On May 12, 2016 Pope Francis announced that he will create a commission to study the possibility of restoring the tradition of ordaining women deacons in the Catholic Church.
Follow this special section to stay up to date and get insights and commentary on all the news and developments!
Phyllis Zagano and Luke Hansen talk about women deacons with Sebastian Gomes.
I watched with interest in August 2016 when Pope Francis made good on his promise to convene a commission to study the female diaconate. I was especially attentive to this development because I am a supporter of the renewal of the order of deaconesses in my own church—the Orthodox Church. Later last year I was astonished when one of the self-governing churches of the Orthodox world, Alexandria, decided to revive the female diaconate in Africa and proceeded to consecrate five women as deaconesses this past February. These moves by the Synod of Alexandria surprised those of us in the United States working on this issue—we did not know the female diaconate was even under consideration by the African church. Rarely does anything happen this fast in the Orthodox world.
Metropolitan Kallistos Ware believes women deacons were and should be equal to male deacons.
There will be a Pan-Orthodox conference on the renewal of the diaconate (male and female) at the St. Phoebe Center in Irvine, California from October 6 - 7, 2017. Read more.
“The Ministry of Women, Then and Now: Can there be Women Deacons?,” will be held Sunday, April 23, from 2 to 4 p.m., at St. Agnes Church Hall, 22 Boston St., Middleton. The discussion, led by Francine Cardman, will cover women’s ministries in the early years of the Catholic Church and how it relates to the current discussion of female deacons. Refreshments will be served. The event is free and open to the public; free-will donations are appreciated. For more information, call John and Barbara Gould at 978-535-2321.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn OP has voiced cautious openness towards re-introducing the female diaconate in the Western Church, saying it was once a centuries-long tradition and continued to be practiced in the East.
Cardinal Ravasi is the first high level official to express his openness to women deacons.
First group of women are consecrated as deaconesses under Patricarch Theodoros.
The Ignatian Spiritual Life Center at Saint Agnes Parish in San Francisco, CA will host an evening of prayer for the ongoing work of the Study Commission on the Women's Diaconate. Catholics around the world can join this prayer service via live-streamed video at www.facebook.com/catholicwomendeacons. The prayer service will remember and honor the women in history who served the Church as deacons, give witness to women who-- today -- experience a call to the diaconate, and call upon the Holy Spirit as the Commission continues its work. We encourage you to consider hosting a gathering to pray along with the community gathered at The Ignatian Spiritual Life Center and around the world.
I think women deacons could help. I’ll avoid sweeping generalizations about women and our “natural” characteristics, and simply say that I think it’s always a good thing when more voices and more perspectives are added to a conversation. Hearing a woman preach or read the gospel in church is transformative. Male clerics themselves might find themselves transformed by having to listen to women in official capacities. Our conversation about who we are as a church will only get richer if we add women deacons.
Carolyn Osiek reflects on the current commission and the origins of our tradition of the diaconate.
I began to reflect on the fact that the Catholic priesthood has consolidated its power over the centuries to such a degree that the discussion of permanent deacons—even after they have been restored for almost fifty years—remains in its infancy.
A special web round-table discussion sponsored by America Media and the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture.
During the morning and afternoon sessions, members will study the situation of women deacons in the early centuries of Church history.
"The big question, of course, is whether – if the commission does rule that women deacons existed in the past – Francis will be willing to face down an inevitable backlash from conservatives who will argue that any move to create female deacons will cause “confusion” over teaching that only men can be ordained as priests. "
"Those not predisposed to support women deacons in the present day often consider the initiative to be a recent, feminist, perhaps postmodern quest, an innovation unmoored from historical tradition. What often goes unnoticed in the discussion about women deacons, though, is how much of the ancient evidence comes from concrete archaeological discoveries." Michael Peppard shares just some of the archaeological and historical evidence in support of women deacons.
NEW: Statement Regarding Ordination of Women Deacons • August 22, 2016 We who are entrusted with leadership on behalf of the one thousand members of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, welcome with praise and prayer the recent decision by Pope Francis to establish a commission regarding the possible ordination of women deacons. We praise the openness of this discussion and offer our prayers that the Holy Spirit will guide the members of the commission. We are pleased to learn that Professor Phyllis Zagano from Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, is one of the six women who have been named to serve with six men as members of the commission. We enthusiastically welcome these developments. We believe the ordination of women deacons will enhance pastoral ministry and serve the common good of the People of God. Our association has supported the ordination of women to the diaconate with a resolution adopted in our 2013 assembly, and with a letter to the U.S. bishops in 2014. We noted that many priests “find ourselves very stretched in ministry with more and more demands being made on us daily . . . . One way to help assist us in our duties would be to allow the ordination of women to the diaconate, a practice that was familiar to the early church, in order to help us better serve the people entrusted to us.” We believe that ordination is a matter of justice for women who are our associates and partners in providing ministry. Women have traditionally done 80 to 85 percent of the ministry of our Church. Since the restoration of the permanent diaconate following the Second Vatican Council male candidates were chosen among those who were already performing diaconal service. We see it as a matter of justice that women who likewise are leaders in such ministries not be deprived of the graces of the Sacrament.” Today we continue to speak on behalf of our members serving in dioceses and religious communities with day-to-day ministerial joys and challenges. Our experience leads us to believe that having men and women deacons as parish administrators would be more effective than closing parishes and establishing super parishes. We value the position of FutureChurch and other organizations of Catholics concerned about pastoral ministry. FutureChurch states that many women who lead parishes and serve as catechists and chaplains and in other ministries should be ordained. “In light of mission opportunities and pastoral needs, local Churches should be empowered to call forth women for the ordained diaconia of liturgy, word and charity.”
Faggioli explores the implications of localizing the discernment regarding the potential integration of women deacons. "[Such subsidiarity] suggests the fragmentation goes all the way down to local regions within a specific country, or even to the level of individual dioceses. Should we begin to see such fissures, we could be looking at a very different kind of map of the global Church."
The Jesuit Post sits down with Luke Hansen, SJ, who interned with FutureChurch this past academic year, to discuss women deacons.
" It would sure be interesting to be a fly on the wall of any closed-door meetings with this commission made up of progressives, conservatives and moderates. One thing is certain after reading through the bios of all the members of the panel: they are all highly qualified experts to offer counsel on this matter."
Jamie Manson argues that women should not be accused of clericalism in the pursuit of equal power and authority within the Church, and addresses the failures of many conversations currently surrounding the question of women deacons.
The Editors of America share their perspective on the question of women deacons: "If the church discerns in light of its reflection on the historical and theological data and the current life of the church that, at a minimum, it enjoys the freedom to admit women to the permanent diaconate, then should we do so? Yes, we should."
Lynne Mapes Riordan shares the communal discernment process that led her to pursue the diaconate in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Thomas Reese, SJ makes the case for women deacons even if it hadn't been a historical reality... then goes on to promote an expanded role for ordained deacons today.
Sara Butler, who is strongly opposed to the ordination of women, writes about the Commission to Study the Diaconate of Women.
University of Virginia Assistant Religious Studies Professor Nichole Flores: "Formalizing the social justice work Catholic women are already doing in a diaconal role could fuel the larger renaissance that has come with Pope Francis’ commitment to making the church more open; what he has called a “field hospital” dedicated to ministry to those in greatest need. A larger, more active and more robust diaconate could also tremendously impact mission work with the poor or dispossessed."
Sr. Christine Schenk, CSJ gives her take on the Women Deacons Commission in this concise, easy to read exploration of the many issues that have been raised: "It's good. And here are some reasons why."
Hear from Phyllis Zagano as she prepares for the Commission on Women Deacons to which she has been named.
Joshua J. McElwee explores some of the views and opinions that members of the Women Deacons Commission have already expressed.
Cynthia Bowns wants to be at the head of the line if women deacons are restored.
"This special commission on deacons strikes me as another balloon that pleases the crowd but pops as it goes out of sight. The elements of the project don't add up. Gather a team of respected specialists, ask them to comb through the dusty archives for evidence pro and con and come up with what? Clear directions for creating women deacons with definite prohibitions against their going on to priesthood? Clear denials of women as deacons? A "no clear evidence one way or another"? Finally, is the diaconate inextricably linked to ordination to the priesthood?"
Praytellblog has a good overview of the members appointed to the commission
Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D. sits down with the New York Times for a short Q&A
Phyllis Zagano, who teaches religion at Hofstra University and who has written extensively about women deacons in the early church, told America she believes there are three questions to consider—two for the commission and one for Pope Francis.
"In the name of the International Union of Superiors General I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to Pope Francis for having given this follow-up to our request in May," said Sammut.
In a press release issued this morning, the Vatican announced that "after intense prayer and mature reflection," Pope Francis has established a “Commission of Study on the Diaconate of Women” and named twelve members to it, six of them women, including one American—Professor Phyllis Zagano, who teaches at Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.
“With the creation of a commission that is composed of both women and men, and with members such as long time expert Phyllis Zagano and Sr. Mary Melone, FutureChurch is hopeful that this new commission will be able to review the historical evidence and recommend restoring women as ordained deacons in the Roman Catholic Church,” said Deborah Rose-Milavec, Executive Director of FutureChurch.
"After intense prayer and mature reflection, Pope Francis has decided to institute the Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women." As president of the commission, Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J. In addition to Archbishop Ladaria, the commission is composed of six women and six men from academic institutions around the world.
FutureChurch's own Russ Petrus and commssion member Phyllis Zagano are quoted in this detailed article about the commission, recently named by Francis, to study women deacons.
Pope Francis has created a commission to study the possibility of allowing women to serve as deacons in the Catholic church, following up on a promise made last May in what could be an historic move towards ending the global institution's practice of an all-male clergy. The commission includes U.S. professor Phyllis Zagano.
Last May, Pope Francis indicated his willingness to appoint a commission to study the subject of women deacons. Today I welcome the news that he has done just that. From the earliest days of the church, women rightly served in key leadership roles. Still, the church must do better. Women deserve to be brought more fully into the decision-making of the church. I look forward to learning more about the work of the commission, composed of an equal number of men and women, as they bring their considerable talents to bear on this important subject in the life of the church.
Phyllis Zagano, Cynthia Bowns, and others share their hopes for the diaconate in the Catholic Tradition.
The Forty-Third Annual Thomas Verner Moore Lecture will be given by Phyllis Zagano, Senior Research Associate-in-Residence in the Department of Religion at Hofstra University on September 24, 2016 at 8:00 PM Co-Sponsored by St. Anselm's Abbey, the Columbus School of Law, and the School of Theology and Religious Studies at CUA. Topic: "Women Deacons: Yes, No, Maybe?" Date: September 24, 2016 at 8:00 PM, reception follows Location: The Catholic University of America, The Columbus School of Law, Slowinski Courtroom
Anyone mildly acquainted with how the church works understands that it thinks in terms of millennia, and change comes in incremental steps, sometimes increments so small as to be indiscernible in the span of an individual life. In this sense, Francis' proposed commission is a leap forward. A study, however, is just a study, and the effort will surely be far more complicated than it sounds.
Phyllis Zagano reflects on the intersection of careerism and clericalism, and shares a hope-filled story of a priest who smells like his sheep...and maybe a bit of dumpster trash.
The latest salvo toward the stained glass ceiling came from Pope Francis on May 12, as he spoke in Paul VI Hall to the 900 members of the International Union of Superiors General following their triennial meeting in Rome. "Women deacons?" he was asked. Yes, he answered, I will ask the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for information, and also for a commission to study the question.
"Sister Carmen Sammut, president of the International Union of Superiors General said, “We are already doing so many things that resemble what a deacon would do, although it would help us to do a bit more service if we were ordained deacons…It is not a question of feminism, it’s a question of our being baptized, that gives us the duty and the right to be part of the decision-making processes.” -- Fr. Edward Beck fleshes out the ramifications of Francis' openness to the conversation on women deacons.
What can we expect from the commission on female deacons? All were excited when Pope Francis made his comments about establishing a commission to discuss the possibility of women deacons. He was speaking to a group of 900 women leaders of religious organizations and was responding to a question they had asked. Now that the dust has settled a bit on the story, it might be helpful to see if we can figure out how hopeful this latest move by Pope Francis may be.
At an assembly of leaders of women’s religious orders, Pope Francis said he would set up a commission to study whether women could serve as deacons, ordained ministers in the Roman Catholic Church who assist bishops and priests. Some saw his remarks as a possible opening in the church’s all-male clergy. Should the Roman Catholic Church allow women to become deacons?
Take our survey and let us know if you are called and if you support women deacons in the Roman Catholic Church!
Phyllis Zagano lists some of the most important works on women deacons.
I’ll admit it, I bought into the mass hysteria last week, and perhaps I should have known better. I woke up one day last week to a tweet from a Vatican reporter, whom I have met personally and with whom I have had a discussion about the particular topic in question, and I hit “retweet” immediately on the news that Pope Francis was setting up a commission to explore the question of women as deacons. Others picked up that same tweet as a dramatic shift in Church policy.
In this Spirit-inspired conversation, Dr. Zagano discusses her new book "Women Deacons? Essays with Answers," gives an excellent run down of the Church's conversation on women deacons, and shares her thoughts on the recently announced commission.
Yet the pope's words about the role of women in the church have inspired many of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. A leader of a women's religious order based in the south suburbs reacted with excitement to the pope's response. Pope says he's willing to study whether women can be deacons, in major step Pope says he's willing to study whether women can be deacons, in major step "I was very pleased with that," said Sister Mary Elizabeth Imler of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Frankfort. Imler also is vice president for mission integration and university ministry at the University of St. Francis in Joliet. "Pope Francis did not say he would try to change things," Imler said. "He said he would allow people to explore how our thinking has changed."
(RNS) When Pope Francis suddenly agreed, during an off-the-cuff chat last week with nuns gathered in Rome, to explore the idea of ordaining women as deacons he touched off what has by now become a typical Francis-like media storm: Some conservatives ran around with their hair on fire, deploring Francis’ willingness to open controversial debates and to take steps down what they saw as a slippery slope to ordaining women as priests, while some liberals did a happy dance over Francis’ willingness to open controversial debates and take steps toward what they saw as reforms that could elevate the role of women.
The whole interview and discussion is really interesting. Pope Francis certainly has a lot to learn, but he is open to new possibilities. And the bold questions of the UISG are really important is moving new discussions and actions forward. He promises to create a commission to study women deacons. He knows he needs to get Women Superiors integrated into discussions at the the General Assembly of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life [CICLSAL]. It is important to see that the women at UISG used their time with him to press him for change. And he is yielding...he knows the Church is wrong...he sometimes repeats old forumulas, but he knows the Church is on thin ice and that these women are not going to let him get away with the sexism that has been perpetrated by Church leadership for so long...
Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, 2015 Voices of Faith panelist and FutureChurch Advisory Board member, comments on last week's news of Pope Francis announcement on the possibility to have women deacons: "This is wonderful news. I think it is a move in the right direction. It shows an openness on the part of Pope Francis to explore the possibility of ordaining women deacons and recover their contribution to the birth of the Church. This despite the obvious resistance to talk of ordination of any kind. Of course, one cannot discount the power of the dissenting voices in the Church, those who are afraid that once women are ordained deacons there is nothing to stop them from being ordained priests in the future. In April 1976 the Pontifical Biblical Commission unanimously concluded that there was no scriptural barrier to ordaining women, and a good majority of the commission was in favour of the view that the Church could ordain women to the priesthood without going against Jesus' original intentions. But forty years later we are still discussing the ordination of women deacons! My hope actually is in the person of Pope Francis. I believe he is a listening Pope. He has heard what senior women in the Church have to say, and if he is serious about wanting to enlarge women's roles in the church he cannot ignore them. His track record shows he is not afraid to act in accordance with what he discerns to be right. I think we need to let the Spirit do Her job too." Astrid Lobo Gajiwala
It was pretty clear that [Pope Francis] wanted the discussion reopened. I think having women deacons is really a recovery of a historical reality and it's also something that points towards the future in terms of enabling women to have more participation in the liturgical life of the church and therefore more participation in leadership. Because preaching is a form of leadership and celebrating the sacraments is a form of leadership. I think it's fantastic.
The American television series Madam Secretary follows US Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni) as she navigates the worlds of politics and world diplomacy. Would the Vatican have a woman Secretary of State? Could it?
If the pope really wants to know the history of the women deacons, he could not do better than to appoint Phyllis Zagano to the commission. She holds a research appointment at Hofstra University and is a columnist at NCRonline.org. Her many books include her award-winning Holy Saturday: An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church (Crossroad Publishing, 2000).
"It will make a huge difference," said Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director of FutureChurch, a Lakewood, Ohio-based Catholic group that advocates the ordination of women as priests.
In an audience with female religious superiors, the Pope has agreed to back the establishment of a commission to study women deacons. Pope Francis has said he wants the study of the female diaconate in the early Church to resume. He talked about this during his audience with the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), whom he received in the Vatican. This is not a new question and was in fact mentioned again recently.
Pope Francis has opened the door to female deacons in what could be a major shift by the Catholic church, which maintains a prohibition on women serving as clergy. The pontiff, who has previously ruled out the possibility of female priests, said he would appoint an official commission to study the issue, which required some “clarity”.
During the meeting with 900 leaders of female religious congregations, Francis had been asked simply: “Why not construct an official commission that might study the question?" He told the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), who were meeting in Rome, that it was unclear to him what role female deacons had played during early Christianity. "It would do good for the church to clarify this point," he said.
FutureChurch will host two exciting teleconferences with outstanding scholars and women deacons experts Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D. (May 18th at 8pm EDT) and Gary Macy, Ph.D. (June 22 at 8pm EDT). Join us to learn more about what scholars are saying about ordaining women deacons.
I have long believed that women should be full equals with men in all the offices of the church, eligible to serve as priests, bishops, cardinals, even pope. And I think the "reasoning" (if you can call it that) in the Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood (the 1976 document which came out against women priests on grounds that they cannot "image" Jesus) makes no sense.
Pope Francis said he will create a commission to study the possibility of ordaining women as deacons, a step that could for the first time open the ranks of the Catholic Church’s all-male clergy to women. Pope Francis said Thursday he agreed the matter should be given more careful consideration, telling hundreds of nuns from around the world that he himself always wondered about the role of deaconesses in the early church.
In an opening with historic import, Pope Francis has said he wants to study the possibility of ordaining women as deacons, a step that could for the first time open the ranks of the Catholic Church’s all-male clergy to women. The order of deacons was reinsitituted in the Catholic Church following the reforms of the 1960s, and while deacons cannot celebrate the Eucharist like a priest, a deacon can preach at Mass, preside at weddings and funerals, and perform baptisms.
Terry, who wants to become a deacon, called the announcement an acknowledgement "that women have a vocation." "The fact that the pope and the structural church can acknowledge this is incredibly meaningful, and will mean a dynamic shift will happen in the church now because this commission has been called," she said.
During a meeting Thursday with leaders of women’s religious orders, the pope—who has frequently lauded the role women play in the church—was asked why the role of permanent deacon was limited to men. The pontiff responded that the Vatican would investigate the possibility of admitting women to the role, without offering further details.
Comparing national survey responses from 50 Roman Catholic deacons — all men — and 50 Methodist deacons — seven men and 43 women — “there were no significant differences across Christian denominations on personality dimensions, religious and spirituality beliefs or leadership styles,” according to psychology professor Joseph Ferrari, who also is an ordained Permanent Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church.
Giancarlo Pani questions the idea that we cannot discuss women's ordination.
Pope Francis said on Thursday that he would set up a commission to study whether women can serve as deacons in the Roman Catholic Church, revealing an openness to re-examining the church’s long-held insistence on an all-male clergy. His move was hailed as a breakthrough by Catholic women who have clamored for years to be given a more prominent role in the church, and who cite research showing that women in the church’s early history served as deacons.
Pope Francis on Thursday told an international conference of nuns that he wants to create a commission to study the possibility of “reinstating” female deacons, a dramatic statement highlighting the historic role of women in the church, but one which left unclear what tangible changes Francis is open to making.
Pope Francis led an in-depth discussion on Thursday about the role of women in the Church, saying he wants to set up a commission to study the possibility of reinstating female deacons.
When St. John Paul II issued the document Ordinatio Sacerdotalis in 1994, he said “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,” but did not address the question of deacons.
This time, the question came from the heads of women's religious orders, who met with Francis at the Vatican on Thursday and pressed him for tangible ways in which women might play a larger role in leading the Catholic Church. To date, Francis has praised the "feminine genius" but has not carried through on vague promises to appoint more women to leadership positions.
NCR has translated the questions posed to Pope Francis by members of International Union of Superiors General. On women deacons, they ask "What impedes the church from including women among permanent deacons, just as it happened in the early church? Why not construct an official commission that might study the question?"
There have been studies showing that women were sacramentally ordained as deacons. Pope Paul VI asked for a study in the 1970s. According to the detailed research which was published in 1974 by Cipriano Vagaggini, OSB -- who was on the Vatican's International Theological Commission at the time -- indicates that women deacons were Sacramentally ordained.
Pope Francis has just announced his intention to create a commission to study restoring the tradition of ordaining women deacons in the Roman Catholic Church. Much of the research has already been done by fine scholars and theologians -- women and men, lay and ordained -- who have come to the conclusion that yes, women were deacons and yes, they were ordained. Certainly the commission will come to the same conclusion!
Filipinos welcome the announcement by Pope Francis to study the possibility of allowing women to serve as deacons in the Catholic Church. "I personally welcome the news," said Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, a member of the Commission on Vocations of the Philippine bishops' conference.
In 2011, D’Antonio, et al., commissioned the Knowledge Networks research polling firm to conduct a statistically valid and nationally representative survey of 1,442 adult, self-identified U.S. Catholics in both English and Spanish. The survey found that 60 percent of U.S. Catholics support women priests and 75 percent support women deacons. Among U.S. Hispanic Catholics, 60 percent support women priests and 70 percent support women deacons. Source: William V. D’Antonio, Michele Dillon, and Mary L. Gautier American Catholics in Transition (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013), pages 100-101, 165-166.
Jesus chose the Twelve and others to help spread the word that God was working in the world uniquely through him. After his death and resurrection, local communities of believers formed; and within them leaders emerged or were chosen. In a natural way, the shape of such leadership was often borrowed from contemporary society. There were episkopoi, or “overseers,” in synagogues, who managed finances and sometimes settled disputes, and overseers in the civic world responsible for community projects, like the building of a road. There were presbyteroi, or “elders,” councils of men who formed administrative boards in synagogues and other religious institutions. Adopted by the Christian communities, these offices would develop into the episcopate and priesthood.
Bishop Calvo's talk centered on "Women Deacons: What the Past Can Mean for Today." His experience on the topic spans more than 20 years, he told the gathering. While serving as president of the Canon Law Society of America in November 1995, he sent a copy of an ad-hoc committee's "Canonical implications of ordaining women to the permanent diaconate" to then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. Commissions have studied the possibility of women deacons, but what they have concluded has not been published. As a canon lawyer, the bishop said, he is interested in church structure. His presentation drew upon the work of historians and scriptural scholars, who point to the presence of women deacons and deaconesses in the early church. Beyond looking at history, Bishop Calvo encouraged looking at the possibilities. "What we're doing here today," he said, in raising the question of women deacons, is asking, "Where is the Holy Spirit calling us on this particular question at this particular time?"
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