Women Deacons? Gerragrip!

The president of Germany’s bishops’ conference called last month for the creation of a new specific office for female deacons. Here, a leading biblical scholar supports the idea and dismisses objections that it would inevitably lead to women priests

Reacting to recent proposals in Germany about a diaconate for women, the new Bishop of Regensburg, Rudolf Voderholzer, has stated on his website that the office of deacon is inseparably bound to that of priest and bishop, and therefore to the sacrament of ordination. He added: “The tradition that only men can be ordained is based on the Bible” (The Tablet, 4 May).

Bishop Voderholzer seems to have overlooked not only a document co-authored by his predecessor in Regensburg, Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller (now Archbishop Müller and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), but also an addition to the canon law of the Western Church made by Pope Benedict XVI.

As a member of the International Theological Commission (ITC), Bishop Müller belonged to a subcommission of seven theo­logians who produced a 100-page study of the diaconate, the fruit of five years of research into the history and theology of the diaconate. Published in late 2002, “Le Diaconat: Evolution et Perspectives” reached two major conclusions. The first was: “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.” This implies the recognition of some equivalence, even if it was not “purely and simply” a perfect equivalence. The other major conclusion was: in “the unity of the Sacrament of Holy Orders”, there exists a “clear distinction between the ministries of the bishop and the priests on the one hand and the diaconal ministry on the other”. If one stresses the “clear distinction” , a door could be opened for ordaining women as deacons.  Read more…

To the best of my knowledge,  women in the early Church were not “deacons” at all – certainly not as we understand the term today. They were helpers, in various roles, but not holders of any office equivalent to that of deacon.

My own first reaction on reading the above article was “why on earth, when it’s virtually impossible to fill the pews, would bishops waste their time worrying about giving (even more) titles to women?”  What is the point of this perpetual seeking after novelty? I’m with Pope Saint Pius X who said: “Far, far from our priests be the love of novelty”.  Where do they get the time to dream up these pesky ideas?

Or, put another way: a word in the ear of the President of the German Bishops’ Conference – gerragrip!

That’s what I’d like to say to him (or, at least, that’s the polite version) – what about you?

41 responses

  1. Liverpool Archdiocese Directory lists Deacons as husbands and wives – joint calling/status? The ‘exceptions prove the rule’, but the diaconate has subverted the ordained priesthood. We have been faced with a step-by-step erosion of Catholicism with the purpose of a total undermining of Mother Church. In Germany a trend towards Luthertism.

  2. I agree this is a further step towards Protestantism. Truly you couldn’t make it up. That these German bishops find this a priority is beyond me.

    No, the “deaconesses” in the early church were probably akin to the parish housekeeper – cooking, cleaning and looking after the clergy. They probably made something to eat and drink for the community after they had gathered together for Mass. I suppose that the majority of them were the very earliest religious sisters.

    I wonder what truly Catholic religious sisters think of this obsession with the ordination if women! What a slap in the face to them! This beautiful vocation must be one of the biggest casualties of the nonsense unleashed by the Second Vatican-can.

  3. In the ancient days when Baptism was more frequently administered by immersion, out of regard for modesty the practice was for designated women to assist the about-to-be-baptized women with matters of attire and decent cover. These designated women were the deaconesses. Mundane tasks is what they performed, like the male deacons; unlike the male deacons, they did not preach, and they had no role in the sanctuary during Mass. Happily, it seems never to have occurred to them that theirs was anything other than a privileged role.

  4. editor,

    The German Episcopate has been in unofficial schism with Rome for years now, so nothing that comes from the mouth of a German prelate should be taken seriously. Disneyland is now more Catholic than Germany!

  5. Unfortunately, Athanasius, as The (Terrible) Tablet article shows, the usual suspects ARE taking the German Bishops seriously. That’s the problem!

    Thus, we need to know the truth about the latest claims that women in the early Church were deacons. It’s a ploy of the pro-women’s ordination brigade to argue that women were deacons in the earliest days of the Church, ergo we ought to have them now and move forward to priestly ordination. They’re nothing if not persistent.

    So, thanks to Josephine for posting the link which I’ll study asap and to Isaac for his accurate depiction of the role of the first “deaconesses” – something we covered in the newsletter some time ago. Their mission was essentially – as Isaac points out – to assist other women preparing for Baptism, notably with regard to modesty in dress, and they had absolutely no role to play in the sanctuary.

    Point me, therefore, to a Catholic Truth blogger who isn’t now equipped to take on any foolish feminist in the non-debate about women deacons? What, I hear you ask, do I mean by a “foolish feminist”? Simple. A foolish feminist is one who doesn’t know that women have smaller feet than men, so they can stand closer to the kitchen sink…

  6. The article in the link is very interesting and especially since it’s not from a Catholic source because the research shows that the Catholic position is correct, that the women in the early church were not deacons. What I find interesting is that the people who argue for women deacons want to use that word, which is now associated with priesthood. Their agenda is obvious.

    It’s also obvious that the German bishops are effectively in schism, always touting some rebellion or other.

    • Still not had time to study that article, but I will.

      Tell you what, though. Let’s hope they don’t make a serious attempt to introduce women deacons, cos there won’t be much of a fight-back if this thread is any indication of the opposition (NOT) lurking in the wings!

      • I wasn’t going to comment because the usual bloggers would come down on me like a ton of bricks, but as this thread is short of comments, here goes:

        I like the idea of women deacons very much, and I’m not agin the idea of women priests, either. I’ve never found the arguments against the ordination of women convincing, and I think the male domination of the Church is a factor in the present Scottish crisis.

        Such a move would of course have to be properly sanctioned by the Church. I doubt if I will see it in my lifetime, but I do think it will happen eventually.

        Awaiting ton of bricks …

        • pew catholic,

          I’m not sure why you ” like the idea of women deacons very much” ? I’d be interested in your reasons.

          But there is no chance of women being ordained “eventually”. That is outside the authority of the Church to do, as Cardinal Ratzinger explained some years ago.

        • You are AT it, pew catholic!

          I don’t believe for a second that YOU believe for a second that women deacons are a good idea, whether “very much” or NOT “very much, and I definitely don’t believe that you believe that women’s ordination will happen “eventually” or at any other time…

          What I DO believe is that you are playing Devil’s Advocate to breathe some fight into this (until you came along) dead-in-the-water thread… And thank you for that!

          But I have to say, when I first read your post I thought…

          Can you believe it? pew catholic, a dissenter? I DON’T believe it!

          But, if you DO mean it (by any remote chance) – if you are seriously advocating women deacons and priests – then a ton of bricks on your handsome head will be the least of your worries…

          • Well, if that’s dissent, then, sadly, I must be a dissenter. What do I do now – log off for ever?

            Editor: pew catholic, the reply button has disappeared from this comment, so I’m replying to this below…

  7. Athanasius,

    How has the German Episcopate been in a ‘unofficial schism’ with Rome for years?

    Pius X

  8. Pew Catholic

    In your last post you said

    “ive never found the arguments against the ordination of women convincing, and I think the male domination of the Church is a factor in the present Scottish crisis.”

    Unfortunately your post is rather saddening and perhaps an indication of a lack of profound reflection on your Faith.

    Firstly the infallible teaching of the Church on this matter has been reaffirmed by Popes throughout the ages (most recently by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1988). It really doesn’t matter if you find the argument convincing or not.

    One may not fully understand or find convincing arguments for transubstantiation or the holy trinity or anything else that, would you be ok with those doctrines being changed??

    In the most simplistic terms Jesus was male and he appointed his Apostles as the first clergy of the Church (again all male) and so on.

    This is one of the Truths of our Faith… Perhaps many pew Catholic’s need to be reminded that the Truth is eternal and unchangeable and is not the same as modern trends or majority decisions ( if you really want to depart from the Truth and be able to pick and choose how what to believe then I’m sure the Anglicans would more than welcome you to their dwindling shack).

    There was recently a discussion on this in our school staff room and it was interesting to note that a number of boys/young men at various points expressed a desire to become priests in some cases this vocation was fulfilled, in many it was seriously explored to seminary level. However none of the staff in the discussion (some with 30+ years experience) ever recall a girl or young lady express a similar interest…What does that tell you?

    In relation to your second point there is nothing to substantiate these claims, in fact more aptly the current crisis is ultimately the infiltration of the Devil in the lifes of weak human beings.

    The fact that you have likened Gods plan for the Church to “male domination” says more about your lack of understanding of the faith than anything else

    • Very well said, Nolite Timere.

      I think people have been brainwashed with the “male domination” thing, that they don’t see the wood for the trees.

    • Nolite Timere

      10/10 ! Spot on.

      “It really doesn’t matter if you find the argument convincing or not.”

      In a nutshell. That’s it. There are certain things – and the Feast of the Holy Trinity is perhaps one of the best days on which to consider this truth – which we just cannot grasp with our limited human understanding. And for those who have minds formed chiefly by the BBC and Radio Five Live, issues such as women priests may well fall into that category. In which case they should buckle down and say “OK – me no understand, but me accept the authority of Christ’s Church.” Otherwise, “me” should find another – much more accommodating – religion. There’s no shortage out there.

      Nolite Timere – very interesting anecdote about the staffroom conversation. To the best of my knowledge the only women who feel “called” to the priesthood are professional feminists. Easily recognisable because they talk about “male domination” and “patriarchal structures” until male domination and patriarchal structures are coming out of our ears. In fact, for women so focused on feminist ideology, they talk themselves to death about men.

  9. Nolite Timere,

    This comment of yours is interesting:-
    One may not fully understand or find convincing arguments for transubstantiation or the holy trinity or anything else that, would you be ok with those doctrines being changed??

    Do you find these statements on Transubstantiation to be compatible with each other and also with Catholic doctrine?

    “In reality, body and blood of Christ does not signify the physical parts of the man Jesus during his life or in his glorified body. Body and blood here signifies specifically the presence of Christ in the symbolism of bread and wine. …

    “We now have communion with Jesus Christ, through the eating and drinking of the bread and wine. Just as in an interpersonal relationship, a letter can show the friendship between persons and illustrate the affection of the sender for the recipient.” …

    “The nature of these gifts can be clarified only in their relation to man. The essence of the bread and the wine, therefore, must be defined in an anthropological way. The natural character of these offerings [bread and wine] as a fruit of the earth and the work of human hands, as units of natural and cultural products, is to strengthen and nourish man and the human community in the character of a common meal. … This natural essence of the bread and wine is transformed by God in the sense that this nature of bread and wine now shows and achieves salvific communion with God.”


    “it is not allowable…to discuss the mystery of transubstantiation without mentioning the marvelous changing of the whole substance of the bread into the Body and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ as stated by the Council of Trent, so that it consists in ‘transignification’ or ‘transfinalization.’ as they put it.”

    “After transubstantiation has taken place, the species of bread and wine undoubtedly take on a new meaning and a new finality, for they no longer remain ordinary bread and ordinary drink, but become the sign of something sacred, and the sign of a spiritual food.

    However, the reason they take on a new significance and this new finality is simply because they contain a new ‘reality’ which we may justly term ontological.”

    • spiritustempore,

      I’ve just read over the post from Nolite Timere again and don’t undersand your reply to him.

      You don’t explain why you are giving the two quotes – where are they from?

      Sorry if I’m missing the obvious, maybe I’m being thick, but its not obvious to me, so I would appreciate your help in understanding your comment about Transubstantiation.

  10. Josephine,

    The way I read spiritustempore’s response to Nolite Timere is as follows:

    Nolite Timere was asking pew catholic if he/she would be as happy for the Church’s doctrine on Transubstantiation or the Blessed Trinity to change in the way that he/she would like to see the male only priesthood changed.

    In response, spiritustempore appears to be indicating to Nolite Timere with those quotes that the doctrine on Transubstantiation has already been altered, although I can’t say by whom because there are no names given with the quotes.

    That’s how I read it.

  11. Athanasius,

    I’d be interested in Nolite’s thoughts on the two sets of quotes….and perhaps also in the impression given to Catholic laity as to the importance laid by the Church on doctrinal matters as a result……hence no names.

    Both are from senior members of the Curia at different times in recent history.

    • spiritustempore,

      “…Both are from senior members of the Curia…”

      Unless I’m very much mistaken, both of those quotes are from Bishop/Archbishop Muller.

      • ARCIC have some whopping ambiguous to contradictory statements on the Eucharist of similar ilk. Michael Davies pointed out that it is mutually offensive to English martyrs and those who died professing Cranmer’s theology on idolatry to equivocate diametric opposites in the real presence. Anathemas were dished out liberally at Trent for anyone failing to toe the party line on the central substance of our faith and practice and I suspect the counter-reformation personnel would have enforced them diligently in our current tenure within the Church Militant.

  12. Editor

    You’re spoiling my putative debate!!

    The first is from the current Prefect of the CDF, Archbishop Mueller.

    The second is from Pope Paul VI.

    I is being ecumenical, innit.

    • Sorry for spoiling your putrid debate or whatever it’s called!

      I thought the first one was from Bishop Muller and the second one from Archbishop Muller, if you get my drift!

      You is being ecumenical innit, and me is being wrong as usual, innit!

  13. pew catholic,

    Since the reply button has not appeared below your post of May 26 at 9.01, I am replying here, totally astonished that you are seriously questioning male-only priesthood, and then have the temerity to ask if this is really dissent – truly, you couldn’t make this stuff up:

    Of COURSE it’s dissent – big time – to defy the Church’s Tradition on male-only priesthood. The Church has no authority to ordain women, says Pope John Paul II. End of. Could there BE a clearer statement?

    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. Invoking an abundance of divine assistance upon you, venerable brothers, and upon all the faithful, I impart my apostolic blessing. From the Vatican, on May 22, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 1994, the sixteenth of my Pontificate. Read entire document here

    And for good measure here’s a very clear article from the EWTN website (I’m no fan of EWTN but they do, sometimes, post very good articles).

    PS in answer to your question about the blog – no, you don’t “log off forever” – you stay and learn. You cannot claim to be a Catholic while dissenting on such a basic teaching. So, far from logging off forever, you need to check out that you are, in fact, holding fast to authentic Catholic doctrine and not to heresies, and this blog is the place to do so. I seem to remember you urging me to come to Edinburgh after reading about our encounters with the dissenting clergy outside the Cathedral here in Glasgow, so you are certainly at a disadvantage – not just stuck in a diocesan parish but in a diocesan parish in the Archdiocese of St Andrew’s & Edinburgh. God (literally) help you. So, I repeat – stick with us. You need us, big time, she said with her usual flair for humility, despite her glamour, her wit, her intelligence etc (you know the drill by now…)

    • Oh, Ed, you do surprise me. I’d have thought you would have been a devotee of EWTN. You and Mother Angelica sing of the same hymn sheet, surely. Enlighten me, please, what is wrong with EWTN?

      • honestbroker,

        Sorry to surprise you, but if you read up on the subject, you’ll forget “surprise” and think “shock”.

        Read this article and then tell me that EWTN is singing from the same hymn sheet as Mother Angelica…

        • Ed,
          You are right, I am SHOCKED! I believe Poland has an excellent radio station but what good is that to Anglophones who hunger for the true faith?
          As for this quote, “the result was that (as Arroyo himself recounts with approval) the network was “transformed” by a program director whose previous experience included a cable network featuring the Playboy Channel.”, utterly devastating (Mind you, the way things are in Scotland he could be the PR guy for the -remaining- Scottish Bishops.

  14. EWTN got rid of Mother Angelica because she wouldn’t compromise with the Modernists. She was treated appallingly.

  15. I don’t have a major problem with Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Readers or Altar Girls, because their’s is not a sacramental office, it’s an ‘extraordinary’ lay office, under Priestly direction. Under no circumstances can a woman stand with a Priest and assist him with sacramental preparations, or Preach. Dr Samuel Johnson said a memorable quote: ‘when one looks upon a woman preaching, it is like seeing a dog stood on it’s hind legs- one does not expect see it being done well, but then again one does expect to see it being done at all’. Women clergy are devil’s in cassocks. I could never take Holy Communion from a woman. Our Lady was Jesus’ greatest disciple, as the Handmaiden of the Lord, but the fact is He did not ordain Her, or St Mary Magdalene as a disciple/ Apostle, only men were ordained.

    Pius X

    • “I don’t have a major problem with Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Readers or Altar Girls, because their’s is not a sacramental office, it’s an ‘extraordinary’ lay office, under Priestly direction.”

      They are all illicit offices, introduced without mandate from Pope or Council by rebel bishops. Read Pope Paul VI’ Encyclical Memoriale Domini for more on the scandalous beginning of Communion in the hand. You will also find a number of texts of John Paul II forbidding extraordinary ministers of holy communion except in the rarest of circumstances. Where the Pope’s instructions heeded? Nope! And they say the SSPX is disobedient to the Holy See.

      As for altar girls, it’s so disgusting a development that I can’t even write about it and maintain charity. Needless to say, there’s no Council of Papal mandate for that abuse either.

      You may not have issues with these things, Pius X, but I certainly do. There are serious theological implications involved, not least of which is a determined agenda to undermine belief in the Real Presence. I wouldn’t like to be in the shoes of these Protestant-leaning bishops when they go to their judgment.

  16. Do you think that celibacy is causing a decline in ordinations and seminarians, or do you actually think the reverse is happening? I for one have no problem with EMHC, but until you tell me your uncharitable views on altar girls, how can I as a future catholic come around to your way of thinking? You know it makes sense.

    Pius X

  17. pius X,

    Priestly celibacy was not a problem in the Church for almost 2000 years so I don’t see why it should be a problem today. Perhaps it’s just that men today do not wish to make the complete sacrifice of themselves for the kingdom of God. They want the best of both worlds, the priesthood and the married state. In other words, they want the importance of representing Christ, but not unto death! I give you the example of St. John the Apostle as the perfect model of the celibate priesthood given by Our Lord after Himself.

    You probably don’t have trouble with EMHC because you don’t have the gift of the Catholic Faith, at least not yet. Cradle Catholics who believe in the real and true presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and who know the teaching of the Fathers and saints of the Church in respect to who should and should not be handling the Sacred Host, could not tolerate such irreverence towards God. Only the consecrated hands of the priest should touch the person of Christ Our Lord. If you read the Gospels you’ll discover that those lay people who laid hands on Him were his persecutors and executioners. There is not a single story of a disciple or follower of Jesus touching His sacred person.

    As for altar girls, I would like you to provide me with evidence, from Old or New Testaments, of females in the Sanctuary of God. Or perhaps a single solid example from 2000 years of Catholicism. My objection, then, should be quite obvious.

  18. If a priest permits female altar boys, boys in the congregation will get the impression Altar serving is something feminine and they will be less inclined to want to do it. In fact they will start to view Catholicism as something feminine, and the priesthood as feminine.

    If you have an all boy choir, boys feel entirely comfortable. If you allow just one girl to join them, then gradually the number of boys dwindle. There’s evidence for this, but I can’t find the article so you’ll just have to believe I wouldn’t lie.

    • I don’t need research statistics for this. I recall the reaction of one of my students, 16/17 years old, sixth former, when girl altar boys were introduced in his parish. He came hurrying into my classroom to tell me the awful news and proclaimed that neither he nor his friend would ever serve again. I asked if he’d told his PP that he objected to this innovation: yes, he had.

      So, Miles Immaculatae, I have no problem believing that when the girls arrive the boys (mostly) leave. I’m told the same is true of lady vicars in the C of E – when was the last time you saw a male vicar in a drama or even on a news broadcast?

  19. Pius X

    The unutterable mystery of the Blessed Sacrament is so sacred that it boggles my mind that anyone, apart from an ordained priest, and/or the most extreme circumstances, would dare to presume to handle It. Even that old villain Henry VIII knew the reverence due to the Sacred Host, and while being urged not to kneel to receive It, because of ill health, he refused, declaring that if he could not only kneel, but be under the floor, he still would not be able to give It enough honour.

    Actions speak louder than words. We show by our actions how we honour the Host, or not, as the case may be. The widespread use of EMHCs has contributed greatly to the decline in reverence for this most wonderful gift. It was obvious that it would do so.

    Best wishes

    P.S. love your flag burning ceremony..

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