Saturday, May 21, 2016

Female Deacons

Last week, Pope Francis talked about making a committee, to look into the topic of female deacons. There used to be female deacons in the early days of the Catholic Church, until the deaconate more or less died out, around the time of the fall of the Roman Empire. That's not to say deacons didn't exist, but they didn't really become common again until 1967, when Blessed Pope Paul VI made an effort to restore the deaconate. The United States currently has over 18,000 deacons.

Now, people are arguing over whether or not female deacons should be brought back, as well. I can understand both sides of the argument. Female deacons would be great to have, but on the other hand, we already have male deacons, and we don't 100% know what to do with them. There is a definite disconnect between what the church teaches about deacons, what people think deacons do, and what deacons actually do. We should probably resolve those issues first, before introducing a whole new class of deacons.

Let's take preaching, for example. The church teaches that only priests can give homilies at mass, since they're acting in persona Christi. Deacons can occasionally give homilies, since they have received the sacrament of holy orders. That's the official teaching. In real life, what happens is that deacons give homilies at pretty much every mass they attend, and people think the deacon's main role is to be the priest's pinch-hitter for giving homilies. The disconnect would probably increase if we include female deacons, because they can't give homilies, and that's just complicating matters.

So, what would I do, if I were the Pope?

Well...to be honest, I'd rather have Pope Benedict XVI tackle the matter, because he's ridiculously thorough. He'd write a document which covers deacons, male and female, from all possible angles, leaving no room for doubt. Pope Francis has a more off the cuff style, which can lead to confusion; there was a pretty big uproar with his latest document, which demoted the hot button topic of "can divorced people receive communion?" to a mere footnote.

Anyway, I would do something like that. I'd use the issue of female deacons as a springboard, in order to tackle all the various issues with deacons, in general. We'll see what Pope Francis does!

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