Tuesday 8 October 2013

O'Collins' case for women deacons

A surprisingly bold article by Gerald O'Collins, making a case for women deacons: see "Unlock the Door: The case for women in the diaconate," The Tablet (25 May 2013) 4-5.

The ITC document, "Le diaconat: evolution et perspectives" (2002), reached two conclusions:

  1. The deaconesses mentioned in the tradition of the Ancient Church ... were not purely and simply equivalent to the deacons.
  2. In the unity of the Sacrament of 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. 
O'Collins proposes that if one stresses the clear distinction, a door could be opened.  He goes on to point out that the distinction was highlighted in an addition to canon 1009 made by Benedict XVI in October 2009: "Those who are constituted in the order of the episcopate or the presbyterate receive the mission and capacity to act in the person of Christ the Head, whereas deacons are empowered to serve the people of God in the ministries of the liturgy, the word, and charity." 

Of course there is also canon 1024 that limits ordination to baptised men. 

Vatican II, while recognizing the unity of holy orders, had also taught that, unlike bishops and priests, deacons are ordained not for priesthood but for service. To support this distinction, LG 29 drew on sources from the Early Church (see note 74).

The Council of Chalcedon (canon 15) legislated for the ordination of women deacons. Popes allowed Western bishops to ordain women deacons up to the eleventh century. The office died out in the Middle Ages. But there are still women deacons among the Coptic Orthodox and Greek Orthodox. 



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