Details, from National Catholic Reporter:
A former key U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference staffer has been told he is not allowed to speak publicly in the Philadelphia archdiocese because he co-authored a book investigating the possibility of ordaining women as deacons.
William Ditewig, a theologian and deacon who previously served as the head of the bishops’ secretariat for the diaconate, has been told his public presence in the archdiocese would cause “doctrinal confusion.”
Ditewig, who has authored 10 books on the permanent diaconate and lay ministry, told NCR he had no intention of discussing the question of women deacons during his talk, which was to be an update on the state of the diaconate.
Ditewig served in the role at the bishops’ conference from 2002-2007. He had been scheduled to give an address to the archdiocese’s deacons, wives, and deacon candidates in March 2013 before being told of its cancellation in September.
Notice of the cancellation, which was made available to NCR Monday, came from the archdiocese’s speaker approval commission, a group of six priests and one lay female theologian tasked with reviewing speakers for archdiocesan events.
Their cancellation came without consultation with the deacon.
Ditewig, the commission alleged in a short letter explaining the matter, “has publications … 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 Archdiocesan Speaker Approval Commission recommends that Deacon William T. Ditewig not be approved to speak in the Archdiocese,” it states.
Currently a professor of theology at Jesuit-run Santa Clara University, Ditewig co-authored Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future last year with fellow Santa Clara theology professor Gary Macy and Hofstra University theology professor Phyllis Zagano, who is also an NCR columnist.
Ditewig said in an interview that the three authors decided to undertake the study in order to “refine the question” of the ordination of women in the Catholic church, which previously has focused primarily on the ordination of women to the priesthood.
The authors, Ditewig said, felt compelled to research the matter based on Vatican statements and actions related to the ordination of deacons.
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.”
“When the Holy See says it does not have the authority to ordain women to the priesthood, that’s a very specific thing,” said Ditewig. “It leaves the diaconate out of it because the diaconate is not part of the priesthood.”
“Our position — as scholars, as academics — was that we needed to refine the question,” said Ditewig. “The question of ordaining women generically was too broad. And the question of the ordination of women as deacons was a specific question that needed to be addressed on its own merit, and distinct from any discussion about the ordination of women to the priesthood.”
Members of the Philadelphia archdiocese’s speaker approval commission did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the matter…
Full disclosure: as regular readers of The Bench know, Deacon Bill Ditewig is a good personal friend; he preached my pre-ordination retreat back in 2007, and I’ve helped promote his work, including the book Women Deacons, whose back cover carries the following statement from me:
“This is a book that will get people thinking—and talking. After all the debate about ordaining women as Catholic priests, here is a timely and trenchant analysis of something even the pope hasn’t dismissed: ordaining women as deacons. Forget everything you know, or think you know, about this hot-button issue. Women Deacons breaks ground, shatters misperceptions, and adds immeasurably to the ongoing discussion about women in the church.”