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Deaconesses’ duties

11 September 2020

September 10th, 1920.

THERE can be no questioning the alarm with which Catholics regard the Lambeth resolutions respecting female ministrations in our churches. . . The work of deaconesses is of the greatest value, and its development on similar lines to those laid down originally by Bishop Thorold cannot fail to be of value. Female deacons, teachers or preachers have no place in the Catholic Church. This was obviously recognized by the bishops. There was great division among them on this question when it came to voting, as may be seen from the figures, and, indeed, from the fact that they are revealed. Clause D. of Resolution 52, providing that the deaconess may read Morning and Evening Prayer and the Litany in church, lead in prayer, and, under licence of the bishop, instruct and exhort the congregation, was, we are informed in a note appended, carried by 117 votes to 81. That is a narrow majority indeed, But the Encyclical Letter begins by declaring its promulgation by two hundred and fifty-two bishops. Thus there were no fewer than fifty-four bishops who did not vote for Clause D. ii. of this important resolution. The clause, in fact, though carried by a majority of bishops voting, did not have the support of a majority present. One hundred and seventeen voted in favour of the clause, but a hundred and thirty-five either voted against it or did not vote at all. In the light of this it would, to say the least, be interesting to know what part the fifty-four abstaining prelates took in the other resolutions on the same subject. The matter is far too grave to be settled by so seriously divided a vote, and it is to be hoped that it will be allowed quietly to drop.

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