Most religious superiors support women deacons

women deacons

Most US Catholic religious superiors believe women should be allowed to serve as ordained deacons.

The results of a study released last week by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington support women being given greater roles in the church.

Seventy-seven percent of male and female superiors in the US believe such ordination is theoretically possible. Seventy-two percent think the church should go ahead and authorise it.

However, only 45 percent believe the church will actually do it, the study found.

Although deacons are ordained ministers, not priests, 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 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.

The most common benefits cited include a greater capacity to perform liturgical and sacramental duties, a greater acceptance of women and their gifts in the Church, and the continuation of current ministries but with a higher status.

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

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

The question of female deacons has recently resurfaced.

Pope Francis has appointed a commission to look into the historical role of female deacons in the ancient Church.

So far it’s not clear if or when the commission’s findings will be made public.

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, is leading the commission.

In June 2018, Ladaria clarified that “the Holy Father did not ask us to study whether or not women can be deaconesses…but rather, [he asked us] to try to say in a clear way what the problems are and what the situation was in the ancient Church on this point of the women’s diaconate.

“We know that in the ancient Church there were so-called deaconesses: what does this mean? Was it the same as deacons, or was it something different? Was it a large, or rather local, reality?”

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