For two weeks now The Tablet has given the impression that Archbishop Müller believes that the ordination of women to the diaconate is an open question for theological debate. The Tablet is wrong.
On the 7 July 2012 The Tablet editorial stated:
‘Archbishop Müller is clearly prepared to think for himself, and should let his example be followed. He was perhaps misjudged for writing a theological article against the ordination of women, for though that identified him as a conservative, it also showed that he thought theological argument on the issue was legitimate .’ p.2
This is what Gerhard Müller wrote about the ordination of women in his work, ‘Priesthood and Diaconate’:
‘The practice of the Catholic Church, from the early Church to the present, of conferring the Sacrament of Holy Orders only upon baptized men who are in full communion with it, is unanimous.
It is rooted in the belief that, according to the institutional will of Christ (with regard to the company of disciples and the Church, to the apostolate and the Sacrament of Orders), only a man can receive this sacrament validly, not because of a superiority of men over women, but because the Sacrament of Orders presupposes the natural symbolism of the relation between husband and wife.’
‘Being a priest is not an occupation or a societal position or role, any more than being a father or mother is. Priesthood denotes a personal relation, or better, the representation of one person by another. Jesus Christ, according to the unanimous witnesses to the Church’s faith, is symbolically represented by a baptized man by virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.’ p. 178-179.
On the 14 July The Tablet included an article by Dr. Gerald O’Collins SJ that referred to Archbishop Müller’s involvement in the International Theological Commission study on the diaconate:
‘Bishop Müller takes the top job at the CDFwith an intriguing background. He has beenfirm in his opposition to the Austrian Priests Initiative which has called for disobedienceon issues such as married priests and Communion for remarried divorcees, saying that “disobeying the Pope and the bishops is an evil”. But as a member of the InternationalTheological Commission, he belonged to a sub-commission of seven theologians who produced a 100-page study on the diaconate. Published in late 2002, Le Diaconat: évolutionet perspectives, despite some official disclaimers, concluded by leaving open the question of ordaining women to the diaconate.’
This not only misrepresents the conclusion of the ITC study about the ordination of women to the diaconate but also implicitly misrepresents Archbishop Müller’s position, who has expressed strong opposition to the ordination of women to the diaconate.
The ITC study concluded that when the Church finally pronounces authoritatively on this matter it needs to take into account two important indications that have emerged in its historico-theological research:
1. ‘The deaconesses mentioned in the tradition of the ancient church – as evidenced by the rite of institution and the functions they exercised – were not purely and simply equivalent to the deacons.’
Protect the Pope comment: The use of the phrase ‘the rite of institution’ is significant here because the ITC is concluding that deaconesses in the past only received the rite of institution to ministry not the rite of ordination to the sacrament of Holy Orders.
’2. The unity of the sacrament of Holy Orders, in the clear distinction between the ministries of the Bishop and the Priests on the one hand and the Diaconal ministry on the other, is strongly underlined by ecclesial tradition, especially in the teaching of the magisterium’.
Protect the Pope comment: The ITC is clearly stating here that in order to uphold the unity of the sacrament of Holy Orders, the diaconate must be reserved to men only because the episcopacy and presbyterate are reserved to men only.
While acknowledging themselves that the ITC do not have the competence or authority to pronounce authoritatively on the question of the ordination of women to the diaconate they indicate that the Church must take into account that their historic0-theological research is against women receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders.
No way does the ITC leave open the question of ordaining women to the diaconate as Dr O’Collins suggests.
Archbishop Müller expresses his opposition to the ordination of women to the diaconate as follows in a 2002 interview on Zenit:
Q: Is it possible to separate the diaconate of women from the priesthood of women?
Müller: No — because of the unity of the sacrament of orders, which has been underlined in the deliberations of the Theological Commission; it cannot be measured with a different yardstick. Then it would be a real discrimination of woman if she is considered as apt for the diaconate, but not for the presbyterate or episcopacy.
The unity of the sacrament would be torn at its root if, the diaconate as ministry of service, was opposed to the presbyterate as ministry of government, and from this would be deduced that woman, as opposed to man, has a greater affinity to serve and because of this would be apt for the diaconate but not for the presbyterate.
However, the apostolic ministry all together is a service in the three degrees in which it is exercised.
The Church does not ordain women, not because they are lacking some spiritual gift or natural talent, but because — as in the sacrament of marriage — the sexual difference and of the relation between man and woman contains in itself a symbolism that presents and represents in itself a prior condition to express the salvific dimension of the relation of Christ and the Church.
If the deacon, with the bishop and presbyter, starting from the radical unity of the three degrees of the orders, acts from Christ, head and Spouse of the Church, in favor of the Church, it is obvious that only a man can represent this relation of Christ with the Church.
And in reverse, it is equally obvious that God could only take his human nature from a woman and, because of this, womankind has in the order of grace — because of the internal reference of nature and grace — an unmistakable, fundamental, and in no way merely accidental importance.
Q: Are there binding doctrinal declarations regarding the question of the feminine diaconate?
Müller: The liturgical and theological tradition of the Church uses unanimous language. It is a binding and irreversible teaching of the Church on this matter, which is guaranteed by the ordinary and general magisterium of the Church, but which can be confirmed again with greater authority if the doctrinal tradition of the Church continues to be presented in an adulterated manner, for the purpose of forcing the evolution of a specific direction.
I am amazed at the lack of historical knowledge of some, and the absence of the meaning of faith; if it wasn´t like this, they would know that it has never been possible and never will be to place the Church, precisely, in the central ambit of her doctrine and liturgy, in contradiction with sacred Scripture and her own Tradition.
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.’
Protect the Pope comment: Faced with this categorical evidence that Archbishop Müller believes that the ordination of women to the sacrament of Holy Orders, including the diaconate, is impossible why has The Tablet sought to portray the new Prefect of the CDF as seeing this as an open question?
It seems to Protect the Pope that this is due either to desperate wishful thinking, basic ignorance of Archbishop Müller’s work and a misreading of the ITC study on the diaconate. For what ever reason The Tablet is misrepresenting Archbishop Müller’s stance on the ordination of women.