On women deacons: "Not all of us are agitating for such a 'restoration'"

Evidently irked by Phyllis Zagano’s argument in support of women deacons, Daniel Van Slyke today offers a counter-argument, in the form of an open letter to the pope, in Crisis:

The specific roles assigned to deaconesses in ancient documents such as the Didascalia Apostolorum comprise charitable services for women, the instruction of female catechumens, and the anointing of women at baptism. In other words, deaconesses ministered strictly to women, fulfilling functions that are best performed by women rather than by men, if scandal is to be avoided. Another early Christian document, the Apostolic Constitutions, prescribes: “A deaconess does not bless, nor perform anything belonging to the office of presbyters or deacons.” Deaconesses manifestly did not have a role at the altar during Eucharistic celebrations. As the ITC states in the study mentioned above, “This ministry was not perceived as simply the feminine equivalent of the masculine diaconate.” Those advocating a “restoration” of women deacons must be clear about what they wish to restore, since their arguments are based on historical models.

Yet not all of us are advocating or agitating for such a “restoration.” Some of us are mistrustful of archaeological exercises that thinly veil radical agendas under ostensible calls to restore ancient Christian practices. Many things that took place among early Christians disappeared for good reasons, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and need not be resuscitated today. Please be sure that the Vatican bureaucracy continues to stymie the desires of those calling for change by invoking early Christianity!

Be assured, Your Holiness, that I am not the only Catholic with no interest in women deacons. Millions of women have lived their Catholic faith and have made inestimable contributions to the Church without any desire to prance about the sanctuary in clerical garb. For the most part, they are too busy with service to their families and with works of charity to organize petitions, attend rallies, and write open letters expressing their lack of desire for female ordination.

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57 responses to “On women deacons: "Not all of us are agitating for such a 'restoration'"”

  1. I take issue with snarky phrases like “desire to prance about the sanctuary in clerical garb.”

    It really says a lot about the writer’s view of women.

    Whatever. I’m not openly advocating for women’s ordination because I’m a church employee and it’s frowned upon. And I’m too busy. But I haven’t yet heard any reasons against it that truly sway me into believing the way things are is the right way.

    This is really a thinly veiled sexist attack on women.

  2. “Prancing in the sanctuary.” Really?

    I had a suspicion that “uber-conservative” folks did not like deacons but, honestly, I never understood why.

    I do not believe any of these negative commentators have any idea what we really do. And that’s sad.

  3. I have no personal desire to be a woman deacon, even if it were possible. My husband is a deacon, and we are quite busy enough, thank you, without two deacons in the family. I am proud of him, and the good he does; and I already do the activities in the Church which I possess any talent to do (mainly choir and organ).
    However, having said that, I have a couple of friends who have expressed a desire to be deaconesses, if that option is ever open to them. They have never expressed a desire to “prance about the sanctuary in clerical garb” (seriously, does that have anything to do with why guys want to be deacons?) These women are quietly busy with their families and works of charity. They don’t go to rallies or circulate petitions, or write rabble-rousing letters. They just expressed a desire, quietly, in a one-on-one conversation, that they would like to serve God in this way, if that were possible. It’s too bad that the possibility can’t even be discussed without bringing accusations from some people of a lack of humility and not knowing one’s place.

  4. “Many things that took place among early Christians disappeared for good reasons, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and need not be resuscitated today.”

    Like nonviolence and compassionate care of the poor–the sort of thing that won over a pagan empire? Sometimes it sure seems like it.

  5. “This is really a thinly veiled sexist attack on women.”
    That’s what it sounds like to me, too, Missy Francis.

  6. With a little editing needed, over all a succint presentation on who the ancient deaconess was and why the contemporary deaconess would not be in any way, shape or form the female counterpart.

  7. FWIW, I didn’t take the comment to “prance about…” in any way as a relegation of Deacons, in fact, just the opposite. I actually loved that line, as I think it sums it up well that this entire “women priest/deacon” campaign really is nothing more than a thinly veiled agenda by clueless women who are too ignorant of the faith to understand that women clergy doesn’t equate to “power.”

    For those who find the naysayers as “sexist and anti-women”, the truth is, for those who know Catholicism, it couldn’t be more “anti-catholic.” I personally don’t know one Catholic women of strong faith who has any desire or feels any “entitlement” to “ordination.” Besides, any faithful Catholic of either sex understands that ordination is not a “job” but a vocation, subsequently, we are called to live in God’s will, not our own earthly agendas.

    Speaking of ordination, here’s a small but important fact that I have made before on this blog: Early women deacons of the CC were NEVER ordained, NEVER.

    I view the entire female ordiantion movement as just one more dance of the devil. Every Deacon I know works terrribly long hours WITHOUT PAY, and sacrifices much. If the day ever comes and the gates open for women (doubt the Holy Spirit would ever even allow it, even in misjudgement) rest assured it would be the destruction of truly God-willed vocation- called Deacons, as it clearly wouldn’t be the will of God.

    For anyone who continues to find this sexist or unfair, I suggest putting some serious time and effort into learning the faith, especially the “whys” behind it.

  8. “desire to prance about the sanctuary in clerical garb”

    woah.. too much misogyny. Doesn’t he know we have clergymen prancing about the sanctuary as if they owned the church? Women that advocate for clergywomen are often accused of being power-hungry, but accussers forget we too have many corrupted men among the clergy.

    “Many things that took place among early Christians disappeared for good reasons, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and need not be resuscitated today.”

    And, who’s discerning that the Holy Spirit doesn’t want deaconesses? him??? under what grounds?

    why is it that “trads” or “conservative” catholics associate the petition for deaconesses with women having access to the Holy Orders?? One thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other one. You can have a church with deaconesses as it was in the early church, i.e. women that have no access to the Holy Orders but serve the Church in various ways, doing whatever the Lord calls them to do (not that women don’t serve the Church anymore, they do, of course). I don’t really think there are valid arguments against deaconesses in our Church.
    I totally agree with the 1º comment: This is an attack on women.

  9. Klaire,

    I agree with you entirely. Also, for those who believe this to be an attack on women coming from “trads”, or whatever the moniker of the day may be, I invite you to consider that the CC is about the only Church that has empowered women through the ages.

    We have had plenty of women who founded religious orders, some of whom have risen to the level of Doctor of the Church. They created their own rule, and led their own communities. They purchased land and built schools, orphanages, hospitals, and poor houses. They built colleges and engaged in missionary activity, all without needing men to help them. All of this in a time when Jews, Muslims, Protestants and the Eastern religions never came close to our liberalism with women as leaders. It isn’t that traditionalists are misogynists, it’s that the radicals are either ignorant of history, or spiteful revisionists.

  10. My how thin-skinned you people are. Read the entire article and then comment. As with most of these “open letters”–most of which are NEVER read by the proposed recipients (if the Holy Father reads Zagano’s or Van Slyke’s I would be amazed)–there is a fair amount of tongue-in-cheek commentary, especially with the responder (Van Slyke here) to the original writer (Zagano). This is how these op-ed pieces are always structured.

    Zagano raised some issues in her letter, and Van Slyke answers them in his. There’s no misogyny, and no attack on women–just reasoned attacks to Zagano’s arguments, along with the usual literal flourish or two. Now it’s her turn to write another “open letter” to refute Van Slyke’s critical notations, if she wishes.

    The bottom line here is that Van Slyke does a great job here of refuting points laid out by Zagano, who is covertly pushing for female presbyteral ordination under the guise of “settling” for the diaconate. It won’t happen–the Magisterium can see through the subterfuge.

  11. gerard,

    many “trads” or conservative catholics quote everything you just said as THE argument for the issue of the empowerment of women. But can we really say the Church has always empowered women or let them follow God’s calling for their lives? can we dear to say that, when only 20% of the vatican employees are women?

  12. Mbd, if you don’t mind, I too would like to respond to your above question to Gerald, especially as a women.

    1. Yes, IF one knows the faith, we can CLEARLY state that God had not only always empowered women, but perhaps I dare say, even FAVORED women, (at least a bit it seems).

    2. If you have to calculate the “percenage of Vatican employees”, you clearly make the point that you and the other wanna be’s don’t have a clue of the real understanding of the Catholic Faith. In God’s world we are called to ‘serve” not climb the “corporate ladder.”

    The problem here can only be one of two things, ignoance or vegnece. For either, I suggest…

    Starting with contemplation of the Virgin Mary’s “yes.” After that, any “Devout Catholic women or Mother of the faith.”

    After a study of the Virgin Mary, who BTW, rec’d the highest Godly honor of any creature ever born, to then read the writings of St. Catherine of Siena, St. Theresa of Avila, or The “Little Flower”, all female doctors of the church, quite an accomplishment for a 2000 year old church with only a total of 33 doctors.

    Through all of these women, as well as many other saints, you will come to learn and love Christ and His Church.

    Last but not least, one of my most beautiful quotes, which was also used at the royal wedding:

    “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” _St. Catherine of Siena

  13. As a man I don’t think I have any problem philosophically or otherwise with female deacons even though I have not read the serious arguments for or against the idea.

    However, I still would like to know why men have never been eligible to become nuns.

    A wag might say, tit for tat or something to that effect.

  14. Donald, regarding your question “However, I still would like to know why men have never been eligible to become nuns.”

    It’s the same answer as to why men can’t be mothers and women can’t be fathers.

  15. Re: “desire to prance about the sanctuary in clerical garb.”

    I have heard similar (and meaner) comments directed toward deacons by some women.

    While we are on the topic:

    Why the term, deaconess, why not just deacon? We don’t call a woman doctor, a doctoress. A women ordained in the Episcopalian Church is not called a priestess.

    I would like offer what has been for me a mind-opening article, “Jesus Was a Feminist” by Leonard Swidler published 40 years ago in the Paulist publication, “Catholic World.” (It is easy to find in a Google search.)

    Trust me. Despite the title it is not at all a radical article. It just presents how counter-cultural Jesus was in his dealings with women.

  16. Aren’t monks and brothers the male equivalent of nuns – so there are male “nuns” – they just are called something different. Jesus surprised his disciples in the way he treated and intereacted with women – for example, they were surprised to find Him talking to a woman by a well – a Samaratin women no less. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom to women and men equally and it is clear in the New Testament that women understood Him – sometimes better than the men understood Him. He was very clear when He said “Mary has chosen the better part and I will not take that from her.” Mary wasnt doing “woman’s work” in that story – Martha was. Mary was participating in Jesus’ teaching the way the men did.

  17. I didnt mean to imply that I thought Jesus meant that men’s work was the better part. I meant to say that serving God was the better part and men and woman were equal in Jesus’ eyes

  18. Klaire,

    a “wanna be”??? is that the language of a christian, of a disciple of Jesus?? Is that how YOU call your sisters in Christ??? or, may I say, your sisters in Christ who DON’T agree with you?? how very uncharitable and unchristian of you. You may be proud of “knowing the faith” but I don’t think you can be really proud of following Jesus, you know? one concept has nothing to do with the other one. “Ye shall know them by their fruits”
    1º I’m not talking about God here. I’m talking about the Church. Don’t mix two different concepts.
    2º It’s not about climbing the “corporate ladder.” I’m talking about giving women more presence in the Vatican and in leadership, which doesn’t have to do with ordaining women to the Holy Orders and doesn’t have to do with “power” or “pride” or “climbing” anything. And I do know the faith, thank you very much. I know my faith perfectly well. I know my faith so well that I know it has never allowed doctrinally or dogmatically the consideration that women are inferior to men. Jobs at the Vatican have nothing to do with our faith. It has to do with giving women oportunities like we deserve. And that IS something the Church believes.
    I CAN say that I love Christ and His Church. However, I can also say that I will defend my faith but NEVER the men that represent – or are supposed to represent – the faith. Our Church has limited people – men and women – a lot and we all know it. The fact that you or others want to deny or ignore it basically states 2 things: that a) you’re not giving a good christian testimony, and b) you are trying to cover up the evil deeds of many men – laity and clergy – in our Church.

  19. when I said “Jobs at the Vatican have nothing to do with our faith” I meant “having the opportunity to get a job at the Vatican”

  20. MBd — A mindset that you will NEVER defend the shepherds God has placed in authority over us sound, at best, pretty disloyal to me.

  21. Of course, I don’t mean that the disloyalty is toward me, but that it sounds to me like disloyalty.

  22. p.s to MbD:

    Regardless of the sins of anyone connected to the CC, even the Pope, that doesn’t change the core teaching, which, when properly understood, simply has good reasons for the roles of men and women in the Body of Christ.

    When I post here I post on offical church teaching, regardless of who’s obeying and who isn’t.

  23. To the point about women “prancing” about the sanctuary in clerical garb: I, a woman, was for a short time a lector at my parish where the head lector (a woman) insisted that the readers carry the gospels down the aisle like a deacon. One day she insisted that I carry the gospels and I said to a 3rd lector (also a woman) that this was inappropriate. The 3rd lector said to me “Just think that when they (the parishioners) see you how many of them will wish it were them” being seen holding the gospels during the procession.
    I quit being lector that same day. Yes some men are vain and want to preen before a captive audience in church, but I can’t see this conversation taking place among anyone but women.

  24. Interesting how so many in favor of deaconesses only commented on the satirical line in Dr. VanSlyke’s article.
    I guess that means the arguments for ordaining deaconesses are weak or non-existent. The only argument that kept popping up was the chauvinistically American one of mindless absolute egalitarianism which rules much of our culture.
    I saw not one commenter mention that there is a Church that has everything liberals and radicals want in the Catholic Church–it is called the Episcopal Church. There are 3 other mainline churches (Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ) that are offering the mindless liberalism now being promoted in the Catholic Church by some.
    I’m sure they don’t talk about it because those churches have given radical feminists, gays, and abortionists virtually everything they have demanded. And in all those churches the jettisoning of Christian morality started with the ordination of feminist deacons or their equivalent.
    The result has been an average loss of membership of about 50% and institutional chaos in those churches as well as a source of tens of thousands of conversions to the Catholic Church by people who are looking for orthodox Christianity.
    Consequently, I think it is fair to say that those who want deaconesses in the Catholic Church don’t have the interests of the Catholic Church at heart.
    That is why so much of the anti-Catholic secular media is promoting changes like having deaconesses in the Catholic Church

  25. “I think it is fair to say that those who want deaconesses in the Catholic Church don’t have the interests of the Catholic Church at heart.”

    Deacon John:
    Really now, how do you know that? Can it be that there are women who are aware of the needs of the Church and want to meet that need as did the early church did with the deaconate?

  26. Deacon John #25

    “That is why so much of the anti-Catholic secular media is promoting changes like having deaconesses in the Catholic Church”

    I hate to do it John, but I have to call your bluff on this one. Prove that statement.

  27. In response to john-john: As someone who’s a former student of Zagano, I know she definitely isn’t pursuing the women diaconate as something to “settle” on since the Vatican won’t pass the women priesthood. She, as well as many other educated theologians have extensively researched this topic and its evolution throughout the years and have good reason for pursuing this. You should read the book she has coming out this fall and see for yourself. It will most likely have less satire and more facts. It’s supposed to outline the history of the woman diaconate. Whether you agree or not, it’s always good to understand the opponent’s argument properly (and really, that goes for a lot of you).

    Personally, I don’t care either way. As someone who works for the church, I think it could be fantastic although at the rate we’re going, it probably won’t happen anytime soon. You never know what the Holy Spirit has going for us. After all, there have been many moments where one year the opinions theologians were teaching made those people silenced by the Vatican only to be placed in positions of decision making and counsel a decade later.

  28. “I think it is fair to say that those who want deaconesses in the Catholic Church don’t have the interests of the Catholic Church at heart.”

    Deacon John:
    Really now, how do you know that?

    Can it be that there are women who are aware of the needs of the Church and want to meet that need as did the early church did with the deaconate?

  29. I can’t tell you what God’s will is regarding this issue. I do know that there is a ton of emotion on both sides. What personal qualities does God require from an ordained deacon? Are they gender specific? The real question, I believe is whether God….the Holy Spirit….calls persons of only one gender to ordination.
    Perhaps we should all check our egos and prayerfully seek the answers to these questions.

  30. Here is what is interesting to me as I ponder this post and thread…

    I am struck by women who hear a call and who wish to respond painted in so many negative ways and I am also struck by so many commenters who seem to know the will, mind and heart of God.

    I pray for the lack of charity that I see in comments.

    Would there even be a Catholic or Christian Church if someone did not defy the convention of the time? Isn’t that still the case or am I really missing something?

  31. (Fran)Would there even be a Catholic or Christian Church if someone did not defy the convention of the time? Isn’t that still the case or am I really missing something?

    Actually Fran, no, there would/could NOT be a Catholic Church today if DOGMATIC Constitutions, such as women ordinations, were ignorned.

    Why is so hard for some to understand that core teachings of the church, unlike man-made doctrines, can NEVER be changed, as they were set in place by Jesus Christ. Women ordination is one such dogma, and for good theological reasons?

  32. Our parish nun informed the RCIA class, if Jesus was here today, there would be women priest. She needed to read, Woman Priests? EWTN, which gives an excellent historical summary and commentary from the early church fathers on women priest and deaconesses in the Catholic Church. “Evidence from St. Irenaeue suggests heretical Gnostic women priest and other erroneous sects …. were never approved by the Magisterium throughout history. Good information.

  33. I am actually surprised by the confluence of anger and ignorance regardng my NCR column on restoration of women to the diaconate. My book “Holy Saturday: And Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Chuch” (Crossroad) appeared–and won the College Theology Annual Book Award–when Mr. Van Slyke was barely out of college. I am not aware of theological publications by Mr. Van Slyke, who teaches liturgy. Like him, many blog respondents, especially on the Crisis site, change the topic from women in the diaconate to women as priests, something I do not write on or advocate. Some impugn the intent of the ordaining bishops of the early church, who used the same rituals for creating men and women as deacons. Many have a visceral response to the thought of women vested for liturgy. These responses give me insight into the fractured church, suffering as it is by a lack of diaconal ministry. The combination of negative and uninformed views is, I think, answered in my just-published book “Women & Catholicism: Gender, Communion, and Authority” (Macmillan) and “Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future” (with Gary Macy and William T. Ditewig) (Paulist), scheduled for late October, 2011. The problem of anger is far deeper, and can only be addressed by they who, like Mr. Van Slyke, hold, harbor, and encourage it.

  34. Ms. Zagano,

    I do not think it is possible to have any reasonable discussion on this topic in any blog. It seems that for all blogs the com boxes are only for those who are in agreement, or it turns into a battlefield with everyone throwing verbal grenades at each other.

    On the deacon’s blog there seems to be a pattern (and this is only MHO from observation) that there is a “tabloid-esque” heading to a topic that sets others up to react, and boy, do they react in the com boxes! So right from the get go there is no chance for discussion. Again, IMHO, there must be many creative ways to use the Internet for the Church’s mission, but it is hard to see how blogging in one of them.

    Anyway, I think this topic of women in the diaconate, is so explosive that all one can expect is grenade throwing. Because:

    -The church is still trying to find the role of women in the church of today. Until about 400 years ago, women were married, widowed or in a cloistered convent. Then around the time of St Vincent de Paul they entered the ministry of nursing and teaching as “active sisters”. But what is the role of educated women who is not a nun in the church? And for a universal church that deals with all kinds of cultures this is a deep issue and no one has a cookie cutter answer.

    – And then there is the problem with the diaconate itself in RCC. Most deacons are in the USA, some in Europe and few in the rest of the world. In the US (I know I am speaking in generalities and there are many exceptions) the diaconate is very liturgical focused, for older married men, centered on the local parish. But no one really knows if the restored diaconate will survive in a hundred years. There are very unique condition that have fostered its growth in the US, but in areas where they do not have these conditions the diaconate is not present, growing or a vital ministry in the local church.

    -So there is the whole issue of the place of women the church, then add on the ongoing “experiment” of the ordained diaconate that is going on…it is not a black and white situation. This will take time to unfold and for the church to work out over time.

    On a practical level, the best is for men and women to really focus on the call to diaconal service that is rooted in their baptism. Our life in Christ is for the life of the world and we are called by baptism to empty ourselves and to use all our gifts for the sake of others following the example of Christ. And we can leave it up to the Holy Spirit to let the church know who and when to call and confirm others in this this baptismal life of service with a sacramental role for the good of the whole church.

  35. Anthony:

    Let’s work on those caricatures you listed:
    –“very liturgically focused.” OK, after you are ordained, you are expected to be on the altar in a Mass as a deacon at least once a weekend — normally whenever you would regularly come to Mass. Most deacons I know do not do everything that they can liturgically. I might do 7-8 weddings a year and no Benedictions or even Funerals while an exactly opposite ratio might be the experience of another diaconal colleague. I choose to preach an average of six times a month while Deacon Greg might do twice that number and another deacon might not preach at all.
    –“older-married men.” Canon Law says that married men cannot be ordained to the permanent diaconate until they are 35. Some bishops choose to go even farther by not approving for ordination any man who still has school-aged children at home. Of the 400 or so deacons who have had some contact with my diocese, only two were ever ordained as celibates. One went on to the priesthood and the other was removed through the Dallas protocols on pedophilia. The other Canon Law implication is that a bishop is financially responsible for the life-upkeep of any clergy he has ordained and that includes deacons. Because of that rule, most bishops will not ordain men who exhibit any sort of financial instability or who do not have a defined retirement program already in place.
    –“centered on the local parish.” Genuinely that is where the action is and the needs are, but Deacon Bill — among many other experts on these subjects — is trying to emphasize that every ordained deacon not only needs a local parish ministry but also a diocesan one. That could be something as simple as being an Advocate for the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal, being a member of any one of the various diocesan committee and boards, or being on the faculty of the diaconal formation program. These diocesan functions, however, are rarely seen — much less understood — by the everyday laity in the pews.

  36. The fact remains, no women were EVER ordained as Deacons of the Church, and for good theological reasons.

    Women who can’t seem to “find their place” in Catholicism should start by learning it!

    The altar is a sacred place, not to be “staffed” for the sake of “feelings.”

  37. Deacon Norb, I am sorry but i have no idea what you are talking about. I said there are exceptions, it seems that all that you say just proves my point? maybe it is a structural condition that only older men can apply to diaconate? why dont younger men find the diaconate something attractive? I know the situation in a number of dioceses out east where there are many deacons, and trust me, it is almost totally a parish centered role and i am sure less than one percent have a “diocesan ministry” and those that do it is not necessary for them to be a deacon to have the role.
    are you saying that if there is a layperson or a deacon who are both qualified for a diocesan role it should go to the deacon?

    Do you have some canonical rule that states Bishops are financially responsible for all deacons they ordained? that would be real news to the deacons in our diocese. i checked this with the director of the diaconate of our diocese and he was clear that the deacon is responsible for all his own financial stability. but perhaps that is only this diocese?

  38. Klaire, please show where rome has said no women can be ordained? all that has been said it that it is understudy. also before Vaticanll some carthusian nuns were ordained deacons and vested in deacon stole could chant the Gospel at Mass. so it is not so clear as you think

  39. Ms. Zagano uses the same old tired liberal argument when people disagree with them. Name-call them as “angry and ignorant.”
    I still haven’t seen the “calm and intelligent” explain how they can be so absolutely and thoroughly certain that starting down the same slippery slope the Episcopals, the U of Christ, the Methodists, and now the Presbyterians have gone down culminating in ordaining gay ” married” clergy as clergy or bishops will not also degrade the Catholic Church. I suppose one is “angry” or “ignorant” to bring up this FACT of current religious life. And to complain one isn’t using the concept of women deacons as a stalking horse for all sorts of other radical changes–when all around us such was the case in so many other mainline churches–seems to show either a lack of being open about what one’s goals really are or a lack of wisdom in realizing that not all change is good–some can be carriers of cancer–as became obvious in the other churches.
    As for the anti-Catholic secular press. I don’t recall the liberal secular media ever praising, only attacking, the Church for its stands on radical feminist, gay, or abortion issues. But, I will admit I don’t sit at my desk writing down the name of every article and editorial I read and its authors. Can anyone send me the NY Times editorials praising the Catholic Church for its stands on abortion, gay marriage, and women’s ordination???
    And finally, considering the hard time the diaconate has had getting established outside the United States (and even in some American dioceses), I think for leading American deacons to get involved in anything that even hints of helping to organize people to want what amounts to radical change in the Church, will only harm the diaconate.

  40. Anthony, I think you are right when you say that this will all take time to unfold, and that includes the place of women in the Church today. I hope you are not right that it is impossible to carry on a reasonable discussion about this subject; I simply don’t see the need for all the vitriol. But the possibility for rational dialogue does not look very hopeful.

  41. Anthony: #38

    A good place to start is Canon 281 Para 1 and 2.

    While it does not mention “deacons” in specific, it does mention the bishop’s very specifically responsibility for “clerics” and “old age.”

    I learned about this issue many years ago when I found out that bishops in Florida and Arizona were not accepting incardination of “snow-bird” deacons from the north because they did not want to be financially responsible for their old-age care.

    I wonder whether the bishops in your area are ignoring this responsibility deliberately or whether the diaconal administrators are telling candidates this because they do not want to deal with it.

  42. Norb and Anthony; I don’t know how that canon is interpreted by most dioceses; but it would surely be news in our neck of the woods that the diocese bears any responsibility for the financial support of deacons, if they are not employees of the Church. When my husband was in formation, there were guys in the program who went through layoffs, quit jobs, and started jobs; apparently no red flags went up. They were still on track for ordination.

  43. Melody #44

    “When my husband was in formation, there were guys in the program who went through layoffs, quit jobs, and started jobs; apparently no red flags went up. They were still on track for ordination.”

    I’m not sure this is exactly appropriate but some years back, a deacon candidate in our diocese had his formation cycle deliberately put on hold — the term is “stop-out” not “drop out” — because he had lost his job in a shake-out of the auto parts industry due to the Great Recession. Once he got back to work, he was allowed to re-start his formation where he left off. Instead of taking him three years it took him close to six to finish the program.

  44. Ms Zagano #34,

    It is very hard to take your arguments seriously when you respond with attacks toward the posters here (the “angry” and “ignorant”), or against another published author like DR. Van Slyke.

    Thanks for the plugs for your books in your post and congratulations. Dr. Van Slyke is a published author as well, yet you dismiss him out of hand as a young whippersnapper and ignore his arguments. That says a lot about your position, which, as most of us know here, is a push for female priests, cloaked around the diaconate.

    The diaconate today, the priesthood tomorrow. It’s very transparent and not fooling anyone.

  45. johnjohn #46

    I agree, in the conventional wisdom of the vast majority of Roman Catholics raised in the pre-Vatican II era, the steps of deacon/priest/bishop was almost immutable “Divine Law.” As a result, those pre-Vatican priests dismissed that step as a ministry mandated by the Acts of the Apostles. To those guys, it was a mere annoyance — one more hoop to jump through on their way to a different goal. Being ordained a deacon became an irrelavence.

    But that three-step process isn’t Divine Law at all. It is human custom — long standing church tradition — but not a cosmic mandate.

    In our XXI century church, the understanding is that the diaconate has an independent value its of own. YES, all priests still move through it before their own ordination to the presbyterate but being ordained as a deacon does not mean you are on your way to become a priest. I have met two who have but have met thousands who have not.

    Even the attitude of priests toward the ministry of deacons has changed radically in recent years. This is especially true if they grew up in parishes where there was a permanently ordaned deacon in active ministry.

  46. I wonder if “desire to prance about the sanctuary in clerical garb.” reflects the misogyny and anti-deacon sentiments of Professor VanSlyke alone or those of his employer, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary as well?

  47. Klaire @ #7


    I sometimes have a tendency to throw extra passion into my posts (as evidenced to me by a couple of posts that Dcn G. has deleted – sorry.)
    You have put my position of most women that I have discussed this topic with having an ulterior motive (not from God) into a great post.

    Peace to all

  48. Deacon John M. Bresnahan,

    There is no slippery slope in the Eastern Orthodox Church. There is no movement to ordain women as priests, and the EOC has begun to restore the female deaconate.

    The Catholic Church needs to stop worrying about becoming too Protestant. Rather, it should strive to be more orthodox in the most genuine sense. The East has retained and been far more faithful to the Tradition handed down to the Church. The West needs to do so.

    Tradition is not a 4-letter word and it doesn’t need to be developed into oblivion as has been done by Popes over the millenium. We need not be afraid of orthodoxy, and there is nothing unorthodox about ordaining women as deacons and recognizing the dignity of these women. Once the Orthodox understanding is embraced there will never be the risk of the slippery slope. The male deacon and female deacon were ordained to service, but had different roles. That should be affirmed and restored. We need more deacons in the service of the Church.

  49. Dan S.–
    It is a modern American conceit and cultural bias that there are no differences between men and women–even though there obviously are–and that these differences be recognized in some way, shape, or manner is not refusing “to recognize the dignity of women.”
    If ordaining women were something people of both sexes wanted, the churches doing it wouldn’t be losing on average 50% of their membership. Many of those churches are doing what they think people want based on polls and our culture. But genuine religious conviction goes far deeper than what polls can measure or what liberal activists can manipulate.
    Nothing stood in Mother Teresa’s way because she wasn’t ordained a deaconess.

  50. “The Catholic Church needs to stop worrying about becoming too Protestant”

    Why? Should we just allow anything goes? Seems thats the way many Protestant denominations are going. Just look at same sex marriage and openly gay clergy.
    If the Pope thought that women should be or could be ordained deacons, he would do it. There are far more important matters of orthodoxy to be concerned about, eg. the lack of belief in the Real Presence for starters.

  51. Yeah, fulfilling the fantasy of prancing about the sanctuary in lace petticoats and cappa magnae should rightfully be reserved to those “men” who have managed to change “altar boy” into a synonym for “catamite” in modern times. They’ve been so marvelous for the Church, ya know. All those wonderful effects on evangelization, fundraising, retention of Catholics…

  52. cathyf #52 — there is no logical nexus between the plague of sexual abuse and the theological issue of women’s ordination. So your comment is completely irrelevant and serves only do display your anger at the abuse. Beyond that when you speak of changing “’altar boy’ into a synonym for ‘catamite’ in modern times” you insult the victims of abuse at the same time that you falsely imply that the actions of a minority were commonplace. Please try to be more accurate and logical.

  53. Patheos

    This is an important conversation. I am not agitating for women deacons or anything else.

    However, I remain deeply troubled by the way the misuse of ecclesiastical authority, especially with regard to the ordination of women. Also, the Vatican has started steering the church back toward a “siege mentality” and away from listening to the sensus fidelium and discerning the “signs of the times.” Lamentably, this trend is now being reinforced by the phenomenon of “creeping infallibility.” After much prayer, my discernment is that the Vatican is playing at being God and imposing by force a discipline of doctrinal rigidity on matters that have nothing whatsoever to do with the deposit of faith.

    Regarding the ordination of women, I can understand that the Vatican is reluctant to acknowledge that the church succumbed to sexism like everyone else, including most world religions. But the power of the keys were given to the church not to protect herself but to open the doors of the kingdom – as in Acts 15. Indeed, the power of the keys was given to Peter; but to Peter in union with the church, not to Peter in isolation from the church (Matthew 16:9, 18:18).

    Faith transcends reason, but faith cannot be irrational. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is a literalist (as opposed to literal), fundamentalist, and therefore irrational exercise in a futile attempt to elevate Canon 1024 from discipline to doctrine. Even more irrational is the current policy of forbidding discussion of the issue (again, Cf. Acts 15). To finish unloading all my concerns, may I say that – in my not so humble opinion – priority should be given to the ordination of celibate women rather than abolishing priestly celibacy.

    Jesus was celibate. He is the norm for both men and women. He was the norm for his mother. He remains the one and only norm for being human in the divine image. To say that women cannot be priests because Mary was not a priest is a fallacy. Mary is our blessed mother, assumed body and soul to heaven, because she was the most perfect icon of her Son. If women can be baptized, then they can be ordained to act in persona Christi; else, the entire theology of ordination becomes irrational.

    The church must do what is right, not what is safe. Indeed, the words of Jesus are right on target: “Be not afraid.”

    “Regina apostolorum, ora pro nobis.”

    In Christ our Lord,

    Luis T. Gutiérrez, PhD, PE
    The Pelican Web of Solidarity and Sustainability
    Mother Pelican: A Journal of Sustainable Human Development

  54. Doubt if all women in the RCC desire to be Deaconess. The situtation as it stands now is those women who might wish their church in that office, don’t have a chance—as it is not allowed. Change is hard—-but sometimes necessary.

  55. oops: brain and fingers not working together; “The situation as it stands now is those women who might wish TO SERVE their church in that office, don’t have a chande–as it is not allowed.”

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