More on the question of deaconettes

I direct the readership to look at a piece in First Things:


hen Pope Francis announced his willingness to appoint a commission to study whether women can serve as deacons in the Catholic Church, my first thought was: Here we go!

And sure enough, FutureChurch, the liberal Catholic organization that has subtly pushed for the ordination of women to the hitherto all-male Catholic priesthood, not only praised Francis for his statement but announced its intention to set up a website, sponsor a retreat for women feeling the “call” to become deacons, and, clearly most important of all, lobby the U.S. bishops to start pestering Rome about opening the diaconate to the female sex. The less subtle Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) faulted Francis for not going all the way and opening the priesthood to women, but it did offer him some limited praise: “WOC advocates that a new commission on the diaconate include discussions on priestly ordination for women in the Roman Catholic Church.”

The “discussions” WOC has in mind seem to be historical in nature. In its press statement, WOC invokes “historical evidence” of the existence of “several women deacons” in the early Church and asserts that, in ordaining women deacons, the Vatican would merely be “recognizing its own history.”

But a look at that history may cause us to doubt whether the aspiring women deacons of today really are in line with the historical Christian women they claim as their forebears.


As you can imagine, there’s more.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Hank Igitur says:

    Deaconesses helped adult women with dressing/undressing, screening etc for full immersion baptism in the early Church for reasons of modesty. End of story. They did not act as Deacons.

  2. SaintsSQPNcom says:

    looks like a chunk of the article is missing, Father. maybe the quoted part?

  3. JARay says:

    We all know that this action on the part of Pope Francis is just another case of him opening his mouth without any thought of the consequences or the actual teaching of the Church (which is something he shows little regard for)!

  4. The Mad Sicilian Geek says:

    I’ve realized, nowadays that, whatever the topic, very few people are really interested in a sober understanding of history. Rather, they seek to skew history to suit their modern agendas.

    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (George Santayana)

  5. jhayes says:

    It may be worth while keeping in mind that Benedict changed the Code of Canon Law to make it clear that deacons do not act “in persona Christi”

    Art 2. Henceforth can. 1009 of the Code of Canon Law will have three paragraphs. In the first and the second of these, the text of the canon presently in force are to be retained, whereas the new text of the third paragraph is to be worded so that can. 1009 § 3 will read:

    “Those who are constituted in the order of the episcopate or the presbyterate receive the mission and capacity to act in the person of Christ the Head, whereas deacons are empowered to serve the People of God in the ministries of the liturgy, the word and charity”.

    Motum Proprio “Omnium in mentem” (2009)

  6. albizzi says:

    “Historical evidence” as dubious as the communion in the hand.

  7. JabbaPapa says:

    That’s a truly excellent article you’ve linked to, Father.

  8. Gerard Plourde says:

    The thing that all of the media reports gloss over is that Pope Francis made precisely the distinction that the author of the article in First Things makes. The ministry of a deaconess in the early Church is not analogous to the current form of the Diaconate.

  9. Charlotte Allen says:

    Hi, Fr. Z!

    I’m the author of the First things article in question–and thanks for the link. The article has garnered quite a few comments–which is flattering to writers.

    I have an OT query for you: You recently posted a banner of what appeared to be a painting of a bull chasing some peasants. Can you tell me something about the painting and what it’s supposed to depict?

    [Peasants? Look again. Prelates.]

  10. oldconvert says:

    Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.

    Just take a line through the last few decades of the Anglican Church.

  11. Christ_opher says:

    There are plenty of people that fancy some kind of elevation here in France but I would be very surprised if these things occur……………….. Although recently some sh*t from taize happened to be included in the mass and thankfully it has left………….. Thankfully.

  12. Charlotte Allen says:

    @Fr. Z:

    Oh, prelates! It’s a papal bull! Thanks.

  13. JabbaPapa says:

    I do nevertheless think that Deaconesses, not “Deaconettes”, nor “women Deacons”, could potentially, with the rational input of the Holy Father, the Holy See, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and a properly established consideration of the intrinsic limitations of such a Ministry, be acceptable potentially.

    Then again statistically, the desire of our Faithful Catholic women towards such a Ministry is almost completely non-existent.

    The women’s Diaconate did not just vanish away through fairy dust or some imaginary “repression” of women, but because very little usefulness nor vocations were attached to it.

  14. Orlando says:

    It boggles the mind that these liberals have no respect for the sacred or tradition. I have an answer for them , become Protestant. Stop messing with holy mother Church and join one on the thousands of feel good Christian denominations that exist. If you don’t find one you like, start your own. Enough already .

  15. William Tighe says:

    Two eyebrow-raising excerpts:

    “There is no question that women deacons, even ordained women deacons, performed an ecclesiastical function for many centuries in the early Church.”

    Comment: she is muddying the waters by employing the term “women deacons” which should be avoided in discussing the issue of “deaconesses.”

    “Deaconesses disappeared from both the Western and Eastern Orthodox Churches during the Middle Ages, when the office of ‘deacon,’ with its specifically liturgical functions of preaching and reading the Gospel, became a formal part of Holy Orders and thus open only to men.”

    Comment: the section “when the office of ‘deacon,’ with its specifically liturgical functions of preaching and reading the Gospel, became a formal part of Holy Orders and thus open only to men” is a factually-incorrect absurdity. Deacons were always “a formal part” of Holy Orders.

  16. Gerhard says:

    Non possumus. Und damit basta!

  17. Gerhard says:

    The attack on the church is only just beginning. Obvious strategy: 1. Shift focus from salvation to “social justice”; 2. destroy the sense of the sacred by basing the liturgy, and in particular the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; 3. spread delusion that nobody will be condemned forever (i.e. pretend hell does not exist); 4.destroy the family through confusion; 5. abolish just war theory to sow doubt whether it is right to defend ourselves from demonic forces such as Islam; 6. empower rebellious women to undermine (even more) the authority of Priests…and it becomes so much easier to steer the ship onto the rocks if you can seize the wheel. But its not going to work. Satan’s a loser and Christ has already won the victory. Trust Him.

  18. JabbaPapa says:

    Gerhard :

    abolish just war theory to sow doubt whether it is right to defend ourselves from demonic forces such as Islam

    The “just war” theory has historically been so grossly abused on so many occasions that it would be deeply irresponsible for the Holy See to actively promote it. It is quite sufficient that the Doctrine clearly accepts that there may be cases where warfare may be a necessity that Catholics might be drawn into, for the defence of the People of God and His Church.

Comments are closed.