Sunday, April 22, 2007

More on Women Deaconesses

For what it's worth, others far more "intelligent" and charitable than I have commented on the history and the evidence to which Phyllis Zagano appeals for her position.

Fr William Most, a most trustworthy theologian, says, in part, in his discourse on women priests and the diaconate:
Conclusion on Deaconesses
We conclude that there never was an ordination in the strict sense of the Sacrament of Holy Orders for women as deaconesses. To conclude that there was, we would have to suppose a contradiction between two General Councils. We cannot do that. So Chalcedon was speaking in a broader sense, which is easily possible in view of the undeveloped and unclear theology of the day regarding deacons.That,as we said,is not surprising, since even today some, improperly, question whether male deacons receive the Sacrament of Orders.
Next we have an article, "Women Deacons? Are They Possible?" by Duane L.C.M. Galles, With additional observations by Charles M. Wilson:
At its 1995 convention in Montreal the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA) voted to present to the American bishops a report on women deacons. The 53-page report suggested that the American bishops seek an apostolic indult to permit women to be ordained to the diaconate in the United States.
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The CLSA report...skillfully turned [the] argument against the ordination of women to the priesthood into an argument in favor of the ordination of women deacons. In the case of women deacons the report asserts that there is no clear and convincing evidence that women had not in fact been "ordained" to the diaconate. So, the report goes on to say, by the same logic the church is not precluded from ordaining women deacons.
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[Charles Wilson notes...] The first question to be answered by the Church is whether deaconesses, whose existence is unquestioned, were truly ordained according to the sense of cc. 1008 and 1009. If the answer is in the affirmative then, and only then, is the above assertion of CIOWPD tenable. And, in my opinion, an affirmative answer would have to rest upon far more evidence than was cited by CIOWPD.

If the answer to the historical question is negative, one must still deal with the question as to whether a baptized woman could validly receive diaconal ordination. That answer, like the answer to the question as to whether women can be ordained to the priesthood, would have to come from the highest level of ecclesiastical authority. Since c. 1024 repeats the language of c. 968 of the 1917 Code, I have checked all the commentaries on the earlier code (Abbo-Hannan, Augustine, Bouscaren-Ellis, Gasparri and Woywood) which we have in the Foundation's library and all say essentially the same thing. The following example is typical:

The two invalidating disqualifications arising from the subject himself are thus stated to be lack of baptism of water and lack of male sex. Ecclesiastical tradition, interpreting divine law, is witness that the latter excludes women from the diaconate and higher orders; as to the lower orders, the incapacity of women arises from ecclesiastical law. (John J. Abbo and Jerome D. Hannan, The Sacred Canons, B. Herder Book Co., St. Louis, 1952,Vol.II,p.93)

While I would not claim that the opinions of learned commentators are declarations of the teaching Church, I cannot see how they can be simply brushed aside, as [The Canonical Implications of Ordaining Women to the Permanent Diaconate] CIOWPD appears to do. If the Church does admit women to diaconal ordination, it seems to me that this action—given the definition of the sacrament of orders we see in c. 100—would give rise to the formidable challenge of performing the difficult mental gymnastics involved in asserting that women can validly be admitted to one grade of orders while at the same time reaffirming the infallible teaching of the Church that they cannot be admitted to the others.

Lastly (for the time being anyway), there is an article by David L. Alexander, titled "A Rose By Any Other Name, The Ordination of Women to the Diaconate" which is well worth reading.

Zagano states in her most recent comment to this blog:
I am disheartened by the lack of charity (and intelligence) displayed by the Imus-wannabes on this blog. Please read "Holy Saturday"--and if you notice any errors let me know. I worked with 43 canon lawyers, theologians, and other academics, and I am fairly sure we caught everything.

If she's "disheartened" by this blog, then she should read this. Referring to others as "Imus-wannabes" seems to me to be a rather blatant display of a lack of charity, but then I have not conferred with 43 canon lawyers, numerous theolgians and other academics - as if that lends credence to anything, especially considering the sorry state of the Church today in these areas. Frankly, I choose to trust the judgment of the Church in these matters.

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