Women deacons


I know this topic has been brought up numerous times, but can anyone shed light on these particular quotes:

All emphasis is mine.

It seems as if this is more than just an honorary funcation given to widows or deacon’s wives.


I’m too green in the church to be of any real help one way or the other on this issue… However, may I take a moment to direct you to my thread here? forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=148529

It may get moved to a new forum, because I don’t think I chose the best place to put it… :o


Assuming that the laying on of hands is where the confusion occurs. I say this because that is what is mostly in bold in the church documents. Remember that laying on of hands is also performed in the sacrament of confirmation. Sacraments always have two parts, form and matter. Just because the laying on of hands is used does not mean that it is a sacrament, for example prayers for the elect before Easter. New Advent has an article on the Imposition of Hands that might explain things better.


Also catholic.com has a good article on the roles of deaconesses in the early church.



The ancient Good Friday prayers includes two groups among the the ecclesiastical personnel: virgines and viduae. St. Hippolytus also mentions them with the clergy, but stresses the fact that they are not numbered among the clergy. In fact, the whole weight of legislation here is on the negative side: what widows and virgins are not to be, or not to do, or not to have. The tone is not at all friendly, and seems to imply the fear of a danger that did actually arise towards the end of that century, the danger of such privileged groups forming a sort of aristocracy and disputing with the hierarchy the right to govern. St. Ignatius of Antioch had already admonished widows about their pride and had warned the unmarried not to “plume” themselves on their profession or to set themselves above their bishops. Hippolytus, therefore, had grounds for stressing the fact that the virgins and the widows were not to be counted among the clergy, and that in their “appointment” - as in the case of lectors and subdeacons - there was no laying of hands. Regarding virgins, the “Apostolic Tradition” points out further that virginity is a matter of personal resolve, not of some ecclesiastical ordination. And regarding widows, the treatise explains that they do not offer the sacrifice and do not have any liturgical function. However, they are give recognition in the Church Order; they are distinguished - this must be noted - from the ordinary laity, and given a special rank as ecclesiastical persons.


Perhaps the hostile tone of the “Apostolic Traditons” is not unwarranted. Nevertheless we must admit that ecclesiastical legislation - including this very treatise and the several documents derived from it - has, through the years, accorded virgins and widows special consideration. The beginnings of this developement are already discernable in the New Testament. St. Paul speaks about a “list of widows” as, apparently, a fixed group, a sort of inchoate but recognized religious institution devoted to works of piety and charity (1 Timothy 5:9 ff.). The Church undertook to provide for them, and they were entrusted - but with some hesitancy - even with tasks connected with the care of souls. But the admission of widows to this class was hedged in with stringent conditions; the minimum age required for acceptance was at first set at sixty, but later reduced to fifty and finally to forty. Virgins, too, were apparently admitted to some kind of dedicated life, and entrusted with such tasks as caring for orphans, providing hospitality for travelling missionaries, and visiting the sick. They were also engaged in certain services connected with the catechumenate and the Baptism of women.

In this way, the institution of the so-called deaconesses came about and, at least in the East, this office developed into something quite effective. Not until after the Renaissance, did the idea which the Church had adumbrated in the institution of the deaconesses at last attain realization on a grand scale in the women’s congregations founded in the past few centuries.


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