Reading the Tea Leaves: Will Pope Francis End Priestly Celibacy?

tea leavesPope Francis’ preferred title “Bishop of Rome” indicates a theological understanding of his Office that is fraught with practical implications.

This essay will attempt to read the tea leaves for the ministry of Francis, Bishop of Rome, by pointing out some of those things which Francis cannot change; some of those things that probably will change; and finally some of those things that can change.

First, those things that cannot change.

As far back as the first century bishops recognized the Roman Church as the Primatial See of Christendom.  This was due to its double apostolic foundation.  It was where both Peter and Paul preached and were martyred.  As early as the first century other bishops turned to the Bishop of Rome as a touchstone of unity and a source of orthodoxy.  When questions arose in matters of doctrine and discipline Rome’s word was recognized as a court of last resort.

This doctrinal faith is divided, according to Cardinal Josef Ratzinger (Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI) then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in his Doctrinal Commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem, (For the Defense of the Doctrine of the Faith) (1998), into two main areas; infallible and non-fallible.

Recognized as being infallible are, for example, the truths professed by the Nicene Creed (381) which defines the nature of Christ and the marks of the Church.  Another example is the solemn definition by the Council of Trent (1545-63) that Jesus instituted seven sacraments.

Non-fallible teachings are those beliefs that have always been held by the Church.  They cannot be changed and must be adhered to.  For example, it has been the constant tradition of the Church that artificial contraception is morally evil.  Pope Paul VI reiterated this in his encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (1968).   Another example is the lack of church authority for ordaining women to the priesthood. John Paul II reaffirmed this in his Apostolic Letter, “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” (1994). These teaching will also be assiduously guarded by Francis.

Now, as to things that probably will change.

The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) sought to highlight the theological concept of “collegiality”.  It reemphasized that the church is taught and governed by the College of Bishops (bishops throughout the world) in union with the pope who acts as the head of this body.  Francis’ recent appointment of a panel composed of eight Cardinals from around the world to advise him in governing the church and to help reform the troubled Vatican bureaucracy is indicative of this Vatican II model for collegial management.

Collegiality also demands devolution of this power.  This would permit for a greater amount of decision making on the level of the local church and will certainly affect pastoral practices.  Francis’ washing of women’s feet on Holy Thursday, a departure from the rubric which limits the ceremony to men, is an example of where a bishop may take liberties based on local need.

This break with the rubric by the Pope is problematic insofar as it gives license for the makeshift liturgies that have plagued the Church with the introduction of the Novus Ordo.

This recognition of the authority of the bishops and the dignity of the local churches will be endearing to the Orthodox Churches which have a strong sense of the autonomy of their individual churches.  This may indeed facilitate a reunion with the sister churches of the East.  The presence of Bartholomew, Patriarch of Constantinople, at Francis’ Installation Ceremony makes this a foreseeable outcome.

And, finally some of those things that can change.

Church discipline is the rules the church enforces for the good of her members.  These often have a long history and must not be tampered with lightly.  However, they can be changed for the good of the community.  The ancient demand that priests in the Western church be bound by celibacy is just such an example.   As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis, then Cardinal Bergoglio, in a book ON HEAVEN AND EARTH, which recorded his conversations with a rabbi said, celibacy “is a matter of discipline, not of faith.  It can change.”  He further noted that this discussion is often brought about by “pragmatism”, based on the loss of manpower and perhaps cultural reasons.

With a return to respect for the needs of local churches the celibacy issue may once again be in play.  A bishop may believe that providing the Eucharist is more important than the discipline of celibacy. This is known as epikeia. It is a theological principle whereby a higher law is recognized as taking precedence over a positive law for the sake of the common good. It is summed up in the words of Pope Gregory IX who said, “Necessity makes licit what is illicit.”

The non-viability of the ordination of women found in the Code of Cannon Law n.1024 may also be deemed a matter of discipline in the case of the diaconate. Because the church teaches that deacons do not share in the Order of Priesthood, which is irrevocably closed to women, deaconesses may be a possibility, especially since they existed in the early church.

The problem, however, is that the role deaconesses played in the early Church is spurious.  And, unlike the celibacy requirement which only came about in the West in fits and starts for the first millennium and has been always optional in the Eastern Church, deaconesses disappeared during the ante-Nicene period (325 AD).

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.

The role of the Church of Rome, according to St. Ignatius of Antioch (50-117 AD) “is that which presides in charity over all the Churches.”  Francis took up this theme in his first official address from the balcony of St. Peter on the day of his election.  He invited all people to join in the journey with the Bishop of Rome.

The tea leaves couldn’t be clearer as to how, Francis, The Bishop of Rome, wants to lead us.


Image credit:

Fr. Michael P. Orsi


Chaplain and Research Fellow at Ave Maria Law. Father Michael P. Orsi was ordained for the Diocese of Camden in 1976 and has a broad background in teaching and educational administration. Fr. Orsi has authored or co-authored four books and over 300 articles in more than 45 journals, magazines and newspapers. He has served as Assistant Chancellor, Assistant Vicar for Pastoral Services, Director of Family Life Bureau, and Coordinator of Pope John Paul II’s visit to New Jersey for the Diocese of Camden. He has also served as a member of The Institute for Genomic Research at the University of Pennsylvania and as a member of New Jersey’s Advisory Council on AIDS. Fr. Orsi holds a Doctorate in Education from Fordham University, two Master degrees in Theology from Saint Charles Seminary, and a Bachelor of Arts from Cathedral College. He is presently serving as Chaplain and Research Fellow in Law and Religion at Ave Maria School of Law, Naples, Florida. He is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. In 2005 Fr. Orsi was appointed as a Senior Research Associate to the Linacre Center for Bioethics, London, England. Fr. Orsi co-hosts a weekly radio program The Advocate which discusses law and culture on WDEO-AM 990, WMAX-AM 1440 in metro Detroit and WDEO-FM 98.5 in southwest Florida [also linked at].

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  • April 23th, I am not sure exactly what the role of a ‘deaconess’ would be. As for Priests marrying – I understand most of the Apostles were married but then they left their wives and families to carry Christ’s message to the end of the earth. If many Priests do marry, there is another consideration: in this economy who would pay for the Priest’s family, for his housing and insurance, for the children’s education, etc…I worked in Haiti as a lay missionary and often the families of Protestant Pastors who were doing heroic work had to leave because they just could not survive on a small stipend or in such horrendous situations. The Catholic Priests and Sisters did not have this problem…

  • John Huggins

    Fr. Orsi. while perhaps inadvertent, your implication that females may receive the grade of the diaconate in the sacrament of Holy Orders is objectively speaking, heretical. This is clearly not a matter of discipline, but rather, revealed truth and magisterially interpreted. A female is not capable of receiving any grade of the sacrament of Holy Orders and the Church lacks the power to change this divine injunction. Please walk back your statement. John Huggins

  • Tom McGinn

    Father Orsi is begging a question —both changes at the grassroots being married priest and women deacons or women deacons and same sex marriage being approved by Church. He needs to clarify.

    Tom McGinn

  • I agree that in the statement of the matter of same sex marriage not being prohibited will have to be changed gradually at the grassroots level need be clarified. I read that in matters like same sex marriage again should be bottom up then? Nancy Palosi herself stated that certain church stances should be a democratic process (contraception argument). I hope this is not what the good Father Orsi is abdicating. Ours is to bend to the Church discipline not the other way around.

  • lightedlamp97

    Allowing such things would gravely diminish the role of the priest. How would any woman express the role of fatherhood in any way shape or form? How could any priest balance the role of priest and husband? I realize it has been allowed already, although rare and in cases where most of these marriages had many years to practice the kind of heroic love this would take. My husband works as a public servant and I must share much of my life with the public. It is the source of much conflict in our lives together. I very much feel like a widow when my husband is present but unavailable to my needs. Just picture a young mother sitting in the pew at church with a handful of children while dad is priest. This article angers me. Why would God allow our faith to be lessened to this. And what about those priests who have spent their lives and died living this beautiful example of celibacy. It defies the natural law, you can’t do something bad to bring about a greater good. It would open up a chain of events that would kill our church. May all heresy be seen for what it is. May all priests professing and wishing for such evil be seen for who they are…liberal not Orthodox. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should!

  • Joe

    If so, alot of us will leave the Church.

  • Deaconesses? not going to happen. The sacrament of Holy Orders is not open to women. There are only two possible states for members of the Church. They can be either members of the laity or members of the clergy. To be members of the clergy they must undergo the sacrament of Holy Orders, which is not open to women.
    Deaconesses in the early Church were not member of he clergy, and so had very little to do with the office of deacon or anything sacramental except perhaps, the Sacrament of Baptism, which can be administered by anyone. In truth they were little more than equivalent to other lay ministers we have today.
    So could the Church created a lay office of deaconess? Sure, but it won’t. The problem is that today deaconesses would be conflated in the mind of many with deacons. Individuals pushing for female ordination would use the ignorance of many of the faithful about the difference between the lay state of a deaconess and the clerical state of a deacon to push for priestesses.
    Likewise allowing married men to become priests, in a wider manner, while permissible, would feed those same heretical elements pushing for woman priests, elected bishops and flexible doctrine.
    So while both of these things are possible they would not be good for the Church at this point. Give it, I don’t know, 200 years, and maybe we can talk about it then. By that time all of the Spirit of Vatican II types will have gone to their final reward and the orthodox Catholic Church will be able to absorb such changes in a reflective theologically balanced way.

  • KingKen

    After reading some of the preceeding comments, I must ask…What if the Pope speaks “ex-cathedra”-?

  • schmenz

    Dear Terry:

    I am with you in heart, mind and spirit on this. But with all due respect these words were previously spoken by many a good Catholic like yourself when the question of altar girls (or “serviettes”, as the late Michael Davies amusingly called them) came up. I recall with perfect clarity some very solid Catholics in the know who reassured me at the time that altar girls “would never happen”.

    We must never underestimate the revolutionary mindset of many who sit on high perches in the Church.

  • We only know that Peter was married at one time because the gospels mention his mother-in-law. They never mention his wife. On the practical side, what the Church really does NOT need is married, then divorced, priests. And with priests spread so thin in many places, they should have no time for a family other than their parishioners. I can imagine the if local pastor here, who doesn’t even have “time” for one daily Mass, were married and had the additional responsibility of a family. And, the financial drain on churches would be enormous. Pay off all the legal liabilities placed upon us by homosexual priests first, then maybe we can discuss it.

  • RoodAwakening

    We STILL have deaconesses–we just don’t call them that, anymore. They “evolved” into religious sisters! (To my knowledge, there is no documentary evidence that deaconesses were ever ordained, as we have for deacons in Acts 6.)

  • Ed Peters

    May I, very pressed for time, simply observe that, in my opinion, Fr. Orsi makes several terminological and category mistakes in his essay. I suggest caution before signing on to the views he expresses herein.

  • Time for this Catholic to head on over to the SSPX. I’ve had enough of this nonsense from the last five popes.

  • schmenz

    I agree wholeheartedly on your suggestion of caution, Dr Peters. On the other hand it might have been better for many souls if you also had practiced caution when dealing with the despicable treatment received by Fr Guarnizo last year at the hands of the Archdiocese of Washington. I remind you of this not to be “snarky” or disrespectful, but you were clearly wrong in that case , sir, and that should serve all of us as a lesson in caution.

  • Steve

    As the vicars of Christ, priests are married to the Church alone. No other marriage is possible.
    “Collegiality” will compound the bureaucracy not resolve it.

    Female deacons are yet another of the thousands of Novus Ordo attacks on sanctity of the liturgy.

  • gadjmljja

    I don’t believe it’s a fair assumption to connect the allowing of girl alter servers (which I wish had never happened) or deaconesses (which is even worse) to homosexual unions.

    Marriage is a sacrament, with a form and matter for it to be valid…..The “matter” must be a man and a woman for it to be valid. No pope or bishop has the authority to change the form and matter of a sacrament. That’s why women can never be priests….because the matter is a “man”.

    As far as the celibacy issue…..if we allow priests to marry because it’s “so hard” to live a celibate life…..what about all the Nuns? Should we allow them to marry also, because virginity is “too hard” for women to live???

    And of course these “nuns”, who marry, would be “open to life” as all marriages should be!

    I have 9 children…and I think it would be quite hard to live the life of a nun while raising a family! In other words……it’s a “whole different” vocation! Therefore the “religious” vocation would no longer be!

    If we take away celibacy for men to be priests……are we saying only women are strong enough to live a life without sex??

    What message does this send to our young people about the truth and meaning of human sexuality?

    I can’t believe that this could happen…..but either way…..the gates of hell will not prevail!

  • gadjmljja

    To leave the Church is to leave Christ!!! The Church is not some “club” we belong to…’s the family of God…..the Mystical Body of Christ! Catholics need to understand this! Disciplines can change….abuses may come…..but never leave Jesus! Saint Joan of Arc said, “As for Christ and the Church, they are one and the same.”
    Would you leave because a disciple of Christ was not faithful? Overcome evil with good!

  • John Huggins

    Regardless, I think he made clear his (mis)understanding of the nature of the sacrament of Holy Orders and because of his prominence (as you well know) he must be careful and responsible with his public remarks (at least as far as theological truth is concerned). I say this in all due respect.

  • john huggins

    In the early Church a so-called “deaconess” was an administrative function (not a sacrament of Holy Orders) held by a female to assist the priests in the baptism of female converts who were baptized without clothing. This is the short answer.

  • Kevin

    The tea leaves may be clear, but the message of this article is not. Take this line, for example:

    “the Order of Priesthood…is irrevocably closed to women [but] deaconesses may be a possibility”

    This reads as if it were a strategic plan, i.e. as there is no principle of law we can draw on to overthrow the male priesthood let us ensure it falls into desuetude by supplanting “unavailable” priests with deaconesses who will, of course, be given full (quasi-sacerdotal) power in parishes for the urgent sacramental needs of the faithful.

    I am not claiming this is the intention of the article, only that, as it is one possible spin that could be put on it, the idea of deaconesses should be dismissed out of hand for the sake of Christ’s Church.

    The shortage of priests can be addressed not by providing them with wives, which would interfere with their missionary calling, but by assuring them that sexual immorality within the priesthood will not be tolerated.

  • “For there are eunuchs, who were born so from their mother’s womb: and there are eunuchs, who were made so by men: and there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.” Matthew 19:12
    Any guesses as to Who said that?

  • poetcomic1 .

    Can I really call a priest ‘father’ knowing at the end of the day he is going home to his ‘real’ family? Oh, I get it… he’s a ‘symbolic’ father. Everything drifts further and further away from incarnate love and toward human ‘gestures in a void’. Poor church, indeed.

  • me3123


  • Ed Peters

    Ah yes. Well, many people did not like my analysis of that case, but no one could demonstrate an error on my part. Largely because there was none. What they really did not like was how the law actually read. Those complaints need to be directed to someone rather higher up than me. Back to this matter, I do think some of Fr. Orsi’s points above need reply; now, if I can find the time at this point in the school year.

  • In the DC diocese we have rural parishes where there are few Catholic high schools and more suburban parishes with a number of Catholic high schools. So when it comes time to rotate priests they generally rotate between the suburban and rural to be fair and equitable. If a priest were married and had several kids in the Catholic high schools in the suburban parish, what are the chances he will be rotated to the rural parish which will require him to pull his kids out of their current high schools? What happens if his wife refuses to go and he says he will have to leave the priesthood if he can’t remain where he is? I believe the single priests will be asked to take the less favorable assignments which will lead to resentment between the single and married priests. I raised two children and it is a 24/7 job and several of my priest friends say there is no way they could spend the appropriate time to be a good father to a family and still spend the time needed to be a good priest. I remember seeing a recent study which said that 75% of ministers’ wives wish their husbands were in a different field than ministry. Finally, let’s say the married priest’s marriage is not going so well. Do you think he is going to be an objective observer when couples come to him for counseling?

  • Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum!

    If a priest was allowed to marry, then:

    What if his wife wanted to use contraceptions?
    What if his wife, when pregnant, wanted to get an abortion?
    What if his wife wanted to a divorce?
    What if his (homosexual) “husband” wanted to use artificial insemination to conceive a child with another woman?

    According to civil law, the married priest could not stop her (him) from doing any of the above. What would he do then?

    Bottom line, if priests were able to marry and women were able to become deacons, we can rest assure that the church would no longer be able to sustain their current position on abortion, contraception, divorce, artificial conception, etc. Same issues apply if women were to become deacons.


  • Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum!

    You and me, both. God bless you.

  • iggram

    Seems to me the SSPX is not under the authority of any pope. So if you move over to them aren’t you leaving the bark of Peter? Plus aren’t those who are leading you (SSPX) claiming an authority that belongs to the pope alone?

  • iggram

    To leave the Church is to become Protestant. We need to remember that the Holy Spirit is in charge of the Church and will protect her till the end. Opinions, everybody has one and that is what this article is mostly about in its mention of women priest, deaconess and same sex marriage. I believe pope Francis is sufficiently anchored in his devotion to Mary, the spouse of the Holy Spirit, and she will guide him and protect him in steering the Church in the right direction.

  • O my Goodness. I dont know who you are but i couldnt agree with you more. Finally, someone who speaks the truth! May God Bless you and your family. Just finished reading Saint Gemma’s book. I wondered why Jesus asked her to give herself and her virginity completely to him and him alone. And if i am correct, she was not the only one Our Lord asked the same thing. Because of these little ones who suffered for Our Church, my little ones have a chance in this life.

  • i also agree. but i dont think anything will kill our church. Our Lord promised. sometimes we have to go through turmoil to weed out the bad seeds in our beloved Church. No matter how bad things might get; and they will, remember that Our Lord in the Eucharist is what matters most. He gave us his body and his blood for a reason. As long as you can receive it, cherish every moment. Because there might be a time when it will be scarce. Pray, pray, pray. Give up your fears and worries to Our Lord. Do not let this article anger you, but give you more of a push to pray for our Lost little lambs and asked God to forgive those who do not know what they are doing. “Pray, hope and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is mericiful and will hear your prayers. Prayer is the best weapon we have. It is the key to God’s heart.” Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

  • If we did not have altar girls,our church,over the last many years,would have no one to help our priest.Most of the girls;young ones.are so devout,it reminds me of Jesus,on the cross,one apostel,the rest were woman.The devil is strong,all he wants is devision,beteen people,iam sure,Our mother Mary will guide him.He is very devoted,to our blessed mother,and for now that is good enough,for me

  • Sorry,see division,is already happening,evil is smiling down onyou,pray for our pope Francis,he has a long and hard road ahead of him,and needs our prayers;like all of us.Saint Terese,said what she feared most of all ,was a bad catholic.Have faith pray and dont worry,Father Pia

  • Theologiansgoingmad

    Since the Pope is an ordained priest imagine if at some point in his Pontificate he decides to marry and have children. For sure that will be the day the Pandora Box is open.

  • schmenz

    I am honored that you replied to me, Dr Peters. Many thanks. It is good to know, too, that your judgments contain no errors. Would that we also were given the charism of infallibility.

    But allow me to walk you through this incident once more: a lesbian Buddhist made her intentions known to Father Guarnizo prior to presenting herself at the altar rail. Problem A: she is a public sinner, and therefore, if Father Guarnizo had given her the Sacrament he would share in her guilt. Problem B: she is a Buddhist which means she has renounced her faith and become a pagan. Another reason why she cannot receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Out of respect for Christ Himself the priest did what he did, politely but firmly. If you want to go through legalistic convolutions and mental gymnastics to try to convince me that the priest did wrong be my guest. But since I’ve already read your views on the case last March I don’t think it necessary for you to bother.

    To those priests (and Cardinals, like Donald Wuerl, et al) who wish to go through life giving Holy Communion to people like Biden, Pelosi and lesbians, and to those who would defend such horrors, I say go for it. Let them eat His Body and drink His Blood unworthily. But when those priests and Cardinals have to face God one day….well, God help them.

  • From a practical standpoint, I believe the Church is right. We have a shortage of priests in the Catholic Church in the west right now. My pastor has two Parishes, and a Monastery he has to serve. There would be no possible way he could take care of a wife and children too. The only time a wife and kids could see our pastor is at Mass, during Confession, at a Funeral, a wedding, a Baptism, a sick call, a counseling session or waving to him from the driveway. The parish would resent the family and the family would resent the parish. A priest is married to the Church, the Bride of Christ and the parish is his family. It would seem like my father was having an adulterous relationship if he married someone other than the Church and had other children with her. Creepy!

  • bluesuede

    I find it hard to accept the idea of a priest marrying and raising a family. So much would have to change. I agree that it will open the Church to the devil, by inflicting it with the possibility of divorce, separation, adultry, children on drugs, out of wedlock babies, friends and associations that are not practicing Catholic, a wife’s influence over her husband priest, abortion, contraception, in other words, pagan practices coming into the Church through a priest’s family, in such a way as to make the burden of the secular world more of a hindrance to running the spiritual Bride of Christ, than what’s good for it. And, I will not support a priests family, cars, rv’s, a boat, skiing trips, a house, college education funds and all that they should expect from their secular employer. If priests can marry, then will nuns and sisters demand the same? It would be a feast day for the devil.

    As Catholics, we need to pray for vocations, encourage vocations in families, accept and appreciate our parish priests more and support them when they need it. Celibacy is a vocation of the highest honor to God, and it enables a priest to give himself entirely to the service of his people, he couldn’t do as well if he were divided between his loyalty to his family or his loyalty to the people and to God.

  • You don’t have to do that! We have a diocesan Latin Rite Parish that no one can ever take away from us in Alabama under Bishop Robert Baker. No alter girls, for us! No deaconesses no married priests. Just beautiful Mass, with devout alter boys and a beautiful choir that sounds angelic! If ever you want to visit, just look us up. Our Lady Help of Christians Huntsville, AL.

  • Ed Peters

    I don’t debate anonymous posters, but I occasionally respond to them for the sake of third parties. Those who wish to see the law explained are invited to go here:

  • Overcome evil with the Latin Mass!

  • Come to Alabama!

  • This entire discussion is crazy. The Priest IS married. He is married to the Church, the bride of Christ. If he marries someone else while being married to the Church he is living in the Mortal sin of adultery. The entire subject is sickening!

  • If priests can marry, why can’t nuns marry too?

  • SMC_BC

    Canon law may not directly forbid women deacons but then it doesn’t specifically forbid same-sex marriage either but neither are going to happen. Ever.

    Canon law lawyer Dr. Peters comments:

  • SMC_BC

    Why, When there’s nowhere else to go. (Not worry, contrary to what liberal want I doubt things will change.)

  • Jesus assumed the role of “diakonia”, or servant. The deacon, therefore, represents Jesus as servant. The bishop represents the Father. The presbyterate represents the Apostles. They all share a common charism received through Holy Orders, however, the bishop has the fullness of that charism, followed by priests, then deacons. The bishop is traditionally closer in spirit to his deacons than to his priests. This is why the bishop will often wear the dalmatic of the deacon under his own vestments, as a reminder that the deacon is in service to him, and there is a connection between the two. Any attempt to ordain women to the diaconate will have to blow up pretty much the entire sacrament. As for celibacy, the argument “we need more priests” comes from pride. God will always provide priests (except, perhaps, where political forces remove the freedom of men to choose their vocation). It is up to us to foster family environments where young men are encouraged to discern the religious life.

  • @me3123:disqus Agreed if this happens i will be strictly SSPX..

  • Peter Nyikos

    Where in scripture does it say this? Or is some extra-scriptural source involved?

  • Peter Nyikos

    Which of the many laws on this page is the right one?

    And, could you inform the rest of us just what your position one that incident was? You should realize that once you publicly make a statement about you having been right, you owe it to at least let us know what you claim to have been right about.

  • Ed Peters

    Hi PN. You’re mixing two topics, I think. The Orsi piece above, which I think contains several errors, and the Guarnizo matter, which I discussed extensively and feel no need to revisit. That record is plain for all. Re Orsi’s essay, I am caught somewhat by poor timing, as I am in finals right now, but given the credence his essay is likely to rank, I feel a need to caution folks about it. If I can go through it, I will. I t needs a reply.

  • bluesuede

    You sound like a good mother. Maybe you could help the vocation crisis, and encourage any one of your children to consider becoming a priest? They need encouragement from good parents to develop their vocations.

  • Ed Peters

    Taking to heart PN’s point, may I offer just one example (and I do mean, just one) of the difficulties one faces in figuring out what Fr. Orsi means in several places above, let alone in trying to respond to his assertions. Orsi writes: “This doctrinal faith is divided, according to Cardinal Josef Ratzinger . . . into two main areas; infallible and non-fallible.” Can someone explain to me what is the difference between “infallible” and “non-fallible” doctrines, and just who divides Church teaching into these two types? Surely not Cdl. Ratzinger.

  • bluesuede

    I won’t. That’s where Jesus is. We can join our prayers with the prayers of all the faithful and with the constant prayers and sacrifices of cloistered nuns and monks and brothers, throughout the world, who have historically taken it upon themselves to implore the grace and protection of God, night and day, in perpetual adoration, for the Holy Father and our whole Church. Mary, protector of the Holy Church and St. Joseph, pray for us.

  • The whole idea is sickening.

  • I pray for the Pope every day after the Rosary. However I will continue to fight evil even in the Church because I am a soldier of Christ. Popes sin too. The pope washing the feet of a woman was a sin. It was a sensual act and brought scandal upon the faithful.

  • Peter Nyikos

    I don’t like being left out of “all” as in “That record is plain for all.” I’d appreciate it if you were to at least give “all” a url for this earlier discussion.

  • Mac

    If you get the call, you get the call. It’s not a career choice. Higher faith in lives of more individuals will make more priests. It would be terrible if Jim Morrison, ie intellectual ‘misfits’ looking for a place in the world actually went to seminary school. No thanks! One master!

  • Peter Nyikos

    I’m sorry, I just don’t see your point. The main objection to women becoming priests is the two sacraments, Eucharist and Reconciliation, which Jesus specifically gave to the Apostles, all men. Especially the latter: the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ is such a “hard saying” that the Church needs another revelation before being sure that anyone but the successors of the Apostles, following unbroken tradition, has the power to do it.

    Since this extraordinary privilege is not conferred upon deacons, I don’t see why the form of Holy Orders that they receive cannot also be received by women.

  • Peter Nyikos

    Much ado about nothing. To call a Church poor because its people choose to call someone a (spiritual) father is to show a lack of a sense of proportion.

  • Peter Nyikos

    I thought the Pope was the one vicar of Christ on earth.

  • Peter Nyikos

    You are wrong about “full sacerdotal power.” Deacons cannot effect Transubstantination, neither can they administer the sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation).

  • Peter Nyikos

    Jesus essentially forbade same sex marriage when he forbade divorce by referring back to Genesis where marriage is between a man and a woman.

  • Peter Nyikos

    An important distinction needs to be made.

    (1) The Church did allow married men to become priests for almost half its existence. The Orthodox allow it to this day. And there is a special dispensation whereby some married Anglican priests wishing to join the Roman Catholic Church are allowed to become Roman Catholic priests and remain married. On the other hand:

    (2) Neither the Roman Catholic nor the Orthodox Church ever allowed priests to become married once they became priests.

    (1) and (2) hold for deacons too, with this difference: both Churches admit married men into the diaconate.

  • Thanks for sharing this Peter! This resolves the problems that would arise if the priest started dating parishioners, broke up with someone, etc.

  • Ed Peters

    …not sure i follow. is the url i gave above not visible?

  • SMC_BC

    That’s not the point. The point is just because something is not written in canon law doesn’t mean it’s allowed. Reread my original post, perhaps you misread what I said.

  • cricket5509

    Amen. I agree.

  • cricket5509

    Yes, this will be in our prayers.This is our Church as it is and always will be. A Protestant once said the Catholic Church was dead. Wrong!!!!!!! It is alive and well. Forgive them, for they know what they do. Or say.

  • Jonathon

    One of the key reasons for the mass loss of practicing Catholics, is the constant “changes” in the Church, especially since Vatican II….. for example, changes in the Holy Days – now people do not recognize which Holy Days are still “Holy” nor the significance of them….. or changes in fasting on Fridays – now they don’t even fast during Lent….. our nuns dress in street clothes and people no longer recognize nuns as holy people…… we no longer fast three hours before communion – and now people have lost the essence of the bread of life….. we have general absolution and people have stopped going to confession….. and the homilies no longer speak about sin and repentance but only about the love of God (in one gospel reading they actually changed it so it read “and Jesus said to the woman then I do not judge you either – go” instead of “go and sin no more.”
    The Church must adhere to their teachings and not change with the political times or by popular opinion polls…. or otherwise we have become Catholic Light (protestant.)
    PS: There is no problem with our religion being “difficult” to practice, i.e., demanding in worship, faith and acts… otherwise without real effort are we really giving our hearts, minds and souls to God or just going through some meaningless motion….. faith AND acts!

  • JohnnyVoxx

    Anything more you can do Fr. Orsi to suggest the Catholic Church denigrate its tradition of celibacy (a state of life that Christ said was preferred) and to turn our priests into mere protestant “ministers” who give up nothing, who sacrifice nothing of the world to preach their false prosperity gospels and what not? We want priests! We want sisters! We want people consecrated to the service of God and who forsake the world, the flesh and the Devil. Stop with your “helpful” suggestions couched as analysis. A clever way of advocating without advocating. You are violating the precept not to suggest such things, to the extent the last two Popes have directed same under obedience.

  • JohnnyVoxx

    Restore the Church’s holiness through the Latin Mass, devotion to the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, radical examples of love and service, and you will have plenty of Priests and Sisters again. The traditional, habit-wearing orders are experiencing a vocation BOOM right now, as are the communities forming around the Tridentine Mass. Become Catholic again, and Holy Mother Church will be flush with vocations. I’m not sure Fr. Orsi really wants that…

  • JTLiuzza

    And the filth of modernism continues to infest the mystical body of Christ.

  • Geoff Kiernan

    here we go again.THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL but does that mean that the gates of mhell will not prevail against an apostate church or a church that does not teach his truth? I think not.

  • Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum!


  • Diahann Dy

    Beautifully said! Thank you. I’ll use your arguments too if I may.

  • Fr. Shannon Collins

    Clerical celibacy is an apostolic discipline, not something of the Middle Ages imposed by Rome on poor deacons, priests, and bishops. In both East and West, mandatory celibacy was always the custom and eventually become a part of the written laws of the Church in the early 4th century. It was in the East, at the infamous Council of Trullo (7th century), that the discipline was broken. It took deception and doctored quotations to accomplish this rupture. From permanent continence for clerics which was always the apostolic custom, there became temporary continence for clerics in the East, i.e., no relations when due to offer Mass, but when not offering Mass, one could enter the conjugal act. This total rupture has, for all intensive purposes, destroyed the notion of celibacy amongst those Eastern Rites that have married clergy. All diocesan priests have to be married. From mandatory celibacy, we have mandatory married priests. But, it should be admitted, that all bishops in the east maintain celibacy. These particular bishops, by the way, are all taken from the monasteries. None come from the diocesan clergy. It important to note, as well, that Eastern clerics had to enter matrimony before ordination, but never afterwards. Also, an Eastern Priest cannot marry again if his first wife dies. Why is this? I mean, a layman can marry again. But a priest must remain a widower. Interesting. The thing is that priests have never been allowed to consummate a marriage, for such consummation must be done prior to ordination. In short, a priest is married. He is married to the Church and those who also have a natural wife are practicing a form of bigamy. Yes, some of the ancient clerics of old were married before they became clerics, but they left their wives, i.e., no more marital act. Our Lord said that those who left “wife and children for the Kingdom of God” would be rewarded in this life and the next. Bishops are High Priests so why not have Pope Francis marry? Wouldn’t most people see this as a scandal? Yet so many liberals are pointing to the issue of married priests. If Pope Francis does end mandatory celibacy, an apostolic custom given by Christ, then the Church will be severely punished from the head down to the body!

  • Fr. Shannon Collins

    I forgot to add that the issue of woman “deacons” has been widely discussed. Over the last few years, major cardinals have closed the door on this issue for good…no woman deacons. Archbishop Muller did his major work on this question and clearly stated that women can never receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders. By the way, it was a custom in the old days at seminary to call transitional deacons ‘Fathers”, for they became ordinary ministers of baptism, begetting children in Christ.

  • Gary

    We already have married priests, so what is the problem.??

  • This article was either poorly edited toward the end or the author did not know how to conclude it.

    Mind you, I’m with Father Orsi where he states that such the novelty of altar girls was a “dangerous precedent.” I would go further.

    I suspect an editor wanted to end the article with, “The tea leaves couldn’t be clearer as to how, Francis, The Bishop of Rome, wants to lead us.” But that one-sentence paragraph does not follow from what came before. Is he really saying that mandatory priestly celibacy will go and deaconesses with be instituted? If he is, he certainly has not given his evidence for this, unless it’s just tea leaves and nothing rational.

    If I’m reading the URL correctly, the original title of the piece was “Pope Francis: Vale Priestly Celibacy, Salve Female Deacons.” A better title, but still an hypothesis not sufficiently documented.

    Deacons, by the way, are in Holy Orders. They receive a sacrament — one that is reserved to men alone. Whatever deaconesses were in the early Church, they did not receive holy orders.

  • Not sure what is “spurious” about the history of women as deacons–their history and ordinations are well-documented–ITC-member Cipriano Vagaggini wrote in 1974 that what the church has done the church can do again.

  • BillN

    .Uhh, we already have married priests,,,former Anglicans, Eastern Rite, etc.,. If the rule is relaxed further, and you feel the Church has “left ” you, then you aren’t really much of a Catholic. Try the SSPPX they need more nuts…

  • Ed Peters

    PZ: I saw that “spurious” too, and wondered what it could possibly mean. We differ on what deaconesses were, I suspect, but to call them “spurious” is simply to show that one does not know what the word itself means.

  • Chris

    This piece is quite disappointing as it makes some basic errors in theology and canon law, e.g., the teaching on the ordination of women is infallible(not “non fallible”); the distinction between it and truths found in the Creed is in the fact that it is not, at least presently, taught as a divinely revealed doctrine, proposed by the Church as such; and thus the level of adherence by the faithful is also different, to be firmly held vs. to be believed. The equation of altar girls with ordination of deaconesses is just non-sensical. As well, the “ordination” of a deaconess would not be illict, but invalid, and the subject of penalties, including excommunication; so to think that a number of such “ordinations” would eventually bring such a thing about is also non-sensical.

  • cestusdei

    How in the world did he get all that education and not understand that women cannot be ordained? Deaconesses in the early Church only helped out with women’s baptism. They were not the same as Deacons. Just sad and makes me wonder about Ave Maria and its Catholicity.

  • catholicexchange

    Ha! Hey, waitaminnit, Brother Andre–I am the editor, and I simply posted exactly what Father Orsi submitted, word for word. (Frankly, Father Orsi isn’t the kind of writer whose work typically needs much editing.) Hopefully that clears up your suspicion that “the editor” tacked on an alternate conclusion! Granted, Fr. Orsi’s conclusion is brief, but it does indeed follow quite logically from what came before. He set out to do some educated guesswork on where he thought Pope Francis might head during his papacy (see Par. 2) and then he proceeded to do just that.

    And, yes, the diaconate belongs to Holy Orders, but not to the ordained priesthood (they “receive the imposition of hands ‘not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry'” CCC 1569). It is the priesthood that is reserved to men; that’s why Fr. Orsi can acknowledge the possibility that the diaconate might theoretically be opened to women (although I personally think that would be a bad idea, for a variety of practical reasons). It’s also part of why it has been theorized that some early deacons may (only “may”) have been women–because deacons have always been considered only as “assistants to the bishops” (cf. CCC 1570), not as priests who share in Christ’s power to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Pope Francis has no authority whatsoever to change that.

    God bless,


  • catholicexchange

    Hello cestusdei,

    As the editor I’m hoping I can clear up some confusion here, because I think you’re putting words into Father Orsi’s mouth, so to speak. I’ll post here what I said to the good Brother Andre previously:

    Yes, the diaconate belongs to Holy Orders, but not to the ordained priesthood (they “receive the imposition of hands ‘not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry'” CCC 1569). It is the priesthood that is reserved to men; that’s why Fr. Orsi can acknowledge the possibility that the diaconate might theoretically be opened to women (although I personally think that would be a bad idea, for a variety of practical reasons). It’s also part of why it has been theorized that some early deacons may (only “may”) have been women–because deacons have always been considered only as “assistants to the bishops” (cf. CCC 1570), not as priests who share in Christ’s power to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Pope Francis has no authority whatsoever to change that.

    God bless!


  • Emily B

    this says it much better than I could:

  • Bruce

    Bwahahahaha! Your arguments and heresies have all been squashed, Philly. Take yourself to the Episcopal church.

  • kirk

    Jonathon – Looks to me like you’ve put your faith in trifles – the Friday fast, the Holy Days and so on… Very close to none of the things you mention are included in that which we must believe to be Catholic, but are merely pius practices from long ago. Yes, there were changes after Vatican II, women no longer had to wear a head covering, and other minor issues. And, I am puzzled by your sentence, ” we no longer fast three hours before communion – and now people have lost the essence of the bread of life”.

    Do you really mean to say that since we only fast one hour instead of three before receiving communion, we have lost the essence of the bread of life? How do you know that anyway? Please explain how can one lose the essence of the bread of life. Can you see into the mind of all the communicants and read their minds? Perhaps the parish you attend has gone slightly over the edge by changing a word or two in the Scripture readings, but I can assure you there are vibrant parishes who believe the sacraments, with priests who preach the message of repentance and a people who live the faith.

    And, if you see a nun in street clothes, you do not have to lose your faith over it. Looks to me like you spend too much time wearing a grudge and judging others and too little time praying for understanding and compassion.

  • Be very careful not to mock the piety of others, Kirk. You may believe these practices are merely acts of piety from long ago, but I don”t even know a Catholic that would think of receiving the Most Holy Eucharist without fasting for three hours and no women in my parish would dare enter a Church without a head covering. To you these are minor issues but to them it is an act of humility before God; a divine virtue.

    You ask Johnathan how he knows that people have lost the essence of the bread of life? Well, some might respond you know them by their fruits. When I see a nun in street clothes, I do not even know that she is a nun. For all I know, she could be a waitress or a lawn care worker. Her dress bears no witness. She is one with the world.

  • Dust in the Wind

    Well reading the canon law which Mr Peters has cited below would lead me to believe that the Priest acted properly in this case. Acting in Charity the priest would be obligated to deny the sacrament from someone whos intentions involed a form of desecration. Thereby sparing her the judgement of which scripture speaks. A priest in my parish denied a pimp from recieving communion. The pimp had come to intimidate him because he was counseling one of his women to escape his oppression .

  • Dust in the Wind

    Wow….that whole article was a bit surreal and extremely problematic !! Are you sure your a Priest ? Deaconesses dragons and homosexuals……which ones are fictitious ? Lol

  • Voice

    As read all these comments, it is amazing how much rage there is. It is truly sad how little so many know and understand about Church theology and history. It is truly sad how uncivilized the commentary is even within the Church. American culture has polluted the mind and heart removing reason, respect and proper discourse replacing it with polarization, left and right. Pride. Wrath. Scary. Sad. A Fallen world.

  • I agree with the above article in the matter of collegiality which only happened in the 1960’s, but one other thing needs to be remembered. Besides Canon Law the Church bases her Faith on the Bible the Teaching Office and one forgotten aspect. SACRED TRADITION. the 2000 year Tradition of the Church which the Pope Emeritus so very clearly reminded us about during his 8 year Papacy. If Tradition is abandoned or dispensed with than everything in the Church is up for grabs in the name of “Pastoral” and Renewal. We see this with the Bishops in the UK on interfaith marriages that the child “for pastoral reason’s” does not have to be raised Catholic though this also is in the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

  • Dan: I now know that my suspicion was wrong. Thanks for the clarification and sorry to cast doubt on the editing skills of the Catholic Exchange.

    My problems with the article remain: Father said nothing to prove that the Holy Father is going to institute the order of deaconesses in the Church. All he did was indicate the rationale that might be employed, only he did not say “might”; he said “will.” Here he is doing what a lot of people are in these early days of Pope Francis’ pontificate: putting the new pope in a box and forecasting for certain what his pontificate will do for the Church.

    Some of your readership will walk away with the “news” that the Pope is soon to create a female diaconate in the Church. But it’s not news, it’s speculation presented as fact. When I voiced my suspicion that an editor had monkeyed with the end of the article, I was careful to make it clear that it was my suspicion, which is something I try hard not to confuse with fact. Your writer did not make that distinction.

    Ditto for the married clergy issue. Father cited something that the then Cardinal Bergoglio said about the possibility of changing the discipline of the Latin Church. That does not prove that he will change it as pope.

    In sum, the statement, “The tea leaves couldn’t be clearer as to how, Francis, The Bishop of Rome, wants to lead us” — if it means that these things will indeed change — is not true. It’s bad epistemology.

    Women have never and will never received the sacrament of Holy Orders. For them to be deacons, they would have to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders, unless “deaconesses” are clearly defined to be what they may have actually been in the early church — something like nuns or sisters, i.e., consecrated (not ordained) women who serve various needs of the Church.

    Thanks for your reply. Sorry for any offense given. And I like your pluck and verve. It helps.

  • Tzard

    I know Fr. Michael is trying to use a turn of a phrase to say he’s predicting the future – but his choice of words in reading “Tea Leaves”, while catchy, revers to divination – conversing with spirits to learn the future. That’s a serious sin against the first commandment and virtue of religion. Ironically, it’s like if he said “Let’s see what the Devil has to say”.

    It’s obvious he’s not actually sinning in this regard, by actually divining with tea leaves. He’s using his own efforts. But I would caution against using occult metaphors. Same thing if he were refer to crystal balls, peep stones, runes, and animal entrails. It’s not proper for any christian, much less a priest.

  • Jeff

    Surely Dr. Peters is correct: Infallible and non-fallible are synonyms. Teachings which have been constantly and firmly taught by the ordinary magisterium (e.g., the immorality of contraception) are also infallible, or as Fr. Orsi infelicitously put the matter, “non-fallible” (cf. LG 25). The second “area” of church teachings are those which are taught authoritatively (“authentically”) but not necessarily infallibly. These teachings require religious assent (*obsequium religiosum*).

  • Jeff

    I’m pretty sure Fr. Orsi is incorrect about this point. The Council of Nicaea taught that deaconesses were part of the laity. That is, they did not receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders but instead served the Church in a purely administrative capacity. The Sacrament of Holy Orders is reserved for men only, notwithstanding the fact that JPII Ordinatio Sacerdotales only mention the priesthood.

  • kirk

    Isabel – I was not mocking Jonathon’s piety, I was simply questioning why he feels he can judge the heart of another. If you had read through his before replying to mine, I think you would have seen that. And, I must also say to you and him, if you are so obsessed with watching the “fruits” of another person, or a nun in street clothes, or counting the hours before a person receives communion to judge his heart – then you are too busy grumbling about what others do, and not busy enough building your own spirituality before God.

    I once attended a Jesuit spritiuality conference and one of the priests made the statement, “Don’t let anyone force you to accept his/her bible.” That’s bible with a small “b” – meaning the bible (code) each of us carries within one’s self that is his/her own spiritual practice. There are many unchangeable Catholic teaching we ALL must follow, and then there are pius practices each one feels comfortable with, and makes God’s presence real. I would hope that love for one another would help us to not judge one another.

    I I

  • Peter Nyikos

    The only url I see is the one to codes of canon law, not any discussion involving you.

  • Peter Nyikos

    My question had not to do with the deaconesses of long ago, but the very thing you claim in your last sentence, that the sacrament is reserved to men only. Where is there any official Church statement to that effect?

  • Peter Nyikos

    How can one be sure that your statement, “Women …will never receive the sacrament of Holy Orders” is correct?

  • Peter Nyikos

    No, I did not misread you. Your analogy is defective because there are other reasons, binding on Christians, besides canon law for forbidding same-sex marriage, but no one has given a binding reason for forbidding women deacons.

  • SMC_BC

    …um…I hate to burst your bubble but that’s exactly what I said.

    As for women being deacons, won’t happen. Ever. Ordination is reserved for men (Canon 1024).

  • Michael Rizzio

    There is collateral and yet critically important issue with both so-called gay marriage and the sacramental life of the Church and that involves the word COVENANT. May I recommend anyone reading this post to listen to Dr. Scott Hahn and Mike Aquilina explain the ‘sacred kinship bonds’ that are at stake (Although I am put off by the tilte—Swear to God—does make it quite clear. GOOGLE: Sonitus Sanctus + Swear to listen to this EWTN program on .mp3). The Marriage Covenant (for that is what it is (I am all yours, you are all mine) relates to the New and Everlasting Covenant in Jesus’ Blood in Holy Mass (when we mystically exchange hearts with Jesus Christ at Holy Communion). This same Covenant has its origin and final end in the Divine Liturgy in Heaven as revealed to St. John in the Book of Revelation. This is what he meant by the words, ‘being in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.’ May I humbly suggest a banner to rally the troops in this cosmic battle…it involves both a sign and an oath (A Covenant) and it is found in both Genesis and Revelation. The evil one now has this sign (although a perverted straight six stripe/color version)…we must attempt to recapture the arched seven stripe/color True version. You can see it wave at: We have work to do…

  • Because Holy Orders have never been administered to women in the Church, not from the time the Apostles and the first seven deacons were ordained, not ever. There is no tradition for it, only an absolute tradition against it, affirmed by the fact that the only historical instances of attempting to ordain women — to any order — were in heretical sects like the Montanists and the Collyridians, and these sacramental simulations were considered abominations by the Catholic Church.

    The deacon chants the Gospel and can preach, but Saint Paul says, “Let women keep silence in the churches… . For it is a shame for a woman to peak in the church.” (I Cor. 14:34 ff.)

    Now, the Apostle could hardly command a woman to keep silent if she has the faculty to preach and sing the Gospel.

    I suggest that you find a traditional theology book on Sacramental Theology (e.g. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacraments, Vol. IV, pgs. 125-127) for further arguments.

  • kirk

    I used to be protestant, and I know how we were totally convinced that the Catholic Church is “dead” and “wrong”. Having been immersed in that belief for 30 years, I was knocked off my horse (so to speak), when I learned the truth about Catholic teaching. Whenever I’m at Mass, I thank God for this faith – it has changed my life completely.

  • kirk

    A myopic view there, Johnny. If you must see these earthly signs of the “Church’s Holiness” – then the eyes of your heart are out of focus. “Men (human beings) look upon the outward appearance, but God looks upon the heart.”
    What does God see when he looks upon your heart? As for me, I pray every day that our Lord will turn my eyes upward so I can see clearly to understand and have compassion on others. I hope you do too.

  • kirk

    Great observation! In some respects, comments seem pharisaical, judging others by one’s own spiritual practices that are not part of the deposit of faith, but personal piety. It saddens me to see this polarization. As I scroll through comments, there are many I’d like to respond to, but then I ask myself, what will that accomplish. Too many closed minds here.

  • JohnnyVoxx

    What are you, a Protestant? Fine if you are because I would expect you to dispense with “the Church” — but if you are Catholic then your position is peculiar. Christ founded a Church and left it certain power, authority and obligation. It is a means to an end, but an important means nonetheless. The marks of the true Church are that it must be “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” The purpose of the Church is ultimately to assist souls to correspond with, to cooperate with, God’s Grace, and thus to help effect and sustain the “condition of heart” you rightly uphold. Christ founded the Church and instituted the sacraments precisely for that purpose. This is why a focus on the Church’s holiness is not “myopic” but stewardship of Christ’s plan for us. God Bless.

  • Chris

    What an odd analysis. There are a host of difficulties in this column, only a few of which I will address.

    “Francis’ washing of women’s feet on Holy Thursday, a departure from the rubric which limits the ceremony to men, is an example of where a bishop may take liberties based on local need.”

    Well, no. It’s not an example of where a bishop can take liberties because a bishop doesn’t have the authority to alter the rubrics. Pope Francis may or may not have such authority (that is a matter of debate), but a bishop does not.
    Deaconess in the early Church were the wives of deacons. People may want to argue they received “ordination” in the same way that deacons do, but I see little evidence that such ordination was, in fact, sacramental. Moreover, the actual responsibilities of deaconesses were quite limited. They included doing things such as closing the doors of the church and anointing women converts when they were baptized (baptisms were done by full immersion and the converts were nude; anointing a woman’s breasts in such a situation would’ve been scandalous if it was done by a priest or deacon.

  • Chris

    (continued) Also, your example of girls being OK’d as altar servers omits the fact that the germane canon clearly says that serving the altar should only be done by males (viri in Latin). That John Paul II allowed a practice that was already being done, against Canon Law, doesn’t mean it was a prudent decision, nor does it adequately parallel women being ordained a “deaconesses” especially if you think they’re actually going to be receiving a sacramental ordination.

  • cricket5509

    Thanks be to God, Kirk! You have that most beautiful feeling which I can’t put in words right now when the Eucharist is being blessed as the blood and body of Jesus Christ. You feel Jesus in your heart and body. I love my God and the Catholic Church as Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my Church”, in which he told Peter to go and do such and he was the 1st Pope of this Church. Catholic meaning “Universal” and til King Henry VIII and Martin Luther and this other one I can’t think of right now decided to make their own churches and own rules, that was all it was, was Roman Catholic. Most Protestants make up the rules as they go in their churches, they have no dogma. We have a dogma and cannon law and the church is the same all over the world. And that is the way it should be.

  • kirk

    I repeat, Johnny, that there are certain unchangeable teachings of the Catholic Church that every Catholic must believe to be Catholic. Perhaps you haven’t read them lately – I think they are online. If you had read mine b4 the rant above, I said – I WAS Protestant – I now AM Catholic. The church teaches we are “One, Holy and Apostolic”- I believe that. What I don’t believe is that every Catholic must have the same personal pius habits, i.e. praying the Rosary every day, fast 3 hours before Communion in order to receive the real “essence” of the Eucharist, women must wear headscarves, etc etc. I’m sure that if you educate yourself in what the Church teaches, you will find these are not required practices to be Catholic.

    I say the Rosary occasionally (though i always pray), I fast before communion, I do not wear a headscarf, I’m okay with a nun in street clothes – and I am completely Catholic. I don’t expect you to accept my explanation – so be it.

  • cricket5509

    I agree Jonathan. Thanks be to God.

  • Gemma Pereira

    Agree in toto with you & ‘gadjmljja’. My thoughts exactly. Those pushing for doing away with celibacy, promoting women ordinations, etc.- why do they not stop to reflect deeply and realise that celibacy is what they had chosen when answering Almighty God’s call. And that women have a different & important role and not – repeat – not be ordained women priests. We have to realise that satan is having a field day when priests and nuns are clamouring for doing away with celibacy and ordaining women.
    God Bless you!

  • kirk

    The Catholic Church is Universal – that’s what Catholic means. If ever Alabama becomes the only place where “authentic” Catholics are taught and worship, then please let the Vatican know – they will want to move there.

  • kirk

    In every faith there are those on the far right, extremists and militant. Some religious militants kill people on Boston streets and in New York buildings. Others use their own extremist views as a whip to keep others in line. I hardly think the pope’s washing the feet of a woman was a sin as you claim – but a sign of a humble shepherd of our Catholic faith – that’s what makes us love him so much.
    When you pray for the Pope, do you want him to learn rules from you, or do you want to learn humility from him?

  • Peter Nyikos

    Fortunately, I read the blog of a canon lawyer before reading this reply of yours, Brother Andre, and his reply to this issue is far more nuanced than yours:

    The argument you make about sacramental simulations being abominations does not prove your point: those “ordinations” were done without the permission of the Church, but that does not mean the Church could not make such ordinations part of Holy Orders in the future.

  • Peter Nyikos

    Oops, I gave you the url to first post on the subject to Edward Peters’s blog, rather than the update to which I had in mind:

  • Peter: Thanks, but I’m afraid you did not read Dr. Peters properly. Whether or not his comments were “more nuanced” than mine is irrelevant. He actually agrees with me. He says, quite clearly:

    “I see no possibility that women will ever be ordained to the diaconate. The ceremonies that one sees from time to time purporting to be such ordinations are, first, of zero sacramental effect in the Catholic Church…” and “I grounded my opposition to female deacons in sacramental theology, not on canon law…”.

    The “abominations” argument I offered was not mine, but that of a Catholic theologian of great repute, Msgr. Joseph Pohle.

    You write as if Dr. Peters’ arguments against female deacons is based upon canon law, when, in fact, he says quite clearly that canon law is NOT the basis of his opposition to it.

  • Peter Nyikos

    Brother Andre, I think this is an issue on which we could respectfully agree to disagree. Dr. Peters did indeed agree with you except in one respect: he said that he, personally, could see no possibility that women deacons will be ordained, while you flatly claimed that they will never be.

    I on the other hand feel that the main reasons that women cannot become priests — the fact that a priest can, during Mass, pronounce the words of Transubstantination, and that he can forgive sins in the confessional and in the administration of the Sacrament of the Sick– do not apply to them being barred from the diaconate. After all, these sacraments cannot be validly administered by deacons either. On the other hand, women can baptize in case of emergencies, and they are co-administrators with their husbands and the priest of Matrimony. So I don’t see why sacramental theology has the final say on this matter.

  • Peter: We do disagree indeed.

    When traditional sacramental theology, perennial Church discipline, and a 2,000 year a Catholic sensus fidelium are not enough to maintain the truth in a matter of grave doctrinal importance such as this, that is when the Magisterium prudentially intervenes, as Blessed John Paul II did in the case of the male-only priesthood.

    I trust that both of us are such Catholic men who would accept the definitive judgment of the Church.


  • Peter Nyikos

    My bubble is still intact. Canon 1024 is a rule that could be changed for serious enough reasons. That is why Ed Peters, a canon lawyer who has participated elsewhere in these comments, relies on sacramental theology rather than canon law for his belief that women deacons will never come to pass in the Catholic Church:

  • Peter Nyikos

    I think you are both mistaking strenuous but still respectful comments for rage. Making mountains out of molehills, in other words.

  • mom210

    I found this to be very helpful and which clarifies my confusion about the author’s assertion that deacons do not share in the order of priesthood. They actually do, and just function differently than priests, who by the way also function differently than a bishop. No one would say that a priest does not share in the order of priesthood because he cannot ordain or confirm on his own authority.

  • SMC_BC

    Ordination is strickly for men. There will never be women priests nor will there ever be women deacons. It is dogma, it can’t be changed. Ever.

    Even Holy Scripture is clear:

    The office of deacon was created in Acts 6:3 “brethren, select from among you seven MEN of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.”

    1 Timothy 3:8-13, “Let the deacons be the HUSBANDS of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well”

    In the early Church, women referred to as deaconesses (Romans 16:1) dealt with things like women’s adult Baptisms (At the time Baptism was done in the nude). These women were part of the laity and had different jobs than those of deacons. As sex-specific roles disappeared so did the job of deaconess.

    And there’s something about it in the


  • Micha_Elyi

    Where in Scripture does it say Scripture is the only authority?

    Try again.

  • Micha_Elyi

    What’s the difference between flammable and inflammable? One can catch fire and the other… what?

    What’s the difference between inflammable and non-flammable?

  • snowbody

    Such a poor choice of words mentioning “tea leaves”. My Protestant friends in Christ have already pointed out the you never mention “tea leaves” and the Church and appeared totally turned off to the entire discussion because of the expression used. I don’t think the points being made here were even considered as “tea leaves” and ouija boards and horoscopes are not from God.and the posting was hence lumped into a category of ungodly and not worth even reading. I know the Roman Catholic Church teaches palm reading, horoscopes, etc. are not from God, so ….. WHY use a fortune telling expression that will alienate people from the “get go”?

  • Guest.too

    Thank you Cricket
    However, you mention in yours that Protestant churches have no “dogma” – and basically, this is incorrect. Dogma is defined as, “An official system of principles or tenets of faith, morals and behavior…” And there comes the rub because 99% of Protestant churches have all these elements, and each one is separate from all the others because of their own interpretation, usually of Scripture. That is what happens when a particular church separates from the others – individuals rarely see eye to eye in that interpretation, and when it becomes more polarized, a circle of people break off and form another entity – over 30,000 of them – but each entity has its own dogma. (kirk)

  • Guest.too

    Johnny- I responded to yours a few days ago as “kirk” and then was surprised that after i posted on a CNN column as “Guest.too” it became a permanant fixture everywhere. So, i continue with a few questions. Forgive me if i hit a nerve, that is not my intent – i just want to understand. 1) In my last comment, I asked about your statement of the “Earthly signs of the Church’s holiness” What did i say that offended you? In addition to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, are we to include judging one another? 2) “Dispense with the Church” you say? Where did i dispense with the Church?
    Please explain to me what gave you the idea that i am Protestant, (I am not), and why do you think i am trying to dispense with the Church? I dearly love this Catholic Church, but i DON’T do as many of these responders do – base my faith on the opinions and judgemental observations expressed on this column

  • Guest.too

    Isabel- It is not my intention to criticize you, but I would like to point out that we do not have “alter girls, or “alter boys” as if their gender was interchangeable. The meaning of “alter” is like a changeable identity. You are speaking here of “altar girls ” and “altar boys.” Additionally, the “table” on which the priest makes present the body and blood of Jesus is an “Altar” – not an alter. An Altar can never be an alter – that is the former cannot be used for any other purpose, but an alter can.
    That is why we call them “altar” boys and girls, because they assist the priest at the “altar.”

  • Guest.too

    “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” So, all of you who will leave the Church – where will you go? Will you lose your faith in God completely and become agnostics because you cannot force the whole of of this Body of Christ to adhere to your rules? Rules that were imposed for a period of time for some reason, but were NOT spoken ex-cathedra (that which we must believe to be Catholic)? Will you leave the Church because the Pope washed the feet of a woman? Or, because women don’t wear a scarf to Mass, or because you think someone has not observed a 3hour fast before receiving communion? Or, because (gasp) a woman deacon?

    Maybe you can start a new trend. In addition to the 30,000 plus Protestant denominations, there could be 30,000 eventual Catholic Churches. What will that do for the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic” Church?

    I beg you, think deeply about this – it concerns your salvation!

  • cricket5509

    Well I don’t disagree with you about some of their morals, faith and behavior. The Protestant churches are different. I too use to be protestant, and when I turned 18 I became Catholic, because I didn’t agree with them. I know we all love the Lord. That’s plain to see. I’ve been Catholic over 20 yrs since I was a teenager. Went to many different Protestant churches and left them for something better. My daddy was Catholic, but my mother was not.I raised my son Catholic. From what some of the Protestants believes it’s way out in left field. I am knocking any Protestant church, even if I seem to be (forgive me if I am). From a lot of my Protestant friends tell me they do make up their own rules as they go. How many time have they rewrote the King James Bible. Many times. And I know that Protestant means, to protest. And yes, most individuals don’t see eye to eye in that case. I once had a Baptist preacher who came in my house just to talk to me and my husband (and I agreed to let him come fro a friend who was Babptist) that I was going to hell if I don’t become Baptist. And I told him to leave and get out of my house. He had no right to say that to me. That was many years ago. And like I said I have went to many other Protestant churches and heard other way out of this world stuff which I did not think was right and didn’t go back. I use to go to church with some of my Protestant friends, but don’t anymore and they won’t go to my church either. Actually, they never did come to mine. My sister is Protestant and she could tell you some tales of what some of these Protestant churches do. But, I won’t go into that. That is another story. But, each to their own. Why did you change if this offends you? Not trying to be rude or anything, ok? I understand what you are trying to tell me, but I sense you being a little offensive. Anyway, didn’t to do that.
    Catholics. They made that clear during the King James times.

  • Guest.too

    Cricket- Believe me when i say i had no intent to be offensive or defensive. It was just conversation. It is so hard to relay intent in these emails. I grew up in a single Protestant denomination and went to a college of the same church. But, i studied comparative religions among other subjects including Scripture and theology, so was aware of many of the differences among Protestant churches. I was 30 before being confronted with the Catholic side and was amazed that most of what i had previously learned about Catholics was untrue.

    My conversion story has been published in the Coming Home Network (conversion stories – January 2012) if you’re interested in reading it. There are many wonderful stories from people who became Catholic in the CHN newsletters – most of them more amazing than mine. it’s good reading. (kirk)

  • Guest.too

    Wonderful! A bit of sanity on the subject. The altar girls i’ve seen are very spiritual, and are grateful to be included in this ministry.

  • cricket5509

    I didn’t say you were offensive or defensive. I thought I said I wasn’t trying to offend you. At least is what I intended to say if I didn’t. Yes it is just conversation. Didn’t study religion. I too know about a lot of different churches. I went to them til I found the right one for me. Wasn’t judging them. Just found they were not for me, that’s all.Thanks for the website. I will check it out and read the stories. My mother made us go to this Protestant church that I dearly hated going to and like I said when I got 18 I change over to Catholic. I use to cry when I was young because I didn’t want to go to this church. I love the Catholic Church. It is so peaceful and calm and such a feeling of God’s love there. My second husband is Catholic also and when we met and I went through an annulment through the church for my first marriage and we were married in the Catholic church in Louisiana and then we moved to Texas. And by the way, I am very glad you got to study religion. God Bless you and take care.

  • cricket5509

    I agree Brother Andre’ .

  • LisaS

    This is a terrible article, full of speculation. Should we be reading tea leaves? Even metaphorically? What is the goal? It is not to encourage people in their faith

  • “Bishop of Rome”? I’m beginning to become exasperated by all this gee-whiz-little-ol’-me Joe Humble stuff. If Cdl. Bergoglio didn’t want to be the Supreme Pontiff, he ought to have refused the office.

  • DelawareMom

    What you say is so true. Then what would we be? Sounds like the Anglican Church.

  • DelawareMom

    The fact that you find fault with him makes me believe this article all the more.

  • DelawareMom

    Thank you for defending Fr. Guarnizo. I wish we had many more priests just like him. I wonder whatever happened to him.


    “As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis, then Cardinal Bergoglio, in a book ON HEAVEN AND EARTH, which recorded his conversations with a rabbi said, celibacy “is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change.” He further noted that this discussion is often brought about by “pragmatism”, based on the loss of manpower and perhaps cultural reasons.”

    I agree with the Pope. I believe celibacy should continue, for manpower reasons. First a married pastor would require a bigger budget on the part of the church. Where will the funds come from? What if a scenario where the parishioners tell the priest, “I pay you, you listen to me!” How effective will the church’s control be then? I live in a multi-racial and multi-religious country and have seen the clergy of other religions as well as other Christian denomination. Being a minority in this country, the Christian community is fragmented by denominational protestant as well Evangelical churches. There are hundreds of Evangelical churches run by pastor who have to support their families. Most of them resort to stealing from bigger more established mainstream protestant churches to keep the membership stable, therefore keeping is or her income stream steady. Most have even turned their churches into family owned business, investing in property, setting up educational institutions etc. Right now in Singapore, one of its homegrown Megachurches, City Harvest, is embroiled in a financial scandal involving the pastor and his wife. Its going to be a disaster in places where the economic condition of the community is challenged by nature as well as by design(state or societal discrimination). Think how will the community support a pastor’s family in 3rd world countries. Yes, there are European countries like Belgium, which provide stipends for clergy members. But vast majority of Catholics aren’t living in Europe or America. Before we decide to do away with celibacy, its worth studying the impact on the church in major mission’s grounds.

  • James P. Breslin

    Peter was married.

  • jameslindabreslin

    Was Peter wrong to be married?

  • Michelle Marie Allen

    The earliest clear mention of a female deacon by Paul (58 AD) is in his Letter to the Romans 16:1 when he says: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is the deacon of the church at Cenchreae.” The original Greek says: οὖσαν διάκονον, ousan diakonon, being [the] [female] deacon of the church at Cenchreae. Many scholars agree that the phrase denotes ‘an official title of a permanent ministry’, documenting the existence of a female diaconate.[15]

    A reference to the qualifications required of these female deacons appears Paul’s first letter to Timothy, I Tim 3:8–13:

    Need I say more ? If so direct your attention to aforesaid verses in the “The New American Bible, St. Joseph edition”

    Pax vobiscum

  • Yes, Michelle, you need say one thing more: that the female diaconate, whatever its nature and functions, had nothing to do with the sacrament of Holy Orders, because that is the constant tradition of Jesus Christ’s infallible Church, with not the slightest variation.

  • Francisco Gallego

    You are so right! Priesthood or becoming a nun is one vocation, married life is another. Both demand complete dedication.

  • Michelle Marie Allen

    The Fourth Ecumenical Council held in 451 AD also known as “The Council of Chalcedon” shows that women were acknowledged as deaconesses.

    “In the fifteenth session (31 October) the council adopted and approved twenty-eight disciplinary canons.The fifteenth decreed that no deaconess should be ordained below the age of forty; and no person once ordained a deaconess was allowed to leave that state and marry.”

    Please Brother Andre, tell me why the change of heart in Mother Church ? I do believe that women SHOULD NOT be priests although why were they recognized as deaconesses in 451 AD ?

    Female laity currently are Eucharistic Minsters, Lecterns as well as altar servers. Please again I ask “why” ?

    I am not a feminist. I love being a woman in every sense of the word. My brother-in-law is going into his 4th year of becoming a deacon. Guess what ? His wife, my sister, has been with him every step of the way by attending ALL classes, retreats, etc. which are mandated by the Diocese. My sister is a very devout Catholic and has no desire to take the glory away from her husband being the “deacon” alone. But still in my heart I believe God will and does recognize her piety even if Mother Church at this point in time does not like she use to back in 451 AD.

  • Your reply did not address what I said. We are not talking about the sacrament of Holy Orders here, but of some other office. The Church never changed her heart.

    Consult your same source — (the Catholic Encyclopedia) — for proofs of this. Whatever the office was, it was not sacramental, nor were women ever part of the hierarchy of the Church, which deacons are.

    Arguments from women being allowed to be Eucharistic Ministers, Lectors, etc., carry no weight. Besides the fact that such lay ministers differ from the ordained clergy in kind and not merely in degree, these are anti-traditional anomalies in the history of the Church, which can and ought to be condemned at some point.

    I am glad you are not a feminist. That’s good.

  • Michelle Marie Allen

    Thank you Brother Andre for your quick reply.

    Pax vobiscum

  • You’re welcome, Michelle.

    Et cum spiritu tuo.

  • MountainAngel

    I would find it very sad if women were allowed to become deacons….This is another long slippery road..toward the liberal side of the Church…Where do we the orthodox go? Vatican ll already did enough damage as the liberals have controlled the Church from that point on. There are traditionalists that drive countless miles on Sunday to go to a very spiritual Mass. Will there be no place left in the Church for Orthodoxy. Father Orsi, your words bring me unrest in my spirit.

  • Kay

    It’s very unfortunate — shameful — that some preachers use their position to preach a gospel that promotes self-interestedness. Unfortunately, this happens in Catholic and Protestant churches. Please do not do your Christian brothers and sisters in Protestant churches the dishonor of claiming all of their leaders teach “prosperity gospels.”

  • Kay

    I find the discipline of celibacy beautiful, and it certainly can free up personal and financial resources for ministry. As humans, we are made to be in communion with one another, though. So if celibacy is expected, a strong community needs to be available, I think. Religious orders support the discipline of celibacy by providing nuns and monks with peers. Unfortunately, priests don’t often have much community, which is perhaps even more sorely needed as they confront difficult, draining work ministering to great needs and navigating tricky religious terrain. Perhaps changing the discipline of celibacy isn’t the answer, but if not, how might we provide better support to priests so that they need not do such tremendously important and difficult work without the intimate support a family or a lifelong community might provide?

  • dagor_annon

    And yet… there are many, many, many married priests whose ordination the Church recognizes. You are caught up in your cultural understanding of ‘vocation’. Your devotion to this definition seems to devalue the current married priests’ service to the church. Further, choosing to hold something that IS NOT a matter of dogma AS dogma… is a form of blasphemy.

  • JohnnyVoxx

    I am always reluctant to remind my “separated brothers and sisters” that there is only one Church (because I don’t like hurting people’s feelings). It is not “invisible”. It has an address and a history and a commission from Christ. As for everything else, well, it is just everything else. Thus, it matters to me only what the Church says. Anyone else can do and say anything they like, as they are on their own. I can’t imagine trying to enter the exceedingly narrow gate without at least being a member of the Church Christ founded and receiving its Graces. What a terrifying prospect.

  • Sporky Mulldugger

    It’s anything but heroic work. It’s anything but a life of poverty. If you could see the lavishness of their lifestyles, then you would not argue that their is not enough money to pay for married priests. The money is already there.

  • Aisling

    I think you ought to look to our orthodox brothers and see how they handle married priests. Celibate monks and sisters remain a celibate vocations.

    Being married to an orthodox christian I have come to know many priests, their wives and families and the wives certainly share in the ministries of their husbands, They marriages are therefore strong and full of grace. They do not marry a man who works as a priest, they marry a priest and support his vocation. Your description of problems that would arise are so ‘unpriestly’ and shows a lack of understanding/naivete of what a what kind of vocation a priest and his wife have. It takes a certain kind of woman of faith to marry a man who is a priest.

  • Augusta

    It is odd to say that women cannot be ordained when both women and men were made in God’s image. Since God is a spirit, then we are like God insomuch that we all have souls. St. Mary Magdalene was respected by Jesus, and was honored by being the first to see Him after the Resurrection. On the other hand, He called Simon “Cephas,” which is often translated as rock, but which was also a euphemism for blockhead. He was called this affectionately by Our Lord, because he was so dense. If not for the Jewish sense of patriarchy, Mary would probably have been recognized as a leader in the early Christian Church. Has nothing changed in 2,000 plus years? Must we still follow the practices of the ancient people of the Middle East, that is, Jews who also believed in stoning, burning doves and mammals as sacrifices, separating men from women in sanctuaries, teaching men but not most women to read and write, etc.? It’s time for the Catholic Church to grow up.