Will There Ever Be Female Deacons in the Catholic Church?


Do you think there will ever be female deacons in the Catholic Church? To be more specific do you think there will be ordained female deacons who are members of the clergy, and not the non-ordained “deaconesses” of years past?


No, because it is not up for debate. Our late holy Father JPII said it is not for us to decide.


Touchy subject here but It is my understanding that the church has no authority to extend Holy Orders to women. Certainly a woman giving an authoritative talk (homily) is contrary to the biblical teaching as evidenced in Corinthians.

I know this is a touchy subject and I am almost dead certain that I will be accussed of misinterpreting Corinthians. WIth that in mind I am going to say somting outrageous. If our church ordains women as deacons we will lose a very large number of men. I know many don’t agree but Western Christianity has been somewhat feminized. I have a co-worker who is a methodist. When they got their Woman pastor the reamaining men in the pews disappeared. GONE POOF! In fact i was just discussing this with her recently. She has counted Sundays where the very small congregation of 25-30 was entirely women and girls in the company of 2 pre-teen boys. Many men argue that church is Woman thing anyway…ordaining deaconesses will just drive many even further away. I it will have a significant impact on vocations to the priesthood.


No way it’s impossible, but I’s like to see an “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” for the diaconate.

Please explain for those of us who do not have a dregree in theology. :slight_smile: Thanks!


To the OP, do you mean female deacons (which there won’t ever be) or deaconesses?

There is a big difference. A deaconess is not a female deacon. Their roles are very much different and although in the eastern rites the call it ordination of a deaconess, it is really the instituting of a woman to the position of deaconess where as a deacon is truly ordained.

The deaconess’ role was to assist in the baptism and chrismation of women, when baptism was done by submersion in the nude. And even then the priest was still near by conferring the rite. The deaconess was allowed to teach catechism to groups of women and children. The deaconess was also the one to keep order on the women’s side of the church (Mass used to have the genders segregated, men on one side, women on the other).

A deacon is a proclaimer of the Gospel, an ordinary minister of Holy Communion, able to baptize without a priest present, can witness marriages for the Church, and in the past was in charge of the local church’s social ministries to the poor and widowed.

The role of deaconess in the western church has been absorbed into the ministry of nuns and sisters.

So in answer to your question, will there be female deacons? No.

Could there be deaconesses? It’s possible but highly unlikely since the role they performed are performed by sisters and nuns .


I am going to be called on this but Ordinatio Sacerdotalis sorta applies to deacons in a way. It is a letter regarding holy orders and deacons are “in” holy orders.

I have read the apostolic letter and it does indicate that it is directed towards the ordination of priests.


I put “maybe, but I highly doubt it.” I wonder if they will come up with some sort of parallel deconship (??) for women. Something that will allow us lay women to act in some sort of serving role (and I don’t mean just cleaning the church bathrooms and serving at the church suppers), but not usurp traditional holy orders? Just a thought.


##** I voted as a doubtful “Maybe” - if it did happen, it would aggregate the diaconissate (if one can call it that) very closely to the diaconate; which would chip away at the force of “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”; so it seems rather unlikely for the foreseeable future.**

**OTOH - it must have seemed rather unlikely in 1520 that the Church would decide it was not a good idea at all to burn heretics; but after 1997 & the CCC’s endorsement of V2, the rights of the human person, & of much more, that’s a dead letter; so I don’t think the possibility can be absolutely excluded for all time to come. But as a likelihood in our lifetimes ? I don’t think so at all **##



And you are quite correct in suggesting that a “female deacon” does not equal a “deaconess”.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of Anglican Orders, in the 19th century, the Church of England re-instituted the “deaconess”. The role was NOT considered the same as a “deacon” – until the late 20th century – when it was “decreed” that “deaconess” DID equal “female deacon” – and the term deaconess was discontinued.


Women cannot be ordained, therefore the Diaconate Orders for women is impossible.


Well, this is tough.

Women can certainly never be ordained priests. It doesn’t work symbolically, and sacraments must symbolize what they signify, express visibly the invisible reality. Priests act in person christi, and at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb must stand as Bridegroom while the Church is His Bride, etc…plus, sacerdotal ordination has been spoken on definitively.

But as for deacons, I could accept it either way. It may seem foreign, even repugnant to us now…but then again, the Church hasn’t really theologically reflected on the Diaconate, has she? It was, until 40 years ago, reduced in the West to a stepping stone to the priesthood, and all theology looked at it in the same light as the minor orders. Its sacramental character was vaguely acknowledged, but it was an issue that was pushed to the back burner. Now, I think, we are really working out more precisely the place of deacons in the economy of salvation (confirmation and extreme unction have rather deficient theological development too, if you ask me…)

There are arguments for both sides here.

The argument against is that the diaconate is the same sacrament as the priesthood (just a different grade) and so if the priesthood is instrinsically limited to men, it seems that the diaconate would be too.

On the otherhand, a deacon does not act in persona christi, does not recieve any intrinsic sacramental powers upon ordination (besides canonical authority regarding baptism and marriage, but that deals with discipline in canon law, not an intrinsic theological power that lay people dont have…)

And if you look at the symbolism, one could see how a deacon could be female. I mean…Christ was clearly the High Priest on Calvary…but if you were to extend that…who would you identify as Deacons on Calvary? The Blessed Virgin was certainly there…

This is all connected with my particular views on the Co-Redemption. A priest can say Mass without a deacon. But a deacon cannot say mass without a priest. However, I would be willing to speculate that when a deacon does participate in mass with a priest…he has a substantial role in mediating the sacrifice, theologically real and different from the more “accidental” role of the congregation. Likewise with Mary. Christ could have saved the world without her, and she could not have without Him…but when TOGETHER they could be considered (at least externally) as one principle of redemption (though internally in the Salvific Act the meriting flows from its source in the Father, to Christ, then to Mary). So too perhaps with deacons at Mass (the power goes from Christ the High Priest, to his ministerial priest, and then through the deacon). But then…Mary was a woman.

Of course, this symbolism doesnt require that deacons be women, as every priest is also a deacon and so Christ on the cross also was a deacon and men can participate in that too.

If the Church ever does allow women deacons, she will likely call them deaconesses. Whether the “deaconesses” of the past were ordained is IRRELEVANT to this conversation. If one believes no women can be ordained, then they are going to say the “deaconesses” were not. If one believes women can be deacons, then they are likely to interpret at least some of the deaconesses as having been truly given a sacramental character. But whether they were or not is really not important to the question of whether they CAN be at all…though if the Church does allow it, she would be likely to interpret ordination in at least some of the “deaconesses” of the past…


My understanding of it is this:

Ordination to the priesthood is achieved through the sacrament of Holy Orders. As it is currently constituted, a woman cannot receive the sacrament of Holy Orders even as a deacon because the same rite that is used for ordination to the priesthood is also used for permanent deacons.

The ministry of the deacon is not the same as the ministry of the priest however, and there is nothing that I know of that would prevent the Church from constituting a lesser form of Holy Orders for the diaconate since that is a matter of discipline rather than doctrine or dogma and the ministries are different.

If such a lesser form was to be created, there would be nothing to prevent a woman from being ordained as a deacon if the Church chose to allow it as a matter of discipline–just as they could choose to allow married priests.

So I believe that the Church could make it “legal” if they wanted to. Do I believe it’s going to happen? Not any time in the near future, if ever.



My language was extremely clear and deliberate:

“…To be more specific do you think there will be ordained female deacons who are members of the clergy, and not the non-ordained “deaconesses” of years past?”


No, there will never be ordained female deacons in the Catholic Church. There may, at some point in time, be a restoration of deaconesses in the Western Rite Church. Deaconesses was an unordained position in the Church. Deaconesses helped women with such tasks as getting prepared for the Sacrament of Baptism. When the Church used full immersion in the Western Rite, deaconesses would help the women so something as beautiful as baptism by immersion wouldn’t become sexual…


IMPOSSIBLE. If there is ever a position like this created in the Church, the Church will truly be heterodox. Jesus Christ was a man and chose 12 males as His successors. The Church cannot stray from Tradition and as such there will never be any ordination for women. Sorry ladies, Our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ spoke.


And why bother claiming to be Catholic when one does not agree with what the Church teaches?

In the entire history and Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church women have served in many capacities. Yet in terms of ordained ministry, only men are ordained. What the heretics engaged in is a different matter.

One may come across the title of ‘deaconess’ but that position/title does not indicate any form of ordained ministry. The role of the deaconess was to assist in the baptism of women.


I don’t think an Ordinatio Diaconalis would be necessary, but I still voted that I would like to see one because I would like to see the Church take a position on how the Holy Orders of the diaconate is related to the Orders of the priesthood.

Do deacons, priests, and bishops all participate in different ways in the one priesthood, or is the medieval model separating diaconate from a priesthood shared by priest and bishop the real set-up? I don’t think the answer to this question would change whether female deacons are a possibility (they aren’t) but I think it would help formulate the answers to objections in as precise a manner as possible.


This seems to carry the implication that “ladies” want something, and in fact something that goes against their beloved Savior. Most ladies I know don’t want this thing (to be ordained like men). Don’t tell those ladies “sorry”.


Well of course, we all know that Romans 16.1 mentions a women named Phoebe was a deacon (the Greek uses the masculine, diakonon).

Now the typical response is that she was “really” a deaconess, or that in the very early church the titles and roles hadn’t been entirely sorted out, so ‘deacons’ mentioned in the NT don’t really refer to one of the Holy Orders. These always struck me a pretty much circular arguments.

Be that as it may, I accept the Church’s magisterial statement that women can never be ordained to Holy Orders. But I do think that the example of Phoebe and the epigraphical evidence for the widespread role of deaconess in the first few centuries of the church leave some wiggle room on the issue. So I put maybe.

On the whole, though, I just don’t think about the issue all that much.


I just thought I’d throw out there for those weighing historical criteria that ordination does not equal conferral of holy orders. The Eastern Orthodox who are reviving the office of deaconess like to point out that in the ancient rite the word for their institution really is “ordained.” But if you look at historic Latin orders, clerics were ordained to orders below the diaconate without receiving the sacrament of holy orders. The minor orders and subdiaconate were sacramentals, even though subdeacons were truly “ordained.”

So, long story short, the ordination of women to a particular office in an ancient ecclesiastical account doesn’t mean there is a possibility of ordaining female deacons.

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