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Frequently Asked Questions

Doesn't Church teaching forbid the ordination of women?

Canon 1024 reads: "A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly." However, this Canon was developed only after the permanent diaconate ended in the West, and so it only related to priesthood -- not the permanent diaconate as a separate and permanent ministry. In late December 2009, Pope Benedict XVI made a change to Canon Law, clarifying the role and ministry of deacons, which many experts believe opens the door to ordaining women deacons.

As regards ordaining women as deacons, it is an administrative law, not doctrine, and can be changed. In 2001, the International Theological Commission said that the teaching office of the Church had yet to decide on women deacons.

Could we have women serve as non-ordained "deaconesses" as Cardinal Walter Kasper and other have suggested?

Women did not always belong to a separate order of "deaconesses." In fact, women deacons were ordained by a bishop in the sanctuary with an epiclesis and the laying on of hands. The arguement that women cannot be ordained suggests that women are not ontologically equal to men and cannot image Christ, which contradicts the Catechism.

Are there women who could serve as deacons?

Most women ministers in the U.S. and around the world are highly qualified to serve as deacons. In the United States, 80% of paid lay ecclesial ministers and 66% of chaplains are women. In 2015, 58% of students enrolled in lay ecclesial minister formation programs were women. Finally, wives of men who enter the permanent diaconate go through the formation program with their husbands. All of these women constitute a large new pool of ministers who could be immediately available to serve in the diaconate.

Shouldn't we wait for the pope to decide to ordain women deacons?

Pope Francis has asked bishops' conferences to state their needs and be "courageous" in making proposals to him.

How would ordaining women deacons help the Church?

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University predicts that by 2019 have of all currently active priests will reach retirement age. Moreover, the number of new ordinations won't come close to making up for the loss. Ordaining women to the diaconate will help meet many unmet ministerial needs in the Catholic Church in the midst of the priest shortage. Permanent deacons may preach, baptize, witness marriages and perform other services and ministries for the People of God.

Are there any Church leaders who are in favor of women deacons?

More and more, Catholic bishops are expressing an openness to talking about ordaining women deacons. Catholic bishops who have recently spoken or written publicly about women deacons include: Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher from Quebec; Bishop George Murry from Youngstown, OH; Retired Auxiliary Bishop Emil A. Wcela from Rockville Center, NY; and Bishop Emeritus Francis A. Quinn from Sacramento, CA.

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