Sunday, October 30, 2011

Women Deacons: Heat and Light

Friend, brother deacon and blogger extraordinaire, Deacon Greg Kandra of the Deacon's Bench, recently posted an entry (read the original post and the many comments here) which linked to my last post about the launch of Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future, which was written by Drs. Gary Macy, Phyllis Zagano, and myself.  After the fantastically positive experience of writing the book itself and the equally positive reception at the launch at Loyola University, Chicago, it was quite disheartening to see the almost unbelievable venom and vitriol levied at Deacon Greg, the three of us authors, and anyone who would even consider picking up our book.  We were even criticized for our pasts; for example, I was mocked as a former senior staff member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB); you know, that rabid liberal cabal who lead our country's bishops around by the nose to get them to do dangerous, liberal things, like defending religious liberty, Catholic social teaching, and so on.

Be that as it may, I encourage you to read all the comments.  Greg has felt compelled to close off comments and I respect his decision.  On the other hand, while I hope that such behavior will not migrate to this blog, I still wish to respond to a couple of points raised on his blog.  You will see that I had addressed several issues already.  If Greg hadn't closed his comments when he did, I would have posted the following.  Again, I think that others might be interested in the questions raised, and answers to those questions. So, "Diakonos09". of you happen to find yourself over here on my blog, here's what I wanted to post:

Dear Diakonos09 (#104),
Several points. Your tone suggests that you don't accept Deacon Greg's point that he was quoting me (from my blog) rather than the pope, and that therefore you don't believe that there is papal support for this being an "open theological question." After teaching all day yesterday and preaching four Masses this weekend, the tempting answer out of fatigue is to suggest you read the book, where I review more than a dozen documents and historical events which address your question specifically. But, reason prevailed, and here's a short summary.
Let me highlight both documents and actions.
In terms of documents, both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II have been influential. In 1976, Paul directed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to publish "Inter Insigniores", which has an official English title of "Declaration on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood." Subsequent teaching, both in papal encyclicals and reflected in secondary teaching documents such as the Catechism, clarifies repeatedly that deacons are NOT part of the ministerial priesthood. In fact, "Inter Insigniores" itself says, "the Catholic Church has never felt that priestly or episcopal ordination can be validly conferred on women." Taking that quotation at its word, notice that it does NOT reference deacons.
In 1994, Pope John Paul II promulgates "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" which again refers only to ordination to the sacerdotal (priestly) orders of presbyter and bishop -- NOT deacons. Several other documents from this period and up until as late as 2009 further clarify the church's understanding that deacons are NOT included in the "ministerial priesthood" and are NOT included in the teaching of these documents.
Those are just two major documents. But let's consider official ACTIONS, and I will list the major one. Notice the dates of the two documents I listed above. Now, consider that then-Cardinal Ratzinger -- with the approval of the Pope -- assigned the question of ordaining women as deacons (not deaconesses -- they are a separate group) to the International Theological Commission for review as part of their five year term from 1992-1997. Notice that no published report on the question was ever put out by the Commission or the Congregation, although the Pope had during that time promulgated "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis." Since the Commission had not been able to come up with an answer on women deacons, Cardinal Ratzinger assigned it to them AGAIN for their 1997-2002 term. This time, they issued a report, in which they concluded that the question of ordaining women, was something that the Church's "ministry of discernment" might choose to address at some future point; in other words, it remains an open question. Neither Cardinal Ratzinger or Cardinal Levada (who succeeded him at the CDF) has ever acted on that suggestion, although Ratzinger did authorize the public release of that report, and it's available for your study. The fact is, if this question of women deacons were NOT an open question, why would successive popes and prefects of the CDF keep treating it like one, even after they have taken pains to address the question of women priests???!!!!
Finally, a word about being ordained as an icon of Christ. I would never agree with the conclusion that a deacon is not ordained as an icon of Christ the Servant. I wouldn't want to, and as you point out, it's a clear teaching of the Church. But ordination as an icon of Christ need not always be reflected simply in the gender of the ordinand. Can women not be icons of Christ? Mother Theresa comes to mind -- certainly when the poorest of poor encountered her, they encountered the love of Christ, right? And, frankly, to go back to my first points: if this were an issue for the popes and CDF, why didn't they simply say, "Look, we've already addressed this issue in "Inter Insigniores" and in "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" and it applies to deacons as well as priests." But they didn't do that, even when asked directly about it. Instead, they have consistently put the matter out for further study. That's what we're doing.

 Really: I know people will have questions about why we wrote the book, what's in it, and how we come to whatever conclusions we reach in the book.  The best way to find answers to those questions, obviously, is to read the book, where we can explain ourselves much better than we can on blogs and Facebook entries.  Still, it's a start!

30 comments:

  1. I don't think there was a bad spread of responses to Dcn Greg: most seem considered. Some comment sections can end up with a bunch of flat-earthers getting personal.

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  2. Woops... I had read the comments on Greg's original posting, not the link from this blog.Try reading those, instead.

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  3. It saddened my greatly to read the comments on the thread at the Bench. I had the same reaction to the comments at Bryan Cones' US Catholic post as well.

    Such vitriol and harsh language is not the language of God's people in Christ's church! Or is it?

    Even if what you had written was really off the chart, is that kind of response the response of Catholic Christians? God have mercy on us all, if so!

    The fact that the three authors of the book, are all accomplished church people and scholars is lost on so many! If someone "knows better" or wants to disagree, have at it, but please do so with a spirit of charity in Jesus' name!

    I am always astounded at how all of us are at one point or many points in our church lives. The entire point of our Catholic Christian sacramental eucharistic faith is to be transformed and to be changed.

    Yet... it is the one thing people rail most about, even the slightest change, even the most appropriate change. Go figure.

    I am reminded often that theology is, in St. Anselm's words, fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding) and in order to seek, one must explore.

    We have the wisdom of the Church, through Scripture (although as Catholics, never sola scriptura and tradition, we have the Magisterium. So much of what we have is born out of theological exploration and the promptings of the Spirit. Can we not employ that same spirit, in the sense of charity, as we all seek God and how to serve God? -Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

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  4. Hi Dcn Bill - I did not know to whom, if anyone, that quote was being attributed and after reading some of the rancid responses I was in no mood to read more to find out. So I simply adressed the question to the blog's owner.

    I DO accept the topic of women ordained to the diaconate as a legitimate theological inquiry. My concern was more with the idea that this was a positive inquiry (responding to a direct papal request) rather than what it is: a theological speculation rooted in an argument from silence, deducing from what was not said or done. Still a valid study, but I just wanted it in context.

    I have indeed read the study if the ITC (published in English as "From the Diakonia of Christ tot he Diakonia of the Apostles", available from Amazon). I would also suggest that those who wish to approach this topic with a desire for truth (however that might apply itself to this topic) read "Deaconesses: A Historical Study" by Martimort as well as "Priesthood and Diaconate: The Recipient of the Sacrament of Holy Orders from the Perspective of Creation Theology and Christology" by Gerhard Ludwig Müller (both available from Amazon).

    The last named work is especially helpful in many ways especially on the topic by making the distinction between "deaconess" and "female deacon", and on how the Sacrament of Orders, while in three distinct degrees, and with the diaconate as non-sacerdotal - yet forms an organic whole. This is a vital consideration for there are those who speak of the diaconate in such detached form from the episcopate or prebyetrate that it makes one think it is rather like an 8th Sacrament. And I would deduce that as an organic whole only baptized males may validly receive the sacrament (in any degree).

    As to your comment about configuration with Christ and being an icon of Christ. Yes, of course women can be an icon of Christ (Our Lady is prime example) but being an icon of Christ and being sacramentally configured to Christ to act in His stead are two very different things. Baptism confers a dignity or equality upon all who receive it and all the baptized are indeed, I would say it bestows a configuration to Christ as members of his Body. All are called to be living icons of Christ in the world but it does not follow from this that all are called to such configuration by Orders to carry out his ministry in the name of the instutitional Church.

    If we were a Bible-only Church there would be more to the theological discussion, but as a Church with Tradition and Magisterium we all, at the end of the day, must agree that all the study and wiritng of books can never arrive at the answer: this will conly come from the Holy Father. Interestingly, the present pontiff is great friends with Müller, the author of the last mentioned book who is also a member of the Congrgegation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a liberation theologian, and the Bishop of Regensburg, Germany.

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  5. Dear Diakonos,

    Thanks for your response.

    I agree with you about Martimort and Muller (can't figure out how to do an umlaut on this thing), but there are other theologians who have had differing opinions from them. Muller, for example, was expressing his point of view after many member of the ITC (of which he was a member at the time) expressed contrary opinions during their meetings. Martimort was in the midst of engaging in a long-running discussion with other theologians who were disagreeing with his conclusions. My only caution -- FOR ALL OF US -- is that we not simply line up those theologians we agree with, and presume the issue is settled.

    You've hit upon the central sacramental issue, in my opinion, and I discuss this in the book, and I also addressed this in my presentation at the book launch. There is a certain unicity of Order; it is, after all, ONE sacrament. However, especially clear after the most recent decisions of the Holy See (reflected both in changes to the Catechism and in canon law) which distinguishes the modalities of participation within that one sacrament of Order. There is the modality in the sacerdotal orders of presbyter and bishop, and the modality of the diaconal orders of deacon (and bishop). As I wrote here before, I use the image of a teeter-totter: if a person goes all the way to the side of unicity, then there is insufficient attention paid to the legitimate diversity within the sacrament; if one goes to the other extreme and focuses too heavily on the diversity within order, then it becomes THREE sacraments (or TWO, perhaps), instead of one. Wisdom and Truth lies somewhere in a balanced middle.

    The question of women as deacons, then, falls somewhere along that spectrum. For example, there is sufficient diversity within the sacrament to permit significant disciplinary distinctions: we can admit married men to diaconate without affecting the norm of celibacy (in the Latin church) for presbyters and bishops. Could a similar distinction be made vis-a-vis women and diaconate?

    And THAT is the point of the book!

    God bless,

    Bill

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  6. Thank you, Dcn Bill, for your kind and thoughtful reply.

    Your closing paragraph reveals to me that we indeed come from two very different starting points: your words seem to infer this as an issue of discipline and canon law (as is celibacy) whereas I am many others see it as a question on valdity - that a female Christian is invalid matter for any degree of the Sacrament of Orders.

    The topic is really what is called a "merry go-around" debate since neither view can definitively prove the final point. That is up to the Holy See so I pray that your book helps to accelrate this much needed response from the Vatican.

    Thank you, once again, for your commitment to the diaconate and please pray for me and for mine.

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  7. Dear Diakonos,

    Thanks for your response as well. But I do want to clarify one point.

    We are actually NOT coming from two different starting points. I understand that celibacy is a discipline and that we may be crossing into doctrinal waters with the question of women as deacons. But my point simply was that as we appreciate what the Holy See is already doing to DISTINGUISH the orders, is it possible to go this route (to ordain women again as deacons), even while not ordaining women as priests.

    And you are correct: as the ITC said, it remains for the Church's own "ministry of discernment" to render a judgment at some point. Our point is simply to take part in that process. We don't propose final solutions or anything else. That's not our job.

    Oremus pro invicem.

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

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  8. Dear Deacon Bill,

    I have your book on order and I look forward to reviewing it from an Eastern Christian perspective. As you are probably well aware many of the Orthodox regard the diaconate as part of the priesthood, yet also have the tradition which still remains in a very fragmented manner of ordaining women to the diaconate.

    Thank you for your many scholarly contributions on the diaconate which give a firm foundation to the faith. You truly fulfil the time honoured diaconal role of "didaskalos".

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  9. Dear DiaconateInChrist,

    Thanks for your comment!

    I hope you will find the book helpful. While we certainly reference (especially my two co-authors) the Eastern experience, we also wanted to focus on what historical evidence might have to say about the experience of women deacons in the West, and what current theology might contribute to a contemporary understanding.

    So, I hope you won't be disappointed that we don't wax eloquent about the Eastern experience, since it's already been so well documented!

    Thank you for your very kind words.

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

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  10. "My concern was more with the idea that this was a positive inquiry (responding to a direct papal request) rather than what it is: a theological speculation rooted in an argument from silence, deducing from what was not said or done. Still a valid study, but I just wanted it in context."

    Diakonos09, who has bitterly attacked me on Dcn. Greg's blog (I think I am called a rabid liberal something-or-other)wants to know why we are studying the topic. Well, I was asked directly by John Cardinal O'Connor to write "Holy Saturday: An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church (Crossroad, 2000), which has won a few awards, and I was assured by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in person that the topic was a legitimate area of inquiry. Further, as Pope Benedict XVI, he has advised that it should be possible for women to have "governance" and "ministry" in the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict does not use those words lightly, nor would he ever pronounce the wholly insuting determination that women are defective matter for the sacrament of Holy Orders, as Diaconos09 affirms.

    I think if folks want to discuss this topic, then all the research should be looked at, especially Roger Gryson, Gary Macy, Madigan & Osiek, Josephine Meyer, Ute Eisen, and Cipriano Vagaggini, a now-deceased member of the ITC who wrote in 1974 that women were sacramentally ordained as deacons and could be so ordained again.

    But the newcomers to the discussion would best take a look at "Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future" (Paulist Press), which includes copious footnotes and references to all you need to make an informed determinaition about what you might say next.

    BTW, my "Women in Ministry: Emerging Questions on the Diaconate" is coming from Paulist Press in Spring 2012.

    Oh, was it the same poster who said that 95% of my NCR writing "trashes" the Church? Could he or she send me a list? I'd be interested.

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  11. Deaconesses- not an ordained ministry. Period.

    If we have them, lets make sure they are 1. not ordained 2. do not have a liturgical function and 3, are not called Deacons, so it is clear there is a difference. Let them be purely a service order. If you want to let them help dress and undress female adult baptismal candidates in their white robes, fine. But please no role at the altar. No preaching. No leading "communion services." Nothing which could give them, or anyone, the idea that they are clergy.
    Susan Peterson

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  12. Dear Ms. Zagano - Not only did I not attack you on The Deacon's Bench but my 2 posts there (#96 and #104) do nmot even make any reference to you whatsoever.

    However your response to my post (which was not directed to you personally) came across as very emotional more than logical and very condescending.

    However if you want a reply to the three things you aim at me in that post:

    1. Yes, I hold exactly that women are invalid (or in your words, defective) matter for Orders.

    2. That all are made in the image and likeness of God has no direct correlation to the call to Orders.

    3. The (overdone) Phoebe verse: your inference as to what this implies is much to simplistic otherwise it would not remain a point of discussion. See Muller's work for a good treatment of this verse.

    Since you have directly and incorrectly and falsely accused me of attacking you in a public forum, I will be expecting a likewise apology in public. Thank you.

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  13. Dear Diakonos,

    I'll let Dr. Zagano speak for herself, but there is one point to clarify.

    The question of "matter" for the sacrament of order is NOT related to the person of the ordinand. According to Pope Pius XII (1947), the "matter" of the sacrament is the laying on of the bishop's hands, and the "form" is the Act of Consecration for each order.

    Now, you can still believe that women should not be ordained, but using the ground that sacramental "matter" is involved would be incorrect.

    Again, not everyone (including reputable biblical scholars ((which is not his specialty, by the way)), agrees with Muller. I know you like him, but he's just one theologian among many!

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

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  14. Dcn Bill, Thanks for your usual kind reply. Actually I was not the one who ever brought the term "matter" into the discussion. Ms. zagano did that in her post #108 at Dcn Greg's blog. I simply used that term in response to her direct inference of my statement as to validity of female ordination. I am, of course, aware of Pope Pius XII's "Sacramentum Ordinis" as I assume Ms. Zagano must be as well. Perhaps she forgot this distinction in matter and form.

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  15. I was so shocked by the false accusation against me by Ms Zagano that I neglected to reposnd to a few things in her latest post here:

    1. Go back and read my comments and you will see that I, too, think that this is a valid theological topic for discussion. How else does the Church historically arrive at its decisions and pronouncements (affirmative or negative) except by such study?

    2. You seem to equate invalid "matter" (your term) with an invective against the dignity of women. Rather, in church-speak this is a canonical or liturgical designation as I would imagine a theologian would know. It speaks not at all to the person and dignity of the female believer. I would be hard-pressed to find more influential and inspiring examples of Christianity that Our Lady, St. Mary Magdalen and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

    3. Benedict XVI's words on governance and ministry shouuld not be limited to such a narrow realization as Orders. Women can and are in the aspect of governance in chanceries, tribunals, etc. With a change in canon law I cannot see why they also couldn't be nuncios if qualified. And ministry is much wider than Orders as well. Again, whose ministry touched and changed more hearts throughout the world and in many faiths than Blessed Teresa of Calcutta?

    4. Finally, you are incorrect in your statement about the pope when you wrote "nor would he ever pronounce the wholly insuting determination that women are defective matter for the sacrament of Holy Orders". He has indeed, along with his predeccors declared such, for the Sacrament includes episcopate and presbyterate and for those 2 degrees this is exactly what he has said. Please note howvwer than neither he (nor I) use that wording and that you are using the term "defective matter". I prefer "invalid candidates".

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  16. I'd like to ask a practical question. Would the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate change the profile of people called to this vocation?

    My perception is that most deacons today are either employed in full time secular occupations or are retired. So their public ministry either within or outside of their parish is something that they do in addition to their secular job.

    In addition to this type of ministry however, most dioceses also have large charity organizations, school systems, hospital systems, and other social services organizations that that are run by men and women who work at these organizations as their primary employment. If I understand the history of the diaconate, running these types of organizations would be a traditional role for deacons. So with the possibility of ordaining both men and women, would the church look to ordain the workers in these diocesan organizations even though they may not necessarily take on any additional roles in their parish?

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  17. Dear Michael,

    Great question. On the one hand, we already have deacons who are involved in the ministries you mention, so nothing would change about that.

    However, I think we all need to remember that what we're talking about here is a VOCATION to serve as deacon: some people will have that vocation, and some will not. So, we wouldn't just ordain a person (male or female) simply because of the job they hold. Now, if that person is discerned to have a vocation to the diaconate, that's one thing. If, however, they don't have a vocation to diaconate, it would be wrong to ordain them.

    In one sense, nothing would change in how we identify candidates for ordination: we're still going to look for all of the same "markers" (as well as "red flags"!) that we do now. We will want to get a sense of the person's spirituality and human integration and maturity, and so on. In another sense, of course, the presence of women as deacons will change a lot of ministerial dynamics, many of which we can't predict. This is similar to what happened when the (male) diaconate was renewed as a permanent order, and then opened to married men: The bishops agreed it was the right thing to do, and they had a general sense of how this might work, but they knew that they couldn't anticipate every outcome, and we'd have to sort it all out as we go.

    Same thing would happen with this!

    God bless,
    Deacon Bill

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  18. Deacon Bill,
    Thanks for the response. I guess my thought is that key roles in diocesan social services organizations are more than just jobs. For the people who do them well, there has to be a special calling present too.

    So my speculation is that the calling to certain types of jobs and the calling to the diaconate might be very similar and possibly the same.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that ordination begins a special relationship between the bishop and the deacon. So currently a bishop might desire to have this ordination relationship with key people who are doing work around his diocese, but if half of them are women he can't.

    So I could see the ordination of women to the diaconate as an opportunity to strengthen the ties between bishops and the people doing charitable work in their dioceses. It could also tighten the relationship between a diocese's charitable activities and its proclamation of the Gospel.

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  19. An American priest-friend of mine who works in the Vatican gave me the following:

    The only statement concerning the ordination of women to the diaconate that has magisterial authority, being approved by Blessed John Paul II, is the 2001 statement issued by the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments and for Clergy. Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Ratzinger, signed it as prefect for the CDF. It states in part:

    “Our offices have received from several countries signs of courses that are being planned or underway, directly or indirectly aimed at the diaconal ordination of women. Thus are born hopes which are lacking a solid doctrinal foundation and which can generate pastoral disorientation…Since [the Church] does not foresee such ordination, it is not licit to enact initiatives which, in some way, aim to prepare women candidates for diaconal ordination…”

    While this is a brief and, as far as Vatican documents go a minor notification, it is magisterial and gives more than a hint as to the mind of the Church when it states that aspiration for female diaconal ordination “is lacking a solid doctrinal foundation” and that the Church does not foresee such a possibility. Something to ponder over.

    The notification itself can be read at the Vatican website or at http://www.adoremus.org/1001womendeacons.html

    Here is an article commenting on the notification http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/vatican_letter_censures_women_deacon_courses/

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  20. Dear Diakonos,

    Thanks; I'm aware of the notification. Still, it has limited applicability, since all it really does is state the current practice.

    For example, the same notification would have been issued in the 1950's if bishops had begun opening formation for diaconate to married men. The state of canon law and practice AT THAT TIME would have made such a thing impractical and wrong. That's the current state of affairs vis-a-vis women candidates.

    However, just as church law and practice changed regarding male permanent deacons, it might well change again for female permanent deacons.

    God bless,
    Deacon Bill

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  21. jagishHmmm..I would have to strongly disagree with you, Deacon Bill.

    I don't think the phrase "lacking a solid doctrinal foundation" would or could ever have been used for married men in the diaconate. For this was a canonicla or customary prohibition. Not a doctrinal one.

    I also do not think "lacking a solid doctrinal doundation" refers to canon law or to usual practice. It obviously- by defintion - refers to the faith of the Church.

    A magisterial notification, approved by a pope, in which the doctrinal foundation - not simply the mutable canonical or customary reasons - is dealt with, goes to the heart of the matter.

    I believe that once the Holy see issues its decision, this notification will be seen in hindsight as the first hint or sign of official magisterial response to the question.

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  22. Well, Diakonos, we'll just have to agree to disagree. Such a notification, first of all, is pretty low on the magisterial authority order of things. Second, while it does not "foresee" such ordinations, it certainly does not rule them out at some point in the future.

    And, as I've already pointed out, actions speak even louder than words, and it would be the same Cardinal Ratzinger who, the following year (!) gave the topic over to two successive terms of the ITC. If the notification was a "strong" as you think, there would have been absolutely no need to do such a thing.

    Anyway, time will tell.

    God bless,
    Deacon Bill

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  23. Sorry the article link did not copy fully. It is
    http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/vatican_letter_censures_women_deacon_courses/

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  24. Tyring again but readers may have to manually input it:

    http://www.ncregister.com/site/
    article/vatican_letter_
    censures_women_deacon_
    courses/

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  25. I am looking forward to reading the book. I believe, and hope, that eventually will have women deacons. Not for myself, because I am not called to that vocation; but for my sisters in Christ who do feel called to it. It may not happen in our lifetime. The conversation about it has started fairly recently; it wouldn't surprise me if it were 50-100 years from now before it would be approved. I think there is a danger in pushing too hard too soon; the Church could "just say no", in the form of a next-to-infallible statement, backed up by questionable theology. And we would be stuck with the decision and the theology. Not that I think this book is an example of pushing too hard; it is part of the needed conversation. But there is a need for caution on the part of some who may be too impatient.

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  26. Dear Melody,

    Thanks for your post. I agree with you that these developments take time to mature. The good news is that, although perhaps not many people have been aware of it, the question has been getting quite a bit of attention in academic and even Vatican circles since just before Vatican II. So, I'm hoping that we're a bit further along in the process than if we had just begun talking about it.

    Thanks again for your posting!

    God bless,
    Deacon Bill

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  27. To Diakonos and Dcn. Bill,

    In discussing the unity and diversity of the sacrament of holy orders, I have found the application of Trinitarian Theology to be helpful and balanced. My research project/master’s thesis was to articulate a Trinitarian theology of Holy Orders. My focus was on the Munere of the orders. I viewed them through the lens of Circumincession, Procession of the persons, and Divine Appropriation. I did not address women and the diaconate but the person of the Holy Spirit seemed to most line up with the diaconate. I found it interesting that the Holy Spirit in all of its manifestations is the most gender neutral, but also has some feminine imagery from the foreshadowing of the Spirit in the wisdom writings in the Old Testament.

    Blessings,
    ephremfollower

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  28. Question for "Ephrem Follower":

    I have always taught that the Holy Spirit is "feminine" -- that is, as feminine as a gender-neutral God-head could be.

    My insights came from how I understood the Eastern Church's theology of the Trinity AND also from the name of the famous cathedral/basilica in Constantinople/ Istanbul -- "Hagia Sophia" = Holy Wisdom = Holy Spirit

    In Western circles -- as you probably already know -- "Sophia" is a feminine name. My saintly mother's baptismal name in the Polish language of her family's heritage was pronounced "Zoysha" = Sophia = Sophie. Two of her great-grand-daughters carry that name as well.

    I was surprised that you seem to be insisting that the Holy Spirit is the most gender neutral.

    Only the very best of blessings!

    Deacon Norb from Ohio

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  29. Hagia Sophia actually means Holy Wisdom, same word/sophia as philosophy (love of wisdom).

    the old testament does use words that are feminine gender for spirit, but course they were not thinking of the holy spirit as a distinct person of the trinity as revealed in the NT.

    In greece and turkey, most churches named Hagia Sophia refer to Christ ( as the wisdom of God a la St Paul).

    in russia the churches dedicated to Hagia Sophia refer to the Mother of God as a pure expression of divine wisdom and her assumption

    so i guess all this lead to gender neutrality!

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  30. Just got my three copies of the book. They arrived yesterday (Monday 28 November). I will probably have it read soon and have offered to write a review of it for a fairly prominent -- but special ministry -- Roman Catholic journal. We'll see.

    Deacon Norb in Ohio

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