Why can't women be deacons in the church?

Why can’t women be deacons, wasn’t Our Holy Mother a deaconess of a sort for the women of the early days of the church?

Because holy orders require a male.

No, she wasn’t a deaconess. Nothing in Divine Revelation teaches us this.

She was a disciple.


Women are in the church — not as deacons or priests, but as nuns, sisters and female laity. We participate in wonderful ways.

Both men and women can be Eucharistic Ministers.

I helped produce our church bulletin for quite awhile.

Another of our parishioners kept up the garden on the church grounds.

Both men and women sing and play instruments in the choir.

Many of us help put together our parish’s annual fundraising luncheon and bazaar.

There are lots of ways women can participate. We don’t need to be deacons or priests.


Well Our Mother was a disciple yes but why didn’t our Lord comission women to help him spread his message to the world (the holy land at the time) and later the rest of the world,?

Actually being a woman does not preclude that they can preach the Gospels to the ends of the Earth.
In fact many women have done that. They have done it via nuns that have founded convents in far away lands were they took care of the sick and orphans and taught not only religion but also regular education.
Do not discount the work that women carry out for the Church which is the body of Christ.


And keep in mind that only women can bear children, who are then baptized and become part of the Body of Christ. What “role in the Church” could be more important than that?

No women having children, no more Church. Simplest question I’ve entertained in quite a while.


So I have always wanted to help people to the point of wanting to go to school for a degree to become a social worker would this be doing the church’s teachings?

Being of service in positive ways is doing the Church’s teachings.

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George Weigel made a pretty interesting observation a few weeks ago. It should strike us all as ironic (at best) that many of the same faction who continually bemoan clericalism, in all its forms, deem it necessary to be an ordained clergy to serve the Church and spread the Gospel.


Commissioning a disciple and ordaining a priest are two different things.

Women certainly spread the message were leaders in the Church. Mary, Phoebe, Priscilla, Martha, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Chloe, Julia, Junia, etc, are just a few who come to mind.

Women aren’t ordained. Doesn’t stop women from being disciples.


The rest is convincing, but this part is not. Anyone can administer Baptism if the circumstances dictate, and it is the Bride and Groom who administer marriage.


Spot on. As those in favor of female diaconal ordination like to point out, in his Apostolic Letter, OMNIUM IN MENTEM Pope Benedict adds a third paragraph to can. 1009 which reads, “Those who are constituted in the order of the episcopate or the presbyterate receive the mission and capacity to act in the person of Christ the Head, whereas deacons are empowered to serve the People of God in the ministries of the liturgy, the word and charity”.

Those arguing for the female diaconate claim a qualitative distinction drawn within the orders between the priest/bishop (who alone stand in persona christi capitis) on the one hand and the deacon who is empowered to serve in various capacities on the other hand–Pope Benedict used the word “whereas…”

So, they reason, if a deacon does not stand in persona christi capitis, why couldn’t a female occupy the same ministerial order? Why would ‘maleness’ be a factor for such a minister as a deacon? The sacramental sign incorporating maleness is surely there in the Eucharistic prayer (“this is my body”). But what does maleness have to do with serving the church as deacon in “the ministries of the liturgy, the word and charity?”


From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles (2002) – excerpt:

It was not until the third century that the specific Christian terms diaconissa or diacona appeared.

From the end of the third century onwards, in certain regions of the Church60 (and not all of them), a specific ecclesial ministry is attested to on the part of women called deaconesses.61 This was in Eastern Syria and Constantinople. Towards 240 there appeared a singular canonico-liturgical compilation, the Didascalia Apostolorum ( DA ), which was not official in character. It attributed to the bishop the features of an omnipotent biblical patriarch (cf. DA 2, 33-35, 3). He was at the head of a little community which he governed mainly with the help of deacons and deaconesses. This was the first time that deaconesses appeared in an ecclesiastical document. In a typology borrowed from Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop held the place of God the Father, the deacon the place of Christ, and the deaconess that of the Holy Spirit (the word for “Spirit” is feminine in Semitic languages), while the priests (who are seldom mentioned) represented the Apostles, and the widows, the altar (DA 2, 26, 4-7). There is no reference to the ordination of these ministers.

The Didascalia laid stress on the charitable role of the deacon and the deaconess.


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If I’m not mistaken, a lot of the early deaconesses were from when their culture was highly gender-segregated, so certain aspects of pastoral care were inappropriate for a man and a woman to do together. But at the same time, the deaconesses served in the role of “servant” or “helper” (which is what “deacon” means), rather than in an ordained role.

For example, from the Didascalia, c AD 230—

Of the appointment of Deacons and Deaconesses, and of how it is fitting for them to conduct themselves in their service, without indolence of the mind nor license.

Therefore, O Bishop, appoint for thyself workers of righteousness and helpers, to help with thee to life, electing those who please thee from all the people (S. and appoint Deacons). The man who is elected is for many oversights that are required, but a woman for the service of the women ; for there are houses where thou canst not send a Deacon to the women on account of the heathen. Send a Deaconess for many things. The office of a woman Deaconess is required, first, when women go down to the water, it is necessary that they be anointed by a Deaconess, and it is not fitting that the anointing oil should be given to a woman to touch ; but rather the Deaconess. For it is necessary for the Priest who baptizeth, to anoint her who is baptized ; but when there is a woman, and especially a Deaconess, it is not fitting for the women that they be seen by the men, but that by the laying on of the hand the head alone be f. 55 b anointed, as of old time the Priests and Kings of Israel were anointed.

Ap. Con. Thou also, in like manner, by laying on [thy] hand, anoint the head of in. xvi.

those who receive baptism, whether of men or of women, and afterwards, whether thou thyself baptize, or command the Deacon or the Elder to baptize, let it be a Deaconess, as we said before, who anoints the women. Let a man repeat over them the names of the invocation of the Godhead in the water. And when she that is baptized arises from the water let the Deaconess receive her, and teach her and educate her, in order that the unbreakable seal of baptism be with purity and holiness. Therefore we affirm that the service of a woman, a Deaconess, is necessary and obligatory, because even our Lord and Saviour was served by the hand of women deaconesses, who were Mary the Magdalene, and Mary (Cod. S. daughter) of James, the mother of Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children, with other women. This service of Deaconesses is necessary also to thee for many things, for in the houses of the heathen, where there are believing women, a Deaconess is required, that she may go in and visit those who are sick, and serve them with whatever they need, and anoint (S. wash) those who are healed from sicknesses.


The question is really should the church modernize and bend to society or hold the course - once you open the door you never know what else will come.


True. I wander what will happen in the future of the church.

In our church, they are referred to as Eucharistic Ministers. I served as one, for awhile. That’s what we were called.

Yes, that was the case because people innocently did not realize that the term is actually incorrect. And it’s people like you who wind up getting hurt when the fallout starts.

Another example of a so-called ‘minor issue’ that winds up being a huge bone of contention, precisely because it is made to SEEM ‘minor’ or ‘just semantics’ while the fact is that even if the original people didn’t realize (and many DID), it is all about a false clericalism whereby the original clerics, priests and deacons, wanted to be ‘inclusive’ and downplay their roles lest they seem to be ‘better than’ the laity’. And now it’s all, "but it’s just a simple word’, "we are ALL priests underneath’, “Stop trying to be clericalists and make priests ‘so important’, look at all the ABUSE that came from your attitude”. Yep, it’s all attack attack attack the messenger and deny the ‘small’ problem.

Ever notice how much ink/attention these ‘small things’ draw when those who tell us how ‘petty’ they are, are asked to CORRECT them?

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How in the world could this be against the Church’s teachings?

If you are referring to trying to juggle motherhood and a career (I’m assuming you are female), women do it all the time, and being a social worker is very much compatible with the caring, nurturing temperament that, generally speaking, females just naturally have.

How true indeed. It’s also called “give an inch and they’ll take a mile”, “camel’s nose under the tent flap”, possibly other similar analogies. How often do we see this anymore? Look all around us.

As far as I am aware, only males can receive the sacrament of Holy Orders in any way whatsoever, whether minor orders, deacons, priests, or bishops. If this is not true — if women could receive minor orders or diaconal ordination — I would like to see the Church solemnly define this, up or down, one way or the other, and proceed accordingly.

On the other hand, you could make a case for women doing the very same things that those in minor orders and the diaconate do, and you could even call them acolytes, or readers, or “deaconesses”, with the understanding that they are not in holy orders. This distinction would be lost on many, but that is beside the point — they would not be in holy orders, and the things they would do, baptizing, marrying couples, preaching, spiritual direction, are things that can be done by any lay person, with the permission of the Church.

I can even see why women would not always feel comfortable confessing their sins to a man — sexual sins that require discussion of a woman’s most intimate issues, among other things — and I like the Orthodox concept of confessing to a spiritual director (possibly even one who shares the penitent’s gender), being cleared for absolution, then receiving absolution from the male priest. I could totally get behind a “reform” like this, if the Catholic Church ever chose to offer this as an option. Auricular confession to the priest who absolves you, while the “standard operating procedure”, could not be absolutely necessary for valid absolution, otherwise there could never be such a thing as general absolution.


Then, I stand corrected. The proper term is extraordinary ministers.

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