His Holiness Pope Francis has appointed six men and six women to study the history of deaconesses in the Church. One of them is a feminist professor named Dr. Phyllis Zagano. She writes in favor of women’s ordination; go figure, she writes for the heretical National Catholic Reporter which openly rejects Church doctrine on abortion, homosexuality, contraception and the “ordination” of women. She even has her own profile on the heretical online newspaper and has also written in favor of euthanasia. Here are some quotes from her article “Catholic Women Deacons” on the Jesuit online newspaper America.
She claims that “the commission ignores the essential weaknesses of in persona Christi theology.”
She just nullified the validity of a ministerial priesthood. This is why Protestantism has no valid priesthood: it rejects that a select few Christians are ordained to say Mass, consecrate the bread and wine to become Christ’s Body and Blood and forgive sins, confirm others in the person of Christ. Her theology is no different from that of Anglicanism or Lutheranism. Is she saying the Church got it wrong that the priest acts in persona Christi capitis when officiating at a Mass, hearing confessions and such? Does she have some great theological insight that none other has had? I’m curious. Holy Scripture makes it clear we must go to the Church for answers (rf. Matthew 18:17), not individuals; and the Church’s authority is the Magisterium, the bishops in communion with the pope who have apostolic succession as Christ Himself said, “Whoever hears you hears me” and “Whoever rejects you rejects me” (Luke 10:16); this can be applied to the power of binding and loosing which is given exclusively to the pope and bishops in communion with him (rf. Matthew 16:17, 18:18).
“In fact, the humanity of Christ overcomes the limitations of gender, and no church document argues an ontological distinction among humans except documents that address the question of ordination.”
So, why did Jesus Christ not ordain women into the priesthood or diaconate when He was on Earth? And please don’t tell me it was because of the cultural sensitivities of the time. Jesus Christ is God; He is above cultural sensitivities and it clearly showed, whether in expelling money-changers from the Temple or calling the Pharisees and Sadducees names such as “hypocrites”, “brood of vipers” and “whitewashed tombs”.
Who’s to say He didn’t overcome the limitations of age? Is that to say children can be ordained as priests or deacons? Ordination has never been a right; nobody can claim it; it is a calling or vocation to God and as such only God chooses who can be ordained and He has explicitly made it clear that only men can be ordained into the priesthood or diaconate. Just look at Holy Writ: Jesus only ordained men who ordained men alone and onward; Saint Paul says it is forbidden for women to speak in church or the weekly assembly (Holy Mass as was later called) in 1 Timothy 2:11-4. The role of a priest or deacon is to preach the homily apart from the priest’s sacramental role, a purely liturgical act, and as such the attempted ordination of women was always refuted because it implied women could preach the homily and carry out the priest’s sacramental role.
The Church has made it clear that the “ordination” of women is invalid as the notion nullifies the doctrine that the Mass is a matrimonial banquet between Christ and His Church. The priest acts in the person of Christ, a Man, as he consummates His bond with the Church, a feminine figure. It is no wonder why advocates for the “ordination” of women are also pro-LGBT; they implicitly claim a woman can consummate the bond with a feminine figure such as the Church, though they want to get rid of that too.
“The study omits a large body of historical-theological evidence that women were sacramentally ordained.”
What study? Is she aware that the First Council of Nicaea made it explicitly clear that deaconesses were not ordained? It said that “deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity” (Canon 19). To understand why deaconesses were not ordained, you have to understand the origin of the word “deacon”; it is Greek in origin: the word διάκονος (diakonos) means “servant”. A deaconess was a servant, not in the liturgical sense (hence not ordained), but in the communal sense. The early Church did emphasis the role of women in the Church, but not the way feminist revisionist historians like Zagano claim; however, the Church never suppressed the role of deaconesses. Throughout Church history, deaconesses have had the role of caring for the poor and in particular women; they baptized women, clothed women, gave them food and drink, etc. This has never been lost. Nuns have always carried out this role of caring for others, especially women and Pope Francis took note of this commenting that they are the deaconesses.
“The ordination ritual of the Apostolic Constitutions for women deacons, codified by the Councils of Nicea (325) and Chalcedon (421) begins: O bishop, you shall lay hands on her in the presence of the presbytery.”
Again, look at the above quote to see what Nicaea I said about deaconesses and ordination. She clearly misunderstands the rite of blessing for whatever reason they might be for. For example, since ancient times the Church has performed the rite of consecration for virgins; the bishop is the ordinary minister of such a rite, but this rite is not an ordination as such. Then there is the rite of consecration of monks and nuns; again, the bishop is the ordination minister of such a rite, but yet again such a consecration does not constitute for an ordination, at least not in the liturgical sense.
Were the deaconesses in the early Church? Yes. Were they ordained? No.