The Tablet is wrong about Archbishop Müller and women deacons

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.’

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2012/07/muller-and-deacons-only-a-man-can-represent-this-relation-of-christ-with-the-church/

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.

 

8 comments to The Tablet is wrong about Archbishop Müller and women deacons

  • Karla

    Shock – The Tablet misrepresenting again

  • Michael Petek

    I remember seeing Muller play for West Germany in the 1974 World Cup. They called him “Der Bomber”.

  • Spesalvi23

    They media keep referring to him as ‘arch conservative hard-liner’ – very much in tune with the Pope. But then they refer to any Catholic with a clear profile and open acceptance of dogma and Carholic teachings as such.
    He’s given a few interviews which were rather encouraging. Very outspoken guy with a bit of a temper.

  • George

    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.

    Well, Müller refers to a study published by the ITC in 2003 which is obsolete. Also the newer works written by Manfred Hauke only look at these ‘state of the art’ and do not go further.
    But in the meantime we have knowledge of Prof. Theodorou’s work (from the 1950′s) and some newer comments on it which show clearly that the basic assumption is wrong: Until the 11th century there definitely were ordinated female deacons, not only in the Eastern but also in the Western Church. There are several witnesses that give absolutely clear testimonies to the fact that the ordination rite is indeed identical to the one used for male deacons (Codex Barberinus, Codex Bessarianus, Codex 956 from the monastery of Sinai). Though they probably had different tasks in practical Church life, i.e. a very limited role in liturgical celebrations, female deacons communicated at the altar, wore the orarion and belonged to higher clergy. They may have read the Gospel. Saint Leo IX and other Popes confirmed the right of (Western) Bishops to ordinate female deacons. This is just a historical fact nobody can change.

    It is important to know that these Greek an Catholic investigators do not want the Church to restore female deacon ordination. Just to the opposite, they think it would not be entirely appropriate to do so today because there surely would be feminist mis-interpretations and aspirations towards female priesthood and so on (contrary to Eastern and Western tradition, of course). But you have to admit that the Pope could restore female deacon ordination because it has actually existed in the Church’s tradition (which is not the case with the priests). It is simply a matter of historical honesty to acknowledge this.

  • Lionel (Paris)

    Women can never have access to the Priesthood, because it is not included in the plan of God. Even if a bishop were to conduct an “ordination”, it would not be valid, it would be a travesty and sacrilege which, in my opinion, would be of an extreme gravity, is that there would be a risk of rupture in the “apostolic succession”. That we must fear most.

  • Sir Louis

    George, you would do well to read Aime Georges Martimort’s book entitled “Deaconesses.” It is an exhaustive historical examination of the matter that demonstrates that “deaconesses” were not female deacons, and that those instances in which they were ordained were promptly condemned by councils of bishops who labeled such ordination an innovation and a nullity. Although there were instances in which the same rite was used, in the great majority of instances the rites were most certainly different and the differences pointed definitely to the exclusion of females from participation in the altar.

  • With regard to the ordination ofwomen to the diaconate, it should be noted that two important indications emerge from what has been said up to this point:

    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;

    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.

    In the light of these elements which have been set out in the present historico-theological research document, it pertains to the ministry of discernment which the Lord established in his Church to pronounce authoritatively on this question.

    Over and above all the questions raised by the diaconate, it is good to recall that ever since Vatican II the active presence of this ministry in the life of the Church has aroused, in memory of the example of Christ, a more vivid awareness of the value of service for Christian life.

  • jenny

    1) I wonder why the New Testament was written by men? Didn’t women know how to read/write? Would be interesting to see what women have to say about Jesus.
    2) Why only Mathew’s Gospel said that at the multiplication of bread and fish, there were 5,000 men , not counting women and children. The others: John, Luke and Mark say that there were 5,000 men – no mentioning about women and children. Is it possible that at the Last Supper were also women, but the men writers forgot to mention?
    3) Would be interesting to see men presenting their list of ” problems” to a woman , prior to going to confession to a man-priest. – Just to experience what means for a woman/girl to go to confession to a man-priest.
    This may help with understanding why the “Fathers” of the Church brought fatherhood at such low level nowadays. More children with no fathers around… than ever before in the history.
    Maybe it is time to see what “Mothers” of the Church can do.

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