Friday, August 12, 2016

Deacons, blogging, and "Crimson and Clover"

August is shaping up a lot like June. It's been good to step back and reassess what I am doing here and, frankly, take it down a notch or two. Rather than blogging I've been doing some spiritual journaling. Keeping a journal is something that I have previously found to be too difficult. I don't know why now I am finding it easy. What I write daily, which I limit to one page of a composition notebook, comes from practicing lectio divina each morning, which I've done for awhile though now I am, by the grace of God achieving better consistency. After ten years of writing, it's not possible to just stop.

One thing I've done since last posting is deleted my two most recent posts on diaconate, specifically my replies to initial reports of Pope Francis telling a gathering of religious sisters that he would appoint a commission to study women and(/in?) the diaconate. I believe I made some valid points in both posts, but I made my points in the wrong way and without drawing from what I know about the history of the diaconate. Since then Pope Francis has appointed the commission. I am content to let the commission do their work and see what comes of it. It's important to let the Holy Spirit do his work.



An important female voice who was not appointed to the commission, but who previously served on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's International Theological Commission, is that of Sr. Sara Butler, M.S.B.T. She was formerly an advocate for women's ordination, but no longer advocates for it. She wrote a book, The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Teaching of the Church, about it. Recently she weighed in with a short piece on the recent public conversation about women deacons: "The Burden of Proof Concerning Women Deacons." It's a short piece and so much is left undeveloped. She does point to the unity of the sacrament of orders, which is one sacrament and not three, which was the centerpiece of one of my deleted posts and remains a large issue in the on-going discussion about the diaconate.

I am intrigued by how there has been an ever-increasing distinction made by the Church's magisterium between what might be called the diaconal modality of the sacrament of orders and the presbyteral modality. The most recent of which was promulgated in Benedict XVI's motu proprio Ominum in mentem, which made it clear that a deacon never acts persona Christi captis (i.e., in the person of Christ the head). This broaches another question I posed in one of my deleted posts that is relevant to the one about the unity of the offices that make up the sacrament of orders, does a deacon act in the person of Christ, in something that Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles called in his Foreward to James Keating's recent book, The Heart of the Diaconate, acting in persona Christi Servi (i.e., in the person of Christ the servant)? If so, how does that factor into the discussion?

Along the same lines as a papally-appointed commission studying the diaconate vis-à-vis women, I read something today that the next Synod may be on the subject of pastoral ministry with a focus on making the sacraments more available to the faithful, which is important given the seemingly ever-shrinking priest to people ratio. Bishop Fritz Lobinger, the retired bishop of the Diocese of Aliwal, South Africa, has a bold proposal: "Homegrown clergy: The case for a new kind of priesthood."

One thing about being Catholic during the pontificate of Pope Francis is that there is never a dull moment. I find this refreshing. It seems like the Church of the third millennium is finally moving ahead by looking back to the first Christian millennium. Roman Catholics, including myself, often to seem very rooted in the second millennium. One question I have concerning Bishop Lobinger's proposal is what, if any, role exists for deacons? To frame my question, for those who might be interested, I point to Bill Ditewig's doctoral dissertation, The Exercise of Governance by Deacons: A Theological and Canonical Study and what was set forth about deacons in the Second Vatican Council's decree on the mission activity of the Church, Ad gentes. I still find it puzzling that, apart from the possibility of ordaining women deacons, the diaconate is largely ignored, as it was in both the Synods on the Eucharist and Evangelization.

I know that's a lot in a few dense paragraphs, which means it's time for our Friday traditio. Since I skipped last week for no other reason than I wasn't up to it, I am putting up two by Joan Jett, one of the best female rockers of all-time: "Crimson & Clover" along with "I Hate Myself."

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