Thursday, 17 August 2017

GAY - STRAIGHT versus PROMISCUOUS


Image result for catholic priests and sex


I THINK WE NEED A LITTLE CLARITY ON THE WHOLE QUESTION OF PRIESTS - GAY AND STRAIGHT - AND SEX.

The first thing to say is that the RC Church requires celibacy - and chastity - from all bishops and priests - straight and gay - who have not been given a dispensation like former Anglican priests have.

This means that a bishop or priest should - according to Church teaching and discipline - should not be having sex with ANYONE - either a man or a woman.

So if a "celibate" priest has one or many sexual partners - he is breaking his promises or vows.

Many priests say that celibacy is a bad man made and unjust law and that therefore - in conscience they are not bound to obey that law.

 So my first question today to Blog readers is:

1. IS CELIBACY A BAD UNJUST LAW AND THEREFORE ARE PRIESTS, IN CONSCIENCE, FREE TO DISOBEY IT AND HAVE ONE LOVING SEXUAL PARTNER?


That would be my own personal opinion and I have often talked to priests, inside and outside of Confession, who live their lives in this way.

Of course, other people would call them hypocrites in that they are pretending to be celibate and are not.

Others still would say to them - if you need a sexual partner the most honourable thing to do in to leave the priesthood and stop living a lie. some 250,000 priests have done this since the mid 1960's. 


My second question today to Blog readers is:

2. SHOULD THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ALLOW A GAY PRIEST TO HAVE ONE LOVING SEXUAL PARTNER?

My opinion is that the Church should and that the RC Church has got it all wrong on homosexuality - especially homosexuality in the context of ONE loving stable relationship.

Others agree with the Church that homosexuality is a "disorder" and that a sexually active homosexual priest is unfit for ministry.


My third question for Blog readers today is:

3. IS THERE A MORAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PRIEST - STRAIGHT OR GAY - HAVING ONE LOVING STABLE PARTNER AND A PRIEST WHO IS A "JACK THE LAD" AND WHO MAKES SURE HE GETS AS MUCH SEX ANYWHERE HE CAN?

My opinion is that there is a moral difference in the sense that there is LOVE in a committed relationship with one person and that being a "Jack The Lad" is all about lust, self-pleasure and using people.


This Blog does not highlight the cases of priests in a loving committed relationship - even though I understand that some people think this is wrong too.

This Blog has been dealing with cases like;

a. The likes of Father Kieran Dallat of Down and Connor who made a parishioner pregnant, left her to have a miscarriage alone in her bathroom and then dropped her like a hot potato.




b. The Case of Father Rory Coyle who used Grindr to show his genitals to a young man - a former pupil of his.

c. The case of Father Eamon McCamley of Keady who masturbated on line at 1 in the morning for all, including parishioners to see.

d. The case of the Raphoe priest who "encountered" a young man in a Derry toilet.

e. The case of another Raphoe priest who hangs around public toilets in Coleraine and the North Coast.

f. The case of another Northern priest who cruises the toilets in the same area dressed in leather.

g. The case of a Dublin priest who was being blackmailed by a young lover/rent boy who it is rumored was paid off by the priest's superiors.

h. The cases of Gorgeous, King Puck, Horny Andy etc of Maynooth and the promiscuous "strange goings on" in that place for decades.




i. The case of a Derry priest with a female lover who was just transferred to another parish with her good self in tact. 

j. The case of a Meath priest cruising truck stops in the midlands.

k. The various goings on at World Youth Day and in "The Meadow" on Lourdes Pilgrimages. 

l. The various cases handled by Sean "The Wounded Healer" Brady solved by a move from a Northern Parish to a County Louth Parish.




m. The case of the faulty computer of Pomeroy.

n. The case of the Maynooth seminarian who lay naked and face down on his bed to "facilitate" "visitors". 

o. The unsolved mystery of the Bray alleged rape.

etc, etc, 


Are folks getting the message?

This is not about a good and human priest falling in love with one person.



This is about the "homosexualisation" of the Catholic priesthood in Ireland and internationally involving seminarians, priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals etc.

And it is about that "gay cabal" becoming so big and so influential, and so widespread as to represent a threat to the Church and the priesthood - not to mention morality.

I happen to be a gay man.

But I do not want the Church transformed into a Gay Church, A Straight Church, A Transexual Church, A Bisexual Church. a Male Church, A Female Church, A Clerical Club Church, etc.

I want the Church to be for EVERYONE.

I want the Church to tolerate and love and accept EVERYONE.

I want the priesthood to be the same - representative of humanity and society as a whole.

I want there to be DIVERSITY within UNITY. 

That cannot happen if any particular TAIL is allowed to wag the WHOLE DOG.

Is that not what we have had with the HIERARCHY TAIL wagging THE WHOLE DOG?

And one very large tail - the gay cabal tail - from New York to Rome to Maynooth is a very problematic tail - and has been so for the last 3 or 4 decades. 

It's got to the point now that celibate gay seminarians and heterosexual seminarians are being driven away!



Image result for tail wagging dog




Wednesday, 16 August 2017




Catholic woman bishop on recruitment drive in Ireland

Image result for bishop bridget mary meehan
BISHOP MARY BRIDGET MEEHAN (centre) with Rosemary Smead (left) and Barbara Duff

Bishop Mary Bridget Meehan celebrating Mass. She hopes to encourage other women to ordination while in Ireland.

Five women who believe they have a vocation to the Catholic priesthood have contacted a US delegation visiting Ireland this month to recruit female priests.
From the US-based Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP), the delegation is being led by Irish-born Bishop Mary Bridget Meehan, who is accompanied by Rev Mary Theresa Streck and Rev Joan Chesterfield.
Speaking of the five women seeking ordination, Bishop Meehan said they “already have theology degrees and diplomas in spirituality”.
A Mass celebrated by Bishop Meehan, in a community centre on Dublin’s South Circular road, was attended by “35 to 40” people earlier this month, while the delegation met a similar number more recently in Drogheda.

NOIRIN NI RIAIN

They have also visited Glenstal Abbey at Murroe, Co Limerick, where they met former Abbot Mark Patrick Hederman and Nóirín Ní Riain who was ordained Rev Nóirín Ní Riain, minister in the One Spirit Inter Faith Seminary Foundation, last month.

DOM HEDERMAN


Bishop Meehan said she had also met Limerick parish priest Fr Roy Donovan who last week called for the ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood and objected to the introduction of a male-only permanent diaconate in his Cashel archdiocese before completion of a report by the papal commission on women deacons.
The meeting with Fr Donovan was “very open” she said, and he had put her in contact with a woman who believes she too has a vocation.

Image result for father roy donovan limerick
FATHER RPY DONOVAN

Bishop Meehan was raised to the episcopacy in 2009 at Santa Barbara, California, after ordination to the Catholic priesthood at Pittsburgh in 2006.
Her family is from Crosskerry, near Rathdowney, Co Laois, but they left Ireland for the US in 1956. Nowadays, she holds weekly liturgies, including Mass, at the Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida.
In 2007, she and fellow women priests were excommunicated by Pope Benedict. He decreed that anyone “who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order” was automatically excommunicated. However, this decree has been rejected by the ARCWP.
In North America, there were about 250 Catholic women priests and 11 women bishops, Bishop Meehan said. Their ordinations were valid “because of our apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church”, she said.
Ordain
“The principal consecrating Roman Catholic male bishop who ordained our first women bishops is a bishop with apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church in communion with the pope. Therefore, our bishops validly ordain deacons, priests and bishops,” said Bishop Meehan.
As well as in the US and Canada, the ARCWP has members in Latin America and, increasingly, in the rest of the world.
They seek equality for women in the church at all levels, including at decision-making and ordination levels, and prepare and ordain qualified women (and men) to serve as Catholic priests.
Theirs is “a renewal movement” within the church which aims at “full equality for all within” as “a matter of justice and faithfulness to the Gospel”, she said.
She and other members of her delegation are back in Ireland for August and hope to encourage other women towards ordination while here.
They would also “love a dialogue with the bishops” in Ireland and believe there is “a new spirit in the church” since the election of Pope Francis in 2013. They feel “in harmony with a lot of what Pope Francis is saying”.


-----------------------------------------------------

AND NOT TO FORGET THE "STRANGE GOINGS ON" IN ARMAGH



THE PRIESTS OF GOOD OUL ARMAGH

(Sung to the tune of "The Boys From The County Armagh"


There's one quare diocese in Ireland,
With clergy so gay and so lewd;
Where Grindr has lavished its bounty,
It's an Eden for those looking screwed.

I love Saint Patrick's cathedral,
Where Rory did broadcast his pubes;
And it bears in the heart of its bosom,
Amy Martin's attachment to boobs.

It's our own Irish see,
Once home to Tomas O Fee;
And though it often shocks us,
It also provides us with glee.
So though we often chuckle,
'bout Phonsie and Shirley Bassey,
My heart is at home in Ard Mhaca,
With McCamley and lovely Keady.

I've travelled each part of the county,
Dungannon and Ryan so blue;
Castle Dawson where Thomas developed,
His love for lace and and the Twirl;
Pomeroy with its famous computer,
Magherafelt with the priest's little girl.
And where are the guys that can pull  them,
Like the priests of good old Armagh.

It's our own Irish see..........

Monday, 14 August 2017

IS PAT ANTI CATHOLIC?


In response to every single Blog, I write I get called "anti-Catholic" by a predictable number of comment makers - many of whom are obviously priests - and members of the Catholic Clerical Club. 

I am tired saying that I am not "anti-Catholic" but rather I am anti the widespread corruption that has invaded the Roman Catholic Institution. 

MY ORDINATION PIC - PENETCOST SUNDAY 1976

I have wanted to be a Catholic priest since I was 4 years old. This year I am 41 years a Catholic priest and I love being a priest today more than I did when I started out.

For me being a priest is about TWO BASIC THINGS - 1. Having a close relationship with God through prayer and reflection and 2. Being available to serve God's People 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Of course being a priest is rooted in being a Christian - a follower of Jesus Christ - and trying to live, as best you can, as Christ lived.

When I look at the life and teachings of Jesus I see two things:

1. The Jesus who came to comfort the disturbed.

2. The Jesus who came to disturb the comfortable.

Jesus was a HEALER and also a REVOLUTIONARY. 

He said himself:

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:34).

Every disciple of the Lord is called upon to be a healer and a revolutionary - to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable.

And for me, that involves working towards the much-needed revolution in the Roman Catholic Institution which has wandered very far away from Christ and his teachings.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CATHOLICISM:

I am A Catholic Christian and I am not and do not want to be a "Protestant" or any other kind of Christian.

The things I love about the Catholic tradition are:

1. The strong view of God as Trinity.

2. The Bible (properly interpreted - not literally interpreted) - especially the New Testament.

3. The Seven Sacraments.

4. The original and good theology of priesthood as service.

5. The centrality of the Eucharist and the belief that Jesus Christ is truly present.

6. The (rational) writings of the Church Fathers.

7. Liturgical ceremony and symbolism.

8. The recognition of the role Mary played in Redemption - but without making her a "goddess". 

9. The example and writings of many of the saints.

10. The priest's Breviary.

There are many others.


WHAT I DISLIKE ABOUT INSTITUTIONAL ROMAN CATHOLICISM:

1. The development of the Hierarchy into middle ages monarchism.

2. The dysfunctional-ism of Vatican centralism.

3. The development of the male, patriarchal Clerical Club.

4. The almost universal exclusion of women.

5. The dysfunctional and harmful Roman Catholic view of human sexuality.

6. Compulsory celibacy for clergy.

7. The horrible things done in Roman Catholic institutional history.

8. The vastness of Vatican and church wealth.

9. The alignment of the RC Institution with the establishment and with States.

10. The RC brainwashing that has ruined the lives of countless of millions.

11. The absolute arrogance of the current Hierarchy.

12. The hypocrisy in the Church and priesthood about sex with bishops and priests living promiscuous sex lives while demanding chastity of all others.

13. The vile sexual and other abuse of children, women, and men.

14. The systematic cover up of all this abuse. 

15. The widespread dysfunction in seminaries perpetrated by staff and seminarians.



There are many others.

Quite simply, my point is this:

I am NOT anti-Catholic.

I AM anti Catholic abuse and corruption.


I write this today to RESTATE my position.


I know I will be attacked by "MY MOTHER RIGHT OR WRONG" Catholics.

And those most in the attack will be those among the clergy who want to preserve the Clerical Club and those who want to inhabit the dark places they inhabit inside and outside of the seminaries.

It's really a battle between TRUTH and LIES

And between REFORM and THE STATUS QUO.

Image result for jesus the revolutionary

Sunday, 13 August 2017

SINEAD O'CONNOR - RECENT VIDEO



Sinead O'Conor's latest video from a motel in New Jersey USA which she published on her Facebook page has made world news and has been watched by many millions of people.

Some large newspapers have praised her for highlighting the problems and stigma around mental illness.

I found the video disturbing and my heart went out to Sinead.

In spite of what many believe I have never met Sinead O'Connor and had absolutely nothing to do with her ordination as a Catholic priest in Lourdes many years ago.

Around that time I did speak to her by telephone and we had very interesting conversations.

I had no problem with Sinead being ordained a priest if her motives were "pure" which I'm sure they were.

But I do think that EVERYONE who wants to be a priest needs to spend a serious amount of time in preparation for ordination. 

That preparation involves spiritual, personal, psychological, intellectual and psychic formation.


It was only when watching the above video that I learned that Sinead suffers, as she said, from THREE mental health issues. She did not tell us what exactly their nature.

Any person who has truly lived life will have experienced mental health challenges at various times.

Thank God I have never suffered from depression - but I have in the past suffered from anxiety and panic attacks - and these were frightening moments for me.

But I always believed in the power of both TALKING and CRYING as part of managing one's mental health life and I have talked to many people about my own challenges and I have often cried. 

In the late 1980's I made a very firm decision to enter psychotherapy as a client. This time coincided with my dismissal from the Catholic Church by Cahal Daly.

I managed to do great work with one psychotherapist and through that work, I explored many unexplored areas of my life and that work was very, very healing.

I also went to England to work, as a client, with the famous Primal Therapy psychiatrist Dr. Frank Lake. 

DR. FRANK LAKE


The result of all this was that I resolved many issues and came to a place of great self-acceptance, great peace of mind and the freedom to be - both in private and in public, MY REAL SELF.

I have never looked back thank God and I am so grateful that I had the wisdom to engage in this work and the opportunity to see it through. 

In fact, through all of this, I came to realize what the FREEDOM OF A SON OF GOD really means. 



I have a peace of mind and contentment today - and for many years now - that is a great blessing. But this blessing only comes through suffering, pain, perseverance and hard work.

CAN SINEAD BE "CURED"?

I'm not so sure that "cure" is the right word when talking about these issues.

Life is tough and very unpredictable and I think it is far better to think about GOOD LIFE MANAGEMENT than it is to talk about "cure". 

If Sinead asked me to advise her what would I advise?  I think I might advise the following:

1. Find a good psychiatrist/psychotherapist and stick with them especially at those painful times you want to run away from them and appoint a new one.

2. Do not be afraid to take medication as a temporary crutch if you are advised to take it. In fact, some mental health issues require life long and well-managed medication.

3. Make a decision to trust in God / A Higher Power - and stick with that decision especially when you FEEL that God is not there or does not really care.

4. When you do not feel "normal" make yourself behave "normal" and you will begin to feel "normal".

5. Force yourself to go out - shopping, walking, exercising, going for a coffee, and you will feel the better for it.

6. Join a gym and exhaust yourself physically. Physical exhaustion and exercise have a calming effect on the mind. A lot of mental thunder and lightening can find an earth in physical exercise and exhaustion. 

7. Finally throw yourself at the feet of God and cling on there until the storm passes. 


I think that the 12 Steps of AA offer a good spiritual framework for tackling any addiction or any issue:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over xxxxxxxx - that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to OTHERS and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

CATHOLIC WOMEN DEACONS

THE HISTORY OF WOMEN DEACONS

FROM: CATHOLICWOMENDEACONS.ORG

WOMEN DEACONS IN SCRIPTURE




An Icon of Phoebe, the deacon, named in Romans 16.

Romans 16

In the first two verses of Romans 16, Paul writes:  I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon (diakonos) of the church in Cenchreae.  I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor [prostatis] of many people, including me. In the 1st century the use of the masculine singular title diakonos for a female leader does not have the specificity of meaning that it acquired in later centuries.  Therefore it can be translated as either minister or deacon, but not deaconess, since this title did not emerge until later.  In the first century, the title diakonos is thought to connote an official leadership function such as minister, attendant, or envoy. The latter is the likely meaning in Romans since most scholars believe Paul’s recommendation of Phoebe to the Christian community in Rome indicates that she is in fact the carrier of his letter to that community. However, Phoebe’s other title:, “benefactor” or patron (prostatis) may be the more significant since it reveals that she is among the many wealthy women patrons who hosted house churches and financially provided for Paul and other evangelists in the burgeoning early Christian missionary movement.  It is a sad fact that Phoebe’s important leadership in the early church is inexplicably deleted from the Lectionary when the Romans 16 text is read on Week 31 Year 1.  

First Letter to Timothy

 1 Timothy, traditionally attributed to St. Paul, describes qualifications for diakonoi concluding with what is probably a reference to women deacons:  In the same way, [male] deacons (diakonoi) are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. (1 Tim 3: 8-11)   While it is possible that the wives of deacons are meant, it is likely that the text refers to women ministering in Timothy’s community. The majority of scholars today believe the letter to Timothy was not written by Paul himself but by an author from the Pauline tradition writing some years later when leadership roles were more developed. Carolyn Osiek believes women deacons and local overseers could also have been included in the episcopoi and diakonoi named in the opening greeting of the letter to the Philippians. (12)

WOMEN DEACONS IN TRADITION




An image of a women -- thought to be a deacon --from the Catacombs of Priscilla.

The evolution of women’s ministerial leadership in early Christianity is a complex phenomenon.  It is well documented that even though our earliest writings (Romans 16) give evidence that women served in apostolic ministerial roles alongside their brothers, over the next three centuries their public ministry was increasingly circumscribed. Wealthy women patrons, often widows, played an indispensable role in the expansion of Christianity throughout the Greco-Roman world. Not surprisingly, there is also evidence that they exercised significant political, liturgical and administrative leadership within the earliest Christian communities, including presiding at Eucharist in their homes, at least during the late first and early second centuries (1).  In some places, including Rome, enrolled widows were accepted as a part of the clergy, though male church leaders soon sought to control their ministry in both the East and the West.  

Early Church Documents

One of the earliest church documents, The Apostolic Tradition, forbade the ordination of widows. This is the first known proscription of women’s ordination and it almost certainly means widows were being ordained, or why the need for a rule?  The Apostolic Tradition is thought to have been written in 3rd century Rome by the presbyter Hippolytus who is also known as the first anti-Pope (2).  It is an irony of history that Hippolytus was not in communion with the great church when he wrote The Apostolic Tradition.  A dispute with Pope Callistus led him to break away and some scholars believe The Apostolic Tradition may have been written for his schismatic community (3).  Though recent scholarship is raising questions about the authorship and origins of the document, no one disputes its antiquity because numerous later church orders such as the Apostolic Constitutions and Testamentum Domini rely on it for some teachings (4).  
On the other hand, a late 4th or early 5th century church order, the Testamentum Domini  (from Eastern churches in Syria, Asia Minor or Egypt) not only permits widows to be ordained, but identifies them as part of the Church hierarchy.  While it distinguishes between deaconesses, widows and female presbyters, the greatest responsibility and honor belong to the widows.  Clearly, there was significant diversity in the early church about women’s leadership roles.  That said, in late antiquity it is important to distinguish between sacramental ministry and ordaining women as a widow or deacon; their leadership in liturgical ministry (the Divine Office); and the extent to which they were considered to be members of the clergy. These are not one and the same.  For example, while the Testamentum Domini attests that women were ordained and belonged to the clergy, scholars do not believe they exercised sacramental ministry in the sense of presiding at Eucharist or baptizing, beyond assisting with female anointing (5).   
Nevertheless, though some male church leaders in both East and West sought to curtail the wide-ranging ministry of widows, there is ample literary and archaeological evidence for the acceptance of ordained female deacons. Many scholars believe this was because of the need to control what public ministries women leaders could and could not perform (6).

Women Deacons in the East

The office of female deacon or deaconess was more prevalent in the East than the West.  We first see the Greek title diakonos with a masculine grammatical ending given to the female deacon Phoebe in Roman 16.  It has been falsely assumed that the diakonos title was replaced with the feminine deaconess (diakonissa) by the 3rd century.  However, though the evidence for what these women did is vague, the diakonos title for women deacons, as well as the term diakonissa recurs in both literary and archaeological inscription until the 6th century (13). 
One example is a 4th century tombstone on the Mount of Olives with a Greek inscription that reads: “Here lies the minister and bride of Christ, Sofia the deacon, a second Phoebe. She fell asleep in peace on the 21st of the month of March . . .” The Christian community in Jerusalem apparently understood Sofia’s ministry to be part of a 300-year-old tradition dating back to the Phoebe of Romans 16. Notable is the fact that for both Phoebe and Sofia, the Greek word diakonos is used, a masculine ending. There is ample archaeological evidence of other female deacons who ministered from the 1st to the 6th centuries in Palestine, Asia Minor, Greece, and Macedonia (14).   
Scholars Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek surmise that “Phoebe and other unnamed women deacons like her in the first and perhaps second century belonged to an office or function that was not distinguished by sex" (15).  Nevertheless, Phoebe’s 1st century leadership role probably bore little resemblance to those of later deaconesses.  The Didascalia Apostolorum  (Teachings of the Apostles) is a document that reflects the pastoral situation of the Church in Syria and Palestine in the late 3rd century. It concerns itself among other things with the organization of ministry and leadership in the Church. The Didascalia goes to great lengths to restrict the role of widows, but it approves the public ministry of female deacons, permitting them to teach and anoint but not to baptize.  
 A later church order, The Apostolic Constitution, further restricts the ministry of women deacons by forbidding them to teach. Listings of church rules (canons), however, are often found to be more prescriptive than descriptive. Literary and archaeological data not infrequently point to more expanded roles for women than one would surmise from the written rules. Hence we read of Olympias, Dionysia, and other women deacons assisting in the liturgy, financially supporting and advising male church leaders, serving the poor, and, most usually, teaching women and anointing them at the time of their baptism. There is ample archaeological and literary evidence of other female deacons who ministered in the East from the 1st to the 6th centuries (16,17).  

Women Deacons in the West

The literary and archaeological evidence for female deacons in the West does not appear until the 5th century when texts proscribing women presbyters also appear. Western Conciliar documents plainly indicate the displeasure of churchmen over women’s ordination to the diaconate or any other office.  Canon 26 of the Council of Orange held in November 441, forbade the ordination of female deacons. Likewise in 517, the Council of Epaon abolished “the consecration of widows who are called women deacons”(18).  
However, as we have seen, texts written by male church authorities are one thing and the actual ministry of women is quite another.  Literary references to women deacons in the West, while not abundant, are definitely present over a seven century period. They are found in wills, letters and chronicles of women deacons. Remigius, the bishop of Reims (433-533) left a will bequeathing part of a vineyard to “my blessed daughter, Helaria the deaconess” well after the Council of Epaon forbade such a ministry (19).   



A Stature of the Deacon, Radegund in Paris. By Louis Desprez. Photo © Marie-Lan Nguyen

In the mid 6th century, the Frankish queen Radegund, was ordained a deacon by Bishop Medard, a bishop of Noyons and Tournai. Other women deacons in the West known to us by tombstone inscriptions include Anna, a 6th century woman deacon from Rome, Theodora, a female deacon from Gaul buried in 539 and Ausonia, a 6th century woman deacon from Dalmatia. In 753 the Archbishop of Ravenna, Sergius, “consecrated his wife, Euphemia, a deacon (diaconissa).” And in 799, an account of Pope Leo III’s return to Rome reports that he was greeted by the entire population including “holy women, women deacons (diaconissae) and the most notable matrons.”20   Abbesses in the western church were sometimes deacons as well.  Some commentators on canon law in the 9th and 10th centuries simply assumed that abbesses were deacons (21).  
Despite persistent early efforts to suppress women deacons in the West, we find a letter written in 1017 by Pope Benedict VIII conferring on the Bishop of Porto in Portugal “in perpetuity every episcopal ordination not only of presbyters but also of deacons or deaconesses (diaconissis) or subdeacons” (22)  This privilege was continued by subsequent Popes in various dioceses up to the time of Bishop Ottone, the Bishop of Lucca in Italy (1139-1146). Abelard and Heloise – 12th century theologians—both referred to Heloise as a deacon (23).   

Ordination Rites for Women Deacons in the East

For centuries scholars have agreed that the earliest rituals used to ordain female deacons are the same as those used for male deacons. Jean Morin, a 17th century liturgical expert, catalogued a large collection of ordination rites in Greek, Latin and Syriac:   Three of the most ancient Greek rituals, uniformly one in agreement, hand down to us the ordination of women deacons, administered by almost the same rite and words by which deacons (were ordained).  Both are called ordination [χειρτονια, χειροθεσια]. Both are celebrated at the altar by the bishop, and in the same liturgical space.  Hands are placed on both while the bishop offers prayers.  The stole is placed on the neck of both, both the ordained man and the ordained woman communicated, the chalice full of the blood of Christ placed in the hands of both so they may taste of it (24).     
An 8th century prayer for ordaining a woman deacon reads:   Holy and Omnipotent Lord, through the birth of your Only Son our God from a Virgin according to the flesh, you have sanctified the female sex.  You grant not only to men, but also to women the grace and coming of the Holy Spirit.  Please, Lord, look on this your maidservant and dedicate her to the task of your diaconate, and pour out into her the rich and abundant giving of your Holy Spirit.  Preserve her so that she may always perform her ministry with orthodox faith and irreproachable conduct, according to what is pleasing to you. For to you is due all glory and honor (25). 

Ordination Rites for Women Deacons in the West

An 8th century liturgical book of Bishop Egbert of York contains a single prayer used for ordaining either a male or female deacon.  This is the earliest ritual in the West for the ordination of a woman deacon.  The prayer reads: Give heed, Lord, to our prayers and upon this your servant send forth that spirit of you blessing in order that, enriched by heavenly gifts, he (or she)might be able to obtain grace through your majesty and by living well offer an example to others… (26).  Other rituals for the ordination of female deacons appear in 9th, 10th and 12th century sacramentaries and pontificals. By the 13th century the ordination rites for women deacons were eliminated from the Roman Pontifical and do not appear again. 

What happened?

By the 12th century, women deacons in the East had become very rare. A 12th century Greek canonist Theoldore Balsomon wrote:  “In times past, orders of deaconesses were recognized and they had access to the sanctuary, but the monthly affliction banished them. . . .” (27).   In the 14th century, another eastern canonist, Matthew Blastares, acknowledged that while women deacons had existed, this was eventually forbidden by later fathers “because of the monthly flow that cannot be controlled.”  In the West, even though Pope Gregory I (590-604) said that menstruation should not be an obstacle to women attending church, purity rules eventually prevailed. In the end, women deacons would be banned in the main, because of their normal biological functions. 
Perhaps the most significant factor leading to the demise of women deacons in the West came in the mid-12th century when the definition of ordination underwent a dramatic shift.  In the first millennium, a Christian was ordained, consecrated or blessed to perform a specific job or ministry needed in the community. Gary Macy writes:  “Ordination did not give a person, for instance, the irrevocable and portable power of consecrating the bread and wine, or of leading the liturgy; rather, a particular community charged a person or persons to play a leadership role within that community (and only within that community) and that person or persons would lead the liturgy because of the leadership role they played within the community”(28). 
During the 12th century, the definition of ordination came to signify that recipients were given an indelible character marking them as different from other Christians.  Now the priest and only the priest received the power to consecrate bread and wine. Further, the indelible character and power to consecrate was portable and could be exercised anywhere, in any community. Ordination came to include only ministries that related to service at the altar. Thus only the orders of priest, deacon and subdeacon were recognized.  Finally, “all of the other earlier orders were no longer considered to be orders at all” (29).   
A highly influential late 12th century western canonist, Huguccio of Bologna, wrote that even if a woman were to be ordained it would not “take” because of  “the law of the church and sex” (30).   In other words, the fact of being biologically female prevented women from being ordained, and what is more, because they were biologically female, they never could have been truly ordained in the first place. Therefore all past female ordinations were not ordinations at all, at least according to the new understanding of ordination.  Given that male ordinations in previous centuries also entailed a different understanding of the meaning of orders, one could argue that those male ordinations didn’t “take” either, a point that seems to have escaped our esteemed canonists.

THE MINISTRY OF DEACONS





Because of the work of scholars such as Gary Macy and others, we now know that first millennium titles for church orders such as bishop, priest and deacon are not equivalent in meaning to the same titles today. For example, in some 3rd and 4th century church communities, deacons served as important administrators of church properties whose authority was second only to that of the bishop (7). 
The earliest references to deacons in the New Testament are found in Paul’s letters. According to Carolyn Osiek, the opening lines of Paul’s letter to the Philippians “contain a reference found nowhere else in the greetings of his letters: he and Timothy greet not only the holy ones or saints in Philippi, but add a greeting to their episkopoi and diakonoi” (8)  The Greek word episkopos does not yet mean what later came to be the office of bishop but “is more likely a reference to the leaders of house churches, groupings of believers that met in private houses for worship and other means of nurturing their faith life”(9)   The term diakonoi is “a general word for official representatives, ministers, attendants, and agents. Here it refers to a designated group of persons who provide some kind of assistance in the community”(10).   
Acts 6: 1-6  tells us that seven men were called to do the diakonia (service) of the table leaving the apostles to do the diakonia of the word.  This text is commonly cited as the first installation of men to the diaconate. However, it is notable that the men are never given the title diakonos [deacon, minister] as was Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2. They did receive a laying on of hands to minister to the needy, and because of this, the text is often cited as the first example of ordained deacons. The early deacon Stephen performed miracles, preached and was eventually martyred, and Philip the deacon preached and baptized in Samaria (Acts 6:1-6, 6:7-7:60; 8:4-40).  In later centuries the role of deacon came to include pastoral work, baptism, care of the poor, assistance at liturgies and in the 4th century, could include management of church property, the upkeep of churches and cemeteries and care of the sick and widows. According to John Wijngaard, in St. John Chrysostom’s time:  “…the entire government of the temporal affairs of the Church lay in the hands of deacons” (11).   
By the 12th century, the separate ministry of deacon was subsumed into the priesthood, becoming a preliminary step to ordination. Only at the second Vatican Council did the separate ministry of permanent deacons reemerge.

Named and Unnamed Women Deacons and What They Did

  • Manaris, Romana: prepared women for baptism and offered them hospitality during the transitional time before and after 
  • Unnamed Deacon of Caesarea: provided hospitality and protection to socially vulnerable women Susanna: served as advocates and agents for laywomen in the church 
  • Theophilia: travelled with women pilgrimsSevera of Jerusalem: conducted pilgrimages themselves 
  • Eugenia, Jannia, Olympias, Theodula, Valeriana: served as monastic superiors
  • Unnamed deacon of Theodoret served as trusted teachers 
  • Lampadion, Elisanthia, Martyria, and Palladia: were members of monastic communities but not superiors
  • Marthana, Matrona of Cosila: supervised important centers of pilgrimage 
  • Eusebia: lived in their own houses
  • Elisanthia, Martyria, Palladia: supervised liturgical roles of women and led them in liturgical prayer
  • Athanasia of Korykos: raised a foster child
  • Women deacons in 5-6th century Edessa: poured wine and water into the chalice at the Eucharist and other actions in the sanctuary in the absence of a priest or deacon 
  • 5th century unnamed woman deacon with multiple later historical citations: proclaimed the Gospel and other Scriptures in assemblies of women

DEVELOPMENTS

In 1995 the Canon Law Society of America study reported that it is within the authority of the Church to ordain women to the permanent diaconate,  and only a few adjustments to canon law would be needed.31   In 1974, a member of the Vatican's International Theological Commission (ITC), Cipriano Vagaggini OSB (1909-99), published detailed research that women deacons in Church history were ordained within the sanctuary by the bishop, in the presence of the presbyterate, and by the imposition of hands (traditional historical requirements for ordination).  In 2001, over 30 years after Paul VI had asked the commission to explore the question of a female diaconate; the Theological Commission said only that the teaching office of the Church had yet to decide on women deacons. (32)

PAT SAYS:


MOTHER FRANCES MEIGH ON HER ORDINATION DAT 14.9.1998

I have agreed with the ordination of women for more than 20 years now.
It was that belief that led me to agree with Frances Meigh's request to me that I ordain her a deacon and priest in 1998.
Mother Francis (86) continues as a hermit priest, iconographer and artist in her hermitage at Forkhill in County Armagh.
It is all summed up very beautifully in a poem by Frances Croake:

Among the animals in the cold dank dark of a stable,
After the pain, and the bleeding, and the birthing;
Mary looked down at the baby lying across her legs
And said: “this is my Body. This is my Blood”.

In the shadows on the bleak Calvary hill,
After the pain, and the bleeding, and the dying;
Mary looked down at the broken frame across her legs
And said: “This is my Body. This is my Blood”.

It's just as well that she said it to Him then.
For now, dry old men,
In brocaded robes belying barrenness,
Ordain that she cannot say it to Him now!