Theologian dismisses call for women 'deacons'

Theologian dismisses call for women ‘deacons’

Bern, Switzerland, May 3, 2013 / 02:02 am (CNA).- 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.

“Allowing women to be deacons would create great confusion for the faithful,” Fr. Hauke, a professor of patristics and dogmatics at the Theological Faculty of Lugano, told CNA April 30.

“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.


It’s very confusing indeed. Since there’s no Sacrament happening, then maybe. Maybe. Maybe someone more well-versed in the Catechism and Canon Law can give me a good explanation.

There has been a lot of confusion since the council and that is not good for the spiritual health of people in the church. Nuns can fullfill all the things to help the church as women We do not need women deaconesses if we have nuns. Vocations are increasing among more traditional orders. Also, women can be teachers and facilitators in the parish. They do not need a title to do church work. In the early church, there were no nuns yet so deaconesses fulfilled service to the church by helping in female baptisms, helping the community and many other things. When religious orders came into being, the need for deaconesses decreased. In the episcopal church, there were a few deaconesses and they dressed like nuns in black habits and did charitable things for the church. They never did any clergy like activities. I think that the liberal wing of the church would misuse being a deaconess with preparing to be actually ordained priests which would be a terribly destructive thing for the church as it would split it up and ruin the unity of the church. Since one of the marks of the church in ONE, holy Catholic and apostic–we must hold the church together with the faithful Catholics at the core and not give in to the extreme left who would use more drastic change to reinvent the church according to their own agenda.

When we get sloppy defining our words we invite misunderstandings. A theologian is making needless trouble for himself if he uses the term “female deacons” when he should be saying, “deaconesses”. The Anglican / Episcopalian denominations – until they started “ordaining” women to their priesthood – had the office of (celebate) deaconess open to middle-aged women who dedicated themselves to the service of the church in one parish-- sacristy work, visiting the sick, prayer for the parish-- but emphatically not a stepping-stone to the ordained priesthood. Deaconesses took a vow of celibacy and wore a habit similar to a nun’s.

To mistake a deaconess as a “female deacon” --a potential candidate for priesthood – is as easily prevented as not mistaking a Captain or Quartermaster in the Navy for a captain or quartermaster in the Army: The fact that they are in different Services automatically tells anyone that the roles are entirely different: In the Navy, a Captain is in command of a ship; and a quartermaster steers the ship. In the Army, a captain takes orders from a Major; and a quartermaster orders and delivers food and equipment to the troops. In a similar way, the vocations of deacon and deaconess are distinctly different, with different witness and duties.

In the Anglican Ordinariate, I should not be surprized if this tradition of the celebate older woman or widowed deaconess is maintained, inasmuch as it is part of the Anglican patrimony. The vocation of deaconess might well have a new role in the evangelization of Muslim women in Western nations, inasmuch as male missionaries are forbidden by Islamic culture.

Actually the Latin tradition already has this. It is called a Consecrated Virgin, she promises to the bishop that she will remain a virgin, her time is spent in prayer (daily mass, the divine office) and she must financially support herself but most spend her free time is volunteering for an apostate or a parish. There was actually someone in the parish I grew up with who did this.

However, I cannot see this becoming popular even among those who think there should be women deaconesses. Because all the things you mentioned can already be done by women who are widowed or retired or even those who find they have a lot of time and talent they can give to a parish. And those who want women deaconesses, don’t really want what you are describing, they want a stepping stone to women priests.

You people really have an understanding about all this. However, the average person would not understand. I really believe that progressive liberals really want to confuse people because they know what these terms mean but are mean spirited enough to deliberately try to change words around to get people “used” to deaconesses and then later prod for women priests. I have been around these types of people enough to know how they play on the ignorance of the general population. The church has a term called archeologism which is a heresy. It implies that if one goes back to the early church that it will bring about greater truth or be closer to what the church is supposed to mean. That really does not result in going back to the truth with liberals. It merely means that they want to reinvent the church according to their agenda. Anyone can say that the early church did this or that and there is no real proof that they really did that or meant a certain thing like someone today would imply. The Holy Spirit guides the church through the councils and provides what the doctrines and traditions should be and that no one is supposed to infiltrate strange ideas and pretend that the church approves of something. People need to study good apologetics and stand up to liberals and refuse to go along with their strange ideas. Liberals even use some biblical statements out of context and convince ignorant people to think that homosexual sex is OK or that there were women priests, etc. Liberals like to make themselves into victims but to me they are just game players and anything but victims. The real victims are the people who have not studied their faith and are easily led astray by these catholic quacks that pretend to know the truth when they actually are pushing for heresy and division.

Pretty sure we already have an office of service to the Church open to celibate women.

Honestly, I would not wish it upon the nuns to make them serve parish postings. It’s not that they are inept - far from it - but the charism of nuns and monks is to live and pray in cloistered community. To place them in a parish is to divorce them from their charism and community and force them to serve secular roles. Perhaps you may have confused nuns with religious sisters in general. Nuns are by definition religious sisters who are cloistered in convents. There are other religious sisters whose charisms are suited towards teaching roles, but nuns are not one of them.

I think we should just stop thinking about having deaconesses altogether or something else approximating the concept. The permanent diaconate is a newly revived phenomenon that has only just taken off. This is the program that will address all the concerns that are prompting people to demand deaconesses. We should not excessively innovate on the traditions which have been handed down to us. Creating a female non-ordained diaconate may be possible, but it is pastorally unwise and confusing to the laity. Many would believe that females are able to become clerics, and there will be people agitating for the same ceremony of ordination for female deaconesses and deacons, and then soon they’ll demand we have female priests and bishops (not that it hasn’t happened already).

If a related term should ever be used in the future, it should be diaconissa, to refer to the (permanent) deacon’s wife. That is perfectly traditional and similar to its use in the Eastern churches. It has absolutely no sacramental significance but is a good term of respect for a lady who supports her husband in his ordained service to God. :slight_smile:

Consecrated virgins are recognized by the church. So are hermits.
Curiously, consecrated widows are not.
This is a shame inasmuch as the order of widows were the first recognized as consecrated towards service in the Church, in the Acts of the Apostles.

Consecrated virgins and consecrated widows have slightly different vocations. While both are chaste spouses of Christ, One is a witness to the primacy of God in human life such that Divine Love is preferred to the joys of marriage.
The other state is a witness to God’s love of the institution of marriage and family as part of the Church, having by grace helped husband and wife fulfill their marriage vows “until death them did part.” The widow electing never to remarry, but to consecrate her remaining years to holy celibacy testifies thereby to the eschatalogical dimension of human love which evolves and finds its perfection in Divine espousal.

In a world which increasingly devalues, dishonors, and dismisses marriage and family, the prayerful, consecrated widow ( when formally recognized again) is a challenge and perhaps a needed object lesson to the young of the genuine possibility of lifelong, faithful commitment .

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