Earlier this month, Pope Francis announced that the Pontifical Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women had failed to reach a consensus on the history of women deacons. Although the Commission agreed that “there were women deacons at the beginning,” they disagreed on whether “it was an ordination with the same formula and the same finality of men’s ordination.”

Searching for definitive resolution, Francis encouraged all members of the Commission to continue studying this question on their own. The answer was not “no,” but “we don’t know yet.”

But Francis’ response to the Commission’s stalemate clearly implies that the future of the women’s diaconate depends upon how the church ultimately answers this question. If the church concludes that the women’s diaconate lacked a sacramental character, then the modern day diaconate must remain an all-male institution.

Thus, the debate about the women’s diaconate proceeds according to a largely unspoken assumption: that Catholic teaching does not change, cannot change, and, in this case as in many others, should not change.

What did not exist in the past cannot exist in the future. The women’s diaconate can be restored, but it cannot be introduced anew.

This framing undoubtedly places proponents of ecclesial change at a rhetorical disadvantage. While those who favor the ordination of women have to clear an unfixed and potentially limitless set of rhetorical and evidentiary hurdles, those who oppose it only have to prove that the diaconate’s past was different than its proposed future.

But the opponents of the women’s diaconate only appear to occupy the rhetorical higher ground. Magisterial immutability is just a story the church tells itself.

It’s just not true that church teaching hasn’t changed.

Catholic magisterial teaching has changed; it can change; and, sometimes, it should change.

I can prove it.

Consider the following list of topics about which the Catholic church has changed its mind:

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of religion
  3. Democracy
  4. Slavery
  5. The equality of women to men
  6. Natural Family Planning
  7. Usury
  8. The death penalty
  9. Torture
  10. Whether marriage is a Sacrament
  11. The relative value of the unitive and procreative ends of marriage
  12. Episcopal celibacy
  13. Whether one can have sex in order to express love
  14. Salvation outside of the Church
  15. The status of Jewish people as God’s Chosen People

Implications for the Debate About Women Deacons

Number eleven obviously proves especially relevant to the ongoing debate about the women’s diaconate.

To many Catholics’ surprise, the church did not celebrate matrimony as a Sacrament until the twelfth century. The Sacrament of Marriage therefore is relatively new: less time has passed since marriage became a Sacrament than had passed before it did.

What happened? Marriage didn’t change as much as the church’s understanding of it did. The church came to this new understanding over time, in pieces, and through conversation with surrounding cultural practices.

Is it not possible that something similar has happened with respect to our understanding of women’s capacity to sacramentally stand in persona Christi as ordained deacons?

The myth of magisterial immutability blocks our view of this possibility. It makes the potential newness of the women’s diaconate seem like a liability rather than an unsurprising result of longstanding magisterial misogyny.

After all, the Catholic magisterium did not recognize the equality of women to men until the 1970s, after two waves of feminist agitation gave it a much-needed push.

Surely, it takes more than forty years to fix a nineteen hundred year-old mistake, especially when the church has been working at a rate of incremental change.

The church’s own history tells us that it could sacramentally ordain women to the diaconate, even if it would be doing so for the first time.

What matters most is whether we should.

In order to find out, we would have to consult our theology rather than simply hide behind an uncertain history.

Of course, the church can not leave its history behind. Let the history of the women’s diaconate inform its future, but not decide it.

Piero di Cosimo, St. Mary Magdalene (1500-1510)

Fidelity to Catholic Tradition sometimes requires us to break with our past, accept new ways of being, and admit that we were wrong. It’s not just that the Catholic Tradition has changed, but that change is a part of the Catholic Tradition.

The magisterium changes its mind. Thank God.

 

 

39 thoughts

  1. This is an excellent review of the dilemma posed by the impasse in the committee studying the female diaconate. Dr. Grimes gives an insightful run-down of where the Catholic magisterium has indeed “changed.” But it has also “invented” certain ideas/practices–no doubt, claiming the inspiration of the Holy Spirit– that in the present time have contributed to problematic–I dare say, even “evil,” situations (e.g., the notion of “sacramental character” which could be seen as the root of “clericalism”). Such reflections seems to be something that is absent in many deliberations (I’m thinking for example of women’s ordination to the episcopate–a much more important issue than the diaconate, since in an ordered church it is the bishops who are are the magisterium, the bishops who make decisions at ecumenical councils, and the bishops who, after becoming cardinals, elect the pope. Of course, this raises another issue: did Jesus really will a hierarchical church structure? Mary Ann Hinsdale

  2. Thank you for this essay! Very well and clearly stated and argued. I hope it can be shared widely.

  3. This essay should be required reading for every Catholic! I love how you said, regarding church teaching and whether it has changed through the centuries, “I can prove it” and then you did! So clearly. And yet we must inch a long (what, for another 50 years?) while the men come to grips with whatever it is that is so terrifying to them.

    1. Nothing whatsoever was proven, let alone clearly. There was the bare assertion that Catholic magesterial teaching has changed in a wide range of subjects, but no “proof” was on offer.

      “Let everything that conflicts with ecclesiastical tradition and teaching, and that has been innovated and done contrary to the example of the Saints and the venerable Fathers, or that shall hereafter be done in such a fashion, be anathema.” -Second Council of Nicea

      “All novelty in faith is a sure mark of heresy.” -St Vincent of Lerins

      “If the Lord didn’t want a sacramental ministry for women, it can’t go forward. For this reason we go to history and to dogma. We are Catholics.. but if anyone wants to found another church they are free [to do so].” -Pope Francis

      1. Hello Jonathan,
        First of all, thank you for taking the time to read this post. I disagree with you about what the evidence says with regard to church teaching, but I appreciate your passion.

        I’ve learned over the years that it’s better for blog posts to be short and sweet so you are right that the absence of documentation is a shortcoming of this post. I plan to say more about this later, but in the meantime, I can recommend the books I read to make up my mind and you can do the same if you so choose. I am more than open to hearing what i misunderstood in them.

        Contraception by John Noonan Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists, Enlarged Edition (Belknap Press) https://www.amazon.com/dp/0674168526/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_6aS7CbF9MXGJR
        A Church that Can and Cannot Change by John Noonan Church That Can and Cannot Change: The Development of Catholic Moral Teaching (Erasmus Institute Books) https://www.amazon.com/dp/0268036047/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_ZbS7Cb1Q0TEFV
        How Marriage Became One of the Sacraments How Marriage Became One of the Sacraments: The Sacramental Theology of Marriage from its Medieval Origins to the Council of Trent (Law and Christianity) https://www.amazon.com/dp/1107146151/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_vcS7CbY2PW6D2
        Read some 19th century encyclical s like the Syllabus of Errors and compare how they differ from the ways the magisterium has talked about freedom of speech and religion since.

  4. Catholic teaching may develop as our understanding develops. In such a way, Catholic teaching is built up over time, always using Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition as foundation and adding onto what has been taught before. The magesterium thus strengthens and clarifies the fundamental truths expressed by the Church, but never in such a way that it becomes self-contradictory. This is why serious Catholic moral theologians are always careful to distinguish authentic developments in doctrine from erroneous novelties. In the words of Fr Dwight Longenecker, “Doctrines and moral teachings that are part of the natural law or the law of God revealed in the Scriptures cannot be changed. Disciplines of the church and secondary teachings that arose from particular cultural demands can change and exceptions can be made. Not everything is infallible and immutable.”

    Have you read Blessed John Henry Newman’s On The Development of Christian Doctrine? I would humbly suggest this as a way to endeavor to understand the point of view of those who view the Church as a possessor of infallible moral truths. Newman was certainly no advocate of ultramontanism, so you will find no conflict with the last book you linked.

    To address some specific instances you cited here, clerical celibacy is a discipline of the Church. It is not universal; exceptions are made and in fact celibacy is not the norm in the Eastern sui iuris churches.
    Further, you allude to the Syllabus of Errors and the Leonine encyclicals and teaching on religious liberty. You can find various articles that address this issue, in depth, here
    https://thejosias.com/2014/12/31/religious-liberty-and-tradition-i/
    here
    https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2018/05/21405/
    and here
    https://www.academia.edu/2911284/The_Interpretation_of_Dignitatis_Humanae_A_Reply_to_Martin_Rhonheimer
    See also this talk by Fr Thomas Crean, OP
    http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/thomas-crean/religious-liberty.htm

    For the example of women’s ordination, what you will find yourself running up against is the infallibility of the Ordinary Magesterium, because the male priesthood, in that the priest represents the sacrifice at Calvary in persona christi, falls under the category that St Vincent described as “that which is believed always, everywhere, and by all.” In short, to introduce female ordination would be a novelty, and novelty something the Church has always insisted must be rejected in matters of faith and morals. As St Vincent says:
    “Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.”

    I pray you will be open to reconsidering your conception of the indefectability of the Church and of the development of doctrine. I hope the links, especially of Newman, will prove fruitful.

      1. I think it’s also important to point out that Newman died about fifty years before most of the changes I listed occurred so we wouldn’t expect him to have the same view of church teaching that we do today.

    1. I have read that, but thank you for the recommendation! As for your claim that church teaching develops, but never in such a way that it becomes self contradictory, I will simply point to the fact that the magic once taught that slavery was good under certain circumstances, but now it’s immoral in all circumstances; it once taught that women were inferior to men, but now it teaches that they are equal; it once taught that it was wrong to have sex with the intention of avoiding procreation, but now says that’s ok as long as it’s done “naturally;” it used to condemn freedoms of religion and speech, but now champions them. Those are all reversals. Yes, these changed happened bit by bit and we can go back and trace how we got from point A to point B, but I don’t know how else to interpret these developments except to say that church teaching has changed, sometimes it has even reversed itself.

      But yea I totally agree with you about celibacy, which is why I didn’t include it in my list.

      And I just don’t find those attempts to say that the church didn’t reverse its teaching on religious freedom to be persuasive. It is definitely true that the church changed its mind about what religious freedom was-in the nineteenth century it definitely thought that religious freedom meant admitting there was no absolute truth…but by the time of the 2nd Vatican Council, thanks to the work of theologians like Jacques Maritain, the magisterium realized that championing religious freedom didn’t necessarily mean admitting there was no truth.

      This doesn’t make the development any less of a reversal.

      And yes, you keep quoting magisterial assertions that church teaching doesn’t change, but I am arguing that those proclamations are simply wrong.

      1. Each one of these supposed self-contradictions is worthy of its own book-length exposition. In some cases, the teaching in question was reformable insofar as it was not an infallible teaching of the Magesterium; in others, the teaching was developed and clarified. While it is not something to be resolved here, I should note that it is not sufficient to simply assert that these teachings “changed,” especially when a great deal of ink has been spilled in assessing the developments in each case. None of the cases are as simple as a flat assertion.

        I would note with interest that your interpretation of the discontinuity in Catholic teaching, which as you admit contradicts Magesterial sources, is actually more in line with the Society of St Pius X. Like the SSPX, you assert that Church teaching since the Second Vatican Council in many areas has broken with Magesterial teaching of the past. If we accept your (and the SSPX’s) view in this case, the question must be asked: “If we cannot be confident that the Church’s teaching in the past is true, how can we be confident that Church teaching in the present is true?” And of course the answer is, logically, that we cannot be certain of the truth of the Church’s current teaching on any subject. If such is the case, it is completely unclear why we should trust the “new teaching” as opposed to the “old teaching,” as both would then be equally fallible and susceptible to error. Moreover, the Saints and Fathers of the Church have never ceased to admonish the faithful that if such a discontinuity in teaching occurs, we are in fact to “hold fast to the teachings passed on to you” from antiquity, and to be deeply distrustful of the supposed changes. If the “new” teachings contradict the Deposit of Faith, as you assert, then they would more justly lend themselves to being discarded in their entirety, as opposed to abolishing the old ones. Thus, here you would stand on the same ground as the SSPX in interpretation, except that the SSPX would be on much more solid ground, in terms of ecclesiology, in terms of which teaching ought to be accepted and which teaching ought to be disregarded as erroneous.

      2. You’re going to have to specify what you mean by “infallible.” Papal infallibility in the narrow sense has only been used twice, to proclaim the two Marian dogmas.

        Papal infallibility in the sense of the bishops speaking together with the Pope at an ecumenical council also doesn’t help you before the First and Second Vatican Councils contradict each other about religious freedom.

        The broader sense of magisterium…popes, bishops, and theologians (so here aquinas counts) also doesn’t help you because again contradiction.

        So you can keep repeating what the magisterium says it does and I will keep pointing to what it actually does.

        Comparing me to SSPX I think is supposed to be some big gotcha moment I think? Besides the fact that I think all the popes since V2 have actually been popes (pretty big difference dont you think?), am not an anti-Semite, I actually love the fact that church teaching changes (how could I belong to a church that still thinks slavery is ok?).

        But I don’t really care if you think I’m like SSPX. 🤷‍♀️

        And yes, I know each of these deserve book length treatments. That’s why I recommended four to you in my first set of responses to you.

  5. I am happy to elaborate. A teaching can be infallible not only in the sense of the Extraordinary Magesterium that you allude to where the Supreme Pontiff proclaims a teaching ex cathedra (the two Marian dogmas and also, some argue, JPII’s teaching on women’s ordination). As you rightly point out, a doctrine may be taught infallibly in other ways. The example you give where there is a supposed contradiction between the First and Second Vatican Council in terms of religious liberty is easily dispensed because the drafters of the schema at Vatican II were very careful not to contradict previous teaching, in short. But in any case, it’s worth bringing up here that ecumenical councils in the Catholic Church are considered to be infallible by virtue of the presence of the Supreme Pontiff (a distinction from the Eastern Orthodox idea of whether teachings are “received” by the church). Pope Paul VI himself, in his General Audience of 12 January 1966, proclaimed: “In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statements of dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility…” None of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, therefore, fall under the category of an infallible teaching, although it is a valid pastoral council of the Church.
    The broader sense that you allude to applies not only when some bishops, Popes, or theologians proclaim a teaching, but when there is agreement “always, everywhere, and from all.” Such is the infallibility of the Ordinary Magesterium. Thus we can argue about whether the Leonine teachings, carried forward by Pius X, on religious liberty were infallible. Perhaps they were not. But there is no disagreement that the nature of priestly ordination applying only to men has been taught “always, everywhere, and by all,” and thus it is an infallible teaching.
    I did not bring up the SSPX – which you may note, is not sedevacantist and accepts all post-Vatican II popes as valid – as a gotcha. Instead, I pointed out the similarities in your approach to hermeneutics. You and the SSPX both claim a sudden departure in Catholic teaching in the last 60 or 70 years. If we accept this as true, there is no reason to believe that the “new teachings” are more trustworthy than the “old teachings” given that we have denied the Church’s ability to intuit unchanging moral truths. I pointed out, and didn’t hear a response to, the idea that if this in fact were true, we have every reason to hold to the “old teachings” and no reason at all to accept the “new” (novel) teachings’ validity.

    1. If you are saying that there might be instances where the old teaching was more true than the new teaching, sure! In theory, I have no reason to doubt that that could happen. I’m certainly not one who thinks that every change in teaching is automatically for the better just because it is new.

      Some people for example think the church’s older teaching on usury was better.

      There was a theologian awhile back who wrote his dissertation arguing that religious freedom was a mistake.

      My whole point is that the church, collectively (don’t forget the sensus fidelium and that there’s a sense of the magisterium that includes the laity too) has to discern the truth on a case by case basis. The fact that a teaching is old or new on its own doesn’t tell us all we need to know (although I do believe old teachings should have the benefit of the doubt.)

      So yea if the church has been wrong in the past, then it can be wrong in the present too.

      And sure about the all male priesthood (although this post was about the diaconate), but here’s what you don’t get: most of the teachings had always, everywhere been the teaching…until they weren’t.

      Slavery is a great example. The church had always, everywhere thought that slavery was in some cases permissible until it didn’t.

      So the fact that the church has always everywhere taught something doesn’t on its own mean that it should continue teaching that. Otherwise, the church should go back to teaching that slavery is ok and that women are inferior to men.

      And again, I surely hope that the only reason people are against slavery is not because “the church says its evil!”

      And no, I’ve never claimed any of these changes happened “suddenly.” (Usury might be an exception.) As I said awhile back, all of these changes happened bit by bit over time. The church’s teaching on slavery I argue starting happening in the mid 19th century; the change wasn’t complete until the Second Vatican Council.

      But “the church has the ability to intuit timeless moral truths” means its teaching (infallible or not) has never changed, then no I don’t believe that.

      1. You will need to be more specific and nuanced to justify saying there is a change in usury. The word usury is equivocal. It may mean excessive interest (more akin to loan sharking) or it may mean charging any interest. The church has been clear down the line that excessive interest is wrong. But when it comes to the first definition the past is much more complicated. Some theologians have held that charging a reasonable amount of interest on a loan to cover the lost use of the money is licit. This frequently occurred in more urban areas where money could be invested ( eg in an olive vineyard) to create future earnings. In more rural settings interest was frowned upon. The principle hasn’t changed: you shall not take advantage of someone else. How the principle has been applied has changed.

        Cf the debate between the Dominicans and Franciscans over the houses of piety.

        It is specious to claim that since the the Church has changed in some things it can change in time other circumstances.

      2. I’m definitely not knowledgeable enough about the history of usury to respond to each of your points so I will just say that I take my reading from John Noonan in A Church that Can and Cannot Change.

        But I will say that maintaining a moral principal but changing your mind about how it’s application plays out is still a change. So that doesn’t really address my argument one way or another.

      3. And of course the fact that the church has changed on some issues doesn’t mean it necessarily should change on others. I never argued that. All it proves is that “church teaching never changes and therefore cannot change” can not be an argument in defense of any particular teaching.

      4. Not sure how to reply to your replay to my post on usury, so I’ll replay here.
        I’ve never actually heard someone say something along the lines of, ‘the church hasn’t changed, so the church can’t change.’ It sure sounds like a straw man argument. It is certainly not what JP II said in Ordinatio Sacerdotalits.
        So let’s go back to your original article. You state: “Thus, the debate about the women’s diaconate proceeds according to a largely unspoken assumption: that Catholic teaching does not change, cannot change, and, in this case as in many others, should not change.” You then point out instances where there has been change Your conclusion is that since there have been changes, why can’t the church change re: Women’s Ordination to the diaconate?

        The church has always made prudential judgements which do not entail change in teaching. Would you try to justify rejecting the Creed with the statement ‘things have changed’? You overlooked my actual point. The underlying principle of usury has not changed. The prudential application change change but will not overturn or reject the principle. Our understanding of Christ may change (i.e. develop) but it will not

        Let’s look at Ordinatio Sacerdotalits: “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.
        Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful (ab omnibus Ecclesiae fidelibus esse definitive tenendam).

        JPII’s argument is not “we can’t change things.” His argument is that there is no precedent for the ordination of women. I don’t mean to characterize your position, but there is a pattern in the essay and your comment replies.

        The issue with the female diaconate is the utter lack of historical information. Aside from a few snippets there is very little to go on. What exactly did women deacons do in the early church? We can say with certainty that they helped adult women change clothes immediately before and after baptism. In the absence of conclusive proof that they were ordained we turn to Tradition and Scripture. Do women appear in 1 Timothy or Titus when Paul discusses the duties of elders & overseers? Has there been an unending practice of women deacons in the Church?

        As an aside, reexamine the profession of faith you took. Not everything that the magisterium puts out is to be believed with firm faith, just that which is to be believed as divinely revealed “either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium”.

      5. People say that about church teaching all the time.

        There’s a commenter in this very thread who said as much.

        You want to specify that the church has never said it doesn’t change. It’s simply said it doesnt undergo a specific type of change-doing something it hasn’t done before. For the sake of argument, I’ll cede that that is correct.

        Well that’s an even weaker argument because the church has done things without precedent all the time. It recognized marriage as a sacrament even though there was no precedent for doing so.

        But then you switch and talk about unending practice. You know there wasn’t an “unending practice” of ordaining men to the diaconate, right?

        I’m sorry, I just don’t find your interpretation of magisterial change and its relevance for future decisions to be logical or persuasive.

        The goal posts move constantly.

      6. Also: if the Catholic church can only teach something it has precedent for, we have a problem. A precedent, by definition, has a first time. So if the church simultaneously can only teach something it has precedent for, I’m wondering what was the precedent for the precedent?

        You seem to be taking a comparison between constitutional law and Catholic Tradition too far. Scripture and Tradition did not come into existence in a single moment like the US Constitution did.

        But even if we look at constitutional law, judges use precedents that previously had only applied to X to argue for something that otherwise would have no precedent all the time.

        We even add new amendments to the constitution which then allow judges to point to new precedents.

  6. It seems we have a fundamental disagreement on what the Church IS. But if I may ask simply,
    Do you believe that the Catholic Church possesses the charism of infallibility in any of its teachings?
    If yes, then in your view how does the Church express these infallible teachings?
    If no, why should we care whatever she dares to “teach” on any matter?

    1. I believe very much in the characteristic claim that faith and reason aren’t enemies, but allies. I certainly don’t think faith can be reduced to what we can grasp through reason. Faith certainly goes beyond. And God is ultimately mysterious. But as a Catholic, I don’t think that it is very Catholic to believe something that is contradicted by reason. I follow Aquinas in thinking that if there is a conflict between faith and reason, then we either have to be wrong about what faith (i.e. scripture holds) or wrong about reason or both.

      So, I can’t believe that the church has infallibility taught things it has changed its mind about. That’s unreasonable

      I also think it’s one thing to say that the church does teach certain things infallibilly and another to have some sort of formula about which teachings qualify as such.

      Ultimately, I think magisterial teachings should have the benefit of the doubt, but they have to be reasonable. So, I’m not really sure why it matters. Anything the church does in fact teach infallibilly will also be reasonable.

      And yes human reason errs for all sorts of reasons. But popes and other bishops are just human too. So I don’t think their office has given them special powers of moral clarity. Again, history disproves that. Non-Catholic abolitionists knew that slavery was wrong long before the Catholic magisterium did.

      1. Thank you for the thoughtful response. I agree wholeheartedly with your first two paragraphs, especially where you say it’s not reasonable to believe that the Church has infallibly taught things it has changed its mind about. To me, this puzzle is resolved by rejecting the second clause (that the Church has changed its mind on infallible teaching) rather than the first (that the Church itself does not possess the charism of infallibility).
        If I may, it seems you cast doubt on the Church’s ability to express any teaching infallibly, except for those things that we can freely derive independently of the Church, through our own reason (correct me if I’m wrong in that interpretation). That being the case, why should we give the Catholic Church’s teaching “the benefit of the doubt” at all, any more than we would to the Union of Society of Friends/Quaker Congregations, the United Methodist Church’s biannual meeting, or the Association of Secular Humanists?

      2. Even if you choose to submit to magisterial authority unconditionally, that is an act of your own reason and will. There’s no way to do anything voluntarily without doing so through the use of our own independent reason.

        But yea benefit of the doubt means assume church teaching is correct until you have reason to believe otherwise. As to why I do that’s because I chosen in accordance with my reason and life experiences to do so. That is what I think makes sense.

        But I’m a Catholic because I was baptized as such. The Eucharist keeps me in relationship with those baptismal promises. It’s never been about the magisterium for me and I doubt it has been for most Catholics throughout history. I just have never understood why people care so much about magisterial infallibility.

  7. In full disclosure, I’m making this comment without having read any of the other ones.

    That said, as a historical theologian who absolutely loves the concept of development, I think that we don’t have to emphasize the idea of “change” that people are so uncomfortable with in order to argue for female deacons. That development itself, as you said, goes along with many of the other developments that you list, especially in terms of understanding women as equally made in the image of God. The seeds of the development–ideas that we now talk about under the heading of human dignity–are rooted in scripture and early interpretations of it. What changes is our understanding of how these things apply and so from today’s perspective they can look like “change,” but have their roots in a fundamental theological concept that we are applying in a way that is more faithful to the fullness of truth.

    1. I will just say that I don’t think anyone who points out that church teaching changes would deny that the church tends to change its mind for Catholic reasons. Change definitely occurs when the church reinterprets the evidence and its sources.

      Besides the fact that’s it’s obviously true and it’s disturbing (to me) that so many Catholics want to place something false at the center of Catholic identity, the idea that the church doesn’t change is used to defend teachings and practices that harm people.

      1. I think we’re in agreement about all this. There’s something different between a theological teaching and how it’s employed some of the time. (I could say the same thing about subsidiarity in CST.)

  8. Thank you for this excellent article Dr. Grimes as the very helpful links you’ve provided in the comment section. I’m looking forward to your further contributions as you’ve alluded to, particularly on the changes which the Church has made in recent times on important matters which I’ve always thought had been the Church’s stance from time immemorial. Well little did I know…

  9. well, lemme put it this way. the rise of social media sure has had an impact of on all of us and for the younger people, they did not know the beauty of the Church, family, community and traditions as it was, as people now want to see them to suit lifestyles and choices. Before the rise of marxist doctrine in public and now it seems, private schools has sure been a downfall of western teaching and beliefs for the negative. The problem in women deacons is obvious from your article, you think you are making decisions, but these ideas come from somewhere and someone else, you do not know nor understand and now are controlled through algorithms in search engines to control thought, insane huh? you thought you were clever. more to follow..

      1. Yes, but I am fully aware of it and can spot it mostly. It does create my own biases. Meaning i reject all leftist media and teachings and only go by what the church taught in the past and what is in the bible. I find this was best way to keep my sanity. Thanks for responding also, many people just dismiss all comments. 🙂

    1. I respectfully disagree about this essay’s quality. But you can rest with the knowledge that I am already extremely familiar with these arguments and have spent years considering them.

  10. It is amazing the amount of debate that is going in the Church and Christianity in general atm, not only in US, but globally. I just followed up on WIT website and now understand the purpose and the position better. I thought this was just another random article been thrown into the mix. I notice WIT encourages debate, for the first time in history, many colleges and Universities are choosing or considering not to have free speech, were as governments and Deans, professors etc are stepping in to keep it open. A little unsure what is meant by ‘safe space’ guessing you mean freedom to express views in one own area of expertise? Is WIT restricted to Catholicism? or all Chrisitan faiths?

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