Series examines gender in theology
Cecilia Greubel | Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Saint Mary’s Theology on Fire series examined gender’s role in Christian theology with a discussion on “American Women and the Permanent Diaconate” facilitated by Katherine Harmon, a theology professor from Marian University.
Harmon began the conversation by recalling a project given to her by a former professor at Notre Dame called “On the Archives.” She said the assignment was fairly open-ended and meant to delve into a particular subject of the student’s choice.
Harmon said she researched the word “women” and soon came across “woman diaconates.”
Harmon asked the event’s attendees if they could recall the role of a deacon. The audience said deacon’s responsibilities include teaching, reading and assisting with baptism.
“The role of the deacon has to do with service,” Harmon said.
Harmon listed statistics pertaining to the average American deacon, including level of education, age and marital status.
“One-hundred percent of contemporary deacons are male,” she said.
Harmon said the historically, this hegemony was not always the case. Harmon said various sources, like unclear passages from books in the Bible like Timothy and Romans, as well as letters from Church authority recognized the role of deaconesses.
Given this public information, Harmon said she pondered why the idea of a woman in the role of deacon seem so foreign to Catholics today.
“The issue, it seems, is dealing with the word ordination,” Harmon said. “If you took the present definition and tried to apply it to the past, these women were not ordained.”
Harmon said although she was unaware of a specific modern-day movement to return women to the role of deaconess, she was personally motivated to share this information because it is the unknown truth.
“To me, it is crucial to see that women were there and to see where they were. It is important to recognize the presence of women in history, especially in the liturgy,” Harmon said.