Rorate Caeli

"Ordained" deaconesses in Chicago? - The Vangheluwe Reform

Ordination of female deaconesses in Chicago: did Cardinal George raise the issue in Rome? He promised to do so, according to the Tribune.

Lynne Mapes-Riordan, of Evanston, hopes women will one day serve as Roman Catholic deacons. After 800 years [!], she could be one of the first. 

Growing up, she never gave ordination a second thought. But then she learned that, unlike the church's verdict barring female priests, the question of female deacons has never been resolved.

That open question has led Mapes-Riordan, 49, and fellow parishioners at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Evanston to seek an answer. If the church finds in favor of female deacons, she could become one of the first women ordained [sic] since the 12th century [since Pentecost]. After meeting last winter with members of the parish, including Mapes-Riordan, Chicago's Cardinal Francis George reportedly promised to raise the question in Rome during his visit earlier this year.

Let us never forget to whom the merit belongs: if "deaconesses" are ever "ordained", we must do justice and call it The Vangheluwe Reform, in honor of confessed nephew-molester Bp. Roger Vangheluwe, who led the charge in favor of this move. 


In fact, however, due to the inescapable fact that what has been received from the Lord from the foundation of the Church cannot be changed at will, women cannot be in ordained ministry - because the degrees of Holy Orders cannot just be separated  as if they were the layers of an onion... To understand why, see this interesting interview with the current Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Müller - he has written extensively on this matter.

[Tip: reader. Recess for several days.]


  1. The unity of the sacrament of Holy Orders is the strongest argument against it for sure.

    Then again, it's of no practical effect. We know there were (and in some Eastern monasteries of nuns, even still are) "deaconnesses." And since deacons receive no new sacramental powers (at least not of the sort that can't also be canonically delegated to laity)...whether they are a Sacrament or just a sacramental is rather a theoretical point.

    Either way, I think what these women are imagining is faulty. If the West restores any sort of "deaconess" it should be only in monasteries of cloistered nuns.

  2. The teaching can be as infallible as they like but the liberal feminists of the modern church will never submit to it. For them, infallibility is only a guideline permitting evolutionary change, that is if they can make their point accepted by this or that bishop sooner or later. Once an accepted fact by an individual with authority (albeit instututionally limited) it becomes an accepted reality for them. This is the major philosophical problem for most liberals - where one boundary of signification begins and where it ends. For many it is a mere continuum of possibilities.

  3. This was settled at Nicaea:
    "We have mentioned the deaconesses, who are enrolled in this position, but since they have not received any imposition of hands at all, they are surely to be numbered among the laity."

    And again, it was recognized as early as the 4th century at the Council of Nimes that the exclusion of women from the "levitical ministry" was apostolic:

    "There is a report that women seem to have been, we know not in what place, admitted to the levitical ministry, contrary to apostolic discipline,and unknown until today ordination of this sort must be annulled,and care taken that no one for the future be so bold."

    Why is this even being debated? 2000 years of Christian Tradition can be subverted to 5 decades of feminism.

  4. Warren A.4:22 PM

    Deaconesses were never authorized and thus not ordained in the early church nor now in the eastern churches. Wives of (ordained male) deacons are called deaconesses, in the Greek Orthodox Church for example, though they are not ordained. For obvious reasons, women (helpers) assisted at the (immersion) baptism of other women in the early Church (Syrian Didascalia, late 3rd C). They were called deaconesses, but neither were they ordained.

    Where and when women did attempt ordination in the earlier Church, the practice was condemned: John Chrysostom, in On the Priesthood 2.2, 3.9: "Divine law has excluded women from the sanctuary, but they try to thrust themselves into it."; Augustine, On heresies 27; Epiphanius, Against Heresies 79. 304.

    Furthermore, let's not be so naive to think that allowing female diaconal ordination will put a stop to the argument for women's presbyteral ordination. Ordination to the diaconate is simply a back door tactic. Similarly, presbyteral ordination has become a back door argument which promoters have used to demand women in the episcopacy of the TEC, ACoC and CofE, etc.

  5. That Mueller piece is excellent. I hope that all of us trads will applaud the man for deploying the traditional language with precision and clarity in a teaching moment such as this.

  6. Andrew4:54 PM

    The order of deaconess did exist. What they did though is not clear in the East or the West. It seems that in the East they ministered to women and girls...especially with baptism which was more hands on then. In the Greek Church some nuns recieve this order to help distribute Holy Communion to other nuns in the convent. In other words, they did pretty much, if not more, what laywomen do in the novus ordo Church do now (i.e. read Scripture at Mass, assist with Baptismal prep, and distribute Holy Communion as Extraordinary minsiters of the Eucharist and home visits).

    The issue is that the call for female deacons is mixed up with modern feminist theology and demands for ordination to the priesthood and complete changes in Catholic doctrine and Church structure. Sadly, what comes with this issue is very liberal theology that ultimately leads the Church to apostasy. This is exactly what happened with the Anglican Communion. First women deacons...then the complete disintegration of theology and Church order.

    I might not have a problem with female deacons if the modern women asking for it were thoroughly orthodox in doctrine and would fulfill their role in total obedience to the Church (just as male priests and deacons are expected to). However, in modern times this issue seems to be a Trojan Horse for other issues and theologies.

  7. NIANTIC4:57 PM

    The explanation of Archbishop Mueller in the interview cited is excellent, precise and without ambiguity. Let us pray that this will be his modus operandi going forward in his new position.

    As far as the ladies mentioned, they are part of the feminist crowd. They will keep on trying to find and pry open any loopholes to reach their goal. They are a sorry, sad and confused model of Catholic women and totally out of their element.

    Real Catholic women know their Faith, love their Lord and His Church and are comfortable with their role in it. They daily perform many heroic works, often unseen, unsung and unappreciated. But God sees and knows and will reward them abundantly.

  8. Tradical5:05 PM

    Nice to see something encouraging w/respect to ++Muller.

  9. This naturally follows from the abolition of minor orders, the establishment of a permanent diaconate, and altar girls… Deacons used to be a stage in a (male) seminarian's journey to the priesthood.

  10. Rejoicer5:35 PM

    Three cheers for our new CDF head. I wasn't sure when or if I was going to get to say that.

  11. Q: Could the Pope say that in the future women will receive the diaconate?

    Müller: Contrary to what many think, the Pope is not the owner of the Church or absolute sovereign of her doctrine. He is only entrusted with safeguarding Revelation and its authentic interpretation.

    Keeping the Church´s faith in mind, which is expressed in its dogmatic and liturgical practice, it is all together impossible for the Pope to intervene in the substance of the sacraments, to which the question of the legitimate receiving subject of the sacrament of orders essentially belongs.


  12. Jason C.5:45 PM

    If the West restores any sort of "deaconess" it should be only in monasteries of cloistered nuns.

    I could totally get behind this. 'Radical, hyphenated, feminist biddies, we agree to "ordain" you on the condition that you enter a monastery for the rest of your life, there to live out the fullness of your vocation.'

    This would cut down on the number of EMHCs significantly, since it's typically this type of lady who insists on fulfilling that role.

    A Sinner, I think you're on to something...

  13. This all comes from a phony notion of Tradition. Where people think this argument is not settled, it is in fact settled by common teaching, which Pius IX's teaching in Tuas Libenter assures us, cannot err and enjoys infallibility. All of the theological manuals teach on the unity of holy orders, and its male character. The Church fathers speak likewise. There is not patristic witness to ordained deaconesses. The term itself is simply a functionary of greek and latin which makes adjectives for things in the feminine even in diminutive forms.

  14. P.K.T.P.6:50 PM

    The deaconesses in the ancient Church were not ordained ministers; therefore, they were deaconesses only in an etymological sense of assistants (from the Greek).

    I believe that this matter was resolved when the issue of the priesthood was resolved. Perhaps not. At any rate, there is no history of ordained deaconesses as a precedent; that is, they may have been called according to a ritual but they have never received Holy Orders. So there is no precedent. All the Holy Order are interconnected, and the diaconate is ordered to the priesthood, so there is no question to be resolved here. The door is closed.

    By the way, to answer the first poster, the essence of Holy Orders is not a power to administer Sacraments but simply an ordering of the soul to serve God in a special way. Of course, the administration of some Sacraments is restricted to the priesthood and one to the episcopate, but that is accidental. Hence Baptism can be conferred by laics, and Matrimony is conferred by lay spouses with witnesses present.


  15. P.K.T.P.7:05 PM

    Thomas Kim:

    An apple does not become an orange if we call it an orange. Some words have two or more meanings, and these meanings are sometimes closely related and yet distinct. The Greek words for the Holy Orders merely mean 'overseer', 'elder' and 'assistant'. But, in a new Sacramental sense, each means more than this in relation to the Church.

    We must also be careful about the laying on of hands. Holy Orders are conferred by the laying on of hands. It does not follow, however, that every laying on hands must therefore confer Holy Orders. The essence of receiving Holy Orders is that a number of conditions are fulfilled so that God, not one of us, acts. He acts so as to orient a soul to His service permanently, even after death.

    Others may serve but not be sacramentally ordained. Altar servers come to mind. We could call Alter servers 'deacons', since 'deacon' merely means assistant in Greek. But that would not make Alter servers ordained men.

    The diaconate is meant to lead a man to the priesthood, even if it does not always do so: it is oriented to the priesthood by nature. So why would women want to be deacons? To ask the question is to answer it.


  16. Ignatius Press published an English edition of then-Father Mueller's book PRIESTHOOD AND DIACONATE which, among other things, defends the Church's teaching that women are not eligible to receive Holy Orders (diaconate, priesthood or episcopate).

  17. skladach7:22 PM

    Ignatius Press published an English edition of then-Father Mueller's book PRIESTHOOD AND DIACONATE in which, among other things, he defends the Church's teaching that women are ineligible to receive Holy Orders, even diaconate.

  18. PKTP :

    The diaconate is meant to lead a man to the priesthood

    The canons defining the vocation of the women's diaconate have not been abolished.

    Women deacons are quite simply NOT called towards any service of Eucharistic Sacrifice.

  19. If it "has nothing to do with it", then it should not be posted here, Andrew.


  20. I don't want to be crass but this is a very transparent effort to introduce women into the ministerial priesthood. Since the teaching against ordination is infallible (Pope Paul II on May 22, 1994 released his Apostolic Letter 'Ordinatio Sacerdotalis'. This infallible teaching makes clear that the Church has no authority what-so-ever to ordain women into the priesthood. This transparent effort to lead women into the priesthood is just plain wrong.

    I suggest a long wooden rail, a bucket of tar...I'll bring the feathers then we can take Bp. Vangheluwe for a short walk......

  21. Andrew8:33 PM

    Good points Thomas, however all the degrees of Holy Orders flow from the one priesthood of Jesus Christ. As such, all levels of Holy Orders point to and are inexorably connected to the priesthood, even if an individual person stays a deacon all his life. This is another reason why women cannot be deacons.

  22. Manfred8:38 PM

    President Obama has been invited to speak at this year's Al Smith Dinner, women may be allowed to become deaconesses. If the FSSP had not come into northern N.J., I and my family (all adults) would not have been inside a catholic(sic) church in twenty years.

  23. P.K.T.P.8:49 PM

    Dear Mr. Kim:

    I knew that someone would raise the matter of the permanent diaconate, which was an innovation. But despite this innovation, the diaconate by its very nature is meant to lead men to the priesthood even if, in particular cases, it does not have that effect. In other words, it tends the soul to the priesthood.


  24. Inquisitor11:38 PM

    Dear PKTP,

    You previously stated:If women were 'ordained' in the Early Church, they did not receive Holy Orders but only a minor order, like acolytes before 1972.

    While it is true that women could have been put in some "order" of service in the Church, it probably could not have been one of the minor orders. Women could not validly receive the minor orders because those orders were considered to be degrees of the sacrament of Holy Orders by most theologians and the magisterium itself before the 19th and 20th centuries.

    The belief that the minor orders were part of the sacrament of Holy Orders itself is clearly indicated in the decrees of the Council of Florence and Session 23 of the Council of Trent. The Council of Florence even goes so far as to list the minor orders amongst the orders of the sacrament of Holy Orders, and even refers to the minor orders as having a sacramental "matter" and "form." The belief that these minor orders were sacramental is also bolstered by the Council of Trent which likewise declares:

    ...from the very beginning of the church, the names of the following orders, and the ministrations proper to each one of them, are known to have been in use; to wit those of subdeacon, acolyth, exorcist, lector, and door-keeper; though these were not of equal rank...

    Furthermore, the Church does not say that the Laying on of Hands is necessary for the valid reception of all orders of the sacrament of Holy Orders. The Church has only declared that the laying on of hands is necessary for the valid reception of the orders of Deacons, Presbyters, and bishops. The Church does not say that the minor orders are not part of the sacrament of Holy Orders, nor does she say that the laying on of hands is necessary for the valid reception of the minor orders.


  25. A paper I did on the subject some years ago was published in the Arlington Catholic Herald, and eventually made its way to the EWTN Online Library.

    A Rose By Any Other Name: The Ordination of Women to the Diaconate

  26. "If the West restores any sort of "deaconess," it should be only in monasteries of cloistered nuns."

    This is to be frowned upon entirely. Things being what they are in the Church, it's right back to the same issue, "if they can do it, why can't we?" as they then will be pushing to expand that outside their walls, no different than the premise of ordaining these women in the first place.

    Nonetheless, rest assured it won't happen anyway.

  27. In will never cheer for Archbishop Müller, and I suspect that this issue is being raised in the first place merely so that he can establish himself as a defender of orthodoxy.

    His comments on the impossibility of women being ordained to the diaconate are from a 2002 interview, and are not a response to the more recent agitation in favor of that heresy and abomination.

  28. I wonder if modern attempts to undermine faith in the Real Presence aren't related to the feminist goal of also undermining the Priesthood. If the Real Presence weren't true, not only would it not matter if Priests were men or women, we wouldn't need Priests at all. What sayeth the wise?

  29. The feminists and their clerical supporters are not interested in any historical, doctrinal or ethical arguments. Individualised and personalised emphases of faith in the postmodern era means that if they feel being a deaconess will enhance their own sense of self-fulfilment and self-actualisation then they will find someone in the form of a like-minded bishop, to help them realse their dream.
    Pastorally & liturgically, the church has played into their hands since the mid-1960s - "extraordinary" eucharisitic ministers; girl altar servers; lay readers; modern nuns giving sermons; women masters of ceremonies; so-called lay parish liturgists; lay diocesan committees. In all these women have become very active participants and even more so encouraged by local bishops and presbyters.


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