Anglican Women Bishops versus Catholic Women Deacons

The Church of England has approved of the ordination of women as bishops. Here’s a UK news commentary, listing some women likely to be chosen for the role of bishop. The decision is being hailed by secular observers as a step toward greater equality for women in religion.

From a Catholic point of view, men in the Anglican Communion — the Church of England, Anglicans, Episcopalians — are not validly ordained as priests or bishops. Pope Leo XIII issued his decision that Anglican Orders are invalid in the document Apostolicae Curae. This decision is, in my understanding, infallible as a dogmatic fact. So the Catholic Church does not believe that male Anglican bishops and priests are validly ordained. And this implies that anyone ordained by an Anglican Bishop is also not validly ordained. Only a validly-ordained Bishop can confer ordination one someone as deacon, priest, or bishop.

The Catholic Church teaches, infallibly, in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that women cannot be validly ordained to the priesthood:

“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.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ did not give His Church the authority to ordain women to the priesthood. And a Bishop is a kind of priest. But this teaching leaves open the question as to whether or not the Lord gave the Church the authority to ordain women to the deaconate.

It also leaves open the possibility that, after Jesus returns, He might newly confer upon the Church the authority to ordain women priests. An indication of this event is found in the Book of Revelation:

{20:6} Blessed and holy is he who takes part in the First Resurrection. Over these the second death has no power. But they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with him for a thousand years.

It is not clear whether this priesthood is the priesthood of all believers, mentioned in Rev 1:6, or the ordained priesthood. My interpretation is that the men and women of the First Resurrection (an event in the distant future) will become ordained priests. The wording in this verse differs from the earlier verse. The phrases “priests of God and of Christ” and “shall reign with him” are stronger than the earlier wording: “has made us into a kingdom and into priests for God and for his Father.” But it is an open question. Perhaps Christ will authorize the priestly ordination of women when He returns; perhaps not.

The question of whether the Church has the authority to ordain women deacons, though, is likely to be settled much sooner. No special intervention from Christ would be needed, only a decision by a Pope that the Church does possess this authority. I believe that Pope Francis will soon teach that women can be ordained as deacons in the Catholic Church. And if so, then his successors will certainly continue that teaching and practice.

The choice by the Church of England to ordain women bishops (i.e. invalidly attempt to ordain) is no surprise. The Protestant Churches lack a clear understanding of Sacred Tradition, lack the Magisterium with its teaching and guidance, and they have substantially misunderstood Sacred Scripture. As a result, they cannot withstand the constant pressures of sinful secular society to accept secular ideas. They are doomed to gradually accept sin and error, again and again, until either their members lose the Christian faith entirely, or they come to their senses (like the Prodigal Son) and return to their family, the Catholic Church.

I believe that all Christians will be united in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, in the early 2020’s, by the providence and grace of God. Then the Church will be restructured to have 7 parts in unity: 5 parts for the formerly Protestant Churches, one part for the Latin Church, and one part for the Eastern Churches.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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