Theologian Father Manfred Hauke said recent comments from a German archbishop appearing to support a particular diaconate for women are confusing to Catholics and others.
“You would have to explain to them the difference between male and female deacons,” he pointed out.
Female “deacons” would not be ordained to the sacrament of Holy Orders, and that to call them deacons would be “ambiguous,” Fr. Hauke said. Women could “receive a benediction for services of charity” but not ordination, he clarified.
At the conclusion of a diocesan conference on possible Church reforms last week, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgau discussed the possibility of “a specific office of deacon for women.”This “specific,” or “particular” office of deacon for women was an example of how the Church might “promote the use of new Church ministries and positions, open also to women.”
Archbishop Zollitsch went on to speak of the importance of leadership roles for women, and had earlier talked of the importance of being a more strongly charismatic-oriented Church and the strengthening of the “common priesthood of all the baptized.”
He believes the Church needs to commit to reform in order to regain credibility and strength.
Fr. Hauke said that Archbishop Zollitsch, who was ordained a priest in 1965, has made some confusing remarks on previous occasions and that he probably “got his idea” to introduce a “specific office of deacon for women” from fellow German Cardinal Walter Kasper.
However, Cardinal Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, had clearly distinguished between a service ministry for women and the sacramental ordination of men as deacons.
Fr. Hauke said that that most people who advocate for women deacons “ultimately want women in the priesthood.”
The Code of Canon Law makes clear that ordination, including to the diaconate, is validly received only by “a baptized male,” and John Paul II’s 1994 apostolic letter “Ordinatio sacerdotalis” teaches definitevly that only men may be ordained priests.