Empowering Women in the Church

What role do you see women playing in the Ordinariates?  If there is an Anglican liturgy that preserves Catholic aspects of a traditional Book of Common Prayer liturgy, should altar girls be allowed?  Should women be reading the Scriptures?  Handing out Holy Communion?  Where will women fit in the Ordinariates?  In the Altar Guild and that's it?

Interestingly, Father Z has a post about whether altar girls, and women lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should be allowed in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Mass.  According to Archbishop Burke, the answer is no.

Here's a translation of Burke's words with Father Z's emphases:

The application of these two principles to the cases mentioned leads to the conclusion that neither the service at the altar by persons of the female sex nor the exercise of the lay ministries of lecturer or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion belong to the basic rights of the baptized. Therefore, these recent developments, out of respect for the integrity of the liturgical discipline as contained in the Missale Romanum of 1962, are not to be introduced into the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite. The commentary presents here in an impressive manner that the mutual enrichment of both forms of the Roman rite is only possible if discipline peculiar to each of the two forms is accordingly carefully observed.

I do not want to see altar girls or women lectors during whatever traditional Anglican liturgy is approved by the Holy See.  Why?  Because I believe doing so interferes with the vocation to priestly ministry, which is never going to be open to women in the Catholic Church.  When girls are involved, the boys will stay home.  Ask my 3 1/2 year old grandson, who has already told me via Skype that he does not play with girls.  (Though he does, and one of his favorite programs is Dora the Explorer.)

Of course, there are those who will argue, well Rome allows women lectors, women as EMHCs, so why shouldn't we?  Well, for those Ordinariate parishes that opt for the new translation of the Novus Ordo Roman Missal when that comes into effect, knock yourself out.  But I think the message is confusing to both men and women, and for those of us who wish to carry on with a traditional Anglican-Catholic patrimony.  Let us keep a sound respect for complementarity and let us teach what is really going on in the Eucharist and why a woman can't be a stand-in for Christ.

This week, I covered a conference of the Catholic Women's League, the largest women's group in Canada and a counterpart to the Knights of Columbus.  The keynote speaker addressed the issue of sexual abuse in the Church and called on the members of the audience to be "astounding women of hope" like those the Gospel of Luke records who told the Apostles of Jesus' Resurrection.

The speaker, a little firecracker, a Sister of Charity, a professor emeritus of medical ethics, and a retired pediatrician, spoke at length about clericalism and the special role clergy have had in society as one of the reasons for the priestly sexual abuse crisis.  It was also one reason why abuse was kept secret, she said.  It was a lively talk that called for everyone to draw closer to Jesus and deal with the systemic problems that led to the abuse.  One thing she mentioned was the need to empower women, especially since women are seldom involved in sexual abuse.

I look around, and I see another problem, though.  It's not male privilege or power.  Maybe clericalism was an issue before the Second Vatican Council, but these days, I don't see the priests and bishops having much power at all.  They could pronounce the truths of the faith all they want, but few will pay much attention, or, if they do, it will be to heap scorn and vitriol.  I see many priests and bishops bending over backwards not to be sexist, to be sensitive and affirming.  I see too much empowerment of women and little or no correction of assertive women who may need it.  I see too much of women running the show and at the same time undermining the Church's teaching on Holy Orders and the Eucharist.

There is a great tension in the Catholic Church as people grapple with what seems to be a vocations crisis in many quarters.  It has been met with efforts to professionalize ministry with trained lay people, both women and men, who now do many of the things priests or religious used to do.  When you have ratios like one priest to 1,000 people, there's a problem, but I'm not sure some of the fixes many people have in mind are good ones for the Church.  There is a flattening out, a democratization, that I find troubling.   I like hierarchy and proper authority.

This is not to say I don't have some sympathy for many of my cohorts of a certain age.  We can all remember a time when you could literally not get credit without your father's or your husband's signature, or when gals like me with a good college education were sent to the secretarial pool and it never occurred to anyone to put us in the track to be become licensed account executives.  We experienced some of the downside of patriarchy, where male privilege was assumed and sexism was a real problem in the work place and in the home.  We were groomed to find someone to marry and it did not occur to people that we might want to be professors or doctors or journalists.  Many women in my generation broke through those assumptions — for better or for worse, I don't know — but still see this big "glass ceiling" in the Church.

Today, I see the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction.  Where, when I was growing up, men were automatically privileged, today men are devalued and fatherhood is diminished and even ridiculed in the popular media.  The priesthood is smeared as a haven for pedophiles.  Fathers are chumps.  Women can do without them, even when it comes to raising children.

Look at most churches, even Catholic Churches, and what is the ratio of men to women?  60 women to 40 men?  Lower than that?  Why are men checking out?  Why would they rather play golf or watch TV than go to church?

For many women in my age group, the fact that men are up there at the altar and heading the dioceses and running the Vatican like a male-only club feels like a slap in the face. Some resent the special status men have, when they do a lot of the real work in keeping a parish or a diocese running, but they have none of the real decision-making power or recognition.

I do not want to be a priest.  But I do want to exercise some form of ministry in the priesthood of believers, a concept that for me is still imbued with evangelical connotations involving the exercise of supernatural spiritual gifts such as prophecy, discerning spirits, healing, evangelism and so on.  It doesn't mean the same thing as it means to liberal Catholics, who want the priesthood of believers to be, for example, a democratic force to overturn strictures against artificial contraception or see the priesthood open to women.

So — for the Ordinariates — what role for women?  When women ask to be empowered in the Church, what do they mean?

Your thoughts?

Author: Deborah Gyapong

Deborah Gyapong is a member of the Sodality of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (www.annunciationofthebvm.org) in Ottawa, a former parish of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (Traditional Anglican Communion) whose members were received individually and corporately into the Roman Catholic Church on April 15, 2012 by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast at St. Patrick’s Basilica. Under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, the community will celebrate an approved Anglican Use liturgy and hopes to soon join with other sodalities across Canada to form the Canadian Deanery of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter under Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary. As we wait for our priest(s) to be ordained as Catholic priests, God willing, Archbishop Prendergast will provide priests to celebrate our Sunday Eucharist according to the Anglican Use. Deborah is a journalist who covers religion and politics in Canada’s national capital, writing primarily for Roman Catholic newspapers since 2004. Her novel The Defilers, published in 2006, was not a best seller, alas. She spent 17 years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in news and current affairs, including 12 years as a television producer.

62 thoughts on “Empowering Women in the Church”

  1. Deborah,

    None of us "fellas" could have said any of these things and "gotten away" with it (people today think we're just "sexist" rather than faithful Catholics). It has more impact coming from you; good words!

  2. I think in England most of us would regard women reading lessons and leading intercessions at Mass as entirely proper and usual, even in the 'Prayer Book' tradition. We have several licensed readers who are women and it has been necessary to explain to them that, though women are not formally admitted as acolytes and lectors in the Catholic Church (these ministries being formally, at present, limited in practice to seminarians, if I am not mistaken), there is a valuable ministry therein nonetheless. Similarly, I think if we had no women extraordinary ministers of the eucharist, quite a bit of our ministry to the housebound and those in residential care would be imperilled.

    The point made by Deborah about serving at the altar is an important one. There has always been a link between encouraging youngsters to take an active part in the liturgy and the flowering of vocations to the sacred ministry. I think there is a good argument therefore for limiting formal liturgical serving to boys – and making sure older men give proper space for boys to do this. If girls and women welcome,. sing, read, teach, distribute Holy Communion, assist in administration and pastoral care, complementarity is safeguarded. I am old enough to remember when the gruff greeting of sidesmen, thrusting a hymnbook and prayer book into your hand at the door, was replaced by the welcome ministry of women, greeting people, putting them at ease, and enquiring after their cares and needs. This is a slight stereotype but most would know what I'm referring to.

    Where 'Anglican Patrimony' diverges from Catholic teaching in England is the use of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. There are Anglo-catholic churches where lay people distribute Holy Communion whilst there are priests present who could have been asked to. I suspect this practice is misguided except where the missiological point is being made that these ministers of the Eucharist are at work equally in the homes and hospitals as well as the sanctuaries.

    My own view is that the worldwide ministry of women as catechists, extraordinary eucharistic ministers, and pastoral workers, though informal, needs to develop further, outside the framework of Holy Order, and that this development in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions has been discouraged – effectively impeded – by the admission of women to Holy Order in the Anglican and Reformed traditions. It has always been my view that the improper development in the latter has harmed the proper development in the former. If that is true, the godly development of women's ministry has been prevented, rather than enabled, by feminism. There's a thought.

    + Andrew

  3. I am old enough to remember the days of women's ministry in the 'Order of Deaconesses' (both secular and community) when a woman was trained in many aspects of ministry, and in those days helped at the Altar in the distribution of Holy Communion. Though not ordained, they were set aside for this ministry by the bishop. I also remember when women joined the Church Army and were commissioned as Evangelists by the bishop, again they worked in parishes and helped in all aspects of parish work, including distribution of Holy Communion. Both men and women looked to these women as being sanctioned by the Church to offer, comfort, counsel and direction in individuals spiritual lives, as well as family welfare work and a host of other types of Parish work.
    Perhaps something like this can be worked on for the future of the Ordinariates, not as second class ministers, but in the 'priesthood of all believers', as first class ministers of the Word, in practice!

  4. I can't remember where I read this unfortunately but a while back there was an Orthodox blogger talking about why men are attracted to Orthodoxy and he concluded it could be expressed in one word: beards. I think he was probably right. Men like leading, women like organising, and they are different things. As to women and sex abuse, doesn't the Sister realise that in every home where a stepfather or uncle, etc, is abusing a child there is a woman? Women cover up. The reason women are not arrested alongside men as accessories is usually just that the poor child still needs someone to go home with. And women in the Catholic Church are not innocent of other kinds of non-sexual (we hope) abuse if we think about the Magdalens in Ireland and how those nuns treated girls and young women. No, saying we need women in the priesthood to avert that kind of thing is just a big red herring: sin is sin and it doesn't balk at gender barriers.

    1. Well, Margaret, beards and even ponytails are for Eastern and Greek and Russian priests. In fact, beards are for Eastern European men, sea captains, Greek priests, and elderly retired Victorian Empire-builders from the 1890s.

      Romans are clean-shaven and resolute! The barbarians (Germans, Macedonians, &c.) wore the beards, not the centurions! Of course, there are exceptions and some men were made to wear beards, while others should never even consider it.!


  5. Fr. Zed got it wrong long ago on this subject, as he gets several things wrong (particularly regarding sacral wording).

    Archbishop Burke's opinion is not a legal finding–yet–but likely will become one. It follows a finding of several weeks ago, this time by the P.C.E.D. that, at the Traditional Latin Mass, Holy Communion must be received on the tongue by kneeling communicants (except when a communicant is unable to kneel or has no tongue [then 'in ora' rather than 'in lingua'] or is a celilac, &c.). (Fr. Zed also got this wrong long ago but there is no need for further comment.)

    These norms (no standing for Communion, no reception in manu, no lay lectors or extraordinary ministers of Communion of either sex, only males in the sanctuary) apply only to the Traditioanl Latin Mass, and this will also obtain when priests of the ordinariates excercise their right to offer Mass according to the Roman Missal of the editio typica of 1962. (It would also apply in the case of Sarum Use Masses.)

    Norms for Masses of any new Anglican-Catholic liturgy will be established by the personal ordinaries, preferably taking due account of Anglican tradition. I imagine that some personal ordinaries could allow reception in manu but by kneeling communicants. However, the ordinariates are also part of the Latin Church and so the personal ordinaries have a right to restrict reception to in lingua, since reception in the hand is an exception in the general law of the Latin Church.

    When ordinariate priests celebrate according to the N.O.M., they will be allowed to follow the norms for that. However, keep in mind that all diocesans (including personal ordinaries) in the Latin Church have a right to restrict service at the Altar to men (as Bishop Bruskewicz has done in the D. of Lincoln) and to forbid Communion in the hand. So the new Anglican ordinaries will have some latitude when it comes to celebration according to the N.O.M. or an Anglican-Catholic liturgy.

    Even when a diocesan allows women to serve at the Altar (in the case of non-T.L.M. and non-Sarum Masses), the celebrant always has a right to allow only males to serve. In other words, the bishop (or p.o. in this case) can allow but not impose female servers. A certain parish of the TAC in Canada includes female servers. To avoid controversy, I do not identify it here. I note that even some Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgies have female servers but this does cause controversy.

    I agree with Mrs. Gyapong that service at the Altar should be reserved to men. This preserves a symbolism by which the servers figure the future of the sacred priesthood. That's why the Italian word for server means 'little cleric' and the Spanish word means 'little monk'.

    The Anglican way of receiving in both kinds is not sanitary with this Hepatitis B floating around. But a reception in both kinds has been discussed, using a form of intinction. The Armenian Catholics have this (using a Roman-like Host) and avoid the Byzantine unpracticality of using a spoon. One way for the ordinariates would be to receive in both kinds by intinction on special occasions (e.g. Easter) and in one kind at other Masses.

    One thing the much-loved incomers will learn is that, for 'Roman's, the Mass is almost the entire thing. Latins can't even imagine fulfilling the Sunday obligation at the Divine Office (while some Eastern Catholics can do this) and Mass every single day was the ideal in the old Irish 'meat and potato' days, not that the standards of the 1950s in, say, Boston, represent a liturgical ideal!


    1. Just curious (and don't have an axe to grind – I receive in one kind, on the tongue), have there been any incidents where the Chalice or the Spoon have been identified as a transmission vector in a disease outbreak, or is it merely a precaution?

      I can't imagine the Precious Blood of Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ actually causing someone harm, however it is received by the faithful. Am I just naive?

      1. Dear Mr. Morris:

        This idea that the Blessed Sacrament prevents transmission of disease is a pious idea and it might be true in particular cases but it not a principle. Every time we open our mouths to receive the Sacrament (or any other food), we also receieve particles of things that are not in the Sacrament itself but in the air. Similarly, while all of the substance of bread and wine are transubstantiated, the substance of germ particles that were on the bread and/or in the wine are not transubstantiated.

        In the Middle Ages for a time, the Precious Blood was received through a metal straw. This was rightly discontinued.


        1. Dear Mr Perkins,

          Thank you for that reply. I shall "ponder all these things in my heart" – while I go on receiving in one kind. :-)

          On the subject of Straws – I have heard of this (I once read that some Orthodox jurisdictions still do this for the priests' Communion). I am also aware that liturgical Spoons have been found in the British Isles, dating from before the 10th Century (there are some on display in Norwich Cathedral, I think). Well, I say "liturgical". Obviously we can't know that for certain, but that they have sometimes been found buried solely with Chalice and Paten would indicate that they were used for Holy Communion. These Spoons are separate, and distinct, from the smaller more utilitarian spoons which have been found alongside other vessels such as cruets and bowls. I wonder if, while receiving in the hand has been verboten since the earliest days, perhaps the method of distributing Holy Communion was not standardised.

          I am still curious about whether Holy Communion has ever been positively identified as a disease vector. I haven't found anything to suggest so, but other may have.

      2. The person who drinks the remains of the precious blood after everyone else has communicated is the priest celebrating, and those men tend to live longer than everyone else.

    2. I note that the A.U. parish of Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio uses intinction regularly for the patrimonial practice of communion in both kinds. The priest, using a special chalice, intincts and then administers 'in ora' to the kneeling communicant.

      In contrast with the very unsanitary practice in many Anglican and Episcopal churches by which the host is delivered into the hand and subsequently dipped by the communicant into a chalice bearing the germs from both the administrant's and the communicant's hands, the Texan patrimonial practice has much to commend it for adoption by the ordinariates.

      1. I appreciate Fr. Phillips's explannation on how he does this. It was very interesting and I think that his method should be standard in the ordinariates when communicants receive in both kinds.. In the Armenian Rite, there are two vessels and the decaon holds the chalice. The priest, holding a ciborium in one hand, intincts about a third of the Roman Host into the chalice, which absorbs it and therefore prevents dripping. This is then administered in lingua.

        Administration in either case by intinction is in lingua, not in ora. The communicant does extend the tongue. In ora reception is used in the Byzantine Rite, in which the communiccant cocks his head back slightly and does not extend the tongue but only opens the mouth for the spoon. The Sacrament is then dropped into the mouth from the spoon.


        1. I didn't see any tongues on the video of the OLA Mass but will take it, err . . . from your lips that it was 'in lingua'. Although, I suppose in this case it would be to take it from your typing fingers.

          1. Extension of the tongue need not mean extension outside the mouth, Peregrinus. In lingua reception means that the tongue is 'presented' receive the Host. The Byzantine Church has 'in ora' reception, in which the head is cocked back and the tongue is retracted, not extended. It is retracted to prevent loss of any of the Precious Blood.


      2. J.M.J.

        "…intinction regularly for the patrimonial practice of communion in both kinds…"

        Either receive in both kinds from the Chalice or receive in one kind with a proper understanding of Concomitance. The Eucharist received from Intinction is not more complete or "better" than having only received the consecrated host.

        St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the whole issue in Summa, 3rd part Question 80, Article 12:

        Article 12. Whether it is lawful to receive the body of Christ without the blood?

        I answer that, Two points should be observed regarding the use of this sacrament, one on the part of the sacrament, the other on the part of the recipients; on the part of the sacrament it is proper for both the body and the blood to be received, since the perfection of the sacrament lies in both, and consequently, since it is the priest's duty both to consecrate and finish the sacrament, he ought on no account to receive Christ's body without the blood.

        But on the part of the recipient the greatest reverence and caution are called for, lest anything happen which is unworthy of so great a mystery. Now this could especially happen in receiving the blood, for, if incautiously handled, it might easily be spilt. And because the multitude of the Christian people increased, in which there are old, young, and children, some of whom have not enough discretion to observe due caution in using this sacrament, on that account it is a prudent custom in some churches for the blood not to be offered to the reception of the people, but to be received by the priest alone.

    3. Thank you for pointing this out. Fr. Zed frequently holds himself up as infallible. I've known for a long time that he is not. I'm glad someone else can recognize it as well. (There also seems to be a rather ugly streak of misogyny there as well…)

      1. Yes, but we dare not contradict infallible priests! He got the matter of sacral wording completely wrong and he posts translations of liturgical texts in non-sacral wording and mislabels them as 'literal' as if to suggest that sacral wording is somehow not literal. So he does not know what the word 'literal' means. Like many people, he also wrongly regards sacral wording as 'archaic'. Yes, its forms are archaic in GENERAL USE, but not in the specialised liturgical use. In liturgical use, sacral forms of English are current, NOT archaic.

        I only go into his site now to find listings of Latin Masses. One can only admire so many pictures of birdies and of plates of spaghetti. I love cats and have no use for birds. I'm thinking of releasing a few tomcats into his garden . . . .


        1. If anyone snipes it is Father Zed, who belittles and demeans anyone with whom he disagrees (e.g. calling the NY Times "Hell's Bible" for reporting on the clerical abuse scandal; particularly "ugly" personal attacks on Maureen Dowd). Again, he is the one who presents himself as an authority on What the Prayer REALLY says, and does not allow any dissent. I get tired of birds and spaghetti, but particularly of the constant pleading for money. Pathetic! (And this *is* me being charitable!)

  6. … at the Traditional Latin Mass, Holy Communion must be received on the tongue. That "must" seems quite alien to this Anglican. Behind it there is a whole foreign notion of legality that is fast taking over the whole of life in England; a pity if our church has to follow suit.

    1. How right you are! Once we have a culture of forbidding this or that because it is less good, instead of explaining why the better is better, and persuading the usually well-motivated to adopt it, we end up with a culture in which if anyone questions the status quo, they are simply told that this is the law, to be obeyed, and they never understand why. As I recall, the only commandment our Lord is recorded as giving is that we love one another. Every other commandment of the Church (and there must be such) is at the service of this primary commandment.

      1. …then there will be a LOT of Anglicans who have sought "safe haven" in the "Barque of Peter" only to discover complete misery. "Must" is alien to the Anglican ethos, but it's hardwired into (Roman) Catholicism. I sense a huge mess. Oh, but there won't be wimmen priests, so I guess it's okay!

  7. That the modern Roman Church permits and blesses female acolytes and "extraordinary" ministers is a massive departure from almost 2000 years of tradition that the sanctuary – the altar is NOT the place for women. Nor is it tradition for women to lead prayers except in religious communities.

    The Novus custom of extraordinary ministers should be reserved for appointed acolytes, theological students and not for laymen. Do these extraordinary ministers perform appropriate ablutions before after handling the Body and Blood of Christ?

    The lack of genuflection to the Blessed Sacrament, the lack of prayerful physical gestures – kneeling, the reduction of the sign of the cross in the liturgy all has been influenced by the Novus Ordo culture and laity in the sanctuary – especially women has reduced the reverence, the sense of Mystery and awe that should be felt by believers in the temple of God.

    Evangelical Anglican customs relating to Church Army women should have no place in the Church today. Look to the Orthodox Church if you want to see appropriate reverence in churches, and deep and profound respect for the sanctuary.

  8. From the RC Traditionalist perspective:


    Allowing unconsecrated hands to handle the Holy Communion during the Novus Ordo (Ordinary Rite) Mass is a very recent development in the Church. On closer examination, the promotion of this seemingly innocuous practice is generally a component of a larger agenda.

    A good case can be made that the Holy Spirit has taught us that awareness of and the resulting reverence for the Body of Christ must be expressed in tangible ways. Here is St. Thomas Aquinas on this subject, from his Summa, Part 3, Question 82, Article 3:

    "… Thirdly, because out of reverence towards this sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands, for touching this sacrament. Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it except from necessity, for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency."

    Now, contrast this with the opinions of Martin Bucer on this subject, and I think it'll become apparent that here we have two divergent paths.

    1. The consecrated species is/are going into the communicant's mouth. Is the mouth holier than the hand?
      "A very recent development" – who said, "Make your left hand a throne for the right" etc? I can't remember, but it wasn't recent. In any case, communion in the hand has been the custom in the C of E for centuries, so we should not feel too self-conscious about it.

      1. St Cyril of Jerusalem (d.387), Catechetical Lecture 23, par. 21. (Though the last five lectures "On the Mysteries", of which this is one, may in fact be by his successor, John II (d.417).)

      2. While I favour what Bishop Burnham is saying here and, as a Latin, would like to see the ordinariates ban Communion in manu, I point out that the Roman legalism that Black Sambo complains about may actually help his preferences.

        Communion in the hand is traditional in the Anglican practice and it is allowed as an exception to a norm in the N.O.M. I think it likely that the Pope will allow the personal ordinaries to retain it, although, in the case of the ordinariates, it will be to communicants who are kneeling, not standing. In fact, as things now stand, the Church will be allowing the personal ordinaries to decide this matter except when their priests offer the T.L.M. or Sarum Use Mass.

        Remember that A.C. wishes to respect an Anglican patrimony.

        By the way, while handling of the Sacred Host is *normally* reserved to priests whose hands are consecrated for this., there have always been two exceptions. In seminaires, deacons used to distribute Holy Communion, and deacons can also place the Host into the lunette in the monstrance. Deacons' hands are not consecrated.

        At a certain church in my city, a laic removes the Host from the monstrance after exposition. For this reaons, I will not attend. There should be some limits. I think it at least conceivable for deacons to distribute Holy Communion when there are too few priests to do this in a timely way. But laics should not be allowed to do it, whether they are male or females: sex has nothing to do with it.


        1. In Australia in Roman Churches 95% of people receive Holy Communion in the hand – no genuflection before or afetr, often no sign of the cross, often administered by female laity also called "special" ministers.

      3. From the RC Traditionalist perspective:


        The "consecrated hand – unconsecrated mouth" argument seems to go too far, and appears to be a species of an attempted "reductio ad absurdum" thinking. Please notice that the Dumb Ox didn't go this far – far from it, he allowed for reasonable exceptions.

        This is simply one of the ancient disciplines in the RC Traditional world, one that we hold dear, because it promotes due reverence for our Lord.

        However, it is not negotiable. Neither should it become a point of contention among us.

  9. I had coffee this week with a woman who is an elder in the Baptist Church I used to attend. She regularly leads prayer in that congregation, and to this day, if I got a scary diagnosis, she might be among the first people I would call to pray for me. She has a way of exercising that kind of leadership in a way that does nothing to diminish her femininity. She has a gift of faith and great confidence in the Lord, so that she is able to raise up a distressed person to that supernatural peace rather than drop down in sympathy and make the problem worse thereby.

    She has a healing gift—once I had a headache and asked for some aspirin–she said she didn't have any, but asked if she could pray for me. She laid hands on me and the Spirit poured through her hands like warm honey and my headache went away. She also does nothing to usurp or undermine the authority of the pastors, which is why there is so much trust put in her.

    There is a complementary way of being a leader for women that does not mean becoming like a man and there are ways for men to be tender and to connect with people that do not mean becoming like a woman. One of the reasons why gay men are so attractive, especially to women, is that many of them connect really well, they are more attuned to people's emotional states than the typical man and more emotionally available. Most of us are so desperate for a sense of connection that we can mistake that personal warmth for the Holy Spirit.

    There was also an Anglican priestess in an charismatic Anglican Church here in Ottawa that I used to call Father Jennifer affectionately because she really prayed a beautiful liturgy. But again, that Anglican Church was not big on a sacramental understanding of the priesthood, Apostolic Succession and such.

    In a sacramental church, there needs to be an inner and outer congruence. At the same time, though, I do think that the release of women's and lay men's gifts in the Catholic Church needs to be better thought and lived out.


  10. Regarding the "new" minor orders, aka ministries of lector and acolyte/subdeacon in the Catholic Church, that only seminarians generally are instituted into these ministries is de facto, not de jure. The clear intention of Pope Paul VI's letter Ministeriam Quaedam was that these two ministries be promoted and used in the parishes. I suspect that they have not because they are not open to women, and bishops won't establish them in the parishes because of a fear of backlash. And so, seminarians are instituted, because it is required, but few others. This should be changed, and trained laymen instituted and widely employed in the parishes.

    As for deaconesses, I know that the short-lived revival in the Anglican Churches included having them distribute communion, but this was a great error and an instance of the camel getting his nose under the tent; deaconesses in the ancient church did not distribute communion, only deacons did that. Their institution was to service in the community and only in the case of female baptisms was their service liturgical, since in some areas baptisms were done in the nude and it was unseemly for the bishops and deacons to be administering the rite to nude women. They were deputed to bring communion to women who lived without men, again for the sake of propriety.

    I did have to laugh at Deborah's saying that "When you have ratios like one priest to 1,000 people, there's a problem"; I know Anglican parishes are usually smaller, but any Roman Rite priest would think he was on vacation if his parish were that small!

  11. Yes, well done.

    It's not heresy but this long attempt to soft-sell WO ought to be cleaned up. It gave me huge cognitive dissonance when I first saw it nearly 30 years ago. The Orthodox do fine without it.

  12. Re Deborah's question, — has anyone read John Paul II's Apostolic Letter 'Mulieris dignitatem' on the dignity and vocation of women?

    1. I have been away from my Anglo Catholic parish for many years and now attend a traditional Catholic parish which offeres both the TLM and OF.

      We kneel at the altar rail and I have only seen one or two people receive standing and in the hand. That was two years ago.

      At my Anglo Catholic parish yes some received in the hand, but most received on the tongue.

      At my current parish there are no women, girls etc. serving or reading the lessons.

      If one were to go on Catholic websites they would see the frustration of many Catholics over both of these issues. Many don't want either women or men distributing the Holy Communion.

      Why as Anglicans going into the Catholic Church would we want to simply follow what they do at the OF Mass? I never saw anyone at my Anglo Catholic parish take the Host and dip it in the chalice, the priest would pick it up and dip it and put it on the tongue of the person.

      Of couse this is just my thought, but I think that the Anglo Catholics in England wanted to be thought of as Catholics to such a degree that, that is why they adopted the OF/Novus Ordo form. Please correct me if there is another reason to do away with the Anglican form of the liturgy.

      I still remember the saying that "Anglo Catholics are more Catholic than Catholics". Now that the Latin Rite use of the OF liturgy is having more and more of a backlash from the laity and even priests who want to return to the reverence they once had (most of these are Catholics that never attended a TLM) why would an Anglican Use Mass want less of the previous traditions that I recall in my former parish.

      In my opinion your playing with fire letting woman serve on the altar, I have seen the problems it imposes on parishes. The priest in some instances just sit in a chair and the women do the readings and distribute the Communion. While there are hundrends of men and boys in the pews. If you have watched the OLA video there appears to be between 300-500 people receiving and only the priest and deacon distributes it. While in some Catholics parishes they need 5 or 6 extraordinary ministers to help because they say it would cause problems and take forever.

        1. It is called intinction and has been a practice in Anglo Catholic parishes for years. A priest is the one who does it. In many Catholic parishes it is the laity receiving who does it when receiving from an extraordinary minister. There is a hugh difference.

          1. J.M.J.

            The biggest problem I see with intinction is a total lack of substantative reason for the practice.

            It seems to me that anyone insisting upon intinction likely does not understand concomitance.

            Would it not be better to teach what that is, and then if people don't wish to receive the Precious Blood, then simply receive in one kind.


          2. Dom Gregory Dix on intinction:

            "In the West various expedients were tried. Intinction appeared sporadically in Spain in the 7th century, but did not meet with much favour. the Council of Braga (A.D. 675) denounced it as an imitation of Judas, who a the Last supper recieved a "sop" (a jibe which was frequently repeated in the course of the next three centuries) and ordered the two species to be received separately again.

            In other places it became the custom in the 9th century to place the Bread in the communicant's mouth (this ultimately became universal in the West) and to give communion from the chalice by means of a metal tube, the fistula (now used only in the papal Mass). But intinction gradually made its way, especially in Gaul and the Rhineland, as one method of administering communion to the laity at the Eucharist; and this remained customary in many places from the 10th to the 12th centuries. yet practice in this matter varied considerably from place to place even in Gaul, and it was not as a rule very favourably regarded outside Gaul. Rome pronounced against it, and ordered the two kinds to be received separately, but this did not end the practice. In England in Anglo-Saxon times communion was given under both kinds separately. The fistula was in use in some churches, and this continued after the Conquest in some places. But many Normans were accustomed to intinction, and Ernulf, bishop of Rochester (1114-24) argued very sensibly in its favour. (He takes notice of the accidental irreverences caused by beards and moustaches, and other practical difficulties in the direct ministration of the chalice.) In an age when lay communions were deplorably rare, its practical inconvenience seemed to him more tolerable than the risks of accidental irreverence attendant upon the direct use of the chalice. But Ernulf was an "imported man," a Norman by birth and training. As the native English tradition reasserted itself over the new French ways, England slowly swung against the practice. Robert Pullen, the first great Oxford theologian, denounced the practice, repeating the remark of the Council of Braga about the "sop" of Judas. The custom was finally forbidden throughout England by the Council of Westminster in 1175.

            (Later) … communion under both kinds gradually disappeared in most places during the 13th century. In England it was formally abolished by the Council of Lambeth in A.D. 1281."

            from: *A Detection of Aumbries,* pp. 14-16.

        2. Sambo:

          Armenian Catholics and some Anglican Use Catholics receive by intinction of a Roman-like Host in the Chalice. They will be brothers in Christ to the incoming Anglicans. And you are saying that their practice is an abomination? Please retract this statement or apologise to Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmoui of Cilicia and to Fr. Christopher Phillips.


          1. Sorry, I was being imprecise. By "dipping" I meant the communicant himself taking the host between finger & thumb and dipping it in the chalice, probably to with the intention of avoiding some infection. To give the C of E bishops their due, they did try to stop the practice, but it is becoming rife. I certainly apologize to the Patriarch & Fr Phillips if I temporarily unsettled them.

            1. Fair enough, Little Sambo, I, Patriarch Peter, accept this explanation. I never thought of the case of self-administering Holy Communion. It's a horrifying idea, so I agree with you there.

              Someone here mentions how understanding concomitance is better than insistence on both kinds. It's a good point. But some incomers will argue that they are simply used to both kinds and are not insisting on this for theological reasons; it has become their custom and nothing more.

              A practical compromise for the ordinariates might be intinction (using Fr. Phillips's practical method) on special occasions (e.g. Easter) and recetpion in one kind the rest of the time. If people are usually receiving in one kind, there will be no sense of a necessity for both kinds; and yet a custom of sometimes receiving under both species can also be maintained. The Pope wants the ordinariates to respect the Anglican patrimony too.

              In closing, such a compromise would greatly limit instances of spillage of the Precious Blood.


  13. Deborah: I really do think one of the problems with married Bishops is this. How could Rowan with Jane breathing down his neck (and its not just them, it's all the bishops in the Cof E) say to her: no, darling, women just can't become bishops. Jane knows perfectly well that she and her friends could 'run' the church just as well as Rowan and Co. The problem is the way that we have come to view priesthood as a sort of religious 'leadership'. We women know that women are better at EVERYTHING than men, so why not this? It will take a lot of re-thinking. My personal view is that we women in the Catholic Church, together with our sisters in the Ordinariates, need to re-build strong relations with consecrated women (nuns!). It's absurd that this aspect of the Church has been neglected. Traditionally nuns and the local convents used to be the friends, helpers and spiritual powers for lay women until their status as brides of Christ (the nuns I mean!) was demoted to 'priests in waiting' or administrators. Similarly, the lay women helped and protected the nuns. Many traditional orders of nuns are now growing again with new vocations in the US and Europe. What about nuns in the Ordinariates? And what about the lay women who could help them in their vocations? Can we not find our way back to the old friendship and spiritual support which existed between nuns and their lay sisters in the past?

  14. Yes, yes, I know: nuns are, acc. to canon law, laypersons. But I'm trying to get to an aspect of spiritual life and its transmission which has been neglected. Sp life is not only about 'empowerment'. Many nuns are masters (sic) of the art of spiritual life. They have been sniffed at by lay women for too long. Also sniffed at by some of the clergy.

    1. Katie,

      I think it's important not to confuse nuns, who are contemplatives living under papal cloister and are very rare in most of the world, with sisters, whose vocation is inherently active. Anyone, priest or lay, sniffs at a nun at the peril of his soul and maybe his body as well. My sisters the nuns are amazing women.

  15. All very true about beards and clean-shaven Romans, P.K.T.P., but I suspect the Orthodox blogger was saying that beards are shorthand for "men belong here". You Westerners will have to find your own :)

  16. Now children, play nice. Things seem to be getting over heated and looking like another Anglican Schism in the making! I don't know why this causing such an uproar as it will all be sorted out by Rome. Some of you are sounding like the playground kids who want to play but only by 'my' rules ie. Anglicans telling Rome what they will do or take their ball and go home.
    I think you all need to take a step back and breath.

    1. You don't think there's some of this already going on? If groups wanted to convert to Roman Catholicism they'd do so. Instead, they've held out, insisting on liturgical peculiarities and formularities. Or worse, they've held on until they bemoan that they aren't leaving the church, the church is leaving them. One cannot be a Roman Catholic and an Anglican at the same time. Despite what some Anglo-Catholics have claimed. If one wants to be Anglican, be Anglican. If one wants to be Catholic, then become Catholic….accepting EVERYTHING that the Church teaches (including the status of Anglican orders as "utterly void and absolutely null," the primacy of the Pope, no longer relying on Hooker's three legged stool, the force of Humanae Vitae and the whole lot…)

      I hope someone who is good with statistics will note how many swim the Tiber, only to swim back in the other direction. How many will descend into further division and schism (Protestantism writ LARGE) when they find that Rome is not the shining city on the hill they seem to think it is!

      The many conversions of Bishop Clarence Pope might be instructive here. When he didn't get what he wanted, he went back to the Episcopal Church, playing one church against the other. This is a true mockery of conversion if I've ever seen one!

      1. J.M.J.

        Paterian wrote:

        "…If groups wanted to convert to Roman Catholicism they'd do so. Instead, they've held out…"

        Those committed to Anglicanorum Coetibus are more than ready to go just as soon as the Ordinariate is established.

        Why would we ask for something and then jump ship after our request was granted and before it is in place?


  17. How did a post about the role of women in the church become an off-focus discussion about receiving on the hand/tongue/tincture etc. etc.?

    Why not wait until someone posts about that ?

    How about focusing, too, one what women can do, the positive ways in which we play a role in furthering the Kingdom of God in the Ordinariates?


    1. Well, yeah, that happens sometimes when a bunch of bearded and clean shaven guys gets invited to an afternoon tea – off-focus is a polite way to describe the resulting event. And we usually don't help to clean up the mess either :(

      But seriously, on the role of women in the Church – Divine Mercy Sunday (first Sunday after Easter) was recently promulgated by Pope John Paul II. God chose a woman to get this major feast established, and to explain the need for it via her diary.

  18. Many thanks, Deborah, for this important contribution. The subject is crucial, because I think that the Catholic teaching limiting ordination to males would be far more widely accepted — in this age of greater equality and opportunity for women — if it were clearer that women's roles in the Church could include those not just of service but also of leadership. The archetypal model in the "Anglican Patrimony" is probably St. Hild of Whitby (d.680). Here's a snippet on her career from the Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England:

    During the twenty-three years that Hild was abbess of Whitby [a "double house" with both men and women], the monastery was a focal point for the religious life: it was there that the famous synod on the dating of Easter was held in 664 and the cowherd Caedmon created the first recorded English verse in Old English. According to Bede, Whitby under Hild's guidance was a nursery of bishops: five bishops (Bosa, Aetla, Oftfor, John of Beverley, and Wilfrid II) who had been trained at Whitby were consecrated to English sees. It was also at Whitby in Hild's time that the anonymous Vita S. Gregorii, the earliest life of Pope Gregory the Great, was composed.

    She was obviously a lady of great influence in the Church. And this was not limited only to her role in governing a monastery and educating future bishops. At the 664 Synod of Whitby (and it is surely no coincidence that it was held at her monastery), Bede tells us that in the debate over which dating of Easter was to be followed (the Roman or the Irish), "Abbess Hild and her followers were on the side of the Irish" (Historia ecclesiastica, III. 25). This is not the only example of an early English abbess attending a local synod and evidently participating in its deliberations (for others, see Catherine Cubitt, Anglo-Saxon Church Councils, c.650-c.850, pp. 43-44.)

    Hild was also consulted in matters of secular importance. As Bede relates (HE IV.23):

    So great was her prudence that not only ordinary people but also kings and princes sometimes sought and received counsel when in difficulties.

    In all this, however, there is no confusion between Hild's leadership and influence within the Church and any question of "ordination", though Hild was very concerned that the Church should not lack worthy candidates for the priesthood. As Bede continues:

    She compelled those under her direction to devote so much time to the study of the holy Scriptures and so much time to the performance of good works, so that there might be no difficulty in finding many there who were fitted for holy orders, that is, for the service of the altar.

    Bede goes on to relate the careers of the five bishops trained under Hild, and they are probably included in what he says next, namely that "All who knew Hild, the handmaiden of Christ and abbess, used to call her mother because of her outstanding devotion and grace".

    Now of course, plenty of water has flowed under the bridge since the seventh century, and we are unlikely to yearn for direct imitation. But if there were clear examples of women in the Church today who, without being in Orders, nevertheless had an equally obvious and influential role of leadership and guidance (and such personal holiness that even bishops would naturally address them as Mother), I wonder if those planning to enter the personal ordinariates would have less need to fret about roles for women in the Church.

    What is the current practice in local synods of the Catholic Church? Do abbesses participate in a similar way?

    1. And thank you, Jesse, for the kind of contribution I was hoping for in this post.

      How can women come fully into their gifts and the exercise of their –I hesitate to use the word ministry since I come from an evangelical formation that perhaps to a Catholic sounds like I'm talking about ordained priesthood—womens' charisms, their strengths in a visible way that does not undermine the male priesthood or male episcopacy and is not a vehicle for unorthodox, feminist theology to creep in or some kind of flattening or democratic model.

      There was a documentary I saw that showed a bunch of bishops and cardinals in Rome. The only time women were shown, they were waiting tables and clearing plates off as if that's the only thing a woman who enters consecrated life is going to get to do. It sends an awful message in this day and age. Not that those works of service aren't glorious and vehicles of God's grace—and most needed. But the other picture of consecrated life is the sister who has doffed her habit for pantsuits and a rebellious attitude towards the Holy Father and the Magisterium.

      I'm a fan of Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN. She is my kind of example of the impact a faithful woman with courage can have on the Church.

      Catherine Doherty, founder of Madonna House, is another.


      P.S. I have never been treated in a patronizing manner by any of the Catholic bishops I deal with on a regular basis. I have been met with generosity and great kindness.

      1. From the RC Traditionalist perspective:

        Couple of observations:

        I firmly believe that our Church will regain Her steady footing when the restoration of authentic female consecrated life is accomplished. In whatever context – the Ordinariate, Traditionalist, Novus Ordo – there must be a continual presence of faithful sisters in habits among us, with the faithful cloistered nuns continually praying for us. We should make fostering of these vocations as much of a priority as we do priestly vocations. Those of us who grew up with these wonderful women, realize how they helped form, sustain, and civilize us. Their absence is not acceptable. No authentic "empowerment" of women can take place without them – they are the foundation of any such empowerment.

        Also, true feminism, one that is beneficial to the totality of
        the female person, is wonderfully expressed in the encyclical Humanae Vitae. It's also a much needed rebuke to certain types of male selfishness and cruelty, and the "feminisms" that service them.

        I pray that the Ordinariates will be blessed with an abundance of faithful nuns and sisters.

  19. Deborah, good thing I wasn't there at that gathering, there would have been "film at eleven" for sure. Empowering Women In The Church? On this Vigil of the Assumption of the BVM, I'm taking the time to comment. The Woman, Our Blessed Mother, was drawn up into heaven by the Most Blessed Trinity! Next week we celebrate the Queenship of Mary. Why do we continue to concern ourselves with power? We already have it! Rightly ordered according to His Will, we women empower the men. Authentic feminity is a compliment to, a coordination of the complete gift.

    God placed on earth the Head of His Church, Peter, the Holy Father with the title, "Servant of the Servants of Christ" — there is no greater power than to be in service of others. As a woman, with a 14 year Lay-Aposolate under an Archbishop I would like to share a solemn truth. It's a truth I share with college age women when speaking to campus groups about Eucharistic Adoration. When the ministerial priesthood and ordination question comes up, I return their question with another … "Why would you give your one life to serve as a priest, when you could give birth to 10 priests to serve the church? Do the Math!! — For Pete's Sake, if God wanted perfection he would have instructed Jesus to ordain the perfect human at that time inhabiting the earth, His mother Mary." Honestly, if we truly want to serve the church in the most powerful position, serve the servant of the servants of Christ by giving the church ten priests.

    Women have such a special place in God's plan, that He keeps us a mystery. Apparently a mystery even to ourselves. Throughout history the stigmata is shared quietly, like St. Gemma, St. Catherine .. so many others. He keeps us hidden in such an intimate sharing that it is almost embarrasing to be so very loved!!

    Ladies, please! Empower the men to step up to the plate (the chalice) and serve. Recognize our role in the disorder that created pedophiles to flourish. It is a recent understanding that this disorder is an effect of imaturity in development. We have at least a 1/2 sharing in the parenting and development of children.

    Gentleman, please! Don't give away your place in the Sanctuary. You were chosen to serve in this public way. Thank you for your YES!

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