This post is not about women becoming priests, for that see both sides of the argument below. (Ok that might be bias but Peter Kreeft gives a good account of the argument here)
If you need a good laugh and like horrible singing to a catchy Carly Rae Jepson tune, then watch the video Ordain a Lady!
Today I want to discuss specifically women being ordained Deacons, not priests.
Argument from History
We used to have female deacons. That is a very well documented fact. Now I’ve heard from many conservative sources that they used to be called Deaconesses. I’ve also heard that the only reason we had “deaconesses” was because the baptism of adults was done naked. However, I’ve also heard from the professor of my sacraments course that women deacons were never called deaconesses, but were also just called deacons. This appears to be true if you look at the direct sources from the church fathers and early church.
Regardless of this fact it remains that we have had women who acted as deacons, even if it was only for baptism. Even if this was an exception to the rule, it proves that there is no theoretical reason that women cannot be deacons. Maybe it was a cultural practice, circumstantial, a necessary break from the norm, but whatever the reason there is no theological reason women cannot be deacons or they never would have been. Women were deacons, therefore they could conceivably be deacons again.
Argument from Theology (In Persona Christe)
So then why can’t women be ordained priest but they can be ordained deacons? Well when a priest celebrates Mass or forgives sins in reconciliation, he is acting “in persona Christe” or “in the person of Christ”. This means that in a sense the priest becomes Christ. The problem then becomes sexuality, is Jesus being male a coincidence or is it part of his substance, who he is? Is God being called Father just a man made invention from a patriarchal society? I would suggest that the maleness of God has a much deeper meaning. (I’ll save that for another blog post though!)
To get back to the point, deacons can baptize, give homilies, celebrate weddings etc. None of those things require him to do something supernatural like forgive sins or turn bread into the body of Christ. My point is that there is no theological reason women cannot be deacons since that is the reason women cannot be priests.
Slippery Slope Counter Argument
This is one argument, and I think the main argument people have with women deacons. The “This is one step towards women being priests” argument.
Slippery slope arguments are one of Aristotles logical fallacies. Basically it’s when someone says “if we allow this one thing to happen, then a series of much worse things will happen.” The reason it is a fallacy is because when one thing happens, there is no reason that the next thing will happen. If a women becomes a deacon maybe some will see it as a step to women becoming priests but that does not necessarily follow. In other words there is no reason women would have to be allowed to become priests if they become deacons because of what I said above about priests being “in persona Christe”.
In conclusion I would say that we cannot be afraid of change just because it is different. Too often we are against something because it “feels wrongs” or “unnatural”. We need to base our opinions in logical facts and have reasons why we believe things. There are things in the church that will never change, but there are things that can. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask the necessary questions. Can this change? Should it? What are the consequences? Why has it been like this for so long? I am open to hear other people’s opinions on this, although I think I’m right, there is a lot I don’t know about this topic.