Umberto Eco manages to get Thomas Aquinas on the side of women's ordination, despite himself :) ... http://www.ministryforwomen.org/theology/eco.asp

In his wondering about the exclusion of women from the priesthood, Umberto Eco refers to Thomas Aquinas "[a]ccepting the anthropology of his time (he could not do otherwise)" (Thanks for link, Crystal) Would that the same could be said about the men responsible for the long trail on woman deacons described by Phyllis Zagano in her current Commonweal article "Its Time - The Case for Women Deacons".

Sorry, I know many folks would like to talk about women's ordination to the priesthood, and far be it from me to stand in the way, but I want to return to the event that precipitated this post, because this just really frosts me. The speakers' bureau or whatever the heck they are in Philly said this about Ditewig: "[Ditewig] has publications and blog postings in which he argues for women deacons based on a reading of historical data that is not in accord with the data of Tradition considered globally.""... the data of Tradition considered globally"? What does that phrase, so richly redolent of committee-speak, even mean? If the committee has "data of Tradition" in its hands to which Ditewig's published academic work, or even his most casual blogs and emails, runs counter, then it needs to cough it up post-haste. For that matter, regardless of anything Ditewig has allegedly done or failed to do, if the committee has "data of Tradition" - or even a single datum of Tradition - to the effect that the Church lacks the authority to ordain women to the diaconate, then it needs to show us the data. The church, exercising its teaching authority, has taken advantage of opportunities over the last few decades to assert its lack of authority to ordain women to the priesthood. It seems to have scrupulously avoided taking advantage of those very same opportunities to say anything whatever about women and the diaconate.It may be that this committee, in advancing this claim, is doing more to distort Catholic teaching than anything Ditewig would have said.

Lisa Fullam, the Summa Supplement gives a third reason (quoting Timothy/Paul about women not speaking in church nor having authority over men) that is arguably culturally-bound. However, Thomas didn't write the Supplement. It is thought to have been compiled by a friendfrom other writings of Thomas after his death. Whether it s exactly what Thomas would havee said in his context isat least open to question. Note that there is an interesting mention at the end of deaconnesses reading homlies as deacon did. "On the contrary, It is said (1 Timothy 2:12): "I suffer not a woman to teach (in the Church),* nor to use authority over the man." [The words in parenthesis are from 1 Corinthians 14:34, "Let women keep silence in the churches."]Further, the crown is required previous to receiving Orders, albeit not for the validity of the sacrament. But the crown or tonsure is not befitting to women according to 1 Corinthians 11. Neither therefore is the receiving of Orders.I answer that, Certain things are required in the recipient of a sacrament as being requisite for the validity of the sacrament, and if such things be lacking, one can receive neither the sacrament nor the reality of the sacrament. Other things, however, are required, not for the validity of the sacrament, but for its lawfulness, as being congruous to the sacrament; and without these one receives the sacrament, but not the reality of the sacrament. Accordingly we must say that the male sex is required for receiving Orders not only in the second, but also in the first way. Wherefore even though a woman were made the object of all that is done in conferring Orders, she would not receive Orders, for since a sacrament is a sign, not only the thing, but the signification of the thing, is required in all sacramental actions; thus it was stated above (Question 32, Article 2) that in Extreme Unction it is necessary to have a sick man, in order to signify the need of healing. Accordingly, since it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection, it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of Order. Some, however, have asserted that the male sex is necessary for the lawfulness and not for the validity of the sacrament, because even in the Decretals (cap. Mulieres dist. 32; cap. Diaconissam, 27, qu. i) mention is made of deaconesses and priestesses. But deaconess there denotes a woman who shares in some act of a deacon, namely who reads the homilies in the Church; and priestess [presbytera] means a widow, for the word "presbyter" means "elder"http://www.newadvent.org/summa/5039.htm

Timothy's explanation for not allowing women to speak in the Church appears to include tht Eve was deceived by the serpent11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.Of course, there is substantial doubt that Paul was the author of Timothy.

This is all very interesting--and the news of Ditewig's banning has now reached England. I think Mollie Wilson O'Reilly, who began this pot, hit it right: they who argue most strongly against women as decons seem not to believe church teaching on women as priests. Since Pope Benedict XVI codified the distinction in orders (Cans. 1008-09) the deacon not acting in the person of Christ, head of the Church, there seems no further legal barrier to reinstituting the tradition of women as deacons, and no legal barrier to ordaining them if the history of Can. 1024 is completely examined. And, in The Tablet: http://www.thetablet.co.uk/latest-news/4875

In my travels today I saw a 2003 article about deacons by Phyllis ... Women Deacons - the fears of Rome.

Crystal Watson wrote: "In my travels today I saw a 2003 article about deacons by Phyllis Women Deacons the fears of Rome."I was interested to see this in that article:" It depends rather on the work of ITC member Gerhard L. Mller, a theology professor named bishop of Regensburg, Germany, during the fall 2002 ITC meeting. A number of theologians disagree with Mllers assertions that women never were and never can be sacramentally ordained, but they are either not mentioned or relegated along with Vagaggini to footnotes."Now the Prefect of the CDF

Jeanne --But symbols *are* arbitrary -- anything can symbolie anything. And this is precisely the reason why women too can symbolize Christ.But it's true that it is sometimes useful to have a symbol be partly like what it symbolizes. But it is not necessary. And, as you point out, there are different aspects of Christ which are meant to be symbolized -- his love, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, etc., etc. But women are just as capable of signifying those qualities as men are. Women cannot be iconic symbols of Jesus' masculinity, but being a Christian is not identical with being masculine. Being a line-backer in the NFL is essentially masculine, but loving is not. For this reason, women can signify Jesus as well as men can, though they cannot iconically signify a line=backer.I'd say that Aquins is probably the greatest of Catholic theologians, but nobody is perfect. And in practice he didn't seem to think that women can't be leaders. The Duchess (?) of Braganza wrote to him asking for some advice about how to govern her people well, a very "masculine" occupation. He took her very seriously and wrote a fine letter back which obviously assumes that she was capaable of governing.

The Supplement of the Summa was compiled by Rainaldo da Piperno, reshuffling Thomas' commentary on the Fourth book of the Sentences. So it's Thomas edited. However, it's often missed that this part of the Summa represents Thomas' earliest work, not his mature thought. But yes, that's an interesting turn of phrase, that a deaconess is someone who does some of what a deacon does. But to do an act is not the same as holding the office or having the authority, istm. And I agree that Thomas' anthropology was fine for his time, but not for ours. Paul's an interesting character--letters that are genuinely Pauline have a very inclusive view of ministry.

Is there any good theological (or sociological,) work on the transitional vs permanent diaconate? Are permanent deacons "second class" deacons, in the way that it has been said recently that women priests are second class priests in the Church of England because they cannot become bishops? A word from our Commonweal deacons would be helpful here. Permanent deacons do, for example, seem to be kept in separate training programs. Is that an issue for anyone? Istm that women deacons would be permanent deacons, at least for now, so the question of second-class status is significant.

Are permanent deacons "second class" deacons?Yes.They're not on the prescribed "career path".

Are permanent deacons second class deacons?No. They have a different charism.

"Are permanent deacons second class deacons?""No. They have a different charism"John Hayes: precisely. Thanks for seeing this, and for saying it.

Thank you for this blog post and its incisive wit, Mollie. It made me laugh about a topic that usually makes me cry!

To John Hayes: I read that same document and was fairly dumbfounded (though not surprised, since it was Madison. Don't they have some kind of a university there, too?) What really interests me is how one is supposed to detect FUTURE members of Wisdoms Well? Those Madison folks must be very talented indeed. Or else it falls into a category like "unconstitutionally vague." The real tragedy is that Bishop Morlino and company seem intent on keeping the rich contemplative heritage of the Church from ordinary people. Seems to me it was Thomas Aquinas who insisted that contemplative prayer was potentially available to ALL. And the Sinsinawa Dominicans descend from his illustrious line.Another case of "Stick out foot; fire gun."

To Bernard Dauenhauer et al: Just today, in a different context (regarding Rome's new rules for Catholic social service and charitable organizations) I averred that asking bishops to oversee such matters was akin to the role of political commissars in the USSR. More sovietization, though not intellectual. Coincidence? The notion must be in the air. Perhaps the Spirit at work?

It seems that the Archdiocese is simply looking for a speaker to enhance the comprehension and enlarge the spirits of the current deacons. Consequently, it doesn't want to turn that event into a forum for the question of how the diaconate should be or might be or can't be or must be changed - which, I could understand, is seen as a matter for another venue. So, for instance, if the Navy were holding a Pacific-Fleet assembly for - say - aircraft carrier crews in order to enhance performance and sharpen a sense of the mission, it wouldn't necessarily want to bring in a speaker whose basic point is that carriers are as outmoded today as battleships were a long time ago. That sort of thing. Also, I am always very careful in using the marvelous Monty Python repertoire to illustrate points. Those lads are equal-opportunity ideology-bashers, and their works are notoriously bi-valent. Think of some of those classic exchanges in "Life of Brian":Stan wants to be a woman and to be called Loretta because he wants to 'ave bybies'; and in response to Reg's observation that 'Ya cahn't 'ave bybies, Stan' Stan retorts 'Don't you oppress me!' ... the problem (sort of not) resolved by the suggestions that Stan's not being able to 'ave bybies' "is nobody's fault, not even the Romans" and that "we fight for Stan's symbolic right to 'ave bybies". While many of the comments here are certainly relevant to the Questions about Chuch doctine and papal authority and so forth, the core issue here is - I think - whether the deacons' convocation is a suitable venue for them, since the convocation is meant to serve the purpose of enhancing their skills and spirit, not primarily to use them as a justification for venting theological disputations.

But Joe, is there any reason to think that Ditewig's presentation to the deacons in Philly would have focused on "the question of how the diaconate should be or might be or cant be or must be changed"? Presumably that is not what they asked him to do. He told NCR he had no intention of doing that. The speakers commission, of course, never bothered to ask that question. They just decided that the fact that Ditewig had ever addressed the subject ruled him out as someone fitting to "enhance the comprehension and enlarge the spirits" of their deacons -- despite the fact that he seems, by any rational measure, to be the most qualified person in the country for that job.So long as we're being "careful" about invoking Monty Python, you might recall Stan's friends explaining that he can't have babies because he doesn't have a womb. How one's reproductive organs affect one's qualifications for the diaconate is much less clear.

With no inside line to the speakers-commission thinking, my thought is that they figured it would be better all around not to take a chance that either a) Mr. Ditewig would get carried away with a subject that is demonstrably close to his heart or that b) somebody in the diaconate audience would raise the point for him in a Q&A or c) demonstrations conveniently held outside would provide a pretextual prompt for him to get into the matter. None of these possibilities is off the table especially if anyone has read their Alinsky and such. My point with the Python reference was simply to point out the bi-valence of some of the most acute Python material when it comes to ideological stances generally. However, since the point has been brought up, I can only agree that the complexities of those realities signified by the term the womb are certainly less clear, and by that I would mean highly contested and frankly contestable. All of which points to the fact that a convocation intended to enhance and support present deacons ministry is probably not the place for either theological or ideological treatment of highly disputable issues. Of course, it is Alinsky (and Gramsci and Lenin) 101 that the cadres should take every possible opportunity not to debate but rather to put their spin out there as vividly and emotionally and attention-gettingly as possible. Surely this projected convocation would fit the bill for such a venue. And perhaps the speakers-commission is trying to avoid as much of that as possible, in order to accomplish what I take to be the Archdioceses primary objective of enhancing the knowledge, skill, and spirit of the present deacons rather than having their convocation turned to the primary purposes of other agendas.

I'm sure you're right, Joe, that the commission was taking a better-safe-than-sorry approach. It's just that I think the level of caution that leads to a decision like this one -- a situation in which "caution" becomes straight-up paranoia -- is a very unhealthy state of affairs. Alinksy? Lenin? Honestly.If the members of the speaker approval commission were really that concerned that Ditewig's talk might end up straying into controversial topics, they had a couple of options: they could contact the event organizers to ask them what they had in mind for the talk and what they'd told Ditewig about their expectations. Or, they could contact Ditewig directly to ask him just what he planned to say. Of course if they had done those things they would have had to say out loud, "We are worried about this person's positive attitude toward inquiry into the church's history of ordaining women to the diaconate." So they just decided to say no, he is not allowed to speak in this diocese (at all, per their "recommendation"). And then they cried foul when people found out. And it's Ditewig we should suspect of agenda-driven subversion of what should be an opportunity for enrichment? Where does this stop? Must we cancel all public (or semi-private) discussions of the faith, just in case someone brings up something awkward or off-topic? If the man who once headed the USCCB's secretariat for the diaconate cannot be trusted to talk to deacons, who can?

On the other hand, aren't we lucky the bishops had time in their busy schedules to insist that only one approved text for the Lamb of God be used at all Masses? Jesus (the real Lamb) weeps.

My background interest is in 20th century organized manipulation of public opinion (beginning with the reflections of LeBon about the manipulation of mass public opinion in the 1890s), following the dual track of a) the organized propaganda of ideologically-motivated cadres inside or outside of government and b) advertising as it developed under such thinkers as Bernays. Within (a) are the numerous historical examples of Fascism and Communism (including Lenins thoughts on how to get what you want from a large and established target organization and from Gramsci who gave much thought about how to pull all this off in a functioning democracy using its own methods, and from whom Alinsky descends) and within (b) are the examples of advertising in the consumerist mode and public relations as it is practiced nowadays. I am not primarily concerned with Content of agendas as I am with Method, and looking at this diaconate convocation I can see rather clearly the lineaments of the type of activity one would normally see in ideological, vanguard-elite-managed issues. And that one would certainly see in Alinskys prescriptions as well as familiar patterns from 20th-century history as I indicated above. Nor is Alinsky irrelevant to matters here, since his Method has been rather widely-adopted in this country in the past 40 years for a wide variety of reform-seeking activity. If that seems a bit far afield, I can only recommend reading his Rules for Radicals. Having done so, then observing the various maneuverings here and there assumes a far richer and more complex (if perhaps even disturbing) density and texture. And anyone familiar with Alinsky (and perhaps the speakers-commission has had a bit of time to do some reading) would realize that no amount of prior agreement or negotiating would in any way guarantee what would happen once the lights, mikes, and cameras were irrevocably switched on: the Method I discussed above would by that point have already won its objective: either the target organization (the Archdiocese in this case) would have to permit the event to continue in whatever direction it was now being taken (regardless of whatever prior assurances it had been given) or it would have to publicly and overtly shut down the whole convocation a Win-Win for the Method either way: its desired topic is publicly discussed or the convocation is shut down and claims of repression and oppression can quickly be raised. The target organization in this case the Archdiocese is made the mule to carry the machinery of its own undoing in the matter, which is precisely a Gramscian symmetry. And perhaps the speakers-commission has done a bit of reading and realizes that this is the Game being played and these are the rules of the Method being deployed, and has made the prudent but also shrewd move of refusing to permit the situation from even getting to the Lose-Lose point for the Archdiocese by simply not running the risk in the first place.Everything else mentioned in the 445PM comment is subsumed under the rubrics I have discussed here. No doubt, in the Methods optimal scenario for this matter, the Archdiocese would have to admit that it did not want Mr. Ditewigs clearly primary concerns to become the central focus of the convocation it was running for another (and hardly irrelevant or unnecessary) purpose, i.e. the enhancement of the pastoral competence and spiritual growth of the current deacons. But this simply demonstrates in a comment precisely the agenda of the Method as it is being deployed in this matter: use the convocation for the purposes of our side in the ideological dispute diaconate-eligibility exactly as the Method would require. Meanwhile, the enhancement of the pastoral competence and spiritual growth of the current deacons gets lost in the ideological maneuvering. From a Method point of view, Id be interested in how a simple refusal to invite somebody became a public matter in the first place. The Method would call for somebody to leak it in order to create a cause clbre to be deployed in the service of the leaking party or parties. Nor, thus, would I minimize this diaconate-convocation matter as simply a refusal-to-discuss whatever matter some party or parties wish to publicize (presuming, the Method would add, that the publicity can be controlled in the correct direction). The convocation is not for the purposes of doctrinal discussion (which I imagine would most surely result in what is more properly characterizable as a disputation); it is for the purpose as best I can discern of furthering the enhancement of the pastoral competence and spiritual growth of the current deacons. These two objectives discussion/disputation and enhancement are not compatible and indeed I think would work out to be mutually-exclusive, to the detriment of the current deacons enhancement. I think its not a matter of who can be trusted to talk to the deacons, but rather who is willing to accept the primacy of the objective of furthering the enhancement of the pastoral competence and spiritual growth of the current deacons and thus rejecting the distractions (or temptations, perhaps) of agendas (discussion/disputation) incompatible with that primacy. Folks may look at this matter as they wish. But I will share here that in light of theoretically established and historically demonstrable evidence, I find both the indicators of just those tactics and stratagems so often deployed by what I call for short-hand purposes the Method and also indicators that the Archdiocesan speaking-commission is taking precisely the most well-advised action in the face of those tactics and stratagems, i.e. avoiding the ride into that Valley in the first place. The deacons I hope will get their enhancement of pastoral and spiritual capability. I am sure they are in need of it and that it will bear much fruit for them and for the people of the Archdiocese to whom they minister. And let ideological disputations take place in a venue that will not compromise that vital and worthwhile project.

Joe, you seem convinced that Ditewig is a radical, which may be the reason you're so sanguine about the decision to blacklist him. On what basis do you make that judgment? For that matter, where do you get your information about what Ditewig's "clearly primary concerns" are? How many of his numerous publications on the diaconate do you think are about the possibility of ordaining women deacons (which, I keep having to note, is actually not such an outrageous subject, except in the most paranoid bunkers of so-caled traditionalism?). The problem, of course, is not that you think the commission ought to be reading Alinsky, but that the commission's members spent so little time reading Ditewig.I know you are eager to extend the benefit of the doubt to the Philly speaker approval commission, but you seem to have a mistaken view of their role and objective. It is not their job to find the best possible person to address the gathering of deacons planned for the spring. That was the job of the event's organizers, and they chose Deacon Ditewig, for a number of very obvious reasons. The speaker approval commission's job, in Philadelphia and in every other place where such things exist, is to spare the bishop and the diocese from having to endure uncomfortable criticism and attacks from people like the Cardinal Newman Society, the American Life League, "Fr. Z." -- any of the growing number of Catholics who make their living and reputation by accusing other Catholics of being traitors to the faith. Bishops want to avoid giving the appearance of sponsoring or even tolerating any opinion that deviates from the core teachings of the church. Even, as I said above, if that accusation could only be dishonest or unfair, they'd still rather avoid the problem. (This is known as courageous leadership.) Hence "commissions" like the one in Philly, which are set up to ask not "Is this speaker qualified for the job at hand?" But rather "Can we find anything in this speaker's background that might be twisted into fodder for an attack on the orthodoxy of this diocese?" And if that answer is yes -- as it is so often in Philadelphia, where the commission tasked with composing the blacklist is especially skittish -- then the speaker gets disinvited. Not consulted or even given a fair reading, because that is not the commission's job. Just blackballed. And when things go the way the diocese wants, even the person being blackballed doesn't find out about it. We know this not just because of "theoretically established and historically demonstrable evidence," but because we know what this commission determined in the case of Deacon Ditewig. They did not regretfully conclude, as you want to suggest, that his appearance might lead this particular convocation for deacons away from its intended purpose (silly as that would have been). That's what the diocesan spokesperson said, later, when flailing to defend an obviously wrong-headed decision. What the commission said -- and Phyllis Zagano has helpfully reproduced their complete "recommendation" in a comment above -- is that Ditewig is not approved to speak in the archdiocese at all, because he could be considered to hold opinions contrary to the magisterium. Even though, actually, he doesn't. In light of all of that, whether or not the archdiocese can find someone else to speak to its deacons is really the least of my concerns.

Mollie ==Could it be that the commission has *already* knows Alinsky? If their PR person has a degree in PR, isn't it likely the person knows about the Method? Also, Alinsky was a close friend of Jacques Maritain, a very conservative Catholic. That should give Alinsky some respect in conservative Catholic circles. (Not that he doesn't present problems to them :-)]My question is: why should the bishops assume that it is not in the interest of deacon formation to have the deacons hear purported radicals? Isn't that treating them like children? Oops -- I forgot, the bishops are the shepherds and we are the sheep.

To Molly: Im not certain and make no presumptions about Ditewigs basic ideological position. I gleaned from the above article that he supported womens ordination to the diaconate (which is his right and as Content his thoughts are not my concern here). My thought is that there exists in the mind of the Archdiocese (and again I have no inside line here) the strong possibility that one way or the other that topic will come up and perhaps even take-over the convocations agenda. In that way I am imagining that the speakers-commission is simply being prudent in avoiding the possibility; whether to prevent Mr. Ditewig being put in a difficult position or to prevent a topic being raised which will derail or distract the primary objective of the convocation. I am assuming here I will say that the purpose of the convocation is the pastoral and spiritual enhancement of the deacons capabilities to minister, and is not primarily a convocation for the purpose of discussing what is admittedly a contested topic (and one, as well, which may have larger doctrinal implications). I myself would consequently avoid using the term blacklist which is heavily freighted with the history of the Hollywood blacklist against suspected Communist sympathizers in the film industry back in the McCarthy era. I imagine that if the Archdiocese were to convene a forum precisely for the purpose of discussing the womens-ordination-to-diaconate subject, Mr. Ditewig would be and I would say that from what I have gleaned, should be a prime candidate to speak in such a forum. And again, I am assuming that the purpose of the convocation is not to raise such a contested doctrinal issue. And I would say that the women/diaconate issue is indeed heavily freighted, since it has so many doctrinal implications for diaconate and arguably priestly ordination. So whether such a subject is properly a topic to be raised in the convocation (as I imagine the convocation to be designed) would be a significant doctrinal distraction from the pastoral and spiritual objectives. I would certainly not be surprised if the Archdiocese isnt really willing to raise that subject especially in this convocation, since the subject has implications for the Church far beyond Philadelphia itself. But I am not at all denying the validity of the women/ordination topic itself as a matter for discussion or for a classic disputation. Its a matter of the proper venue or forum for that discussion/disputation. If the organizers of the convocation I had presumed it was somehow sponsored under the aegis of the Archdiocese itself had selected Mr. Ditewig as primary speaker, then the Archdiocese and naturally, I would say retains final say. If however this is not a convocation sponsored by the Archdiocese for the pastoral and spiritual enhancement of its deacons, then that would create a different situation. Again, I have no inside line and I am not greatly familiar with the specifics of the convocations initiating authority. I will say that it doesnt seem outr to me that bishops or the Archbishop in Philadelphia are hesitant to sponsor events where matters will be publicly discussed that might veer and perhaps sharply from the general doctrinal position of the Vatican. We are members of the Roman Catholic Church after all, and not a more congregational polity. Even Diarmaid MacCulloch who is not overly enamored of the Vatican-heavy Latin Church of the Western Rite (as he calls it) cannot avoid relating in his recent and hefty history of Christianity that the same vertebrate characteristic imparted by the Vaticans role in the Church has also resulted in a Church that has lasted for two millennia, where far more flexible and (I will say) invertebrate polities have disappeared into a miasm of differing illuminations and excitements or have found themselves unable to maintain a core corpus of beliefs sufficiently strongly held as to sustain the belief-needs of human beings over the long haul of Time. As in the human organism, vertebracy imparts shape, and shape by its very function limits the organism in the very process of giving it identity. (Although I suppose one might make the case that insects largely exo-skeletal, consisting of an internal bio-mush enclosed by an exterior shell will probably outlast humans. But that I think is part of the trade-off specific to our species: our shape is sufficiently robust as to impart solidity to us, and yet in the course of time it may be the far more flexible insects who will endure but at a particular and heavy cost to the quality of their being, as compared to humans. So too with the Church, although I am not here making the case or trying to imply that a totally monarchical and infallible belief-hegemon running the Church like the chief and central-brain of the Dalleks (a Dr. Who reference) is desirable. But even as MacCulloch points out, its been a long time since the Church gave up on the (seductive, in its way) vision of a universal spiritual world-monarchy centered on the Chair of Peter.) I retain my thought that the speakers-commission and the Archdiocese may well simply wish to avoid bringing up what is a rather central doctrinal disputation in a mere (if I may) Archdiocesan convocation of deacons. I am not fan of ecclesiatchiki (my term for the Church equivalent of the old Soviet bureaucratic apparatchiki), but I also respect the fact that there is a vital value to some level of coherence and uniformity, and some shape or Shape. I think that at this point in American Church history we must also face the consequences of what has been a rather robust embrace of Alinsky-ite Method for achieving desired changes, on the part of more than a few desiring change: given the oppositional and calculating strategizing that is endemic to Alinsky and his Method, we now face after a period of some very rackety decades a Church structure and officialdom that has become very wary of being made the target of the Method. Who can be surprised at this? Nor do I want to embrace a too-narrow Marxist power analysis of the hierarchy: that the old-boys are just trying to backlash and protect their own power. Somehow this Church has weathered storms over the millennia that have wrecked or reduced to irrelevance many other Christian polities. Yes, one must change to remain the same certainly. But the price of vertebracy is that the soft-organs have to work with the solid skeletal elements for the whole body to maintain survivability and viability. A certain invertebracy has its charms (as it did to my Boomer generation), but as I believe is becoming increasingly clear in wider cultural and social matters those charms and those advantages come, like all prescription wonder-drugs, with all sorts of side-effects, and some of them are lethal. Prudence is required here, I would say. We dont want to take our children to a pediatrician who is so adventurous as to prescribe the latest cutting-edge new drug regardless of any concern for larger and longer side-effects and consequences. And from what I recall of the very very good Sisters of my youth, you can still get an old-girl network in a convent that can easily rival the dynamics of any old-boy network in a seminary or other organizational level. Courageous is not what we look for in doctors. We want some very serious knowledge and prudence and to use the Latin gravitas. I am happy to see the old-school Archbishop-as-Political-Boss and CEO passing from the scene. I want to see a far more urgent and informed and developed spiritual and pastoral competence in the hierarchy. I want to see leadership but not the leadership too easily accorded to the stereotypical first-kid-with-the-portable-megaphone who got to the student union on a nice spring afternoon to lead the rush to burn down the ROTC building. There are, as any homeowner knows, load-bearing walls and decorative walls. The latter can be knocked down to taste; the former cannot be messed-with unless you want the roof to fall in. Or, as was learned the hard way on the Titanic, there are certain watertight-compartment walls (bulkheads, as they say in the trade) that cant be lightly compromised just to make it easier for passengers to mosey around the ship when the Dark Night comes with its strenuous frights and challenges, those bulkheads have to hold, even though on sunny afternoons they make it less easy to enjoy the aesthetics of sailing on an ocean-liner. Just what are the doctrinal decorative walls and just what are the doctrinal carrying-walls, just what are the doctrinal watertight-bulkheads and what are the doctrinal cabin-walls that can be re-arranged as desired these are the Questions requiring serious discernment in the Church, and I make no judgments here as to which are which. But the Church is a Vessel, just as each of us humans is a vessel, and the Life-Ocean is no Sunday-summer-afternoon pond. So Id like to see very serious and sober thinking and discerning all around, exercised by laity and hierarchy and clergy and theologians. For this, getting back to Alinsky, I think that serious and deeply prayerful gravitas is required all around: against (stereotypical) hierarchs who simply dont want things to change unless they feel like changing things and against (stereotypical) revolutionary and change-besotted ideologues who figure that anything is better than what we have now. Alinsky pretty much developed his Method (with much borrowing from Gramsci, Lenin, and many other conceptual forebears) on the presumption that authority is just another word for Doing It My Way (reminiscent I have always thought of the adolescents blithe assumption that adults are only on the planet to say No to him/her). We Catholics are the heirs and stewards of a most profoundly serious Mission and Purpose in this world. I pray as mightily as I can for all of those who seek change and for those who want to keep the Vessels integrity intact. If the Coast Guard cutter itself sinks (or sinks itself), what hope of rescue for those on the sea in the dark and stormy night? If, as you mention, the Archdiocese has determined that Mr. Ditewig holds or could hold opinions contrary to the magisterium, then I would hope that such an assessment was made with due gravity and seriousness and of course demonstrable accuracy. If some think that is not so, then I would certainly see the need for those persons to make their views known. An Open Letter might be an idea, sort of like putting up theses on the Church door and inviting all the believers to consider the matter. But let it be open and forthright and not with the frankly manipulative calculations and strategems of the Alinsky approach: the faithful, just like the Citizens of this country, cannot be manipulated like herds of cattle whether the trail-boss be a (stereotypical) self-satisfied hierarch who is the Deciderer over everybodys head or a (stereotypical) self-sure cadre hell-bent on achieving change over the heads of the benighted cattle who dont know where their own best interests lie anyway. None of which is intended to provide any conclusive assertions or prescriptions about the matter of the diaconate convocation. We are all regardless of station or vocation Catholics together on this Vessel. And I firmly believe that this Vessel has a vital and urgent role to play as a very fraught national future unfolds at an increasingly ominous pace.

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