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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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No Ordination for Women Deacons

This whole business about women forbidden to serve in the Catholic Church is a lot about nothing.  Women have served in many ways over the last two thousand years and as daughters to the Blessed Mother they have imitated her as handmaids of the Lord.  The problem is not a lack of opportunity but the wrong mindset that is amplified by contemporary society.  Service today is increasing equated with headship and power.  Such a mentality is even problematical for men called to holy orders as they should first see themselves as servants of the Lord and slaves for their people.  Christ turns the worldly notion of power on its head; such is the witness of the Holy Thursday foot washing.   

Like celibate clergy, our religious sisters and nuns have certainly signified (in an official manner) the presence of Christ and the activity of his Church.  The problem with Ms. Casey Stanton (co-founder of Discerning Deacons) and those laywomen like her is that they want clerical standing for a part-time commitment or job in the Church.  As a lay chaplain she could still work for the Church; indeed, given recent changes by Pope Francis, those like her in the future might serve as official Readers, Acolytes and now Catechists.  Her lack of clerical standing is no barrier to personal overtures of “encouragement, love and healing.”  Any argument to the contrary is deceptive nonsense.

Just because North Carolina requires chaplains in state prisons to be ordained is no concern of the Catholic Church.  The state cannot dictate to us who we should or should not ordain.  In any case, we would grant no official standing to the ordinations of Protestant ministers.  The issue here is apples and oranges.  We do not ordain women as priests because our Lord has not clearly established such jurisdiction for the Church.  The diaconate is intimately connected to the priesthood and is not comparable to the deaconesses in the early Church.  Indeed, women religious are likely their successors and the label or name was dropped to avoid confusion.  Stanton, like many other laypeople might have degrees in religion, but this does not qualify her for ordination in any capacity. 

The article states, “Up until the 12th century, the Catholic Church ordained women deacons, although by then their service was mostly restricted to women’s monasteries.” This is not strictly true.  There was a ceremony of installation but there was no ordination into holy orders or one of the seven sacraments.   The Council of Nicea directly forbade the laying on of hands or the ordination of women.  This is an unbroken tradition from the earliest days of the Church.  We might research the matter, as the Pope has suggested, but the matter of ordination is fixed and will not change.  There is no evidence that New Testament deaconesses were ever ordained.  Ecclesial nomenclature was still evolving and the term “deaconess” was simply applied to women who out of propriety assisted with female neophytes prior to baptism or in some cases were the spouses of deacons.  Despite the arguments of authorities like Phyllis Zagano, many of us would see efforts to ordain women as deacons as a break from our tradition and the beginning of a severance from apostolic succession.