Monday, February 05, 2007

Can you answer this question?

This question came up in a thread from last week:

Dear Father,

how did the Universal Church develop from a hierarchy of
Father, Son + Holy Ghost


Father, Son + Holy Ghost
Religious Brother and Sisters

Some of them I can see clearly, St. Peter - Benedict XVI makes sense, even Apostles - Cardinals, and Deacons - Deacons, but the others aren't so clear cut to me, please could you explain.


I gave my answer here; care to give your own answer?


Father Martin Fox said...

I don't want to quell anyone else's creativity, but I did miss an obvious thing to point out:

Cardinals do not correspond to the Apostles. Bishops are the successors to the Apostles, which we see happening in the Scriptures (Paul appoints bishops to carry on his ministry, including Timothy and Titus).

Terms like "cardinal" and "archbishop," "archpriest," and "archdeacon" are terms of honor.

Cardinals are a curious bird (pun intended) that are rooted in the history of the local church of Rome, but many don't realize that a cardinal is either a bishop, a priest, a deacon or -- if memory serves -- even a layperson (although I don't know we last had a lay-cardinal). But they aren't part of the sacramental/theological hierarchy of the Church, except insofar as they are a bishop, priest or deacon.

and also with you said...

I think you've hit all the important points, Father. There are still only 3 groups in Holy Orders--bishops, priests, and deacons--all the others are honorifics. And I don't know that it's fair to say that clergy outrank religious, or that both groups outrank laity--they are different callings.

I've always been fascinated by the fact that cardinals symbolically represent the original electors of the Bishop of Rome (Pope)--namely, the Roman diocesan clergy--by each having a titular parish in Rome.

It seems to me that the person asking the question may be coming from a Protestant POV, but Protestants have some "non-Biblical" titles as well. There's technically no "Biblical basis" for seminary presidents, denominational presidents, moderators--some (mostly Pentecostal groups) call people "Apostle".

Anonymous said...

No I am a cradle Catholic. So Priests are the modern equivalent to the Disciples OK I get it.

The diaconate was set set specifically in the Acts to do the manual stuff, (serve table etc) which then frees up the Disciples and the Apostles to do other things.

BTW I'm not the original Anonymous from the other thread. But I thought that maybe if the question was asked politely, then it might be answered and people could see that Catholics don't mind being asked questions respectfully.

Anonymous said...

Having spent all of dinner and the dishes thinking this out, I'm going to comment, even though it appears to be redundant.

First of all, by the time they started writing down what is now the New Testament, I believe the hierarchy was
Laity (but I don't know what term was used)

The hierarchy today is

Some changes in terminolgy as we move from Greek to Latin to English, but the same structure.

The Pope is the successor of Peter. One of his titles is the Servant of the Servants of God. Pope Benedict is the 265th Pope. A Pope does not have to have been a bishop or cardinal (although I bet there hasn't been an exception in centuries), but must be a priest when he takes office. Most of the earliest Popes were martyred.

A Cardinal is a person who can vote (or once was a person who could vote but now is too old) for the next Pope. Cardinals are usually, but not always, also bishops. Cardinal Dulles is the only exception I've heard of this century.

An Archbishop is a bishop of a larger-size or historically more important diocese. (A diocese is the region a bishop serves.) He has assistant bishops under him. I have heard, but don't know that it is true, that each diocese that isn't an archdiocese is assigned to an archdiocese, but for what reason I don't know. Individual bishops make decisions for their diocese such as whether to celebrate the Ascension of Jesus on Thursday (it's traditional day) or the following Sunday, or whether to allow girls to be altar servers. An archbishop makes those decisions for his own diocese, but not for the neighboring ones.

Bishops are the successors of the apostles. Their primary duty is supposed to be teach, but they get stuck with all sorts of administrative jobs too. A bishop must be a priest when he takes office but at least one bishop (St. Ambrose in the 4th century if I remember right) was not a priest when chosen. Only a bishop can ordain a priest and they try to have at least 3 bishops at each ordination. Bishops normally administer the sacrament of Confirmation, except for those entering the church at the Easter Vigil when the priest at each parish does it.

Monsignor is a honorary title for a priest. I've heard some dioceses the bishops don't use the term and others do. In dioceses that have them, the same priests given the honorary title also tend to be given the bigger assignments, but nothing is mandatory.

A priest is a successor to the presbetyr (I'm not sure of the English spelling) of the New Testament. Some bibles translate the Greek term as elder. Only a priest can say Mass and turn the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Only a priest can absolve sins in the sacrament of Reconciliation. A discipline of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church restricts ordination to unmarried men. On rare occassions this is set aside for ordained Protestant ministers who become Catholic and want to be priests. Some of the other Rites of the Catholic Church do allow married priests, but not married bishops. (The more children I have, the more the Latin Rite discipline makes sense to me).

Deacons now correspond to deacon in the New Testament. Deacons can baptize, and can officiate at weddings and funerals. They can't say mass, but if a deacon is assisting at mass, he (and not the priest) is supposed to proclaim the Gospel reading.

Religious brothers and sisters/nuns have their own hierarchy, but I believe all are ultimately under a bishop (or the Pope)

All members of the laity are called "priest, prophet, and king" on account of their baptism. I'd say more about the laity, but I've got to get a bunch ready for bed now. : )


joeh said...

Question I have had since returning to the church from limbo. As a cradle Catholic, it seems to me at one time the Pope had real authority. You would not see another bishop or cardinal come out preaching things which are in direct conflict in settled teaching areas such as abortion, birth control, men only priests, etc. If you did, they would get summoned to Rome or at least sent a very strong message to straighten up their act or else. Now it seems the Pope suggests or asks for things, but has no real authority. Did this change with Vatican II? It is confusing to the flock and seems like something that should be straightened out. Also, is there no more excommunication of Catholics? Seems like we should be seeing some of this with politicians who vote for the murder of unborn children to remain legal. Instead, we see bishops and cardinals at their side laughing away as if this were acceptable. This is not meant to be provocative and if it is, that is only a reflection on my limited education.

Puff the Magic Dragon said...

Ok, let me preamble this by saying I do not advocate a married clergy. Nor do I think women can or should become priests.

That said, I seem to recall a Deacon in the New Testament named Phoebe. This always confused me. Why would they have named a woman Deacon?

Ray from MN said...

And the answer is:

Whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven; and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven.

Father Kyle said...

Ok, another clarification because it has changed over the years. Cardinals represent the priests of the Diocese of Rome who were the electors of the new bishop of Rome (just as they used to elect bishops in every diocese, by vote of the priests.)

Now, however, if a man is not a bishop when he is nominated/elected/named/whatever a Cardinal, he is subsequently ordained a bishop. Someone mentioned Cardinal Dulles. He was ordained a bishop after his nomination (even though he is a Jesuit.) Since Vatican II and the restriction that one must be under 80 to vote, this has happened a number of times. de Lubac is one that I can think of, perhaps von Balthazar as well.

Anonymous said...

It's a pretty simple answer... Jesus didn't leave a "blueprint" for the growth and development of His Church... He left the Holy Spirit to guide us in the ways of holiness and truth. The Church is a living and dynamic reality... it grows and develops as it moves through time... We don't wear tunics and sandals, and transport ourselves with donkeys... even though Jesus did. The Church responds to the movement through time, and incorporates new understandings of its vision and mission... and this is a good thing. The Holy Spirit enables us to receive and proclaim the Gospel in ways ever changing and new.

Danny Garland Jr. said...

Fr. Kyle,
Don't forget Congar or Danielou!

Puff the magic dragon,
the woman you are referring to was a deaconess, not a deacon. The reason why they had women as deaconesses was because they used to baptize in the nude in the early Church. Thus a woman was needed to assist. Thus the position of deaconess. It was not at any time though an ordained role. We no longer baptize in the nude, thus no more deaconesses!

the Joneses said...

A nit-pick here:

The last poster said that deaconess was at no time an ordained position. I think this is wrong.

The Apostolic Constitutions Book 8, Section 3, paras. 19 and 20 set out a rite for ordaining deaconesses. See the Catholic Encyclopedia at "it is certain that a ritual was in use for the ordination of deaconesses by the laying on of hands..."

I would agree that there is nothing in the Constitutions that implies that deaconesses acted at the altar in any capacity. They were ushers, assisted in baptisms, and made pastoral house calls when it would not be appropriate for the deacon to do so.

Puff the Magic Dragon said...

The only difference between a Deacon and a Deaconess is the gender. So they did have female deacons.

I would have to assume though that these were not transitional deacons but more permanent deacons.


Father Martin Fox said...

About "deaconesses":

I am not expert in this area, and I don't want to imply otherwise. But there are those who are expert in this field, and they have examined the data closely, and my understanding is that the deaconess was not ordained as we understand ordination.

It's not enough to point to a word or gesture that seems, on the surface, to suggest similitude; you have to look at intention; and those who know this subject well contend that the "ordination" of deaconesses was understood, at the time, as essentially different from the office of deacon.

The word deacon -- diakonos in Greek -- means servant or helper; and having the word applied to a woman in the New Testament contributes nothing particular to this question of women ever having received the sacrament of holy orders.

Someone like Jimmy Akin at would probably entertain this question, be inclined to expound helpfully on it.

Phil B. said...

Two comments..... First, on Newman....

Great resource, although a little hard on the brain as any 19th century writer would be- I first read him as a Lutheran seminarian in a comparative systematics course. The analogy you cited (child to adult) helped me get over that old objection of the RC Church not looking much like the ancient Church- although now that I've read the Church Fathers for myself I've seen the family resemblance more clearly.

second on deaconesses.... there is a hard issue, especially because there is textual evidence for them (Romans 16:1) as well as historical. Two helps.... first the ancient church obvious;y viewed the deacons with their wives/ families as a ministering "unit." This could be one source... although I'm not sure we have any textual evidence directly identifying deaonesses as deacon's wives. There was a similar phenomenom among synagogue leaders in Asia Minor... i.e. instances of women being termed leaders on thier epitaphs, where this is obviously derivative/ honorific becasue of their husband's position.

See also I Tim 3:8-13. There deacons are treated wholistically, i.e. with their families also included, as having importance in dtermining the deacons' qualifications.

The modern Roman restoration of the Order of the Permanent Deaconate recognizes this reality both in the deaconal training (wives are in) and ritually (wives present/ presented with their husband-ordinands to the Bishop).

I also heard somewhere that the ancient Eastern Church had deaconesses that fulfilled the function of robing catechumens (female), also thus stressing the necessity of having some female ministers to deal with functions in Eastern and other highly sex-segregated societies.

I hope this helps.... its nice to read your blog- reminds me of by gone days when I was a pastor.

Caeremonarius said...

Someone mentioned Cardinal Dulles. He was ordained a bishop after his nomination (even though he is a Jesuit.)

Actually, he wasn't. He asked for, and received, dispensation from the requirement for episcopal ordination.



(At the third website, note the lack of a date of episcopal ordination for Cardinal Dulles.)