DeaconChatZagano

DeaconChat logo via Voice of the Faithful

Pope Francis has officially instituted a panel to discuss the possibilities of ordaining women as Deacons.

The push for official acceptance of women deacons by the Catholic Church has reached a new milestone with the pope himself showing a desire to consider this question more deeply. The Sovereign of Rome recently instituted a panel to discuss this controversial issue and to come up with a suitable solution. For progressive Catholics, this is a visible sign that the pope is open to listening to different points of view.

While the issue of ordination of women into the priesthood has been brushed away by the pope for good, saying “that door is closed”, the matter of the diaconate of women, however, is clearly seeing progress. It is not Catholic women alone, who are pushing for the rights to be ordained as deacons, but also priests and lay Catholic men.

Three Catholic organizations in the U.S., the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP), FutureChurch and Voice of the Faithful, have come forward to initiate an open discussion about this issue. The three have together launched “DeaconChat”, inviting the faithful to share their opinions about the diaconate of women. DeaconChat encourages Catholics to learn and share about the matter by using works written by Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D. Pope Francis appointed Zagano to serve on the study commission. Zagano’s Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future is one of the suggested readings to begin a dialog with one’s pastor.

The matter has been discussed so openly for the first time in the Church’s history, although it has always been silently debated.

Rev. Bob Bonnot, head of the AUSCP, believes that “The church is not a clerical monopoly,” adding, “Pope Francis wants to hear the voice of the faithful.” He also said the women who felt the call to ministry in the Catholic Church deserve to be heard, and revealed that a lot of Catholic men and clergy are already supporting them in this fight. Besides, he points out that the pope himself has asked the Church to find ways in which the role of women in the ministry of the Church can be increased, and hopes the reaction of a panel by the Holy Father to specifically discuss this matter is a sign that he is living by his words.

Experts have a mixed opinion about whether women were taken into the diaconate in Church history. Although the Canon Law specifically states “Only a baptized man can receive sacred ordination,” some theologians and historians say that there is concrete evidence of women being ordained deacons in the past and that women did indeed form part of the clergy. Agreeing with this claim, Sister Mary Melone, president of the Pontifical University Antonianum in Rome, even suggests that women today should be included in the hierarchy of the Church – not for the sake of power, but to be better able to serve the Church. 

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