Cardinal Müller claims women’s ordination is impossible. He has Amazon Synod Derangement Syndrome, and has called it a “wrecking ball” bent on “restructuring the Universal Church.” We learn from this that the cardinal is very inept with metaphor, since wrecking balls don’t “restructure” anything. Maybe this is a minor problem. The bigger issue with Müller is that he says no pope, no synod, no council “could make possible the ordination of women as bishop, priest, or deacon.” “It would be invalid,” Müller says.
So we learn from this that Müller is unfamiliar with Sacred Scripture, specifically Romans 16:1. Here it is in the RSV-CE: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconness of the church at Cen′chre-ae.” Yes, and the Greek word here is διάκονον, diakonen. Which means what it sounds like it means.
So who ordained Phoebe, and why was St. Paul commending people to her instead of complaining about the wrecking ball that was restructuring Rome? Oh, but Alt, but Alt. There were deaconnesses in the early Church; we all know this, but it wasn’t ordination! I mean, even you said that! Remember?
Yes, I implied as much in a post three years ago. And I still think it’s a wild spasm of easy credulity to think, as the National So-Called Catholic Reporter did at the time, that female deacons would constitute “clergy.” But on the question of ordination, we know from the fifth-century Council of Chalcedon that women were ordained as deacons in the Church. We know that because Canon 15 set a minimum age upon the ordination of women to the diaconate:
“No woman under forty years of age is to be ordained a deacon, and then only after close scrutiny. If after receiving ordination and spending some time in the ministry she despises God’s grace and gets married, such a person is to be anathematised along with her spouse.”
So we learn from this that Cardinal Müller must think that the Council of Chalcedon was invalid. He denies the authority of Chalcedon now. Does Müller also deny the two natures of Christ? Chalcedon defined that dogma. Does Müller deny that Christ is fully human and fully divine? That is what Chalcedon said, and Pope Leo the Great affirmed it? Does Müller mean to tell us that Leo was an antipope? Was Chalcedon a wrecking ball aimed at the restructuring of the Church? (I still have fits of laughter over that one, dear reader.)
Now, certainly—it should be certainly—women may not be ordained to the priesthood. St. John Paul II has settled that question in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:
“[I]n order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”
And it is worth noting here, once more, that Pope Francis has affirmed this teaching himself. “That cannot be done,” the pope has said on the question of women becoming priests.
But priestly ordination is a different question from diaconal ordination. And it may be, too, that a female deacon must of necessity have a different role to fill in the Church than a male deacon. And the Church would have to decide what that role is and make the necessary distinctions and set the necessary caveats.
There’s always the problem of “give ’em an inch and they’ll expect a mile” with regard to those whose ultimate aim is a female priesthood. But that does not touch on the fact that there is nothing prohibiting the ordination of women in the Church as deacons, for the Church has done this before. And that means the Church can do so again.
Sorry to say, but Cardinal Müller is wrong.