In the Vineyard: May 27, 2019

In the Vineyard :: May 27, 2019 :: Volume 19, Issue 10

News from National

An Ordained Women’s Diaconate?

According to a report by America Magazine, while the Pope may remain uncertain about whether women should be ordained to the diaconate, the majority of American Catholic women are not: Six in 10 American Catholic women support the possibility for women to be ordained as permanent deacons. According to America Magazine’s national survey published last year in partnership with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University and a nationally representative sample of 1,508 women, one in five indicated that they may support women deacons but want to learn more first. Twelve percent said they “didn’t know,” and 7 percent said that they would not support it.

Pope Francis established the Study Commission on the Women’s Diaconate in 2016 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.

Unfortunately, earlier this month, the pope 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 here that you can use to write to your bishop on this issue.

More on Women Deacons …

Published in the “Review of Religious Research” 07 March 2019: “What Do U.S. Catholics Think About Women Deacons” by Erick Berrelleza and Phyllis Zagano

Reviewed by Patricia T. Gomez, Ph.D., VOTF trustee

One more academic article on ordaining women deacons? Yes, but don’t miss reading this recently published article in the quarterly journal: “Review of Religious Research: the Intersection of Research and Application.” This carefully written article examines existing research on women deacons and explores sociological components pertaining to the exclusion of women from leadership structures in the Catholic Church through three perspectives: the traditional and changing concept of “synodality;” polling results presented as a matter of discipline/tradition, not a matter of doctrine, from three surveys on the role of women in the Church; and discussion of historical diaconal tasks with an eye on restoration of women to the ordained office of deacons in the global Church.

The concept of “synodality” has been understood in the Church as a process to discuss and determine specific applications of Church teaching and discipline (since 1965), and was a key model addressed in Vatican Council II discussions and documents. More recently the understanding of “synodality” has expanded into a way by which all members have their voices heard. The article cites the analysis by the International Theological Commission, a body of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, conducted in March, 2018. Their report describes the “synodal church” as a “Church of participation and co-responsibility.”

Yet the leadership structure of the Church continues to be closed to women. The recently noted evolution of “synodality” to embrace co-responsibility is further evidenced by topics included in the final document from the most recent Synod of Bishops meeting (October 2018). That Synod illustrated a sensitivity to participation of women in the church. Documents from this Synod included self-reflection on attendance at the Synod (only a few appointed women were there!) and a papal working document, an instrumentum laboris, which included a call for further exploration of women’s role in the Catholic Church. Three paragraphs of that document directly relate to women:

  • Recognition of the role of women in the Church and in society,
  • Renewed reflection on the vocation to ordained ministry, and
  • Promotion of the dignity of women.

The article suggests that a “duty of justice” to include women in positions of responsibility in the Church’s hierarchical structure is scripturally-based, and names restoration of women to the ordained diaconate as one possible avenue.

From there, the article incorporates a smattering of relevant, cogent survey findings. Polling results from three recent surveys of Catholics were included: one was an unscientific online survey that polled readers of a national Catholic online magazine; the other two were social science surveys polling for opinions on the role of women in the Church, specifically, women in the diaconate.

Sociologically, the authors explore cultural acceptance of women deacons as well as organizational factors and concerns: asking questions such as, would women religious want to be deacons?

Finally, the authors discuss diaconal tasks that women currently exercise in the Catholic Church. Deacons are charged with ministry of the Word, the liturgy, and charity. Worldwide, the role of women in ministry is central to Church activities. All three diaconal tasks are currently performed by women in their roles as catechists, directors of religious education in parishes, lectors and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, and caring for the poor and the destitute.

Although these diaconal tasks are being performed by women, because women are not currently ordained to the diaconate they have no sacramental identity or charism of the order. That the church needs these services from women deacons is demonstrated by the number of women already in non-ordained service to the Church.

One thought provoking sociological question addressed in the article: Are the People of God ready to accept women deacons and their authority? Understanding the evolution of “synodality,” the People of God need to be heard on this topic.

One final question for our readers: Is this the time to organize parish study and discussion groups on the inclusion of women in the hierarchical structure of the Church?

You can take one step by using the guides Dr. Zagano and those who work with her have prepared: 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) available for the book (after clicking the link, look in the left-hand column and click “Download Study Guide for Women Deacons(link is external).”

Don’t Forget the Conference!

Register now for the Spring/Summer Special Registration of 2-for-$200

Click here for information and to register …

Click here to download a printable 2019 Conference mail-in registration form …

Click here to reserve your discounted hotel room …

Speakers: Our special return guest speaker will be the Honorable Anne M. Burke, Illinois Supreme Court Justice, who spoke to us at our 10th Anniversary Conference in 2012. For more than two years, Justice Burke served as the interim chair of the USCCB’s National Review Board, directing its efforts to investigate the causes and effects of the clerical sexual abuse scandal and helping to establish guidelines and policies for effectively responding to the scandal. Much has happened in the clergy abuse scandal since then, and she is now involved with a group advocating accountability for bishops who have covered up abuse.

A second featured speaker will be Fr. Richard Lennan, professor of systematic theology at Boston College. He presently directs Boston College’s sacred theology licenture program. Together with Boston College theology professors Thomas Groome and Richard Gaillardetz, Prof. Lennan wrote “To Serve the People of God: Renewing the Conversation on Priesthood and Ministry(link is external),” which calls for reexamining the formation process for diocesan priests and eradicating the priesthood’s embedded clerical culture. The paper resulted from a seminar begun in 2016 and composed of lay and ordained women and men and theologians and ministers working in pastoral and academic settings. (Click here to read a statement(link is external)from Boston College with links to additional information).

We’re also featuring a panel discussion during which parishioners from the Cincinnati, Ohio, Washington, D.C., and Buffalo, New York, areas will discuss actions they are taking at the grassroots level to help create a just Church. The panel presentations and Q&A will segue into our lunch period when attendees can continue the panel members’ discussion.

Michigan the Latest State to Make Arrestsin Catholic Clergy Abuse Investigation

Michigan law enforcement charged five former Catholic priests with criminal sexual conduct this week. The charges were the latest law enforcement nationwide to hold Catholic officials accountable for sexual abuse in the church. Four of the former priests were arrested in Arizona, California, Florida and Michigan. The fifth faces possible extradition from India.

Michigan began its extensive investigation into clergy abuse last August, after an explosive grand jury report in Pennsylvania alleged that bishops and other church leaders covered up widespread child sexual abuse over several decades. That investigation has so far resulted in two convictions, and roughly 1,700 tips to a dedicated clergy abuse hotline. A district attorney in Pennsylvania recently charged a third former priest.

Read more about this here and here.


Why does Francis’ passion for justice and unity stop short of women?
“In June 2016, just after Pope Francis announced he would create a commission for the study of the history of women deacons in the Catholic Church, he joked to journalists, ‘When you want something not to be resolved, make a commission.’ Apparently, he wasn’t kidding after all. On May 7, while aboard the papal flight from Macedonia to Rome, Francis announced that, after three years of study, the papal commission was unable to find consensus and give a ‘definitive response’ on the role of women deacons in the first centuries of Christianity.” By Jamie Manson, National Catholic Reporter

Theology rooted in patriarchy delays restoration of female diaconate
“Overall I was more encouraged than discouraged by Pope Francis’s May 10 discussion about women deacons at the triennial meeting of the UISG. I was pleasantly surprised that the pope was considering a ‘sacramental decree.’ My worst fear was that church officials would establish an ahistorical hybrid ‘deaconette’ function for women that was neither fish nor fowl — neither ordained nor lay. Instead, it appears that Francis seeks a ‘solid theological, historical foundation’ to sacramentally ordain women deacons. This is where the discouraging part comes in. The solid historical foundation is already there.” By Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter

Victims of clergy abuse to sue Vatican, seek abusers’ names
“Five men who say they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests when they were minors are planning to sue the Vatican and are demanding the names of thousands of predator priests they claim have been kept secret by the Holy See. In a Monday news release announcing the lawsuit, Minnesota attorney Jeff Anderson said he wants to show that the Vatican tried to cover up actions by top church officials including former St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt. The lawsuit being filed Tuesday seeks the release of 3,400 names of priests who were referred to the Vatican for ‘credible cases of abuse.’ That number was released by the Vatican in 2014.” By Amy Forliti and Michael Rezendes, Associated Press, in America: The Jesuit Review

Police execute search warrant at Catholic Diocese of Dallas
“Police searched the offices of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas on Wednesday (May 15) after an investigation into child sexual abuse allegations against a former priest uncovered claims against others, a police commander said. Investigators searched the diocesan headquarters and also a storage unit it uses and the offices of a church, police Maj. Max Geron told reporters.” By Julie Asher, Catholic News Service, in America: The Jesuit Review

Poland back pedophilia law after Church documentary rattles ruling party
“Poland announced plans on Tuesday (May 14) to tighten sentences for child sex abuse, just days after the country’s politics were upended by a documentary on pedophilia in the Catholic Church, closely allied to the nationalist ruling Law and Justice party. In just three days since it was posted on YouTube, more than 11 million people have viewed the documentary ‘Just Don’t Tell Anyone.’ It shows Poles confronting priests they said abused them as children, and presents allegations that known pedophiles were shifted between parishes.” By Reuters, on

Click here to read the rest of this issue of Focus …

Looking for Something to Make You Smile?

Father James Martin gave the commencement speech at Xavier University.

“You’re not God. This isn’t Heaven. Don’t be a jerk. Become the person you were meant to become. Be Kind.”

Watch here.


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