Throwing down the gauntlet

May 5, 2023 in Featured News, News

Women deacons were present in the Catholic Church from the time of St Paul, and the diaconate fell out of favour in the 12th century largely because of evolving clerical practices and disgruntled priests. But, as Professor Phyllis Zagano explains in this second part of an extended interview the diaconate was restored as a permanent vocation in 1972, after Vatican 11.

There are now over 47,000 permanent deacons, all men, most married (4% not), she tells Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications. The issue of women deacons was raised at the Council, only to die a quick death.

However in 2019, at the Amazon Synod, 9 out of 12 language groups asked for woman deacons and Pope Francis responded, “If the gauntlet has been thrown down I will pick it up.” Professor Zagano explains what Pope Francis has been doing in regard to the issue and outlines the obstacles (or lack of them) in actually progressing the ordination of women as deacons.

On a hopeful note, she says that the Catholic Church actually already has canons that allow for the ordination of women to the diaconate and cites a number of examples of women deacons currently working in various traditions of the Catholic Church today such as the Eastern and Maronite churches. So why the delay? Listen above to her answer, or click here to listen to part one of her three-part interview »

Dr Zagano is Professor of Religion at Hofstra University in New York, the author of many books, and a specialist on the diaconate. She was appointed to Pope Francis’s first commission on the diaconate in 2016. She was guest speaker at the Loyola Institute Trinity College Dublin’s seminar on synodality held on Friday and Saturday 14 and 15 April 2023.