Future of Priestly Ministry
Corpus Christi Campaign
Corpus Christi Campaign adds women deacons

Corpus Christi Campaign Adds Women Deacons

Presently, women/lay ministers are the "glue" helping to hold the Church together both in the U.S. and worldwide.  Worldwide, there are 783,000 women religious serving the church's 1.07 billion Catholics compared to 405,000 priests.  Add the nuns to the 2.9 lay catechists, missionaries, and members of secular institutes (at least half of whom in all categories are likely to be women), and it becomes clear that Catholicism's ministerial crisis cannot be solved without expanding women's roles.  Most women ministers in the U.S. (conservatively, an estiimated 82% of 65,000 chaplains and lay pastoral ministers) already have qualifications (and more) to be ordaned deacons.  As deacons they can preach, baptize and witness marriages.  This constitutes a huge new pool of ordained ministers who could be immediately available to meet the growing sacramental needs of an expanding church.

In Romans 16 Paul names Phoebe “deacon” (diakonos) of the church at Cenchrae,” not “deaconess” as it it often incorrectly translated. Diakonos is the same word Paul uses to describe himself in Corinthians (1 Cor 3:5, 2 Cor 6:4). The mistaken “deaconess” translation is most likely an anachronistic reading assigning a formal ministerial title of the fourth century (and its corresponding duties) to the more fluid situation of the first century in which deacons were both male and female.There is widespread epigraphical evidence from first century tombstones which have diakonos inscribed as a title for women church leaders. Early ordination rites for women deacons were identical to those used to ordain male deacons to major orders. Vatican offices are trying to say that early female “deaconesses” were not the same as deacons. What goes unsaid, and apparently deliberately so, is that there were both male and female deacons in the first century Church. (Phyllis Zagano, Holy Saturday [Crossroad, 2000] and Presentation at FutureChurch July, 2003; John Wijngaards in The Tablet, August 14, 2004)

Presently the Armenian Church has at least three women deacons. Both Pope Paul VI and John Paul II signed documents recognizing the apostolic succession and validity of Armenian Catholic sacraments. (Zagano, Phyllis: Presentation at FutureChurch July, 2003)

On October 8, 2004, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece voted in Athens to restore the female diaconate. This provides support for the restoration of the female diaconate in the Catholic Church, which has acknowledged the validity of Orthodox sacraments and orders. According to Dr. Phyllis Zagano: Despite the distinction in Canon 1024-“A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly” -one can presume the possibility of a derogation from the law, as suggested by the Canon Law Society of America in 1995, to allow for diaconal ordination of women. (The history of Canon 1024 is clearly one of attempts to restrict women from priesthood, not from the diaconate.)”