Deaconnesses--AKA, "WOMEN DEACONS"

Does the Catholic Church allow them? I’ve never seen any, and I know that a great deal of theologians and scholars have long-since speculated that 1 Timothy 3:11 refers to women deacons (deaconnesses), due to linguistic reasons.

(I got more info off of Wikipedia for curiosity’s sake:, and it seemed fairly convincing…)

What is the Church’s official position as of now?

Do you believe there to be room for women in the position of deacons?

For me, personally, I would very much like to see this happen, but I would like to know more.


Deacons have to be officially commissioned with Holy Orders which a woman cannot receive. In the early days of the Church, women were refered to as deaconesses who were the ones who assisted other women in full emersion of Baptism.

I hope this helps, mdcpensive1

The argument for the order of deconesses hangs on whether they’re ordained (essentially “female deacons”) or a lay order.

I’ve seen scholarly works for both sides, though it looked to me like the conclusion that deaconesses were a lay order had a stronger argument.

I’m not sure if there’s a need for the order any longer, since their primary focus was preparation for and administration of baptism for women (since baptism was done without clothes, which is no longer the case).

You title also contained the flaw in your premise.

A Deaconess is NOT a female Deacon.

A Deaconess is a seperate office of a catechist for women. Generally now, catechists of both sexes is done by someone of either sex, so there is no need for a specific Deaconess in the Church.

As for female Deacons, the Church has not had such a person, and I doubt ever will.

Just like “women priests”, “woman deacons” ain’t gonna happen. Case closed.

The Roman Catholic church cannot ordain women because Jesus specifically chose men for apostolic succession.

Nice spin. But that’s all it is.


Why can’t nuns perform some of the liturgical and other duties of deacons? In other words, if there are no women deacons, can nuns be given permission to assist at Mass, read the Gospel, serve as Eucharistic Ministers, and give homilies?

Because they have not received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, first of all, and second, because “nuns” are cloistered - they aren’t allowed out of their convents. (I am sure you were thinking of “sisters,” not “nuns.” :wink: )

The Sacrament of Holy Orders includes deacons, priests, and Bishops, but not nuns, or any other lay religious.

Yes, I meant religious sisters, and you accurately describe the state of things today. I am asking why that can’t change. We already have women assisting at Mass and serving as EMHCs. Why not change the rules to allow sisters to do some of what deacons do? The Pope has said there will be no ordaination for women, but why not extend some of the duties of deacons to sisters? Seems odd that a lay person can distribute communion but not a nun, or that a woman with many years of theological training would not be as effective and appropriate for deliverying a homily as a deacon.

Religious sisters are lay persons and can - and sometimes do - distribute Holy Communion. The homilist, however, is an extension of the teaching office of the Bishop, thus giving the homily is reserved only for ordained men, be they priests or deacons.

Deacons receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders - they aren’t lay people.

Women (including religious) cannot receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and that’s why they can’t do what Deacons do.

I am sure you are also aware of the many debates on this site regarding EMHCs. It is only due to extremely unusual circumstances that EMHCs are permitted at present - when the crisis is over, this role will cease to exist.

First Epistle Of Saint Paul To The Corinthians 14: 34- 35
Let women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted them to speak, but to be subject, as also the law saith. But if they would learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church.

So- no women deaconesses. Nor should there be female EMHCs, readers or alter servers.

Actually if one follows the history of the deaconess in the Eastern churches, it becomes obvious that they had a “ordination” of some sort, but not that of a deacon. In many respects they were very close in practice to those we call “Sisters” today; uncloistered women religious. Why duplicate what we already have?

Women have done it in the past and have shown they can do it in the present (e.g. many Spiritual Coordinators, Parish Coordinators, School Principles, etc…). The case for them will reopen once BXVI’s successor takes over at the Vatican.

If this is true and if women are ordained, the ranks of the SSPX will swell with new members, present company included.

Here is a snip from JP2’s *ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

I think this is pretty clear. Case closed. Debating this is like debating whether the earth is flat or round. Heretics like “womenpriests” can wring their hands all they want but it is not going to change a thing. They should become Anglican if it is that important to them. They would fit right in since they already have no respect for the authority of the Pope and like to make things up as they go.

I do not see a purpose any longer in the Church for them. They existed when Adult Catechumens were Baptized by full immersion, totally naked. We don’t Baptize Catechumens in that manner any longer, and don’t anticipate returning to the practice any time soon. Their only purpose was to assist with adult female Baptisms, they were NOT Ordained to Holy Orders.

Any Practicing Catholic in good standing with the Church can be commissioned to serve at Mass, fill the function of EMHC, or any other ministry not requiring the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

So- no women deaconesses. Nor should there be female EMHCs, readers or alter servers.

Good point. I’m glad to know you used SCRIPTURE to back up the “women-should-sit-down-and-shut-up” policy. :rolleyes: Your post reaks of extremism, a dead traditionalism incompatible with the 21st century.

Look at Scripture where St. Paul refers to women as fellow “ministers” of the Gospel. Tell me that there aren’t implications to be drawn from there. Besides that, we know as a matter of fact that women were allowed to speak in churches because in 1 Corinthians, when St. Paul lays the groundwork for orderly prophesying, he mentions women as among those who prophesy. The fact that he didn’t want them in a dominant position–presbyter, for instance–in no way excludes the possibility of them as serving as subordinate ministers of the Word, that is, as deaconnesses.

Besides that, allowing women to be deacons makes the participation of the faithful in the Divine Liturgy more complete and carries none of the alarming theological ramifications of female priests. It would certainly pacify a great number of women desiring to see other females taking a more active role in the Mass.

IMO, reform in this area is inevitable. I for one would simply like to see it sooner. I’m not for priestesses, don’t misunderstand. But as women have proved themselves over the centuries competent ministers and assistants of the Word, I see no reason why in this day and age they should be denied the right to be deaconnesses.

As long as by “deaconnesses” or “women deacons” you are not referring to some “right” for women to become members of the ordained diaconate, I agree.

But your posts would seem to indicate that you think women should receive ordination, which is something that cannot happen.

The Church does not have the power or authority to ordain them, a limitation placed on the Church by God which cannot be changed, regardless of the century.

However, women can & are already serving the Church in many meaningful ways - as Eucharistic ministers, lectors & alter servers (at least in the Latin Church.) In these, as well as other areas (of ministry or prophecy) ordination is not required, which is a good thing, since women still CAN serve the Church in many ways. :slight_smile:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit