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Roman Catholic bishop advocates ordaining women to the diaconate

Roman Catholic bishop advocates ordaining women to the diaconate

The Most Rev. Emil A. Wcela, a retired Roman Catholic bishop, says women should be ordained to the diaconate–and, no, this is not a slippery slope.

Writing in America, he says:

Women already minister extensively in the church. Consecrated religious serve in various fields. Thousands of other women serve in diocesan offices; in parishes as administrators, pastoral associates, directors of religious education, in the whole spectrum of parish life; in hospitals; in prisons. In contrast to the women of ancient times, women today play a very important part in public life, holding high offices in government, business, the professions and education. Cultural reasons to exclude women from the diaconate, at least in the West, no longer apply.

Ordaining women as deacons who have the necessary personal, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral qualities would give their indispensable role in the life of the church a new degree of official recognition, both of their ministry and of their direct connection to their diocesan bishop for assignments and faculties. Besides providing such women with the grace of the sacrament, ordination would enable them to exercise diaconal service in the teaching, sanctifying and governing functions of the church; it would also make it possible for them to hold ecclesiastical offices now limited to those in sacred orders. And as the International Theological Commission document points out, what the Second Vatican Council was proposing was not a “restoration of a previous form” but “the principle of the permanent exercise of the diaconate [italics in the French original and in the English translation] and not one form which the diaconate had taken in the past.” Who knows what new and grace-filled enrichment of that ministry might grow from the ordination of women as deacons?

The ordination of women to the diaconate is separate from the question of the ordination of women to the priesthood, as this discussion has, I hope, shown. That issue was addressed by the 1995 declaration of Pope John Paul II. Regarding the ordination of women to the diaconate, it is up to episcopal conferences and bishops, to theologians and historians and to concerned Catholics to raise the issue for wider and more public consideration.

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