We know that St. Phoebe and others were “deacons” (Romans 16:1, diakonon), but how was their ministry expressed?
Apostolic Constitutions, Book 8, Paragraph 28: “A deaconess does not bless, nor perform anything belonging to the office of presbyters or deacons, but only is to keep the doors, and to minister to the presbyters in the baptizing of women, on account of decency.”
St. Paul did not give women teaching authority, especially at Mass (1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:12). Deacons must be able to proclaim the Gospel in the liturgy (Summa Theologiae, TP, Q. 67, A. 1, R. to Ob. 1), and all priests are to first be made deacons (Canon 1050). Therefore, women cannot serve in either role, and so they cannot be ordained at all.
Protestants claim that Confession (aka the Sacrament of Reconciliation) is unnecessary, but that claim totally contradicts the Word of God.
Kevin M. Tierney wrote at Catholic Lane:
When one repents of their sins in the Bible, it is always done to another individual.
The clearest case of this is with David after he commits adultery and arranges the murder of the woman’s husband. David only repents of his sin once God’s representative Nathan confronts him. (2 Samuel 12:1-13) David knew he had sinned grievously in his adultery, otherwise he would not have had Uriah killed to conceal his crime. Even knowing the extent of his guilt, he refused to repent. This speaks to the human psyche’s ability to rationalize away what they do so that it is no longer a sin. This is a skill humanity has nearly perfected in today’s age.
Another thing worth considering is how professing something vocally changes things. It is very easy to say something silently with no witnesses. It is something altogether different when you have to acknowledge your faults before another. One could say it becomes a far more serious endeavor when you are not only willing to renounce your sins, but renounce them forcefully out loud. The first step on the road to repentance requires you to renounce those sins. While it possible to fake such, it becomes far harder to do so. (It goes without saying that such a faked confession would be a sacrilege, and compound sin upon sin!)
Whenever I hear Protestants say that confessing sins to a priest is wrong, I am reminded of Luke 5:21, in which the Pharisees say that only God can forgive sins, and doubt Christ’s ability to do so. They are so blinded by their ideology that they can not recognize that God (Christ is God in human form, both fully human and fully divine) is before them.
Am I brazen enough to compare priests to Christ? In a way, yes, because priests serve in persona Christi (a Latin phrase, meaning “in the person of Christ”).
In John 20, Christ clearly gives the Apostles the power to forgive sins.
“And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.’” – John 20:22-23 (NASB)
From there, the Apostles passed down their “powers” through apostolic succession (a topic I plan on writing about in the future). Those “powers” are possessed by our bishops and priests today.
So, like Devin Rose asked, would you have confessed your sins to an Apostle? If not, you contradict Christ. And, if you would have confessed your sins to an Apostle, it only makes sense that you would confess your sins to a priest.
My first confession was the week before I entered the Church. I was so nervous, but I tried to be prepared: I had done an examination of my conscience and had printed out a version of the standard Act of Contrition. I was ready, or at least, I thought I was. But there was just something unexplainable about that few minutes. I truly felt like I was speaking with God. Like Laban felt with Jacob in Genesis 30:27, I felt that God blessed me, forgave me, and transformed me through His priest.
That is why the Church teaches that Catholics should confess at least once a year (the saintly Cardinal Arinze commented on that here). The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an amazing gift from God, so we should utilize it.
A couple of years ago, before I became Catholic, I was listening to the radio on a Sunday morning, on my way to a Lutheran (LCMS) church service. The guy on the radio was the pastor of a local Assembly of God church. He proceeded to go on a tirade against the Church for labeling priests as “Fathers,” and cited Matthew 23:9 as proof that the practice was in violation of Jesus Christ’s teachings.
His accusation startled me. I had never thought of it like that before, and he sounded so sure of himself. I had just started learning about the Faith (albeit I was in the very, very early stages of the process), and this topic had never been brought up.
So, I asked Dylan, a Catholic friend of mine, about it. He had been studying Latin and Greek and about the translations of the Bible (not to mention the fact that he knew everything about Catholicism, in general). He explained it to me, and now, I will try to relay the good explanation to you.
Here’s the verse in question:
“Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” – Matthew 23:9 (NASB)
But it’s important to note that the verse before that is…
“But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.” – Matthew 23:8 (NASB)
And after that is…
“Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” – Matthew 23:10-13 (NASB)
“Rabbi” means “teacher,” and the Latin word for “teacher” is “doctor”. Is using the words “rabbi,” “teacher,” “doctor,” and “leader” evil? No. If they are, St. Paul (aka the guy that wrote, like, half of the New Testament) and some of Jesus Christ’s other disciples are in some serious trouble. Read the following verses:
“Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.” – Colossians 4:1 (NASB) (Some scholars question who wrote it, but most agree that it was written by St. Paul.)
“But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time.” – Acts 5:34 (NASB) (Written by St. Luke.)
“…for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.” – 2 Timothy 1:11 (NASB) (Written by St. Paul.)
“I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” – 1 John 2:13-14 (NASB) (Written by St. John.)
“For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” – 1 Corinthians 4:15 (NASB) (Written by St. Paul.)
It’s clear that when Jesus Christ forbade calling anyone “father” or “leader” or “teacher,” he was not speaking literally. He was correcting the Pharisees (who lacked humility and had elevated themselves above God as the ultimate authorities) and He was instructing us to always keep in mind that God is the ultimate Father, the ultimate Leader, and the ultimate Teacher.
Jesus Christ wants us to remember that God is the source of all authority. He wants us to be humble and to never think that we have any kind of our own authority that puts us on equal footing with God or any kind of our own special knowledge that is hidden from God, because God is omnipotent and omniscient, all-powerful and all-knowing.
When we call priests “Fathers,” it’s not that we see them as God’s equals, but that we see them as people that God has called to help us, to lead us, and to teach us about Him.
When we call priests “Fathers,” it’s no worse or more malicious than when you call your doctor “Doctor”.
(Picture cropped from original image from here.)