dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

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?

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

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

Pages