Don’t Smoke the Tea Leaves!

Father Michael P. Orsi has written an article for Catholic Exchange titled, “Reading the Tea Leaves: Will Pope Francis End Priestly Celibacy?”

After correctly saying that there cannot be female priests, and after a bit of speculation on the possibility of married priests for the western Church, Father concludes — not, apparently, happily — that there will be recognition of female deacons:

So, how will women deacons come about? Very similar to the way altar-girls did. After a long period of illicit ordinations and a barrage of appeals from bishops around the world, a Pope will submit the question to The Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Texts which found no prohibition to altar-girls in The 1983 Code of Canon Law.  The Council’s nihil obstat was used by Pope John Paul II to permit girls to serve Mass in 1994. This was a break with an ancient tradition almost 2000 years old which reserved the role of acolyte to men only.  It set a dangerous precedent since it presumes that if an immemorial custom is not specifically prohibited it can be permitted. It is doubtful that any canonist or for that matter the Pope realized that the Code permitted altar-girls. The recognition of women as eligible for the deaconate will follow a similar path.

This break with unwritten customary law is analogous to the current efforts to legitimize same-sex marriage. Many will contend that because it is not specifically outlawed in The Constitution or in state law, it is therefore permissible. The fact is that same-sex marriage is neither permitted nor prohibited because it was unimaginable to past generations. So too the case with female deacons.

In both of these areas change will begin at the grassroots and only gradually.

But for this conclusion, not a shred of evidence is offered. The author is speculating on a possible scenario and stating it all with daring certitude. There are liberals who no doubt want this to happen, but they also want women priests.

Most importantly, the author fails to mention that deacons receive the sacrament of Holy Orders and are part of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. It is not the priesthood alone that is reserved to men, but the sacrament of Holy Orders. Whatever the “deaconesses” of the early Church were, they were clearly not in Holy Orders.