US religious orders back women deacons

Phyllis Zagano (CNS/Gregory A Shemitz)

A new survey has found that the majority of religious order superiors in the United States believe women should be allowed to serve as ordained deacons. Source: Crux.

The survey lends support to an issue currently under study at the Vatican amid pressure for women to be given greater roles in the Church.

It found 77 per cent of both male and female superiors in the US believe such ordination is theoretically possible, and 72 per cent think the Church should go ahead and authorise it, according to the study released yesterday by the Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington.

Only 45 percent, however, believe the Church will actually do it, the study found.

Deacons are ordained ministers, but not priests, though they can perform many of the same functions as priests. They preside at weddings, baptisms and funerals, and they can preach. They cannot celebrate Mass.

Currently, married men can serve as deacons. Women cannot, though some historians say women served as deacons in the early Church.

Advocates for expanding the ministry to include women say doing so would provide women with a greater role in the ministry and governance of the Church, while also helping address the effects of the Catholic priest shortage in parts of the world by allowing women to perform some priestly functions.

Opponents say ordaining women to the diaconate would signal the start of a slippery slope toward ordaining women to the priesthood.

The Church reserves the priesthood for men, saying Christ chose only men as his 12 apostles. Pope Francis has repeatedly reaffirmed the teaching.

Francis did, however, authorise the creation of a commission to study the role of women deacons in the early Church in 2016, responding to a request from the International Union of Superior’s General, the Rome-based association representing the leadership of the world’s women’s religious orders.

Phyllis Zagano, a member of the Vatican’s commission, has written that much of the criticism and confusion over women deacons stems from ignorance about the distinctly separate ministries of priest and deacon, and the erroneous belief that those advocating for women deacons have a secret agenda to ordain women as priests.


Study: US religious orders overwhelmingly back women deacons (Crux

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