As Pope Francis’s commission studying the possibility of restoring women deacons continues its work, FutureChurch and Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) urge U.S. Catholic Bishops to publicly support the restoration of the ancient practice of ordaining women deacons and to petition the Holy See to allow women to function in our Church as permanent deacons.
Women have traditionally carried out 80 to 85% of the lay ministry of our Church*, yet they do not have equal access to all positions within the Church or an equal voice in decision-making processes. Since the restoration of the permanent diaconate following the Second Vatican Council, male candidates have been chosen largely from among those who already perform diaconal service. Women who likewise are leaders in such ministries should not be deprived of the graces of the sacrament. Further, the declining number of priests and the increasing burden of providing adequate ministry to our people make ordaining women to the diaconate an obvious option for addressing that issue.
Historically, as experts report:
- Several papal letters and some ecumenical councils described women deacons and permitted their ordination.
- Women were ordained as deacons, and many liturgies that have survived include identical or nearly identical ceremonies for the ordination of male and female deacons: by the bishop, in the presence of clergy, including the laying on of hands and epiclesis (calling down of the Holy Spirit).
- Women served as deacons and were engaged in diaconal work.
- The use of the term “deaconess” only appears later as language referencing ministries developed.
- A female deacon’s tasks and duties were similar if not identical to a male deacon’s—except there were specific, named tasks and duties that only women did on behalf of other women. These included anointing women at baptism, anointing ill women, catechizing women and children, main- taining order in the women’s portions of the assemblies, and serving as an intermediary between women or between a woman and her bishop.
Restoring women deacons — especially in underserved or missionary territories — would mean that women could:
- Preach during Eucharistic celebrations.
- Serve as single judges in annulment proceedings.
- Officiate the Rite of Marriage.
Women, like men, are made in the image and likeness of God. Indeed, women as well as men have served in persona christi servi throughout Church history and continue to do so today.
Restoring women deacons will serve significantly the common good of the People of God by enhancing pastoral ministry.
Voice of the Faithful Statement (in conjunction with FutureChurch), June 1, 2017
Contact: Nick Ingala, firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail), 781-559-3360
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.
FutureChurch seeks changes that will provide all Roman Catholics the opportunity to participate fully in Church life and leadership. It is a national and international coalition of parish centered Catholics striving to educate fellow Catholics about the seriousness of the priest shortage, the centrality of the Eucharist (the Mass), and the systemic inequality of women in the Catholic Church. FutureChurch is a nonprofit organization that makes presentations throughout the country, distributes education, advocacy and prayer resources and recruits activists who work on behalf of its mission. To learn what you can do to educate and advocate for women deacons go to www.futurechurch.org and catholicwomendeacons.org.