German Cardinal Lehmann demands clear decision on female deacons

Karl Cardinal Lehmann of Mainz, Germany has demanded a “binding and good decision” on on whether women can be ordained deacons, after decades of research. He told media that the German Bishop’s Conference had asked the Vatican to examine this possibility.

I have not found an English version yet, and there probably won’t be one as the meeting of Bishops in Trier at the moment is not of great concern to other countries. For those who would like to have a look at the German article, please see here.

I am flabbergasted about what is going on with our Bishops here at the moment. “Morning after”-pills, women deacons, what next? How can Cardinal Lehmann not see what Pope John Paul II declared about female priests? I hope the Vatican comes down like a ton of bricks on this matter. Really I do.

Without knowing whether the Cardinal actually has an opinion on the matter one way or the other, I would say: its a good question…believe it or not.

How can Cardinal Lehmann not see what Pope John Paul II declared about female priests?

Because the Deaconate and the Priesthood are two separate ministries, which are not necessarily bound by the same restrictions. A Deacon, for example, is not permitted to consecrate the Eucharist, but is allowed to be married and have children.

Being excluded from one does not necessarily preclude being excluded from the other, whether or not you believe women should be permitted or not.

I guess that is his opinion :wink:

I know they are different. But if one allows female deacons, people will go and say: “They’ve been ordained deacon, so why can’t they be priests?” That’s exactly what happened in the Church of England.

Note that it is a practice of the Eastern Catholic Churches to have married priests, therefore, marriage is not a defining characteristic of the diaconate as not consecrating the Eucharist is. At one point, both East and West ordained married men to the priesthood.

The Sacrament of Holy Orders is the Sacrament of Holy Orders. If you can receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and become a deacon why would one fundamentally not be allowed to move up?

Disclaimer: I do not support women receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders period. The Church can’t (as in not possible to) permit it.


They are both Holy Orders though, no?

Honestly, this is not what the Church needs to be focusing on right now. If anything, we need to focus on returning to more orthodoxy.

OK, thank you. I thought so. So, why would a Cardinal be bringing this up as a valid question??

That’s what I’m wondering too. He’s a Cardinal and should know what is permitted. That’s why I wrote that I hope the Vatican comes down hard on the matter.

Priests and Deacons share the same ordinations to holy orders. If women are ordained to one then they can be ordained to the other. His Holiness Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke in definitive terms that the church does not have the authority to ordain women. That’s all there is to it.

Then the Vatican will promptly respond that Deacons are covered under the same thing as Priests. Clearly, its not cut and dry obvious, even to those who aren’t out there rallying for women to be ordained.

Asking for a clear ruling should not be treated as an offense.

This does not sound like they are asking for a clear ruling:

He told media that the German Bishop’s Conference had asked the Vatican to examine this possibility.

It sounds like they are asking the Vatican to examine the possibility of female deacons.


And if it is just a clear ruling on whether this is a possibility, wasn’t the clear ruling given by Pope JPII already?

I just can’t.

:thumbsup: This.

If I recall the issue correctly, what’s in play is that, John Paul II stated that the Church has no authority to ordain women priests; however, he didn’t say that holy orders, as a whole, were off limits. Therefore, the question being asked was whether it might be possible to create something like the ‘permanent diaconate’ for women, and whether this would be the same ‘permanent diaconate’ that currently exists, or if it would be something distinct.

Historically, there was a ministry that some sources identify as ‘deaconess’. However, as much as advocates for a female priesthood might like to try to claim it as identical to the male diaconate, that wasn’t the case at all. First, the ordination ceremonies for the two differed substantially (for example, the prayers were different and there was no laying on of hands for deaconesses). Second, the ministry of deaconesses was more limited: in fact, the whole reason for creating the ministry was so that male deacons wouldn’t find themselves in compromising situations. (Recall that baptism was by full-body immersion and anointing was rather a thorough business; it would have been inappropriate for male deacons to have that kind of access to a female convert’s body, so female deacons were utilized for this ministry.)

So, there is both historical precedent and magisterial ‘wriggle room’ for the question. Some propose the question in the hopes that it will be approved; others propose it, hoping that it will be quashed. Still others attempt to sweep the question under the rug. :shrug:

If only it were so easy… I agree that John Paul II settled the matter for ever, but the media won’t tell the people, and the people don’t know. Instead, everyone here keeps saying “Female priests! Female priests!”. Just yesterday, a German TV station published a survey that said that more than 80% of the people, and a similar number among Catholics, want female priests. This is all published in such a timeframe as to put pressure on the new Pope. And Cardinals saying such things are something we absolutely cannot use at this moment.

I don’t think anyone is saying that asking for a clear ruling is an offence. The problem is that Cardinal Lehmann has spoken in such a way that he thinks female ordained deacons are OK.

They’'ve already been there and done that! Are they hoping for a different answer to the same question???

In 1994 a number of negative statements came out regarding Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. The following letter was written by the CDF in response.


Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

October 28, 1995

Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.

Responsum: In the affirmative.

This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.

The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved this Reply, adopted in the ordinary session of this Congregation, and ordered it to be published.

Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the Feast of the Apostles SS. Simon and Jude, October 28, 1995.

Joseph Card. Ratzinger

Tarcisio Bertone
Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli

How many different ways can we say definitive and “infallible teaching?” Regarding deacons, it is the SAME sacrament, merely a different level of ordination. Is this what they are questioning?

“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.” (Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, n. 4.)

Notice they key word? “PRIESTLY”. John Paul II did not address the issue of the “diaconate”. We thus cannot use this definitive closing in doctrinal terms of female priesthood to quell questions over the diaconate.

I would say that John Paul II’s use of “definitive” approaches somewhere close to ex cathedra or even such itself. Women priests are therefore an impossibility, doctrinally, and this should be recognised by those actively campaigning for what is impossible.

As per the revision of Canon Law by Pope Benedict XVI:

“§3. Those who are constituted in the order of episcopate or presbyterate receive the office and faculty of acting in the person of Christ the Head, while deacons receive the power to serve the people of God in the diaconia of liturgy, word and charity”

Thus, priests and bishops are configured to Christ, and act in persona Christi. Deacons do not. Similarly, in Benedict’s reworking of this piece of law, priests and bishops are configured to a specific gender — the male Christ — but deacons are not.

Once more, clear proof that this question is still “open”.

If the Magisterium tells me that women were not ordained as deacons, then women cannot be deacons. Period. If it tells me that women can be ordained as deacons, then they can be. And that’s that.

Ok, this makes sense. I see the difference when we use the term “permanent” diaconate. Even if this was a theological possibility, I just don’t think it is wise to consider this at this time. This would just fodder more hopes in the “progressive” Catholic movement. You know, now that we have female deacons, next up female priests…and then every other doctrine they think the CHurch is wrong about and should change.

No, deacons cannot be women. Here’s why. The deacon many times reads the Gospel, also assists the priest on the altar offering the Eucharist. This is definitely not a woman’s vocation because of this. The deacon can also bless things, a woman deacon would not be allowed to do this. The diaconate is a step to the priesthood.

There is plenty of room for women lectors and Eucharistic Ministers. This Cardinal must surely know this, and he’s entitled to his opinion, but that can never occur in the Catholic Church.

No it isn’t. The diaconate is one of the three orders along with the priesthood and episcopate. Vatican II revived the apostolic order of permanent diaconate that had fallen into disuse.

To insinuate that deacons are a “step to the priesthood” is IMHO an undermining of permanent deacons. It undermines this holy, ordained order which is so much more meaningful to the life of the church than “a step to the priesthood” :frowning:

Could you give us the reference?

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