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In rare two-page editorial, America magazine endorses women deacons


Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 08/17/16

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An excerpt: 

What would the ordination of women deacons mean for the local churches? For one thing, Pope Francis would likely recognize that not every diocese or parish has the same need for and openness to the ministry of deacons generally or women deacons specifically. As the International Theological Commission stated in its report, “the true interest” of the fathers at Vatican II “was in opening a path to the restoration of the permanent diaconate which could be put into effect in a plurality of ways.” Should the church decide to ordain women deacons, therefore, the Holy See should render the practice licit but not mandatory. Owing to the wide variety of social, ecclesial and political situations throughout the world, discernment as to how, and when, female deacons can be integrated into the life of a local church should respect the autonomy of local churches under the leadership of the local bishop (in accordance with the call for greater subsidiarity that Pope Francis made repeatedly in “The Joy of Love”). Regardless of local custom and choice, however, we are certain that the church would be greatly enriched by expanding roles for women at every level of service and governance. Almost 50 years ago, in 1967, the Second Vatican Council restored the permanent diaconate to the church. For several centuries before that, the only form of the diaconate was a “transitional” one—that is, for a man en route to the priesthood. In the early 1970s, it was a surprise for many Catholics to see a married man proclaim the Gospel and preach at Mass. Half a century on, this development is not yet finished, and the church is still coming to understand how best to put this ministry at the service of the community. Even though the restoration of the permanent diaconate has not been without challenges, it has been a blessing for the church. The addition of women to their ranks could be an equal blessing. With that in mind, we look forward to the results of the pope’s commission on women deacons and pray for its members as they begin this important work. In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul asks the community to “welcome” Phoebe and “help her in whatever she may require from you.” Even after the commission publishes its final report, scholars will likely debate what kind of diakonos Phoebe was. What is clear already, however, is that many women have the necessary personal, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral qualities to serve in this ministry, as well as a true sense of calling to follow the pattern of Phoebe. The question remains: Does the church have the freedom to admit women to this ministry and, if so, how should it proceed? One part of that question has been entrusted to the commission, but the larger challenge and opportunity belong to all of us.

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