Women Deacons and Phyllis Zagano at Fr. James Martin's FB

Hello, I am discussing women deacons on Fr. James Martin’s FB page. Some lady named Phyllis Zagano keeps chiming in! lol Yes, they let me know of her import and WHO she is.

Anyway, she and some of her cohorts have posted all types of information on “women deacons.” However, they have never answered my question or my point:

Deacons today receive Holy Orders. I know that “deacon” means servant. To my knowledge, if any women were “ordained” deacons, it was not with the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

After saying this, I get all the info on how women were ordained “deacon” in the 1100s, in the 1300s, and so forth. Okay…

When I ask them to demonstrate to me when women receiving Holy Orders was revoked or ceased, they have not yet answered me. I know that if women REALLY did receive Holy Orders back then and it was taken away, then there would be proof and a squabble back then. All I am getting is crickets.

So… can someone fill me in on the actual status of women “deacons” way back when? I know that Zagano is trying to pull a fast one.

Thanks- and Merry Christmas!

Neither I nor anyone else on CAF (that I am aware of) has done anywhere near the level of research into this topic that Zagano has. So, sorry, I can’t help you with specifics.

The only thing I know is that prior to Trent, things were not nearly as codified as they are today. So, the nugget of information you are looking for likely does not exist. This is why the question remains one that experts and researchers quibble over.

Except that the researches and even churches that still retain the women diaconate in the Orthodox Church will say that it’s not the same.


Okay, I will head in that direction and look for some corroborating info. Thanks!

Hello mrsdizzyd,
A silver bullet might not exist, but I think that if one approaches this from an historical angle that one can perhaps get a handle on the fact that what she is advocating is pie in the sky. Thanks!

No, she hasn’t.

She may fancy that she has, but that comes from a (willful?) attempt to conflate “deaconess” as “female deacon”, which simply is not nor has ever been the case.

There are no such churches. There are, however, both EC and EO churches which still have deaconesses, which are not female deacons.

The service role of deacons and deaconesses is either identical or close enough as to be insignificant, but in none of the churches with deaconesses, past or present, do deaconesses take on the liturgical role of deacons–because THEY ARE NOT DEACONS.

While this has come up on a couple of recent threads, you’ll get far better information by mining the archives of the byzcath.org forums (search for “deaconess site:byzcath.org”) where the discussions include folks with far more actual knowledge than I believe anyone on this site has.

That said, there is at least (exactly?) one church in which laying of hands is actually used in installation/consecration of deaconesses, and at least/exactly one in which the deaconesses enter the Holy Place to receive communion.

Right, which is why I said they were different.

As you probably know, Phyllis Zagano is one of the people on the commission that Pope Francis set up awhile ago, and will supposedly go back to work soon as part of the result from the recent Amazon synod. The rumor that I’ve seen reported in several places was that the main reason that the commission “didn’t reach an agreement” is because Zagano refused to budge from her position that women were deacons in the early Church (i.e., they possessed Holy Orders and were ordained, according to her).

This was just a rumor, because the report that the commission created was never publicly released. The speculation is that the report was not positive on women’s ordination as deacons, because if it wasn’t, we surely would have heard something about it by now from someone who would be dying to share the “progress” towards women’s ordination.

But in short, she is basically a fringe activist on this topic. She’s been a proponent of women’s ordination as deacons and priests for decades now. Her views definitely do not represent Catholic theology on this topic. The probable reason she cannot provide evidence to answer your question is because: there isn’t any. The commission back in the early 2000s reached the same conclusion as well.


I have to avoid looking at his page because I just start getting angry. It’s all leftist / feminist / cultural Marxist / social justice warrior causes, ordaining women or all things gay.


Do you think the people there have more actual knowledge than Ms Zagano? Are any of the contributors members of the recent papal commission or the International Theological Commission? What actual credentials does anyone have on the subject?

There are actual academics and theologians.

I can’t speak to whether or not or which have been appointed to anything.

Given that she appears to be of a fringe which makes a factual claim that contradicts the historical record, it certainly seems likely to me that many or most of them have more actual knowledge. I feel similarly about aeronautical engineers that dispute flat earth’s even though they’re only a couple of weeks past their bachelor’s degree , , ,


Ms Zagano has multiple degrees, has taught for 30+ years at accredited universities. She was appointed to a Papal commission because of her expertise on women and the diaconate.

Which is more likely, she is “of a fringe which makes a factual claim that contradicts the historical record” or that the members of an anonymous internet group match that description?

She makes claims about the historical record which others contradict. That is why I am asking why you prefer their opinion over hers. I might believe their opinion, but I have not heard any reason why I should.

I am not really concerned about whether she is on the “fringe.” Fringe folk can be right sometimes. Whether she is on the fringe, or your friends at byzcath are, does not make much difference.

So if the Church that he records from the beginning says, “no female deacons” and she says, “actually the Church is wrong” she’s the right one?

Yeah, likely story.


Hello Dovekin, that she has so many degrees is a great accomplishment. However, I am suspect, because of her point of view on gender. In her book, she ignores gender and looks to all humans as one kind and she ignores the differences between male and female.

I have the references from her book, and will post them later.

We must remember too that St. John Vianney and Blessed Solanus Casey were simple priests who struggled academically and had no papal appointments. But through their prayerfullness, obedience, and adherence to Church teaching and Tradition, they are hailed as a saint and blessed.


I’m the wrong one to them to suggest that multiple degrees is a qualification.

I “only” have one Ph.D. and a J.D. I could have had two Ph.D.s instead of a PH.D. in two fields, had I written a second dissertation. However, I recognized by that point how little the second degree, or a half a dozen M.S. would mean. Once you have a Ph.D., additional degrees (with a couple of notable exceptions, such as canon law) have no distinction, and in practice, mean nothing (as do degrees from unaccredited universities, with a couple of exceptions).

Anyway,once you have a Ph.D., additional masters or Ph.D.s do not mean, nor require the work, of a fist one.

I suspect that by “expertise” they mean “diverse opinion” . . .

What anonymous group? If you look, you will find that many of those I mentioned are “less” anonymous than I am here (and if it takes you a full minute to figure out my identity, you should turning in your computer . . .)

She is as far off the beaten track as those claiming perpetual motion machines, as another example. From those making such claims in the face of excepted knowledge, proof is needed before considering their claims comparable.

Or listening to a Baptist’s textual proof instead of the Church’s teaching—what to those bishops know, anyway?

“friends at byzcath”???

:roll_eyes: :roll_eyes: :roll_eyes:

I’ll rephrase that as the academic discussions there, as compared to the casual discussions here . . .


For us simple folk without all these degrees hanging on the wall and all these letters after our names I sure hope the Pope and the Church make a definitive statement one way or the other on whether women can be deacons , just like what they did in the 1990s on the women as priests issue. This way people with agendas can debate all they want about the nature of deaconesses in the early Church but it won’t matter once or if the Church makes a definitive statement. And this way people with no agenda can look to the definitive guidance and ruling of the Church and ignore all the sound and fury coming from all these self appointed experts.

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This is really funny. If you want far off the beaten track, a self selected group of people discussing modern Byzantine Catholicism would likely win the prize. It is almost a definition of off the beaten path.

Not that there is anything wrong with being off the beaten path. I guess I do not get why being “fringe” or “off the beaten track” are part of the discussion.

I cannot even tell you where Zagano stands on the issues, so I am far from defending her. I just know she has studied the issues, while others seem content with “accepted knowledge.” Why are people so dismissive?

How can you know she has studied the issues but not know where she stands on them??

Finally, I found some info on her book, Holy Saturday: An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church.

According to Fr. Dwight Longenecker, in this article, “Do We Need Women Deacons,” Zagano argues for a “single nature anthropology” in which human beings are “beyond sexuality.” This misses the mark on Church teaching, which advocates a complementarity between male and female. According to Longenecker, this is the same philosophy as the “transgender” movement: that sex and gender are not coterminus. In other words, your maleness and femaleness are not that important.

I believe that basing her argument for women deacons puts her at odds with Church teaching on a fundamental level. Although she says the opposite, I think this is a cover for eventually advocating for women priests. We see how well that works with the Anglicans and Lutherans here in America.


I’ve referred to no such group . . .

One person making wild claims that reject accepted knowledge is not, generally, “discussion”

Because she is rejecting more than a millennium of results of bishops, theologians, and such that vary from “as qualified as her” to “far more qualified” and had access to now lost materials. Until and unless she shows otherwise–and a couple of obscure references don’t meet that standard–she will have the status “academic crank” . . .


Fr. Martin Jesuit?

He’s been involved in an enormous number of very controversial issues, yes?

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