Active Discernment: Restoring Women to the Ordained Diaconate in Roman Catholic Churches
Click here to view additional videos from Discerning Deacons, which engages Catholics in the active discernment of our Church about women and the diaconate.
An Ordained Women’s Diaconate?
In August 2016, Pope Francis established the Study Commission on the Women’s Diaconate to review the theology and history of the office of deacon in the Roman Catholic Church and the question of whether women might be allowed to become deacons. The commission was made up of 12 experts in patristic theology, ecclesiology, and spirituality and was led by Archbishop Luis Ladaria, SJ, who serves as the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
On May 7, Pope Francis declared that his study commission on an ordained women’s diaconate had failed to reach a consensus on whether women were ordained deacons in the early church in the same way as men.
Voice of the Faithful joins other Catholics in advocating for women to be ordained deacons no matter what historical hairs the commission and the Pope may split. This is a matter of justice. A just Church treats everyone equally. We will continue to advocate for women to be ordained deacons and ask that U.S. bishops urge Pope Francis to restore the ordained women’s diaconate.
In that vein, please see the template letter below that you can use to write to your bishop on this issue.
Template Letter Requesting Bishops to Act
Dear Bishop _____,
I urge you, at your earliest opportunity, to counsel Pope Francis to restore an ordained women’s diaconate.
I was deeply disappointed to learn that the Pope’s study commission on the women’s diaconate, after two year’s work, had not reached a consensus on whether women in the early Church were ordained deacons similarly to men. The Pope, however, has indicated that he would welcome further discussion. Phyllis Zagano, a theologian and one of the 12 people on the commission, has said she sees the Pope’s comments as an invitation to continue publishing her own research and as a challenge to you and your brother bishops to talk about this issue.
Personally, I feel that no matter what historical certainty on ordained women deacons the commission and the Pope may seek, this is a matter of justice. A just Church treats everyone equally, according to their particular charisms and callings. Rather than rely on what women deacons did historically or how their authority was conferred, the Church needs to assess what an ordained women’s diaconate could do today. If the focus is on what was done in the “early” Church, the evidence of women ministering in the first-century Church is overwhelming. The Church cannot afford today to continue to be wedded to traditions that limit the people of God.
Therefore, Bishop ____, I appeal to your sense of justice to do what is morally correct and what makes the most common sense, which is to urge Pope Francis to restore the ordained women’s diaconate in the Church.
You can find your bishop’s name and address on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website by clicking here.
Consider Hosting a Book Group
Read Women Deacons: Past, Present, and Future by Gary Macy, William T. Ditewig, and Phyllis Zagano and host sessions using the Study Guide(link is external) prepared to accompany the book (after clicking the link, look in the left-hand column and click “Download Study Guide for Women Deacons(link is external).”
A Salt + Light event at Fordham University
At this symposium on women deacons past, present, and future, two members of the Papal Study Commission on the Diaconate of Women spoke publicly for the first time. They were joined by an American woman religious who has done research on how women deacons would be received in U.S. parishes.
Commission member Phyllis Zagano, senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University and author of several books on women deaconsCommission member Fr. Bernard Pottier, SJ, faculty member at the Institute d’Etudes Théologiques in BrusselsSr. Donna Ciangio, OP, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Newark, and principal and founder of Church Leadership Consultation.