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You have probably heard by now that, while addressing 900 women religious (i.e., sisters) in Rome for the meeting of the International Union of Superiors General, Pope Francis was asked to study the question of women in the diaconate. He responded in the affirmative: He said understanding about their role in the early Church remained unclear and agreed it would be useful to set up a commission to study the question.
You may know my doctoral research is on the diaconate, through the lens of receptive ecumenism. So, while others, like Phyllis Zagano, Gary Macy, Aime Georges Mortimort, and Cipriano Vagaggini, have explored the topic of women deacons more directly, I do have something more than gut instinct to offer. Some quick facts and reflections
- The diaconate is the oldest order of ministry in the church, especially if you count the Seven in Acts 6 as deacons. They preexist both bishops and presbyters.
- The Seven in Acts 6 are not deacons, however. At least, not according to the Scriptures themselves. It was not until Irenaeus (c.130-202) that they are identified as such, perhaps by this analogy. At most, we can see in the Seven a prefiguring of the diaconate inasmuch as we see in the Twelve a prefiguring of the episcopate.
- In the New Testament, while diakonia/diakonos are used several times, there are various meanings. Only three times is it clear that we are talking about an office of ministry in the Church: Romans 16.1, Philippians 1.1, and 1 Timothy 3.8-12.
- In two of those three, women are clearly included as deacons.
- In those cases the same word, diakonos (s.) or diakonoi (pl.), is used for both men and women. The use of deacon for men and deaconess for women comes later, in the early to mid third century. (see below)
- Phoebe in Romans 16.1 is the first person named as a deacon in Scripture.
(Stephen, protomartyr, is never called a deacon in the New Testament!)
- 1 Timothy 3 details the qualities of bishops and deacons (no reference to presbyters/priests). Male and female deacons are both addressed in vv.8-13.
- Diakonia is ministry. Not “service” – at least, not if you mean “serving at tables”. “Service” works only if you recall that service is leadership, according to Jesus at the Last Supper. Diakonia is a ministry of servant-leadership, which is why it is a quality of bishops and deacons both.
Select Patristic sources:
(By no means exhaustive)
- “The bishop is the image God the Father; the deacon stands in the place of Christ the Son; the presbyterate succeeds the role of the senate of God or the assembly of apostles.”(Ignatius, c.110)
- The first mention of “deaconess” – a gender-differentiated term rather than just including women as deacons – as noted in the International Theological Commission’s 2002 study on the Diaconate, is in the Didascalia Apostolorum (c.250):
- “The bishop sits for you in the place of God Almighty. But the deacon stands in the place of Christ; and do you love him. The deaconess shall be honored by you in the place of the Holy Spirit…”
- The Apostolic Constitutions apply the concept of cleros (clergy) to the following, in order: bishop, deacon, presbyter, deaconess, subdeacon, cantor, reader.
- Jerome is famous for his disdain of deacons, complaining that they should not see themselves as more important than the presbyterate, the council of elders who advise bishops. However, he acknowledges that the reason for this misconception lies in the fact that deacons are paid more than presbyters, and have more responsibility in assisting the bishop.
While we all know that the Anglicans, Lutherans, and other churches and ecclesial communities born from the Reformations ordain women, even to the diaconate, many Catholics would be sadly uninterested because of the fact that while we recognize the real and effective nature of their ministry, we do not recognize the sacramental validity vis a vis apostolic succession in a juridical sense. This is insufficient reason to dismiss the reality or ecumenical importance of this practice in itself, but, for the sake of brevity, I will look East to where there is an undisputed view of the validity of orders: The Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and Assyrian Church of the East.
Surely they would laugh at us for even discussing the ordination of women?
- First, the Orthodox are clear on the distinction between ordination (cheirotonia) for “major orders” and consecration/blessing (cheirothesia) for “minor orders”.
- Ordination (cheirotonia) is conducted inside the sanctuary, while the blessing or consecration (cheirothesia) of minor orders (cantor, reader, subdeacon, etc.) was conducted outside the sanctuary.
- The deaconess is clearly ordained (cheirotonia), and conducted within the sanctuary. Not only is she ordained, properly speaking, but it is a major, not a minor order.
- The Armenian Apostolic Church, as well as the Orthodox Churches of Russia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Japan all currently have, or have recently had, ordained deaconesses.
- Due to early medieval development of the office, especially in the East, Deaconesses are now generally found in monastic communities (not unlike Orthodox bishops, who always come from monastic priests).
- In fact, even in the west, vestiges of this conflation of the offices of deaconess and abbess remain in that some orders of nuns are still invested with diaconal stole and other symbols of the office (e.g., Carthusians).
Contemporary Catholic Considerations:
- Pope John Paul II, in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, made it clear the Church cannot possibly ordain women to the episcopate or the presbyterate, because women cannot be configured to act in persona Christi capitis. In this case, acting “as Christ the head [of the Church]” narrowly means “priesthood” – presiding at Eucharist – not the more broad understanding of a ministry of ecclesial governance or pastoral leadership. He deliberately excluded the diaconate from this prohibition.
- Pope Benedict XVI opened the door for the ordination of women by changing Canon Law in 2009, with his motu proprio Omnium in Mentem. Following the logic above, he changed canons §1008 and 1009 to exclude the diaconate from being one of those ministries “configured to the person of Christ the Head”. This eliminates, or appears to eliminate, the need to be configured to the maleness of Jesus, as well.
- As the current prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, wrote in his book Priesthood and Diaconate, it is the unity of the three orders of ministry that would prevent women from being ordained to any one if forbidden from the other two. A clear demarcation – say, by developing a theology of sacramental priesthood that includes two orders and excludes the third – opens the door to different theologies of who can be ordained.
- Since we know little of the duties of a deaconess beyond the liturgical, principally assisting the bishop at full-immersion baptism and initiation, Müller and others object to the pastoral need for that exact same ministry today. In part, this is an objection to the compromise proposals of theologians like Walter Kasper, who suggested re-instituting the order of deaconesses as a non-ordained ministry, along the lines of the revival of consecrated virgins.
- One significant discussion is whether “deaconess” and “woman deacon” are the same thing. A popular post on the topic notes that both pope and prefect know that “the deaconesses of history ‘were not purely and simply equivalent to the deacons.'” Though this is not necessarily helpful, as women are not “purely and simply equivalent” to men, either. That makes them no less equal.
- Resulting questions include, are women ordained to the same order of diaconate as men, or are they ordained to a distinct order? If distinct, does that mean we have four ordained offices in the Church, not three? Were there historically two different realities: ordained women deacons and merely consecrated deaconesses (essentially a society of apostolic life, in contemporary terminology)?
- A critique to the Müller objections, however, is that he seems to suggest that deaconesses would have to be identical to their patristic-era form. But of course, this is contrary to the reality of all other ministries. If we went back to the earliest forms, with all three orders together, without historical development, it might look like this:
- The bishop would be mega-parish pastor and the only minister allowed to preside at Christian Initiation and Eucharist;
- The deacons (and deaconesses?) would be the senior (possibly, only) paid staff assisting the bishop, most likely to succeed him, and the career-path of choice for the ecclesial-minded;
- The presbyterate would be a consultative council of mostly older, married men whose career was secular and whose only responsibility is advising the bishop and his deacons.
In any case, the restoration of the diaconate called for at Vatican II (LG, 29) “reestablished the principle of the permanent exercise of the diaconate and note one particular form which the diaconate had taken in the past.” (ITC, Diaconate Study, 73). Moreover, this restoration is a work in progress:
- We still have a transitional diaconate to be suppressed. (Historically understandable, it makes as much sense theologically as a transitional presbyterate for deacon candidates).
- We still have people who think the main difference between deacons and presbyters is marriage and celibacy, respectively. I have heard people complain because the deacon kissed his wife while still in vestments/clerical suit; others still refer to a “lay diaconate” because, clearly, celibacy is the mark of clergy, not ordination!
- We still have people who think that the nature of the diaconate is to be a volunteer ministry performed by retirees.
- We still have people who think diakonia means “menial service” and forbid deacons from exercising their vocation to leadership in the church, even participating in governance in the offices that were once (in other titles) theirs exclusively, i.e., vicars general, episcopal, and forane.
- We still have a wide variety of formation programs for deacons, from requiring an S.T.B. or M.Div. (equivalent to formation for presbyters) to little less than certification for Sunday school catechist.
- We still have dioceses where deacons are not allowed to preach, or where deacons are forbidden from wearing clerical clothing (while seminarians are allowed to do so?).
And so on. We have a lot of theology left to work out. More importantly, a lot of theology in hand has yet to be put into practice, codified into law, or supported by structures. If this conversation and study of women in the diaconate helps with that, so much the better!
Ministry and Holy Orders:
- Jesus Christ is the only priest in Christianity; All Christians share in his priesthood. What makes the second of the three holy orders unique is that it is the presbyterate, not that it is a priesthood unto itself. This is not to deny the sacramental priesthood of holy orders (including deacons), but to suggest that perhaps we should officially restore the ancient and official title of ‘presbyter’ to the common lexicon in reference to those ordained to the presbyterate.
- Deacons participate in the ‘headship’ of Christ and the governance of the church, just not the presbyterate or the episcopate. Let’s make that clear.
- Traditionally (patristically), presbyters advise, deacons assist. The presbyterate acts in council, the deacons act individually. The presbyters preside locally in sacraments and spiritual life, the deacons assist the bishop preside in administration of the church’s goods – financial, human resources, diplomacy, ecumenism and dialogue, pastoral leadership. There has been too much overlap, let’s clarify this a little.
- Lay ecclesial ministry needs to be formally and canonically acknowledged. Catechists, pastoral workers, pastoral associates, lay preachers, and other such offices ought to require incardination into a diocese and a relationship with the bishop, a common set of norms for formation, and perhaps inclusion into something like the minor orders – they are not ordained, but they are not following a lay vocation, either.
- Clerical compensation and the financial crises are closely linked. There is no clear line in many cases between the pastor’s funds and those of the parish, and no clear accountability. This is one reason for a deacon being assigned responsibility for administration, and answerable to the bishop directly, while a presbyter is responsible for sacraments and spirituality. Why not just make compensation the same for all ministers, whether presbyter, deacon, or lay ecclesial? A simple salary or stipend.
- Support for all candidates for ministry should be equitable, whether for presbyterate, diaconate, or lay eccleisal.
- Clerical clothing is for clerics, meaning:
- Deacons have a right to clerical clothing, even if married! Canon law does not allow a bishop to restrict this right, much less a local pastor
- Seminarians do not, and should not be dressing up as if they are ordained.
- If we do not just do away with clerical clothing altogether, some kind of distinctive garb could be considered for lay ecclesial ministers, as long as we have such a thing for clergy. Different colors if need be, but the same basic idea: easy identification of those in pastoral leadership and ministry. Not to be confused with those in training for such.
- Eliminate the last vestiges of the cursus honorem
- Eliminate the transitional diaconate outright. A transitional diaconate makes as much sense theologically as a transitional presbyterate for deacon candidates.
- Allow deacons to transition to the presbyterate (and vice versa) if and only if an office to which they are called requires it.
- Acolyte and Reader, as instituted ministries should be moved out of seminaries and into parishes/dioceses, as the actual lay ministries that execute these functions in the liturgy. No more stepping-stone for seminarians, but actual readers and servers at mass. Add ministers of communion and any others that seem appropriate. Extend them to women.
- However, the original idea has merit. Perhaps before ordination to either diaconate or presbyterate, candidates should have earned at least an STB or BA in theology and philosphy, and served five-seven years in pastoral ministry. The best way to discern which order you should be ordained into is in practice! Then, they could go back for the M.Div., STL, or JCL and move on to the appropriate track: diaconate or presbyterate.
- The age of ordination to the presbyterate should be raised to 35. It should make no difference whether celibate or married.
- Leave the diaconate age for ordination at 35 as well, and also make no difference if celibate or married.
- I prefer the Assyrian and Anglican practice of allowing clergy to marry before or after ordination, since it is much easier for some of us to discern a vocation to ministry than to discern a vocation to celibacy or marriage and it seems like time wasted in the interim. But, the Greek practice of marriage before ordination has been the compromise between the extremes of mandatory celibacy and the above since Nicaea, so it is certainly reasonable to retain. At least it should be seriously, and ecumenically, reconsidered, however.
- We need more married presbyters, and more celibate deacons. The diaconate is not defined by marriage and marriage is not essential to the diaconate, neither is the presbyterate defined by celibacy nor is celibacy essential to the presbyterate. We have some of each already, we just need greater balance.
- Church Reform Wishlist: Open Letter and Introduction
- Church Reform Wishlist: The Eastern Catholic Churches
- Church Reform Wishlist: The College of Bishops
- Church Reform Wishlist: The College of Cardinals
- Church Reform Wishlist: The Roman Curia
- Church Reform Wishlist: Ministry and Holy Orders
- Church Reform Wishlist: Precedence and Papal Honors
- Church Reform Wishlist: Catholic Education
- Church Reform Wishlist: Liturgy
It has been almost a month since the CDF press announcement of the apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, which was released a couple weeks later. As with all Vatican documents, the title comes from the first two words in the official Latin edition, in this case, “groups of Anglicans” – though I prefer the translation “flocks of Anglicans”, probably inspired by the starlings and their Tiber-crossing aerial acrobatics, or the wishful thinking of certain (Catholic and secular) media outlets.
Along with the constitution itself, a set of complimentary norms and an official explanatory note was issued. The later is written by the rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University here in Rome, Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ, a native Roman who is trained as a civil and canon lawyer – which is an important lens to keep in mind when reading his commentary.
In the last three weeks, I have heard this issue addressed, in person, by Archbishop Rowan Williams, Cardinal Walter Kasper and about a dozen other curial officials, Catholic ecumenists, and Anglicans. My comments and conclusions remain my own, so do not blame any of them for my errors, but each conversation has provided some insight to various aspects of this issue, for which I am grateful.
Communication and timing
Much has been said of the Holy See’s lack of a modern communications strategy this last year, starting especially with the lifting of the excommunications of the (still) schismatic bishops of the Society of St. Pius X. In this case, the timing issue has been remarked on a great deal.
But let us be realistic: This is the Vatican. In Rome. Do you have any idea how long it takes to get anything done here? How many good people in the Church have been frustrated by an organization that prides itself in “thinking in centuries”? Should we really believe that this was an ambitious gambit at Ecclesial Imperialism incited only by recent developments? A rushed effort to ‘fish in the Anglican pond’?
I honestly think the more likely answer is that this is, at least partially, the long, slow, overdue response to requests that came way back in 1997 from some groups that left communion with the Anglicans at that time, just as the 1980 Pastoral Provision was a response to a smaller-scale situation in the 70’s. These former Anglicans are likely the ‘target demographic’ rather than current members of the Anglican Communion. I would not be surprised if some draft of something like this had been floating around in a dusty file cabinet in the CDF for the last decade or more.
It is probably, genuinely intended as a pastoral response by some in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and possibly the Secretariat of State. However, these impulses have not benefited from the full reception of, or formation in, ecumenical dialogues and relationships.
The internal, inter-dicasteral communications and collaboration is also clearly a problem, and it has not improved much in the eight years since Dominus Iesus. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was not properly consulted in the development of the document, only verbally informed of it after it was in process. Cardinal Kasper did say on Thursday after the Colloquium that he had seen a draft of the Apostolic Constitution before the official promulgation, and was invited to make recommended changes, but he did not mention the accompanying documents, and this may have happened after the initial press conference with Cardinal Levada and Archbishop DiNoia.
Externally and ecumenically, the Archbishop of Canterbury and his staff, as well as even the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales was likewise not consulted or involved in the process, but only informed shortly before the press conference. Seemingly it was informing them that motivated the conference, for fear of leaks before the Constitution was finalized.
The official responses are out there to read on the internet. Bishop Chris Epting, National Ecumenical Officer of the Episcopal Church, has recently blogged about the issue; and the press has been following Archbishop Rowan Williams everywhere in Rome, so there is no shortage of coverage.
Personal responses among those I have spoken with have included some common themes, including brief temptation and excited interest: “Enough talk, let’s just do it! We can have unity now!”
This was usually followed by disappointment in some key aspects once the constitution, complimentary norms and explanatory note came out. After a little time, there has been a sense of betrayal of the ecumenical bonds of unity that already exist and anger at what seems to be promotion of an “ecumenism of return”, which the Catholic Church disavowed 50 years ago. One local Anglican’s comment of “not being angry about this… but then being surprised at how angry I was” is echoed in several remarks, also among dedicated Catholics sensitive to the challenges currently facing the Anglican Communion.
Personally, I was initially excited too, “What if they all came? What if we could just have unity now?”… for a few minutes. Then a mea culpa for my momentary indulgence in ecclesiastical imperialism, and my thoughts turned to friends yearning for full communion, and the personal discernment of one friend in particular between coming into communion personally or continuing the long slow work of full ecclesial union.
Chris, Nigel, Andrea, John, Stian, Ann, Chris, Liz, Terry, Peter, and Tom: You are regularly in my prayers, you know, but have been especially so in recent weeks. Nothing would make me happier than being able to break bread together, in the fullest sense, but I suppose we can wait a little longer! (In the short term, I should at least practice better communicatio in communication and start answering email…)
Personal Ordinariates: Neither Personal Prelature, Church sui iuris, nor pastoral provision
The Personal Ordinariate structure was not foreseen in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, so Pope John Paul II created it specifically for the military ordinariates in 1986. The point missed in most of the media is that this is specifically a structure for the People of God – unlike a Personal Prelature (eg, Opus Dei) or the pastoral provision, which are specifically about clergy. The personal ordinariate is a personal diocese, not just a provision to “get married priests” in through the back door and “fill the dwindling ranks”. Were that primarily the motive, I think we would have just had a personal prelature.
Neither is it a full, autonomous Church sui iuris (or Particular Ritual Church) like the 23 Churches that make up the one Catholic Church. (That is, the Roman Catholic Church, Maronite Catholic Church, Ukranian Greek Catholic Church, etc.) This is a model proposed at various times in the ecumenical conversation as a juridical/ecclesial structure for eventual full communion, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as the Patriarch (or Major Archbishop).
Fr. Ghirlanda’s commentary acknowledges that the creation of such a structure could create “ecumenical difficulties”, without elaboration. Not knowing which difficulties he was thinking of, two immediately come to mind: 1) the idea that such a structure should be reserved until such time as we do attain full communion between Rome and Canterbury, and to do so now would be really insulting to the Anglican Communion and its leadership, and 2) a concern for our relations with the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, who might object to the unilateral establishment of a new patriarchate by Rome that did not exist as such during the first millennium.
However, the reason given in the commentary is that “the Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral tradition is a particular reality within the Latin Church.” This has been one of the moments of pause for some Anglicans and former Anglicans who might otherwise consider the move.
I think this can be read positively, as acknowledging a genuine tradition that goes beyond local custom and has a proper place in the Catholic Church today at a level similarly given to, say, the “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite, rather than seeing it as a ‘non-Catholic creation of the English Reformation’. However, it seems safe to say that the English church has long recognized in itself an ecclesial tradition distinct from the Roman church, even for the many centuries of full communion, which goes beyond just liturgy and spirituality to a full ecclesial sense, including juridical, pastoral, and theological practices. This limited recognition is not as generous as would have been hoped.
Theology of Bishops, ordination
When is a bishop not a bishop? Would a rose by any other name still smell as sweet? If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, isn’t it a duck?
[First, a brief note: “Ordinary” is a canonical term used to designate a person whose authority is by virtue of law itself in relation to his office. We refer to the diocesan bishop as the ordinary, in distinction from any auxiliary or retired bishops in the diocese. So, in itself, the “ordinary” is not a new term or office.]
One of the first discordant notes from the press announcement three weeks ago was around the identity and role of bishops and the ordinary in the personal ordinariates. Anglicanorum Coetibus basically sets up the ordinariate and outlines the responsibilities of the ordinary and the consultative structures. It gets interesting in the complementary norms (particular law).
First, in article four of the norms, it is noted that the ordinary may be a bishop or a presbyter. While allowing a presbyter exercise ordinary power is not unusual in itself, it is odd for the role equivalent to a diocesan bishop. In fact, the canons specifically mentioned in this article are describing the roles and responsibility of a diocesan bishop.
The section on “Former Anglican Bishops” (Article 11) has four points:
- A former Anglican bishop may be appointed as the ordinary, but he would be only ordained as a presbyter.
- A former Anglican bishop who is not ordinary could be asked to assist the ordinary in administration of the ordinariate.
- Any former Anglican bishop would be a part of the bishop’s conference in their territory (such as the USCCB), with a status equivalent to retired bishop.
- Finally, any former Anglican bishop who is not ordained as a Catholic bishop may request permission to continue using episcopal insignia (mitre, crozier, pectoral cross, ring, and presumably the amaranth red zucchetto, fascia, and simar).
While the first point seems to say that a former Anglican bishop could not be ordained as a bishop, even if he is the ordinary, the last point seems to indicate that at least some former Anglican bishops could be so ordained, and the rest could continue to wear bishop’s regalia even if they are not ordained as bishops.
Turning to Fr. Ghirlanda’s commentary for clarification, one finds the following:
“The ordination of ministers coming from Anglicanism will be absolute, on the basis of the Bull Apostolicae curae of Leo XIII of September 13, 1896. Given the entire Catholic Latin tradition and the tradition of the Oriental Catholic Churches, including the Orthodox tradition, the admission of married men to the episcopate is absolutely excluded”
This is where any interest in ‘coming over’ grinds to a halt for many Anglo-catholics, especially the clergy. Among Catholic ecclesiologists, ecumenists, church historians and sacramental theologians, this is probably where there was a collective raising of eyebrows. The three issues here are the use of Episcopal insignia by non-bishops, the nature of Anglican orders and of ordination in the personal ordinariate, and the whole of the final sentence regarding ordination of married men to the episcopate.
Originally, of course, bishops did not wear anything different than the rest of the people of God. After Christianity became the official religion of the empire, Emperors began appointing Christian bishops to civil magistrate posts. These secular offices included the insignia of a ring and what have become the crozier and mitre. As the empire dissolved and the Church took on the role of the state more completely, they became identifiable with the episcopal office, but continued to have a secular connection.
The whole (unfortunately named) lay investiture controversy of the 12th century had nothing to do with the role of the laity in electing their bishops (which was traditional), but with the role of the secular rulers appointing bishops themselves and/or retaining the right to invest them with the ‘secular’ signs of office: ring, mitre, and crozier.
Significant to that argument and church practice since is that these are insignia of the episcopal office, and are neither appropriate for non-bishops to use nor for non-ecclesiastical authorities to confer. The exception to this concerns some of those who are equivalent to a bishop in office, such as an abbot (and in some places in the past, an abbess). Given that exception, it would be consistent to allow the ordinary of the personal ordinariate to retain episcopal insignia even if he was only a presbyter.
The underlying concern is twofold, one ecumenical and the other ecclesiological. First, having just reiterated the judgment of Apostolicae Curae of Anglican orders as “absolutely null and utterly void” and declaring that any former Anglican bishop, presbyter or deacon would have to be absolutely ordained, the allowance for former Anglican bishops to adopt episcopal insignia without episcopal ordination basically says, “Because you are used to pretending to be bishops, we will allow you to continue pretending to be bishops, even though you will not actually be bishops.”
Secondly, the practice of having non-bishops dress or act as bishops seems to imply the Tridentine theology of the episcopate as a merely juridical office, rather than as an order in itself. If a presbyter has the fullness of orders, and being bishop is just a “job”, then a presbyter can dress as a bishop or fulfill a bishop’s office (eg, ordinary) without actually being a bishop. Catholic ecclesiologists and sacramental theologians are not too happy about that possibility.
Apostolicae Curae and Anglican Orders
Many catholic-leaning Anglicans are that way because of a Catholic understanding of the sacraments, including holy orders and the Eucharist. They may have been interested in the personal ordinariate if offered a “conditional” ordination, which would at least acknowledge the possibility of, or partiality of, sacramental validity of their current ordained ministry. But absolute ordination means a betrayal of their (very Catholic) sacramental sense of their current ministry, which is not appealing.
In the 113 years since Apostolicae Curae, Catholic historians, theologians, and ecumenists have developed a more nuanced understanding of Anglican orders. The bull is considered definitive church teaching on precisely the issue with which it deals – Anglican ordinations conducted according to the Edwardian Ordinal from 1552 until 1662.
Church historians have discovered at least some places where this ordinal was not used, and so would not be subject to the declaration of nullity. More recently, there have been more and more Anglican ordinations including bishops of the Old Catholic churches, which are generally recognized as valid in the classic Catholic understanding, and the Scandinavian Lutheran churches, which also maintain an historic episcopate with a claim of apostolicity. Even the Catholic understanding of ordination vis a vis Apostolic Succession and Tradition has enjoyed development, at least in ecclesiological circles, in moving from a “spiritual heredity” model to a more collegial understanding of succession and ordination as incorporation into the episcopal college.
Given all of these, it was disappointing for many that the ordinations of former Anglican clergy were not classified as conditional. This could be understood either as “just in case” their former ordinations were either absolutely invalid or merely defective, or, even better, as a sign of their incorporation into the episcopate, presbyterate, or diaconate in communion with the ordinary and the bishop of Rome, without judgment on the state of their current orders or past ministry.
Finally, there is the sentence about married bishops. The best way to read this is to recall that Fr. Ghirlanda is primarily a canonist, and is a native Roman.
In the current canonical situation, it is true that married men are absolutely excluded from the episcopate in the entirety of the Catholic Latin and Eastern traditions, as well as in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
Historically, of course, married men have been bishops (and before that, apostles). This was common in the Latin tradition, and not unheard of in the east, until celibacy became a universal norm in the Latin Church during the 12th-16th centuries. Early on, the practice of selecting monastic (and therefore celibate) presbyters to be bishop became the norm in the East, while the West continued to select bishops from the diocesan (and therefore married or celibate) diaconate and presbyterate. Ecumenically, the Orthodox Church recognizes this historic difference in praxis, and does not generally object to married bishops in the Latin Church. Theologically, there is no impediment to a married man being a bishop in either the Catholic or Orthodox traditions, and in fact scripture commends it – though, admittedly, limiting bishops to only one wife.
Being a Roman, Fr. Ghirlanda has no doubt been to the Basilica of Santa Praessade, and has seen the 9th century mosaic of Episcopa Theodora. If he had meant that in the entire Latin Catholic tradition, historically and theologically, the admission of married men to the episcopate was absolutely excluded, then he would be confirming the interpretation that Theodora was not the wife of a bishop, but was in fact a bishop herself. This seems unlikely.
The Synodal Tradition of Anglicanism
As “the Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral tradition is a particular reality within the Latin Church” according to the official commentary, their pastoral tradition of synodality (collegiality and collaboration) is also worthy of emulation in the entire Latin church, and perhaps some of the norms in this section will be applied throughout the church. Even if not, they are interesting in themselves.
A “governing council” combines the basically redundant structures of presbyteral council and college of consultors currently mandated in the Code of Canon Law. It is given deliberative voting powers on a number of issues, and interestingly, prepares the terna (list of three names) from which the Holy Father would appoint the ordinary. For most Latin dioceses, this terna is currently prepared by the Apostolic Nuncio, with consultation of the region’s bishops, some other clergy, and virtually no input by laity.
Further, the pastoral and finance councils are mandated not just for the ordinariate, as is the case for all dioceses, but also for all parishes in the ordinariate. For most Latin dioceses, the parish pastoral council is merely recommended. However, the language for pastoral councils in the norms is that they are “advisory” rather than the stronger “consultative” which is in the Code, though this is a common misreading of consultation, so perhaps it was not meant as a change.
What Happens Now?
Some former Anglicans may accept the offer, but I do not think it will be a large number. Even fewer current Anglicans will, I think. The most interested will thankfully continue to work on full ecumenical unity, distant as that always seems. I am interested to see how this develops, or if it develops.
One curial official described the personal ordinariates thus: The Holy See has set aside an empty room, but without furniture, electricity, or provisions. Now we are asking Anglicans to fill the room, without being able to bring anything with them other than themselves. It may remain empty for a long time.
In the mean time, the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) III preparatory commission is meeting in Rome this week, including my own bishop, Archbishop Alex Brunett as co-chair. This, after a hiatus since 2005, prompted by the developments in the Anglican Communion – a hiatus which some predicted would never end. If Anglicanorum Coetibus were really the Holy See’s ecumenical answer the Canterbury’s internal struggles, ARCIC III would be dead in the water. Yet, they seem energized and ready to go, so it will be interesting to see whether ecumenical dialogue or corporate conversion takes center stage over the next few months.
The Apostolic Constitution, Complementary Norms, and commentary can be read together here.