Anglican Ordination? Not in a Catholic Church

An Australian ordination liturgy of Anglican deacons (including four women) in a Catholic Church has been scotched. Sandherst, Victoria bishop (Roman Catholic) Joseph Grech:

After much discussion with Archbishop Guissppe Lazzarato and the Vatican, the ramifications were investigated. The Catholic Church’s doctrine on the ordination of deacons and priests is well known. There were certain issues within the doctrine that created problems. It’s the best thing for both churches.

I wonder why such an avenue was even explored. On one level, it would be a neighborly gesture for Catholics to open their church to another Christian group whose building is structurally unsafe. Apparently, women’s ordination issues, no matter how many pronouncements are forthcoming from the Vatican, are still a very touchy topic in Roman thinking.

How far does or should such a barrier extend? We’re assuming emergency situations, building projects, and the like on the following queries. Is it wrong for Protestants, for example, to commemorate the Last Supper in a Catholic Church because we differ on Eucharistic theology? In return, would it be entirely inappropriate for a new or church-less Catholic community to worship in a non-Catholic building? Are we better off, for example, in a movie theater, or a hotel, or a public school, or a community building? Have we lost all credibility in seeking an alternate place of worship in another church building if and when a Catholic community needs it?

What do you think?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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18 Responses to Anglican Ordination? Not in a Catholic Church

  1. I think Jesus is weeping.

  2. RP Burke says:

    I’d be shocked if the issue isn’t that the Anglicans were going to ordain a woman.

  3. Ryan Haber says:

    I concur with Meredith that our blessed Lord cannot be pleased with disunity among the people claiming His Name.

    Authentic unity has to be authentic, that is, grounded in truth, or else it is a sham pretense. The simple fact is that we are not united with Anglicans; far from it, we are deeply divided, though many surface appearances (the use of vestments by clergy during formal prayer, etc.) seem to indicate contrarily.

    What happens at the Catholic Mass when a truly ordained priest approaches the altar and offers the Holy Sacrifice is entirely different than what happens at any Protestant or Anglican service, even when they call it Mass. This fact is best shown by the fact that they never call it a sacrifice. For them, it is a memorial and a real spiritual or symbolic presence. But the bread and wine that we offer is transformed into Body and Blood, with nothing of the original remaining except the merest of appearances. We then feast on the flesh of God himself. They do nothing of the sort, nor do they even claim to.

    To temporarily use a space not consecrated for the purpose is one thing – it even to some extent hallows the place that no one pretends is what it is not. To use a Protestant church for our services gives a pretense of unity that does not exist. To allow them to use our church for their imitation – that’s what they are – of the Holy Mass and other liturgies is a scandal.

    Every one of their sacraments and sacramentals is based on ours, that we believe was given by Jesus Christ and is guarded by the teaching authority he established, except pruned down to remove whatever they find offensive. How can we have such a thing in our home, in the house of God, as a parody of the things He has established?

    The idea that we should fake a unity that does not exist can only spring from the belief that none of these beliefs is really that important or real. That is hardly the position of the Catholic Church. Yet Anglicans have long subsisted, until recently, in a single church despite having almost no doctrinal or liturgical unity. Now with moral unity collapsing, the mistake becomes evident. The Anglicans’ lack of concern for doctrinal consistency or continuity with the Gospel is yet another vast difference – the deepest – between them and us.

    • Todd says:

      Ryan, I think you may have missed the issue here. I didn’t see anything in this story to suggest anything touching upon church unity. Catholics are the only religious group in Australia that outnumbers Anglicans. It would stand to reason the only church in town large enough to handle a large Anglican gathering would be a Catholic one.

      Personally, I don’t know why this would be publicized only to have the invitation withdrawn. It struck me as naive.

      I think Anglicans would differ with you on the notion of how they view sacrifice, as well as their historic unity in doctrine and to a great extent, liturgy.

      • Hey Todd,

        I don’t think so, actually. Anglicans have removed reference to sacrifice from their eucharistic liturgy; and the Anglican Communion has always been fairly upfront about a unity based not about doctrine or liturgy – hence distinctions between high and low church, etc.

        The whole reason that a Catholic church must not be used for non-Catholic religious worship is precisely because it is consecrated, set aside, for the Eucharist; and because we do not have communion with Protestant churches.

        You are quite right, that it was weird to extend the invitation. Very pleasant of the responsible authorities to do so, and with the best intentions, but not very well thought out.

  4. Jim McK says:

    At least we all agree our Lord is weeping. I know I come close to tears when I read such disrespectful remarks being passed off as “Catholic”.

    Not only would Anglicans differ with Ryan, Catholics should as well. Papal teaching and action has affirmed the ARCIC agreements on Eucharist and ordination that asserted Anglicans and Catholics agree about these things. These were the basis for last month’s outreach to disaffected Anglicans — if they did not share our faith in the Eucharist, that would have been impossible.

    While Cardinal Willebrands’ call for a reevaluation of Anglican Orders has not been answered, respect for Anglican clergy is certainly in order. Just this past weekend Pope Benedict gave the Archbishop of Canterbury a pectoral cross, a sign of the episcopacy.

    • Ryan Haber says:

      Ok, I have to be clear here.

      If by Anglicans, you mean the ones who are breaking away from the Anglican Church and joining the Catholic Church, that is a separate question. I rather thought, since the group in question was going to use a Catholic church to ordain four women, that we were not speaking about them, but about Anglicans who believe doctrines substantially different from our own, say, about holy orders.

      “respect for Anglican clergy is certainly in order.”

      I certainly agree. I have treated people with disrespect on different occasions in the past; I cannot think of one incident of which I am proud or unrepentant. Especially someone who is devoting his or her life to serving God deserves respect.

      That does not mean that we pretend that they have apostolic succession or valid orders.

      “Just this past weekend Pope Benedict gave the Archbishop of Canterbury a pectoral cross, a sign of the episcopacy.”

      Lol, yes, but that hardly constitutes an ordination, or a recognition that ones orders are valid. The underlying message of most gifts, including between heads of state, etc., is, “Here, I thought you might like this,” and not much more.

  5. Athelstane says:

    I think RP Burke is right: the women being ordained was a clear no-go. Either someone in the chancery, perhaps sympathetic to women’s ordination, thought nothing of it; or they simply weren’t aware of who was being ordained until later.

    Either way, it’s a bad idea in principle; and in this regard, this development may be just as well, though one wishes the invitation had never been extended in the first place and much unwanted embarrassment had been spared all around. We wish the Anglicans well, and extend them charity; but allowing things like this risks profanation of consecrated space.

    “In return, would it be entirely inappropriate for a new or church-less Catholic community to worship in a non-Catholic building? Are we better off, for example, in a movie theater, or a hotel, or a public school, or a community building?” I should think so.

  6. Peregrinus says:

    Just by way of background, it’s relevant that there is a formal agreement between the major Australian churches (including the Catholics and the Anglicans) on dialogue and on co-operation in various spheres, which extends to a commitment in principle to being open to the shared use of physical resources, including buildings. Internal (but public) Catholic church guidance on this mentions that in specific cases where this is done the churches involved need to agree “how their various disciplines will be observed, particularly with regard to the sacraments”. Particularly in remote rural areas – Australia has a lot of those – there’s a good deal of facilities-sharing.

    We know from example at the Highest Level that there is no fundamental objection to an Anglican eucharist being celebrated in a Catholic church, views about sacramental validity notwithstanding. By extension, there would seem to be no objection to hosting an Anglican ordination purely on the grounds of sacramental validity.

    The issue here was certainly the involvement of the women. It’s probably worth noting that the ordination here is to the diaconate, not the presbyterate, and while the Catholic church doesn’t ordain women to the diaconate, I’m not sure that it has taught quite so definitively that it lacks the authority to do so, as it has in the case of presbyteral ordination. It could be – I’m guessing – that whoever gave this the nod in the first instance was influenced by that consideration. The assumption here is that it was complaints to Rome, followed by attention from Rome, that led the bishop to withdraw the invitation.

    However it happened, to extend the invitation and then have to withdraw it is clearly a major error.

    • Jim McK says:

      The last paragraph of the International Theological Commission’s 2002 document on the Diaconate addresses the ordination of women, concluding that a conclusive discernment has not yet been made on the ordination of women as deacons.

      • Ryan Haber says:


        Do you mean “…on the ordination of women as deacons” in the Catholic Church? If so, you are mistaken, friend.

        In its Instruction of 4 November 2005 on the admission of homosexuals to holy orders (not to the priesthood, but to holy orders at all), the following comment is made in para. 1, “According to the constant Tradition of the Church, only a baptized person of the male sex validly receives sacred ordination,” (

        The CDF, in “Inter Insigniores,” in 1976 taught the same thing. About 2/3 of its references to ordination are specifically to priestly ordination, but there are a number to ordination as such, which is notes has been consistently closed to women.

        It actually is very much a settled question.

        Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Jim McK says:


    The International Theological Commission concluded that the issue has not been settled. If you wish to argue with them, you are welcome to do so. All I said is that they had provided an answer of sorts to a question raised.

    The citation from Congregation for the Clergy is far from a definitive answer to this question. Not only is the context clearly about ordination to the priesthood, the notes accompanying that remark are all materials examined by the ITC in coming to their conclusion.

    You are welcome to hold any opinion you want on these issues of Anglican sacraments and the ordination of women — just do not pretend they are the position of the Catholic Church when there is ample evidence that they are not.

    • Ryan Haber says:


      There is certainly all sorts of historical documentation that alludes to or mentions female “deaconesses.” I put the word in quotations not to demean it but to clarify a point. “Deacon” means something like “waiter” or “attendant” in Greek, and has a feminine equivalent like many/most personal descriptors in Greek. Raymond Brown makes the point that historical evidence does not enable us to see clearly what sort of correlation of roles and titles existed in the first generation or two of Christianity. Importantly, there is no evidence of them having been ordained as described of the male “deacons” in Acts (6:6), bringing about strong reason to believe that there was at the time no thought that they were women deacons as we understand deacons – an ordained, sacramental ministry. Moreover, the tasks done by “deaconesses”, as in Augustine’s description of the Easter Vigil, are the sort of things ushers or altar servers would do in a modern parish – presentation of gifts, carrying of candles, assisting baptisms by holding clothes or by actually conducting the submersion while the bishop stood outside a sort of tent (for modesty’s sake) saying the words. Most tellingly, although an argument from absence, is that there is no hint of a woman deacon serving at an altar, proclaiming the Gospel, or preaching in the context of the liturgy.

      I do not have a copy of “Diaconate: Evolution and Perspectives” handy (lol) and it is not available online as far as I can find. Maybe you can send me a link. In the meantime, it’s impossible for me to read the final paragraph.

      But it’s also irrelevant. You know as well as I do that the ITC is not a deliberative body, but a consultative one that advises the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The fact that they publish this statement or that doesn’t mean they have represented Church teaching. They have represented their theological concerns and insights. That’s all. That’s their job.

      “Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination,” (CIC-1983, can 1024).

      The canon is quoted in the 1997 Catechism:

      “‘Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.’ The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. the Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible,” (CCC 1577).

      If there is any doubt, because the sentence mentions priests and bishops, that deacons are not included (though they are clearly speaking about holy orders – it’s the name of the question cited), a closely following paragraph states:

      “In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests,” (CCC 1580).

      Are these ample enough evidence of the position of the Catholic Church?

      Happy Thanksgiving.

      • Jim McK says:


        Peregrinus remarked on whether the Church has taught definitively on the subject of ordaining women. For me the question is about “teaching definitively”. The ITC judged that such a definitive teaching has not been made.

        The ITC noted some reasons to argue against ordaining women as deacons, but did not believe they had the authority to teach “definitively”, since that was not their place. While you note that about them, you do not note that definitive teaching is not done by those compiled the CIC, wrote the catechism, issue curial document, etc. IOW, none of the sources you cite are capable of teaching “definitively”.

        You can argue all you want about whether this document or that is an instance of teaching definitively, but I am going to accept the judgment of the ITC. And you can argue about whether such a teaching is correct, or accurately reflects church history, etc. but those are separate issues. (I could give you some pointers on some of those issues) But none of your remarks adds much to the discussion of teaching definitively.

  8. Ryan Haber says:

    Quite to the contrary, Jim.

    John Paul II, in the 1992 Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum (the highest level of papal document), said of the Catechism, “The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith,” (FD 4).

    In the 1997 Aposotlic Letter, Laetamur Magnopere, promulgating the Latin typical promulgated from the earlier French original, JPII wrote, “The Church now has at her disposal this new, authoritative exposition of the one and perennial apostolic faith, and it will serve as a ‘valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion’ and as a ‘sure norm for teaching the faith,’ as well as a “sure and authentic reference text,'” (LM).

    The Catechism does teach definitively and authoritatively. Jim, you were mistaken. It’s OK. It happens.

  9. Kathy says:

    While I’m not a Catholic, I have always respected the Church. This Anglican situation appears to be a politically correct move by the Church motivated, at least in part, by financial concerns. I may have to rethink my stance of respect.

  10. Kelly L. C. says:

    I believe that a woman is just as equal and sometimes more receptive to hearing the gospel and carrying out God’s commands. As a woman listens to her husband, so a woman listens to her Lord!

    The question is this in 2010!
    Hypothethically, if there is a place where only women lived and no male intrusion was permitted, If you had several woman who could minister the Word of GOD, would you or wouldn’t you be happy that the women where receiving the Word of God or still disappointed that there was a place that The WORD wasn’t being taught? I think receiving the Word is a blessing, no matter who teaches it, as long as it gets taught!

    Grow up people this is 4000 years after rules and commissions come up with rules!

    Furthermore, Jesus had a woman that acted as a “deaconess”. Mary Magdaline was at the Last Supper and helped to serve Jesus and the others!

    Also, lastly, all building are GOD’s temples! Churches, and any other place that more then two people gather in GOD’s name is
    another spot for God to own, he made our world! Besides, what we have belongs to GOD, not ourselves!

    The other issue is only that the churches have different rules and all the religions have different rules!

    Point! Play together nicely and we all win, fight and you destroy our own world!

    Heaven forbid a Catholic church get destroyed and the parrish needs a building to use for Mass and other services and vestments! Rome, Pope and GOD~ Who is my Lord, who is my final judge upon my death.

    There is nothing greater and rewarding then the kindness of an open hand to each other.

    Everybody is afraid that one will have more or the other will have something that they can’t live without!

  11. Kelly L. C. says:

    I have to add that I am an ordained by God minister of Spiritual Humanism. Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! Same as one of our Ten Commandments!

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