So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dignum memoria: deaconesses. A brief archive of online commentary and authoritative resources.


Deaconesses were not ordained in the same way as deacons. Despite what sounds like splitting hairs, deaconesses were not deacons, i.e., members of the third and lowest level of the hierarchy. The role of deaconess was akin to one of the minor orders (acolyte, lector).

In Holy Scripture, Saint Paul referred to Phoebe, a female, as deacon (Romans 6:1-2). The term deacon means servant and the original Greek term diákonos (διάκονος) was used to describe distinct and different offices in the Church.

It may be helpful to recall the usage among our separated (orthodox) eastern brethren:
Those who are placed into the minor orders are done so by cheirothesia, which also means "laying on of hands," but has come to be a technically distinct term from cheirotonia, which is used only for the major orders. According to the DEC (Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity), cheirothesia is not regarded as part of the Holy Mystery of ordination.—OrthodoxWiki
Bottomline, females cannot receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

Complete Transcript of Pope Francis’ Remarks on Women Deacons Challenges Initial Reactions
Catholic Answers
What Should I Know About Pope Francis and ‘Women Deacons’?
H/T Saint Bede Studio
Deaconesses: An Historical Study by Aimé Georges Martimort (1982). Translated by K.D. Whitehead (1986).
H/T Peter Lamb (combox at Vox Cantoris)
Pope Benedict XIV had something to say about the issue of women even so much as serving at the altar:
"Pope Gelasius in his ninth letter (chap. 26) to the bishops of Lucania condemned the evil practice which had been introduced of women serving the priest at the celebration of Mass. Since this abuse had spread to the Greeks, Innocent IV strictly forbade it in his letter to the bishop of Tusculum: “Women should not dare to serve at the altar; they should be altogether refused this ministry.” We too have forbidden this practice in the same words in Our oft-repeated constitution Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 6, no. 21."
(Pope Benedict XIV, Encyclical Allatae Sunt, n. 29)
Allatæ Sunt (Italian translation)
International Theological Commission (2002)
From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles
The Second Council of Orleans (533) decided to exclude from communion women who had "received the blessing for the diaconate despite the canons forbidding this and who had remarried".
With regard to the ordination of women to the diaconate, it should be noted that two important indications emerge from what has been said up to this point:
  1. The deaconesses mentioned in the tradition of the ancient Church - as evidenced by the rite of institution and the functions they exercised - were not purely and simply equivalent to the deacons(.)

Women & The Priesthood

Pope Saint John Paul II 
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994)
Wherefore, in 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.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
VI. Who can receive this Sacrament (of Holy Orders)?
1577 "Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination." The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ's return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.
Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1976) 
Inter Insigniores
For this reason one cannot see how it is possible to propose the admission of women to the priesthood in virtue of the equality of rights of the human person, an equality which holds good also for Christians. To this end, use is sometimes made of the text quoted above, from the Letter to the Galatians (3:28), which says that in Christ there is no longer any distinction between men and women. But this passage does not concern ministries: it only affirms the universal calling to divine filiation, which is the same for all. Moreover, and above all, to consider the ministerial priesthood as a human right would be to misjudge it's nature completely: baptism does not confer any personal title to public ministry within the Church. The priesthood is not conferred for the honour or advantage of the recipient, but for the service of God and the Church; it is the object of a specific and totally gratuitous vocation: “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you...” (Jn.15:16; Heb.5:4).

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