Most US bishops would ordain women as deacons

But few believe Vatican will approve the practice

Symposium on women deacons at Fordham University. (Photo courtesy of CNS)

The following comes from a Jan. 22 story by Crux.

A new study released on Tuesday found that a high majority of U.S. Catholic bishops and deacon directors believe that if the Holy See gives the green light to ordination of women deacons, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) would implement the practice.

The findings revealed that among respondents, only 41 percent of bishops and 50 percent of deacon directors believe women’s ordination to the diaconate to be theoretically possible.

Only one-third of the bishops, and two in five of the deacon directors, responded that they personally believe the Church should do so.

The report, issued by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, was conducted last fall in light of Pope Francis’s establishment of a papal commission to study the historical question as to whether there were, in fact, women deacons in the early Church.

The commission has been submitted to Pope Francis and is under his consideration.

According to the new report, when respondents were asked whether they would implement the practice in their own diocese, if the Holy See approves it, just over one-half of the bishops said yes, and more than six in ten of the deacon directors said that their bishop would implement this.

In summarizing, CARA co-authors Michal J. Kramarek and Jesuit Father Thomas P. Gaunt said that in responses, “it appears that the bishops and deacon directors would positively respond to the sacramental ordination of women as deacons if the Holy See authorizes it, but they themselves do not believe the Holy See will do so.”

Of the 192 U.S. bishops invited to participate in the CARA survey, 108 responded, resulting in a response rate of 56 percent. Participation was slightly higher among deacon directors.

Last week, two of the members of the papal commission studying women’s deacons, Phyllis Zagano and Jesuit Father Bernard Pottier, spoke publicly for the first time at Fordham University on the topic. It’s unknown when and if Francis will formally respond to the commission’s findings. “He will know the time to say something,” said Zagano.

Comments

  1. This is an impossibility. The deaconate is one of the grades of Holy Orders, which excludes women by infallible doctrine. Why are we talking about this? And why are so many bishops ignorant and heterodox?

    • Here you are creating an issue that actually has nothing to do with the original intent of the early Christian church which is older predates any rules or dogma that the church created about women holding religious offices saint brigid was ordained a bishop in medieval Ireland
      There is nothing in the gospels that would disqualify a woman from religious office women did hold office in the church in its early history

      • There is nothing in your post that reflects Catholic Faith or theology.

      • Larry Northon says:

        In her biography, I see no reference to St. Brigid being “ordained” a bishop; rather that she was a nun and abbess, and is pictured with a crozier in that capacity. This is according to her biography, and I must add that there is some debate as to whether she was even a real or fictional person of pious legend.

        • Here is a great resource that uses primary sources:

          https://godspacelight.com/2017/02/01/st-brigid-of-kildare-as-bishop/

          Note, however that is was said that Brigid is to be the only one to ever be consecrated thus and that her successors are to have the honor of bishops (not the ordination.)
          Of course, historical stories, even if correct and true, do not nullify any teaching from the Church, much less an infallible one.

          • Larry Northon says:

            According to the sources you cite, the bishop doing the ceremony mistakenly recited the formula for ordination to the bishopric, and that as a result, St. Brigid was given the honors of the episcopacy. But your sources do not say that she had the sacramental powers of a bishop. Since the bishop who recited the formula did so by mistake (according to these sources), and did not intend to consecrate her as a bishop, then the consecration would be invalid anyway even if the one receiving were a man. Sorry. Won’t do.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is no infallible doctrine that excludes women from being ordained to the deaconate.

      • Another anonymous says:

        Yes there is, because deacons receive and participate in Holy Orders, which is exclusively for baptized males.

    • Anonymous in L.A. says:

      Hi Steve,

      It is my understanding that there are two types of deacons, “transitory” deacons for men in formation for eventually receiving full Holy Orders and admission to the priesthood, and “permanent” deacons, for persons who will assist and without full priestly faculties.

      I also am aware that in the early Church there were women deacons who essentially were the equivalent of today’s permanent deacons. Obviously in ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS, the full priestly faculties of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is reserved strictly for men; however, based on early ecclesiastical tradition, there might be an argument for women to be “permanent” deacons without progressing to the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Here is the link to Saint John…

      • Another anonymous says:

        No, you are incorrect. Deaconesses in the early Church were not equivalent to today’s deacons, whether permanent or transitional. The distinction between permanent and transitional isn’t a sacramental distinction, for a “permanent” deacon could be elevated to priesthood. Those are not sacramental or doctrinal terms.

        Although female deaconesses were called “deacons” and “ordained” what was meant by those terms and by the rite of “ordination” was not what the Church has ever understood regarding sacerdotal ordination. Present day religious sisters are more equivalent to ancient deaconesses than present day deacons.

      • There is only one order of Deacon. The terms transitional and permanent are not canonical, they simply are a convenient ways to refer to a man’s functional status as clergy at a given point in time.

        Deaconesses in the early Church were for maintaining propriety in ministering to the sacraments to women as the prevailing culture was extremely sex segregated and Christianity was introducing what to them would be the scandalous idea that women and men were equal in worth to their God…Deacons today have much more broad responsibilities and charisms.

  2. Did not Saint Peter have a wife?

  3. Steven: “The deaconate is one of the grades of Holy Orders, which excludes women by infallible doctrine.”

    Exactly. Perhaps most US bishops are willing to try to ordain women as deacons, but it can’t be that “most US bishops would ordain women as deacons” since women can’t be ordained. Headlines like that only help to reinforce myths.

  4. The headline is very misleading.
    When you read the article, you will see that it is only if the Vatican approves women deacons that just over one half of US bishops would ordain women as deacons but that 2/3 of the bishops do not think the Church should do so.
    Most bishops (59%) believe as first poster Steven that it is impossible.

  5. Clinton R. says:

    Not surprising. Most US bishops are effeminate and feckless. The majority of bishops sided with Arius and his heresy in the 4th century. Having a consensus doesn’t mean a thing when you are in the wrong.

  6. Women cannot be ordained, they are really crossimg the line here.

  7. Pope Francis cannot authorize female deacons as the Roman Pontiff. If he does approve them, it will be an empty magisterial act and throw the Church into schism because of what his empty doctrinal/juridical act would imply.

  8. You would truly wonder what the Bishops are puting in their morning coffee. To put is politely, they are going bonkers. Maybe it is time for all those Bishops who have this thought about women deacons – retire quickly. The fact that so many of the Deacons are married and their wives act like Deacons is bad enough but to ordain them would truly be the worse mistake the Catholic Church could make. Maybe the Church should concentrate on promoting more vocations to the priesthood and leave the question of Women Deacons where it belongs….NEVER! If Bishops were fullly doing their jobs – there would be no need for Women Deacons.

  9. All of the technicalities aside, this is far less about ordaining women to the diaconate than it is which women are actually interested in pursuing it. For all of the anxious hand wringing about clericalism and the acquisition and maintenance of power, there are an awful lot of people that are pretty keen on this idea who lay the blame for the Church’s woes on the doorstep of “clericalism”. The notion that one needs to be an ordained minister to work for the Church and serve Christ’s people is a non sequitur if centuries of religious order nuns and sisters and brothers are any witness at all. No, this is about power, plain and simple.

  10. Brian D Kelly says:

    I cannot understand what this poll is saying as its figures are unclear and misleading. In any event, the issue is settled as to women’s ordinations. The answer from Rome has been and still is “No.” It cannot change. Why? Because the Church cannot change the “matter” for a valid sacrament. For orders the recipient of the sacrament must be a baptized male. The ordainer must be a bishop. The liberals love to create confusion by mixing up the sacramental diaconate with a ministerial diaconate of women who in the early Church assisted women at their baptism because at that time baptism was usually done by immersion. The word “deacon” from the Greek diakonos meant “servant” or “minister.” The Church adopted the term for ministers…

  11. Deacon Craig Anderson says:

    Since I didn’t see any other deacons respond, I’ll “jump in” with a point that I hope helps clarify things. The early Church did have deaconesses, some of whom are Saints. However, a deacon is not the same as a deaconess. As noted, deacons are men ordained to Holy Orders (major orders, one of the seven sacraments). Some confusion arises because “ordinations” were (and are) not limited to major/Holy Orders. Historically, abbots and abbesses and even monarchs were “ordained.” They were ordained by God to serve in those positions. I was “ordained” a sub-deacon, for example, a “minor order.” The ordination rites for deacons and deaconesses were clearly quite different. They were not the same.

    • Hi Deacon, thanks for the clarification. Very useful. I’m in formation now and, God willing, I will be ordained to the Diaconate in the Fall…that said, no one, no one, will differentiate “major”/holy orders with a minor order “ordination”. Especially priests and bishops that have a ‘dog’ in this fight. A large contingent of the group that is influencing this discussion needs to be reminded to dispense with gum chewing during Mass….

  12. Elizabeth T. says:

    I would love to see the list of those who would approve!

    Dollars to doughnuts they would be all LIBERAL Bishops!!!

  13. Becky in Cerritos says:

    Phyllis Zagano, an ardent advocate of female deacons and pictured above, will speak at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress about female deacons next month. So I suppose we can put Archbishop Gomez in the “I approve” column of bishops who want female deacons. Otherwise why would he allow Zagano to speak at the RECongress on that topic when her position in favor of ordaining women to the deaconate is so well known?

  14. There is only one order of Deacon. The terms transitional and permanent are not canonical, they simply are a convenient ways to refer to a man’s functional status as clergy at a given point in time.

    Deaconesses in the early Church were for maintaining propriety in ministering to the sacraments to women as the prevailing culture was extremely sex segregated and Christianity was introducing what to them would be the scandalous idea that women and men were equal in worth to their God…Deacons today have much more broad responsibilities and charisms.

  15. Excellent rational summary of the issue….sums it up perfectly. People that object to use of the word ‘sodomy’ will have objections.

    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2019/01/the-logical-union-of-womens-ordination-and-sodomy/

  16. Anonymous says:

    The Sacrament of Holy Orders is no place for the political doctrines of feminism! And what is most important– is HOLINESS and getting to Heaven– NOT worldly power and prestige, for misguided feminists! St. Francis of Assisi rejected the possibility of studying for the priesthood– because in his day, he thought that the priesthood was too corrupt! He desired only to serve Our Lord, and glorify Him! And he did– and became a Saint! Women lovingly serving God, as beloved wives and mothers, have an ideal place to become sanctified, to prepare for Heaven!

  17. I pray to God that Pope Francis will permit the ordination of women as Deaconesses. Lord knows the men have done a terrible job running the Church as evidenced by sexual abuse scandals involving children, corruption among the clergy, cover ups, the expenditures of large sums of money as pay-offs and for silence, and general incompetence in leadership. It is time for change and women deaconesses may be what our Divine Physician, Jesus Christ, is prescribing.

    • Margaret,
      If the root of the problem, as many in the hierarchy hold, is “clericalism”, how is ordination of more “clerics” a solution? A departure from the Magisterial teaching on Sacramental life is why we find ourselves here, now. Besides, ordaining women is a reduction of Holy Orders to priests and deacons only having ministerial “jobs” in the Church that anyone can do. A job is a job? It ignores the transcendent, supernatural ‘signs’ of the person of Christ that ordained men are. Did a lot of them fail? Yes. Was that because they were men? No.

    • Anonymous says:

      No, it’s not. Not at all. No way.

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