Women deacons in the Catholic Church

No issue in the Catholic Church is hotter than the question of women in ministry.

Whether women can, should or will be ordained to the diaconate is what Dr Phyllis Zagano, Emeritus Professor Justin Taylor and Dr Joe Grayland discuss in the latest edition of Flashes of Insight.

Zagano’s starting point is that the past is clear, and no one’s going to argue that women were not deacons.

“Women clearly are clearly in our many churches histories and were ordained (deacons)”, she said.

“In many cases, they were sacramentally ordained to serve as deacons and to serve as deacons fully in different places in different times”.

Zagano said that in ‘recent’ times two bishops began a conversation at the Vatican Council, asking about restoring women to the diaconate.

“The conversation they began is still going on”, Zagano says.

One of the questions is if the Church restored women to the diaconate, whether they would be installed or ordained she pondered.

However, for others in the Flashes of Insight conversation, women deacons are in effect working well in the Church, except it does not call them deacons, and they are not ordained.

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Synodality: Power to the people

The Synod word has fallen out of widespread use in Catholic circles, but it is back, big-time.

What does it mean? What are the issues? How should we approach a Synod?

Joining Flashes of Insight host Dr Joe Grayland to discuss Synods and Synodality are:

  • Cardinal John Dew of Wellington, New Zealand,
  • Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia and
  • Professor Thomas O’Loughlin, Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham.

Synods were introduced to the Archdiocese of Wellington when Cardinal Tom Williams was archbishop.

Reasonably rare occurrences, the Archdiocese has experienced four synods, two while Cardinal Williams was archbishop and two during Cardinal Dew’s time.

Dew told the discussion that while some will be familiar with the concept of a Synod, he suspected most in the archdiocese were unlikely to be. He explained that in the Archdiocese, synods are about working together, listening together and encouraging the participation of lay people in setting the Archdiocese’s direction.

Pressed on whether he thought bishops are prepared to give up their authority, Dew said it was implicit that the episcopal authority would change radically.

He cited a very tangible example of synodality in operation.

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Liturgy more than ritual – Talking through the experience

Join Joe Gayland, Tom O’Loughlin, James Siemens, Carmel Pilcher, Kevin McGinnell, Sophy Morley, Jo and Gerard Shepherd, Judith Courtney, Judy Foster and Jo Ayers in this edition of Flashes of Insight – Let’s Talk Liturgy as they talk through the COVID-19 experience and ask about the lessons various parishes and church communities may have learned.

They also hint at some of the practices that as people of faith the Church could embrace in this changing world.

Liturgy is more than a ritual

This edition of Flashes of Insight – Let’s Talk Liturgy focuses on the Eucharist as something more than a ritual.

The discussion talks people through the COVID-19 experience and asks about the lessons we may have learned and hints at some of the practices that as people of faith we could embrace in this changing world.

Join Professor Thomas O’Loughlin as he talks with Dr Joseph Grayland to consider:

  • Liturgy adapted for COVID-19
  • Go back or go forward
  • Opportunities
  • Local expressions of liturgy
  • Vatican’s liturgical leadership
  • Real worship
  • Acknowledging the presence of God in our humanity
  • Incarnational liturgy

Eucharist the celebration of a people panel discussion

Join Dr Carmel Pilcher, Dr James Siemens and Jo Ayers and Professor Thomas O’Loughlin for a panel discussion hosted by Dr Joseph Grayland.

Under discussion is Eucharist as the Celebration of a people, a people attached to a greater body and the tensions that exist between individual expressions of thanksgiving and the expressions of thanks a community may offer.

Eucharist the celebration of a people

Flashes of Insight – Let’s Talk Liturgy switches focus to the Eucharist as the Celebration of a people, a people attached to a greater body and the tensions that exist between individual expressions of thanksgiving and the expressions of thanks a community may offer.

Particular issues discussed include:

  • Culture and inculturation and responsibility for liturgical prayer
  • What does giving thanks look like? Are there opportunities for difference?
  • Are the elements of bread and wine merely cultural?
  • Theology of the presider, theology of the assembly.
  • Presiding at liturgy as a function of culture.
  • Individual authenticity; belonging to the community.
  • The tension of local vs group authenticity.

Can you send an apple by email?

The Catholic Church is selling “the Eucharist” and people short and is making a mistake by turning Mass into a YouTube experience.

The comments are from Thomas O’Loughlin, emeritus professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham and Director of Studia Traditionis Theologiae.

“There are some things Zoom and YouTube just won’t do because real experiences are whole human experiences,” O’Loughlin said.

“Can you send an apple by email?” he asked.

He says he will accept doing Mass online when people give up going out to dine with others and when people dine alone at home with pre-packaged food and say it is as rich an experience as it is eating and drinking with friends.

People wanting to have Mass on their TV or computer at home and priests supplying it sounds a warning about the real nature of the community, he said.

“Eucharist makes little sense without a community.”

Challenging the meeting, O’Loughlin posed the question as to whether the Church had stopped being a real community and is being reduced to religious ideology.

He sounded a warning that we may be reducing the Eucharist to just getting communion, almost makes it a commodity!

O’Loughlin said the Church has a wealth of spirituality it can call on during COVID-19 lockdown and questioned why we opted for the “summit” experience.

He says he agrees that Mass is the summit of Christian prayer but suggested perhaps the Church has forgotten the hinterland.

O’Loughlin said that the Liturgy of the Hours, shared prayer, Lectio Divina, prayer together and scripture study we just some of the examples from the Church’s spiritual tradition that respects the characteristics of the liturgy and that are easily adapted to a virtual environment.

“Why did we pick on something so physical such as eating and drinking?” O’Loughlin asked.

Spiritual Communion

Questioned on whether it was appropriate to use the readings of the day and make a “spiritual communion,” O’Loughlin sounded a stern warning.

He observed that spiritual communion came from the time when only priests received communion and was developed by the heretical Jansenists to a point were nuns were not seen as worthy of physically receiving communion.

Spiritual communion “is tied up with notions of unworthiness and impurity” and it is a part of a moral theology we left long ago, he said.

Flashes of Insight

O’Loughlin made the comments in an international conversation hosted by CathNews on Zoom and as part of its “Flashes of Insight” series produced in association with La-Croix International.

Host of the conversation, Dr Joseph Grayland, Director of Liturgy in the Palmerston North Diocese, New Zealand, says the idea for “Let’s Talk Liturgy” came about due to the disruption to worship brought about through the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Grayland says the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted laity and clergy alike.

“For many people, the online Mass, viewed from the living room was sufficient, they didn’t have to go out and it fulfilled the need for Sunday Mass.”

“The priests also liked doing this because it was readily identifiable as part of their mission”.

Labelling online video Mass as a form of clericalism, Grayland says there are real concerns around the passive, observer approach and the personal nature of the “priest’s Mass.”

Flashes of Insight – Let’s Talk Liturgy is, therefore, an opportunity for people to discuss and consider the nature of liturgy in an international context.

Over 80 people from the UK, Australia, the Pacific are involved in the conversation.

The second round of conversations continued last evening and at least one more round is planned.