Ordain Women in the Roman Catholic Church ? Yes!
This article is from the Kansas City Star and Associated Press writer David Gibson Religious News Service. While I applaud Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher for his strong positive statements on behalf of women, it is necessary to think through whether opening one door to women would fix them at a permanently “lesser” state or open the door later to the priesthood? By lesser I do not mean that the tasks of the Deacon are less important than the tasks of priests at all for service to people according to Pope Francis, and my own spirituality, is exactly the job description of the priest as well as the Deacon. To “get the smell of the sheep” on one’s hands is to serve them. However, within the church as it is now, Deacons can baptize, officiate at weddings , perform funerals and preach. Priests also do all of this. But only priests can celebrate Mass, consecrating the elements at the Eucharist, hear confessions and anoint the sick. Certainly the latter three are service to God’s people as well and all of the above are holy and sacramental. How can it be that one sacrament is more holy than another? And, indeed it is the people of God that are needed for a Mass to take place and for consecration. The people are sacrament, the church, the Body of Christ, is sacrament. But the line is drawn making the diaconate and priesthood a two class clerical system. To assign women to rise only so high in this hierarchy,simply based on gender, not on call or spiritual gifts or intellect or knowledge, education and preparation is to say that both women and deacons are not only different from priests but inferior to them.
As readers of this blog know: Roman Catholic women priests are already here. Starting in 2002 on the Danube in Germany prepared women were ordained validly to the priesthood and women bishops were validly ordained as of 2003 who have ordained many other prepared and called women. There are over 150 validly ordained women priests world wide and also many in the transitional diaconate and more in candidacy, totaling well over 200 ordained members of Roman Catholic Women Priests worldwide. As one of those priests, ordained in 2008, I have served God’s people sacramentally and with all my heart and soul. Our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic ministry, as readers know, where I serve with Co-Pastor Judy Beaumont ordained in 2012, serves the homeless and the poorest and a range of Catholics who also want to serve with the outcast and marginalized. The priesthood and the diaconate is a literally awesome responsibility and grace. It is only by grace that service to all of God’s people is accomplished. And grace is free for all, men and women alike. God can and does bestow grace on women and men to provide service to God’s people, sacramentally and in all ways. Preparing meals for the hungry and homeless is work for priests as well as deacons as well as so-called laypeople. We are all called to feed the hungry. And we are all called to feed the hungry sacramentally as well. I hope that our brother Archbishop Durocher, who is the bravest priest I know of in the church today(others have been dismissed from Orders for such radical ideas and we pray this does not happen to him) will continue to stand for women. I also pray that he will broaden his argument-but then there would be no doubt, he would have to join us as excommunicated,a penalty we reject. But, like Fr. Roy Bourgeois, he would continue his cause as conscience trumps unjust rules every time. Here is the article.
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP-USA-East-Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Fl
AP Article in Kansas City Star, 10/9/15 by David Gibson, Religious News Service
Ordain women? Vatican synod gets an unexpected proposal
Canadian archbishop suggests women could be deacons
In theory, female deacons could preach, baptize, officiate at weddings and perform funerals
A woman named Phoebe was called a deacon in Romans
Still, even that suggestion — made by a Canadian archbishop on Tuesday, near the start of the closely watched, three-week gathering of church officials called by Pope Francis — was considered eye-popping.
That’s because if the trial balloon floated by Quebec Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher flies, it would represent a historic breakthrough for the Roman Catholic Church, and Catholic women, by giving them access to the kinds of offices that only priests and bishops can hold.
“The only way a woman can fully ‘obtain’ many church offices is by ordination — by becoming a cleric — and the ordinary way to enter the clerical state is by ordination to the diaconate,” said Phyllis Zagano, a leading expert on women deacons and a researcher at Hofstra University in New York.
Moreover, as Zagano noted in an email, women deacons could perform functions that male deacons currently do: preaching, baptizing, witnessing marriages and performing funerals. Celebrating Mass, hearing confessions and anointing the sick would remain the province of the male priesthood.
Durocher, archbishop of Gatineau and until recently president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, made his proposal in the 3-minute window that each of the 270 bishops at the synod is allotted to lay out concerns and priorities for the church and the modern family.
Durocher focused on the role of women, first lamenting the “sad and dramatic reality” that women “continue to suffer discrimination and violence at the hands of men, including their spouses.”
He asked Francis and the bishops to state clearly that there is no scriptural justification for such bias, and in particular that passages in which the Apostle Paul speaks about wives submitting to their husbands “can never justify the domination of men over women, much less violence.”
He then asked that the synod recognize that women can be given “decision-making” posts in the church and in the Roman Curia, the papal bureaucracy.
Finally, he said the synod should establish a process for opening the diaconate to women, a suggestion that quickly drew praise from church reformers and negative reactions from conservatives.
“If you’ve opened the diaconate to women, you are opening up the door to female priests,” Chad Pecknold, a theologian at Catholic University of America, told The Washington Post.
Durocher anticipated that criticism, telling Catholic News Service that “the diaconate in the church’s tradition has been defined as not being ordered toward priesthood but toward ministry.”
In fact, Jesus’ Apostles established the order of deacons mainly to carry out the charitable mission of the church. In the Catholic tradition, the role was eventually subsumed into the priesthood, until the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s revived it as an ordained order open to “mature married men” older than 35. (Deacons can also wear a clerical collar, which sometimes leads them to be taken for priests.)
The restoration of the diaconate quickly raised the question of whether women could also become deacons, since a woman named Phoebe is called a deacon in the Book of Romans.
Zagano, author of “Holy Saturday: An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church,” said other sources show that the Western church continued to ordain women as deacons up to the 12th century, and some Eastern tradition churches still do.
“There is no doctrine against women deacons,” she told the Pray Tell blog.
Though the Vatican never definitively ruled out women deacons, Rome and conservative theologians have tried to dismiss the idea as unjustified — an “amusing anachronism,” as Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, now chief Vatican doctrinal official, once put it — and theologically dangerous. The issue was raised at a 1987 Vatican synod but went nowhere.
In 2001, when some German and Austrian dioceses set up classes that could be viewed as training women for the diaconate, the Vatican ordered them shut down because the church “does not foresee the possibility” of ordaining women deacons. Others have continued to argue that it cannot happen.
But at the same time, other experts and some churchmen continued to quietly lobby for a reconsideration.
Zagano said she has had “serious” private discussions with bishops and cardinals in recent years about ordaining women deacons, and the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago — known as an orthodox churchman — pushed the idea with Rome and acknowledged in 2012 that it “is being talked about very slowly.”