Deacons and Priests
A friend and I were recently discussing the permanent
diaconate. He feels that a woman should be allowed to be ordained a deacon since she
can't be ordained a priest.
He pointed out Romans 16:1-2, "I commend to you
Phoebe our sister, who is [also] a minister of the church at Cenchreae, that you may
receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the holy ones, and help her in whatever
she may need from you, for she has been a benefactor to many and to me as well."
In the translation I have, the New
American Bible, the footnotes say: "Minister: in Greek, diakonos."
With this in mind, why can't a woman be a deacon, since
Phoebe was one? Further, why can't a woman be a priest?
I do not think it has been definitively settled whether,
historically, women have or can be ordained deacons. The text in Romans 16:1-2 does use
the word diakonos in Greek. The New Oxford Annotated Bible: Revised Standard
Version reads, "I recommend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the Church
at Cenchreae." Yet the footnote tells the reader that deaconess may mean
The Good News Bible: The Bible in Today's English Version speaks
of Phoebe "who serves the Church at Cenchreae." It does not translate diakonos as deaconess.
The New American Bible translates the verse to read, "I commend to you Phoebe
our sister, who is [also] a minister of the church at Cenchreae." Nelson's A
New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, edited by Reginald Fuller, tells us that
the exact meaning of this title is disputed, although the corresponding masculine noun
indicates an official title.
John McKenzie in his Dictionary of the Bible also
notes that the title does not indicate a hierarchical office and can refer to services
rendered by Phoebe to the community of Cenchreae. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary states
that diakonos may designate a member of a special group in the Church of Cenchreae
or may be only a generic designation--for example, servant or assistant. The commentary
states there is no way of being sure that the term already designated a special order
Father Norbert Brockman, S.M., author of Ordained to
Service, a book on the theology of the permanent diaconate, is reported to have
said in 1978 that the appeal to tradition for admitting women to the ordained diaconate
is on shaky ground--evidence is lacking that a female deaconess was a female deacon.
And, said Brockman, ordaining women to orders was not even considered in the writings
of the Fathers of the Church.
I found an undated column in my files by Msgr. Donald Hamilton
from The Long Island Catholic. He wrote there that at least one Eastern Orthodox
Church continues to have a few deaconesses but the ordination by which they are set apart
is not viewed as a conferral of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
When it speaks of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and who
may receive the sacrament, the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not distinguish
between the order of diaconate and priesthood. It says simply, "Only a baptized
man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.'" It goes on to say, "The
Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the
apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them....The Church recognizes
herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination
of women is not possible" (#1577).
Some theologians argue that, cultically, only a male can
adequately represent Christ in the eucharistic liturgy. Bishop Eldon F. Curtiss compared
the central figure in the celebration of the Eucharist to an actor playing Shakespeare's
Hamlet. Curtiss wrote that only a male actor can properly be cast to represent Hamletˇa
male. He writes, "The eucharistic sacrifice makes present to us the reality of the
crucifixion of Jesus as it touches our lives. It is precisely in this re-presentation
of the suffering and death of Jesus as a man that the ordained priest must be able to
portray him in his total human dimension." Curtiss later says, "Because Jesus
is a male in his human existence, his life and death are re-presented by a male priest."
I believe that the strongest argument against the ordination
of women to Holy Orders is tradition and the appeal to authority. I think the 1994 apostolic
letter of John Paul II to all bishops in the Catholic Church, Priestly Ordination
Reserved to Men Alone (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis) is basically an appeal to tradition
and the consistent understanding of the Church. In that apostolic letter Pope John Paul
II referred to the response of Pope Paul VI to the debate among Anglicans concerning
the ordination of women. Paul VI had said that it was inadmissible to ordain women because
of the example of Christ in the Scriptures--he chose apostles from among men only. Paul
VI appealed to the constant practice of the Church and said the teaching authority of
the Church has consistently held the exclusion of women from the priesthood to be in
accordance with God's plan for his Church.
Pope John Paul II concluded his apostolic letter by writing, "In
virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (see Luke 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."
In other words, Pope John Paul II believes that it was
determined by Christ himself that only males be ordained to the priesthood and that he,
John Paul, has no power to deviate from what Jesus has determined.
Where Did the Rosary Come?
Can you tell me something about the history of the rosary
and how this prayer came to be?
The following very short history of the rosary, written
by the editor of St. Anthony Messenger, appeared in the preface of Joanne Turpin's
book, The Healing Mysteries of the Rosary:
"Pious tradition has it that the mother of Jesus,
Mary herself, gave the rosary to St. Dominic Guzman and told him to preach this prayer.
More likely, the rosary developed out of the 12th-century chaplets of Pater's
or Ave's recited by the Catholics of that time.
"These chaplets were a kind of poor person's Breviary
made up of 150 Our Fathers (Pater Noster's) or Hail Marys (Ave's) corresponding
to the 150 psalms of the Psalter. Like the Psalter, they were sometimes divided into
sets of three 50's and counted on strings of beads called 'paternosters.' Each of the
prayers was associated with a mystery in the lives of Jesus and Mary pronounced and meditated
on at each bead or prayer of the chaplet.
"In time the 'psalters' of Our Fathers and Hail Marys
came to be joined and merged. The Our Fathers and Hail Marys were prayed alternately,
each Our Father followed by a Hail Mary. The 50 mysteries came to be reduced to five--one
for each decade. Finally the rosary took its present form."
The Enchiridion of Indulgences tells us, "The
rosary is a certain formula of prayer, which is made up of 15 decades of Hail Marys with
an Our Father before each decade, and in which the recitation of each decade is accompanied
by pious meditation on a particular mystery of our redemption." Commonly these are
the traditional joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries listed in the appendix of the Enchiridion and
our prayer books. The Enchiridion does not say, however, that we must meditate
on these particular mysteries in Jesus' and Mary's lives.
Another short history can be found in reprints of The
Rosary: A Gospel Prayer by Thomas A. Thomas, S.M., and Jack Wintz, O.F.M., available
from Catholic Update (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1615 Republic St., Cincinnati,
OH 45210). Besides a very short history of the rosary, this Update contains
an explanation of how to pray the rosary and its mysteries. For a single copy you can
send 50 cents and a self-addressed, stamped business-size envelope.
Many of our lectors change the wording of the readings.
Sometimes it's just one word; for example, man is
changed into people. Many times the whole reading is changed. I thought we were
supposed to read only what is in an approved Lectionary. Who decided what to change?
And when? Is there Vatican approval to use different lectionaries, or for allowing
lectors to change readings?
There are three English Bible translations approved for
liturgical use by the Holy See and the U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
They are The New American Bible; The Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition and The
Jerusalem Bible. I know of no other English translations authorized for use in the
No, we are not supposed to make up our own translations
of the readings of the Lectionary. There is, however, some looseness in adapting or translating
the readings for use in children's Masses. And, apart from the readings, there are places
in the liturgical rites where the celebrant or minister is given a choice of prayers,
told to invite, introduce or use other suitable words, without any specific formula being
It is not always wrong to insert a ceremony or the use
of customary symbols into a liturgical ceremony. After all, you do not find the Sunday
collection in the rubrics of the Mass! And I think everyone would permit words by a family
member after Communion at a funeral Mass.
Concerning the problem you raise about readers changing
words, R. Kevin Seasoltz says in New Liturgy, New Laws (The Liturgical Press): "If
observance of a law occasions the rejection of the liturgy or the Church by a large segment
of the community, surely the traditional teaching of epikeia justifies the non-observance
of the law. This affirmation is in keeping with the medieval axiom that sacraments are
for people; people do not exist for the Church. For example, in communities that are
aware of and committed to efforts to assure justice for women and minorities in the Church,
the use of sexist language in the liturgy is often both irritating and alienating: In
some instances it arouses deep hostility.
"Sometimes the bias against women is built into the
vernacular translation but not into the original Latin text. There is no reason why the
words 'pro multis' in the text of [eucharistic] institution within the anaphora
need to be translated 'for all men.' To avoid harm and insult to the community, ministers
have rightly changed the text and avoided sexist language."
Seasoltz was writing before the words were officially changed
to "for all." I know of no better explanation for what is done than his.
Does the Bishop's Ring Mean?
What is the significance of the ring that bishops and
According to The Church Visible, by James-Charles
Noonan, Jr. (Viking), the bishop's ring is a sign of authority. In the earlier Code of
Canon Law clerics who were not bishops were forbidden to wear rings.
As a symbol of episcopal authority the ring first appeared
in the third century. By 637 A.D. St. Isidore of Seville would write, "To the bishop
at his consecration is given a staff; a ring likewise is given him to signify pontifical
honor or as a seal for secrets."
According to Noonan, the bishop's ring would later also
take on the symbolic meaning that he was wedded to the Church.
The cardinal's ring is given by the Holy Father at a Mass
following his being named a cardinal.
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