“Mary, why wouldn’t you become a deacon? It seems like the only logical next step for a woman like yourself who spends so much time availing yourself of the sacraments, why not help out in administering the sacraments?” Long ago, I got used to hearing such suggestions and at times I feel undermined by people who think the less of me for maintaining it is not my place to be a deacon.
The same people who push other women to be female deacons often – not always but very often – seem to imply that one can only have a vocation if one is in ordained ministry, conveniently overlooking lay vocations and vocations to religious life as consecrated Brides of Christ who can do wonders for the lives and souls of others.
Whenever these people talk about the lack of female religious and that some orders of sisters and nuns are not getting new postulants and are having to close convents, I can’t help but think this is also a fruit of undermining the vocation to be a Bride of Christ because women are told this profound vocation is somehow ‘not good enough’ and that women religious are taking second-best by not clamouring to be in ordained ministry.
In my early teenage years I had a negative encounter with a nun who had problems. She made inappropriate remarks about peoples’ weight and was given to prolonged ranting. But later on I had a good experience with nuns at a convent school in Bandon, West Cork, and had it not been for their kindness, I do not think I would be a practising Catholic today. So it is perhaps thanks to them and the noble pursuit of their time-honoured religious vocation that I am writing this piece.
The push for female deacons is sadly becoming a tool of manipulation whereby there is pressure being put on Holy Mother Church to ‘prove’ that She is ‘doing something’ for the advancement of women by agreeing to ordain women deacons. Given the unfortunate level of ignorance surrounding Church history and tradition on this question, and the potential manipulation of what data and reasoning remains from the historical record, there is good reason for Pope Francis to launch a study into the role of female deacons in the early Church, and why that practice, if it occurred as some contend, did not continue.
Women, like myself, who are not called to be Brides of Christ are told that we ‘could be so much more’ were the Church to allow us to be ordained female deacons. This is specious, again implying that we are somehow ‘not good enough’ even if we are striving to live our challenging discipleship as true Christians (each of us has something that is very hard; in my case I find forgiving others for slights quite difficult).
Given the need for more nuns and sisters, and the difficulty of persisting in holiness in the lay state, I respectfully decline to support that women be ordained deacons, but instead prefer that we deepen and recommit to the various states of life entrusted to us by the continuity of long tradition, which is challenge enough for me.