Pope Francis has established a commission to study ordaining women as deacons in the Catholic Church and has appointed a recipient of Voice of the Faithful’s St. Catherine of Siena Outstanding Layperson award as a member. Among the 13 members, six are women, and four of those are lay women.
Voice of the Faithful has long sought women’s equality in the Church and, as part of that initiative, a women’s diaconate. This came closer to reality today (Aug. 2), as the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ “Study Commission on the Women’s Diaconate,” particularly to look into the role of women deacons in the early Church.
Appointed to the commission is Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University in New York. She has written widely regarding a women’s diaconate, has spoken often to VOTF audiences and received VOTF’s St. Catherine of Siena Outstanding Layperson award at its 2012 10th Year Conference in Hartford, Connecticut.
When Pope Francis said in May that he would consider such a commission, VOTF reiterated its call for all baptized Catholics, women and men, to have equal access to all positions within the Church and a voice in all decision-making processes.
At that time, Zagano said, “I am delighted that in this time of Pentecost the Spirit has brought the question of women deacons to the Holy Father’s mind, and I hope and pray that I will be able to assist whatever commission he establishes.”
Today, Zagano’s prayer was answered, and VOTF looks forward to the commission’s study and, eventually, a diaconate for women in the Church.
Voice of the Faithful presents its views on women deacons on its website in a paper it commissioned from Carolyn Johnson, Ed.D. Click here to read “Women Deacons: How Long Will It Take the Catholic Church to Open This Door,” and click here to see a bibliography of suggested readings on women in the Church that VOTF compiled for its 10th Year Conference in 2012.
Here is a compilation of some of the media coverage of the Pope's remarks on his female diaconate commission when he said in May 2016 that he was in favor of further study:
- Francis to create commission to study female deacons in the Catholic church, By Joshua J. McElwee,National Catholic Reporter
- Pope Francis: Let’s study idea of ordaining women as deacons, By Rosie Scammell and david Gibson
- Pope agrees to set up commission to study women deacons, By Cruxnow.com Staff
- Pope Francis to consider ordaining women as deacons, By Francis X. Rocca
- Pope Francis says he’s open to studying whether women can serve as deacons, By Elisabetta Povoledo and Laurie Goodstein
- Pope says he’s willing to look at whether women can serve as deacons, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in The Boston Globe
- Francis’ female deacon commission brings hope, caution, By Traci Badalucco an Elizabeth A. Elliott, National Catholic Reporter
- U.S. Catholics cautiously hopeful women may one day be deacons, By Scott Malone, Reuters, on Religion News Service
- Pope says he’s willing to study women deacons, in major step, By Elsie Buchanan, IUSBPreface.com
- Pope’s plan for women deacons ‘positive step,’ By Reuters in Otago Daily Times
And here is an article from Commoneal magazine about the history of women deacons carved in stone.
Women deacons, set in stone
“Those not predisposed to support women deacons in the present day often consider the initiative to be a recent, feminist, perhaps postmodern quest, an innovation unmoored from historical tradition. What often goes unnoticed in the discussion about women deacons, though, is how much of the ancient evidence comes from concrete archaeological discoveries. Advocates are not reading between the lines of history, creating things that aren’t there in the plain sense of some text. They’re not looking under every proverbial rock in hopes of finding a meager piece of evidence. No, the evidence for women deacons is on the literal rocks themselves, carved in marble or limestone, on chancel screens or tombstones.” By Michael Peppard, Commonweal