What the debate over deacons gets wrong about Catholic women in leadership


Two years ago I was on a panel at the University of Notre Dame where a fellow presenter lamented the almost total absence of women in leadership in the church. Perhaps she did not read my bio or listen to my presentation. During the panel discussion, I finally had to interject that I was the chancellor of one of the largest dioceses in the country and fourth on the organization chart for the Diocese of Orange.

I was reminded of this exchange when Pope Francis, returning from his trip to North Macedonia and Bulgaria on May 7, gave his long-awaited, if somewhat indirect, response to the question of whether the Catholic Church would allow the ordination of women to the permanent diaconate. As a woman in leadership in the church, I think we are having the wrong conversation when we focus so narrowly on the question of women deacons that we fail to see the ways Catholic women can—and already do—lead.

The group the pope commissioned in 2016 to study the historical role of women deacons was unable to reach a consensus on a number of issues. Put simply, there are records from the early church of women being identified as deacons. But there is no conclusive evidence that the role of female deacons has ever been tied to the ordained sacramental role that male deacons exercise. In a conversation with women religious superiors on May 10, Pope Francis said any change to the diaconate must be grounded in revelation. “If the Lord didn’t want a sacramental ministry for women,” he said, “it can’t go forward.”

When we focus so narrowly on the question of women deacons we fail to see the ways Catholic women can—and already do—lead.

But Pope Francis also said that “there is a way of conceiving [the female diaconate] with a different vision to that of the male diaconate.” In other words, one could imagine women deacons serving in some roles traditionally fulfilled by male deacons but in a way that is detached from sacramental ordination. It is unclear, however, whether such a solution would bring about the greater equality between men and women in the church that many proponents of women deacons wish to see.

In addition to their role of administering certain sacraments and proclaiming the Gospel, men in the permanent diaconate, which was first restored in 1967, fulfill many tasks—like fostering parish life, providing faith formation and promoting social justice initiatives—that could be done by any non-ordained person. I admire the selflessness with which these men serve. After all, theirs is not a paid role. And perhaps a radical redefinition of the permanent diaconate is in order, one which would recognize the important ways lay men and women build up the church and the people of God.

I worry, however, that by focusing so intensely on the question of women deacons, we miss the larger challenge facing our church. The church has a global mission to sanctify the entire world through her members. Most of that work will be done not by ordained ministers or the hierarchy, whether that includes more women or not, but by lay women and men. So long as we are focused on the diaconate, we are ignoring the reality articulated in the Second Vatican Council document “Lumen Gentium”: Our job as lay people is to go where the clergy cannot.

I worry that by focusing so intensely on the question of women deacons, we miss the larger challenge facing our church.

Every Catholic has the power to influence our culture, but too often the influence flows in the opposite direction. Catholic parents, for example, lament that neither they nor the church have the same pull on their children that the culture does. Instagram and “Game of Thrones” probably shape the values of young people more directly than all of the great homilists put together. The current sex abuse crisis suggest that the church herself is afflicted by the sins of the surrounding culture and is, in fact, a microcosm of that culture.

If Catholics want to have influence, even power, it seems to me that we would advance the conversation much more by talking about the role of the laity in the culture and in the world.

At the close of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI asked women “to bring the spirit of this council into institutions, schools, homes and daily life” and said, “It is for you to save the peace of the world.” If that truly is the case, then we should be following the directive that women have a role in every aspect of society, enunciated in the Vatican document “On the Collaboration of Men and Women in Society” in 2004.


As it stands, the ordained vocations of permanent deacon, priest and bishop are held by a relatively small number of men. To take such a narrow vocation and then try to fit a general discussion about women into it seems myopic at best. Most men are called to live their relationship with Christ differently. Could not the same apply to all women without offending their equal dignity? Meanwhile, we leave the shaping of our culture, and in turn our families and even our church, to other men and women who have identified the real positions of influence: social media, politics, science, the arts, education and business.

While the church certainly needs competent lay women and men in leadership roles, we need exponentially more competent lay women and men living out every aspect of their lives influenced by their faith and an authentic understanding of the dignity of the human person. The hierarchy spends lots of time talking about human dignity, but it is the actual doctors, scientists, teachers, social workers and many others, including parents, who make this a reality for us.

While I am grateful to be able to serve in the role I currently hold, I see so many opportunities for women outside the church, in places where the church will always struggle to have an impact. Lay men and women are called to the tremendous honor of building up the kingdom in these places, and we do not need any title, besides Catholic, to do so.

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Alan Johnstone
1 year 4 months ago

What a terrible God it is that committed creation!
How unjust that a God would make creatures different from one another!


In dialogue, the appropriate use of the word equality is with an identifier.

Equality of strength, equality of beauty, equality of intelligence and so on.
All feminist use of equality that is unidentified is a form of lie.
Tell the truth, feminists, equality of what?

Dale Athlon
1 year 4 months ago

BRAVO, Tim. Feminists are not honorable about any of this. They hate to be reminded that Mother Angelica started her own TV network that had a bigger impact for "her voice" than any bishop has.

Lol. It's not about evangelization or spreading the Gospel, it's about everything but. God created man, and then proceeded to create woman out of the material of man. (Genesis).

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

LOL you just disproved your own argument since yes men and women were both made of the exact same material, for the exact same purposes, by the exact same God, therefore they are not different but complimentary creations, but instead one and the same creation. Equally they are both Man which is why in Genesis God says that He created Man - male and female He created them. They are described by God as one and the same creation and were not given responsibilities by God at the time of creation based on their being different forms of man.

Jim Hess
1 year 4 months ago

Of course there is work for all in the church. With all respect, de Solenni doesn't so much address the question of the status of women in the church as change the subject.

Jay Zamberlin
1 year 4 months ago

Partially true; really more she's asking people to change their collective and individual focus from 'how can the Church serve/reflect me' (and my philosophical/socially infused identity and/or world view) and towards our much more important call to be salt and light among the nations, the heathen, among the gentiles. So, yes, she advocates for not arguing about "first seats at the table," and other such "first world" dilemmas/problems, and rather to get up and be about the business of building the Kingdom. Kudos to her, she has her priorities straight, at least IMHO.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

Absolutely and this is how women attack women while giving the appearance of supporting equity. Women who seek same treatment, respect and opportunity as their male counterparts are cast as arrogant, or out for self promotion for doing so but no one says the men are seeking self-promotion for seeking exactly the same treatment.

J Jones
1 year 4 months ago

Well said, Jim.

Nora, It always interesting to me that, often exclusion of the Other is invisible to those committing that sin; yet, they are able to see - immediately and clearly - every move the Other makes toward inclusion, which it is then condemned as sin.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

That is true and quite sad. I actually now think it is a literal mental health issue.

I really believe, after debating this cause for so long, that there is a very real kind of brain washing that we have done to ourselves. Yes, by the hierarchy, throughout the centuries, but even they are brain washed from their youth too. It explains the many extremely irrational answers I get back sometimes and the complete rage on the other end.

I pray now for the cure.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

This is truly the fools article. First off, if women and men are treated differently and one of those groups has no restrictions as to what it can become but only the other group does and many, and most of the extremely sacred and decision making positions and titles are kept from that group, then anyone who knows basic mathematics can figure out the equation that the first group is greater than the second. Making the 2nd group lesser people than the first group. We prove what we believe of each other by how we treat each other.

This is why God in Christ commanded that all Christians treat all others only as they wish to be treated and in everything. Matt 7:12 "In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the prophets."

and from last Sunday's Gospel (how soon we forget Pope Francis!)

John 14:23 Jesus said to his disciples:

"Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words;

If we were discussing race instead of gender (and we have used this same exact language to subordinate the humanity of black people) then would you be so willing to state that this different treatment did not equate to hatred of black people just as it definitely equates to the hatred of all women.

Jesus commands us to do to all others the same as we wish and discriminate against no one because this only causes damage to that other person or group of people and therefore is grave sin as this treatment only comes from a heart which embraces hatred of the other and malice.

When did Pope Francis forget that the Gospels are revealed truth from Christ greater than any other man(s) revelations?

Sexism has already been proven to directly cause poverty, pedophilia, other forms of child sexual abuse, teen abuse and the sexual abuse of women, rape, murder, disease, slavery, genital mutilation, terrorism, forced illiteracy and forced polygamy and many other evils. There is literally no good that comes from this form of hatred and bias and we need to face our sins and treat evil as evil or we deserve what we get.

There should be no permanent deacons since there is no need for any ordained permanent deacons in any parish and no parish will fail without them.
Lay people are already capable and willing and legally allowed under our current church laws to do all sacramental and non-sacramental ministries which permanent deacons do. So since ordaining anyone unnecessarily only invites clericalism it is time to say good bye to this kind of ordination. We also need to consider is it not mere sexism to have women allowed to do what men do but not be given equivalent respect, prestige, titles, opportunities and pay as their brothers?

This sad sell out of a writer makes me see clearly how and why it has taken so many women so long to get equal pay, promotions, and titles in the secular world. We need to remember most inequities in pay currently come from women not asking for the same pay as men. This women is telling you that this is a great idea and we should just continue to support the misogyny. How sad is she? to have so little self esteem and dignity in herself.

Remember ladies when you ask to be given less than men in any form from our church leaders you are proving to them that even you do not value your own equal worth compared to them.

Tim O'Leary
1 year 4 months ago

Nora - you always manage to show such little respect for women writers. here it is "fool" and "sell-out" and "so sad" - you don't even know how much a sexist you are!
I see you have changed your comment, wisely taking out the complaint about pay. As always, Nora, you and your allies seem totally imprisoned in clericalism. Here are the salaries of the clergy today:
Parish priests make between $25,000-$35,000 per year, depending on the diocese
Cardinal’s $68,000 per year, the Pope $0

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

Tim dear,

As adorable as you are in your fury of hate and misogyny, you need to understand that to state that something is founded in the Gospels, means it has to be located in the Gospels. It can't be interpreted from the Gospels, it has to be found literally. As I have already proven with the Gospel verses in my above comment how Jesus commanded we only treat all people always the same and never different than we want to be treated (so no discrimination is allowed. Not by bishops, Popes, priests, laymen, laywomen, cardinals, etc. without being accounted to them as sin) I have proven you are wrong based on what is actually founded in the Gospels. If you can find the verse that states women cannot be ordained priests in the Gospels, then by all means, feel free to answer me with that verse. It is not there in any of the four Gospels anywhere! period!.

As for this writer, if she is choosing to write a misogynistic article regarding equal opportunity and sacraments in the church then she is just as foolish and sad a character as her male counterparts. So you can see that I don't discriminate. A fool must earn the title, I don't give it out freely to anyone.

Tim O'Leary
1 year 4 months ago

Nora - isn't "dear" a sexist reference. You cannot escape your prison of sexism, which you invert on everyone else. Above, you argue that no priest is necessary for the sacraments or any other part of the Church (forgetting so much of the Scripture). How can you argue for the elimination of the priesthood AND for women priests in the same comment. You seem so dissatisfied with the actual Church Jesus founded, you want to found a new one and pretend you alone can interpret the Gospel. What a fraud!

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

Nope - it is a term of endearment. Like Dear Dr. Sillypants, or Dear Tim, or Dear Grandma and Grandpa. I think one of your main problems is that you don't understand the English definitions of many of the words you commonly use.

I never argued no priest is necessary. I stated no deacons are necessary and they are not. I do believe priests are necessary but we must no longer discriminate and keep women from priestly ordination since that is a bias of hatred and we have been paying for it with our continuous and ongoing self destruction as a church. See this sin sexism leads (and this has been proven with actual evidence) to pedophilia, child abuse, teen sexual abuse and the sexual and other abuse of women. Any of this bad fruit sound familiar to you Tim?

Tim O'Leary
1 year 4 months ago

Nora - I see a lot of bad fruit around, especially in your arrogant and sexist campaigns against the Church and especially the disparaging language you use against faithful women. If you are saying that men commit more sexual crimes than women, which is correct, isn't that in itself a clear logical discrimination between the sexes (aka your type of sexism)? If the argument is driven by sexual appetites, shouldn't your argument be that men should not be priests and that only priestesses will do?

Or, if your argument is that men only excel women in bad traits, and do not excel women in any good traits, well that is like Animal farm (female sex good, male sex bad), and clearly sexist. Far better than the Book of Nora is the real bible, that gives the teaching that men and women have complementary good and bad traits, and spiritual roles assigned by their Creator.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

your answer us so ridiculous I hardly no where to begin to respond.

Lets start with the word sexist or sexism which you continually misuse. Sexism means different and often lesser treatment of others or people based solely on their sex. Unlike Feminism which only means the desire for women to be treated the same as men. So sexism and feminism are about treatment or attitudes which lead to unequal treatment based on sex, male or female.

I didn't state the writer was a fool because she is female, as I have liked and supported many of the female writers here and elsewhere. I called her a fool because a woman who advises other women to accept abuse and oppression is like watching a monkey beat his own head with a rock and wonder why he is bleeding. It is a sad show to watch and the ending won't be good.

God, in the actual bible and in Genesis, states the He created man, male and female, He created them, and other than to be fruitful and multiply God does not give any kind of work, spiritual traits, by definition to men verses women. None. You may feel free to look that up.

So you see it is you and our church leadership that have been spouting lies about what is actually written in the actual bible and not me.

I never changed any of my comment to take out money. And you are misleading in your comment about how priests and bishops are compensated and yes women deserve same exact compensation, respect, prestige, opportunity and sacramental authority and ordination as men demand. If women are clerical or petty for demanding what our male priests and bishops have, then you prove all our clergy to be clerical and petty by that standard you evoked.

Priests and bishops do make the salaries you stated but they don't have to pay for housing, food, a maid, a cook, health care, or utilities as all of us do and these items take up the largest portions of most people's income. So if all a priest needs to pay for out of his 30,000 plus salary is a cheap used car and it's insurance and clothing costs, that is the equivalent of making more like 30 to 50 thousand more than their salaries. Many have also had a large portion of their higher education paid for by the church so they have no student loans to pay off. Even considering this I actually don't begrudge priests these salaries unless they are against ordaining women priests and bishops.

It is not sexist to point out any facts. That is called observance. Men do greatly abuse both children and women more compared to women not because they are incapable of abusing less but because the various cultures of sexism, especially the kind found in religion, create the atmosphere of opportunity and non accountability for the abuse they commit, so they commit more abuse. We know this true because in countries like in India, when they began to enforce rape laws more strictly and imprisoned men more often and made public examples of rapists as terrible people, the occurance and ferocity of rapes decreased in these countries very quickly from when they were not being held accountable.

Sexism is the reason someone might behave sinfully, noticing the behavior for what it is and describing it accurately is not sexist in the least.

Tim O'Leary
1 year 4 months ago

Nora – I call you a sexist primarily because you want women treated the same as men, no matter how God created them. That is a male chauvinist principle. I disagree with your understanding of sexism. It is too narrow and leads you to make the same errors again and again, against justice and against the Church. It is sexist to demand women act more like men or men act more like women. Sexism is more often the refusal to treat the sexes according to their particular attributes. For example, it is sexist to deny men and women their own bathrooms, or not to provide lactation rooms in employment for women, or to deny maternity leave or to require that men and women be judged by their physical or athletic strength. In sexual matters, treating men and women the same does great damage to both sexes, but especially to women. It ends up demanding women act more like men in their relationships which results in great emotional damage. The same goes for the spiritual realm. God made men and women to compliment each other. If this is true, as Scripture and the Church teach, then the whole feminist campaign to deny this complementarity is an injustice that harms both sexes, but especially the more vulnerable sex.

You have a fundamentalist view of Holy Scripture, only made worse by the massive parts you don’t read. As to Genesis, try to read it less superficially and partially. For example, look at the specific punishments He gave men and women after the Fall. Why so different? Was it a pure accident God designed a patriarchal Jewish culture for His people, or selected only male priests in a world of priestesses? Why is Mary the sole created being without sin? I could go on and on about these differences. You seem to have missed them all! Moreover, the Catholic Church believes it is led by the Holy Spirit and is protected from teaching error (look it up in Matthew). You obviously deny this preservation and judge the Church by a feminist viewpoint that is again chauvinist. Please stop being a chauvinist!

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

Dear Tim,

If you can't agree what is accepted in English for English words than you will find yourself only having dialogue with yourself because if brown can mean green but only when Tim wants it too, is how you converse, no one will find any point in interacting with you. If founded in scripture means "only to Tim": to be found in church teaching while being completely absent and even taught against and commanded against, in the actual Gospels, in the Actual Bible, then your concept of founded (which means can be found) is not relateable to the rest of the English speaking world. Your definition (only your definition) of reading the bible superficially is described as one who reads it according to the actual words in the actual text, (which is bad because you Tim, and some bishops would prefer to interpret those texts, as including imaginary unicorns, of which only the yellow ones matter), and if I don't agree this is somehow heresy, and I am now a fundamentalist, is absurd!

In fact, your version of scripture study altogether leaves out scripture! I neither omitted or twisted anything I quoted, nor did I take any of the passages out of context. I stated them as supporting my stand because they clearly support my argument that Jesus wants all people to treat all other people the same as they wish to be treated, and this leaves no room for imagined stereotypes, and gender roles, which Science and society have already proven only ever came from the imaginations of highly sexist, misogynistic, narrow minded, and oppressive, often religious men.

For the record, these are the accepted definitions other English Speaking People agree on for the
word Sexism:

Definitions: from various accepted English Language Dictionaries:

From the Explorer online Web Dictionary:

1. prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.
"sexism in language is an offensive reminder of the way the culture sees women"
chauvinism · discrimination · prejudice · bias · machismo · laddishness

From Merriam Webster's Dictionary:

sex·ism | \ ˈsek-ˌsi-zəm \
Definition of sexism

1 : prejudice or discrimination based on sex especially : discrimination against women
2 : behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex

From Wikipedia:

Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person's sex or gender. Sexism can affect anyone, but it systematically and primarily affects women and girls. It has been linked to stereotypes and gender roles, and may include the belief that one sex or gender is intrinsically superior to another. Extreme sexism may foster sexual harassment, rape, and other forms of sexual violence.
As for priestesses, you are the only one hot for that word - I am not seeking anyone be ordained a priestess. So please keep that personal fantasy to yourself.

God did not make man and women differently, except for reasons of procreation, and he did not make them differently in punishment outside of procreation events. The fall which was caused by sin of both sexes equally, is the first time we see a man treating a woman differently than he wants to be treated, as he has decided to blame her for his own lack of obedience to God. This is when the disunity of man began - literally with the first sexist man refusing to be held accountable for his own actions. Adam and Eve are actually having described to them in Genesis, by God, more a consequence rather than a punishment for their actions. Much like a parent who is human, if one's child sins and disobeys and touches a hot stove, the child's hand is burnt, this crushes the parent, it does not please him/her. From the point of that first sin and on, both male and female mankind are stuck toiling harder to gain from the land that which came more easily before the sin. God can't make the one without a uterus bleed or experience more pain in child birth because he does not have a uterus. However, most men who have lost a wife due to a bad birth will tell you they feel crushed by that loss. (an Aside: It is a curious fact that human heads are uniquely disproportionate to their bodies when born which is why they can't hold their own heads up. This is not true of any other animals or mammals. Since the sin was a matter of obtaining forbidden knowledge perhaps that sin increased the brain matter, in size, and therefore head size of all mankind, one could wonder is this the consequence of that first sin and why it resulted in greater pain and blood in childbirth? (this is my mere theological hypothesis).

However, what is certain, is that man and women are the same, not complimentary creations, according to Genesis. They are made of the same material, for the same exact purposes, by the same God who never assigned different tasks, according to gender, whether spiritual, physical or ministerial period. This simply cannot be found in the bible anywhere unless there was a specific need to do so like physical strength being necessary for the task or blood laws being kept, etc.

As for physical strength, I don't deny that women can't become NFL football players. However, neither can well over 98% of all men, either, so this means nothing. If priesthood demanded extreme physical strength to perform the tasks necessary that could be a reason to restrict women and many men but it does not.

God designed Judaism as a non-sexist patriarchal society which was intended to lead to a non-sexist, non-patriarchal church, outside of Jesus being the only true leader of the Church and being male in the flesh. This is why Jesus refers to the whole church as female (all of us represent the "she" in the wedding, equally, and this includes our hierarchy - they are part of "She" too- the bride). The Patriarchy begins with Abraham who makes himself a friend of God (Sarah is actually promised this inheritance to enjoy also and she benefits everything promised to Abraham as well thru marriage. There is nothing Abraham owns that is something Sarah can't also enjoy, as his legal wife). The descendants of Abraham are Sarah's descendants too. The Old Testament is written primarily through the male story due to lineage rules and inheritance laws. In order for Abraham to claim the promise made to him by God which is that his offspring will be as numerous as the stars and cover the whole world, the gentiles eventually have to become a part of his legal inheritance. To explain how God ends up pulling this off, we have to see Abraham's literal blood be attached to the Messiah who is the only one capable of making anyone a child of God. So patriarchy is created with Abraham to legally track his bloodline to the Messiah. God secures this through Abraham's descendants or blood lineage. Just as all people are actually considered equally man and therefore equally Adam (Think of it as a ball of play dough being continually separated into more and more balls, and those balls are also separated and multiplied, and so on, and so on - none of these balls didn't come from the original, so officially they are all the original ball, in a literal way still. In the creator's eyes they are the same thing, merely with different names for its parts or balls or sections - This is why in Genesis, God refers to both male and female as Man which translates also from the Hebrew into Adam.) Now God at no point states that women should be treated lesser than men in any way or be kept from doing any works. When men have made such decisions, it was never assigned them to do so by scripture, unless due to matters of extreme strength or issues of following blood laws during menstruation. So this was not designed as a sexist patriarchy but instead as one that allowed bloodline to be carefully tracked, so to ensure it would be tracked, they made bloodline lineage, the avenue through which to achieve inheritance. There are pluses and minuses to both ends: Women don't officially own anything but have legal right to use and enjoy whatever their husbands own and inherit, this includes priesthood for a Levite. (which is why it is interesting that Leviticus never states a woman can't be a priest or serve as one. Also wives and children of priests are the only ones legally allowed to eat of the sacred bread only priests are legally allowed to eat.)

Men are stuck with the tribe they are born into but women are not. If a woman does not want to be a Levite anymore then she can marry out of it, into another tribe. She can't bring any possessions with her because ultimately even what men own, in a tribe (especially land), is restricted as to who they can or can't give or sell it to. However, she can freely enjoy whatever her husband and his tribe have in ownership. This way no tribe is weakened or lessened by another thru loss of possessions by marriage. Since all of the blood descendants of Abraham are considered to be Abraham himself in a new form (this includes women Jews but they are unable to pass down lineage) when Christ picks the 12 as Judges for the 12 tribes of Israel (not priests) according to Jesus, in two Gospels, in essence, Abraham has inherited the church, by blood, because the twelve represent the tribes of Israel who encompass the inheritance of Abraham, by blood, and they are reborn by baptism and faith in Jesus Christ. So Abraham and Christ become one body, through the twelve who contain Abraham's blood, and also drink the blood of Christ - Holy Eucharist, and become physically and spiritually one life in the melding. Now that they are one body and the church belongs to Abraham and Abraham belongs to Christ literally, and legally, in blood and Spirit, there is no longer need for any leader of the church or any presbyter, to be either male or Jewish. If this merger did not satisfy the law, then Gentiles could not be priests or leaders of the church either. However, if gentiles can be priests or church leaders, then there is no reason women cannot, equally.

God did not pick priests for Judaism - they were born priests. In Christianity, however, they are chosen by faith, and so bloodlines, and therefore gender also, is null and void as a requirement in any way. This makes our patriarchy unnecessary and harmful because patriarchy with no purpose can only serve to support misogyny and this is a form of hatred.

The Holy Spirit does not teach in error - That is true. However, our Pope(s) and our religious leaders most certainly can and they have many times. This is why many laws, doctrines, traditions have changed throughout our church's history. This ban against women being ordained priests and bishops is not ex cathedra, and it is not by agreement of all bishops, in the world, over a long period of time, or agreement without papal coercion of bishops, which does not count as an agreement of bishops (agreement must be voluntary), so we cannot claim the Magisterium has decided this ban is infallible truth either. This makes it a changeable teaching and tradition.

As for bathrooms, I don't think any bathroom should be one gender or another. I personally don't enjoy pooping next to women in the next stall any more or less than if a man were in it. It is perfectly possible to put up sheet rock type stalls with doors on each stall so everyone may do what they need to do in privacy. As it is, I work in Massachusetts and transgender women do use the ladies room and nothing bad has happened on account of this.

As for maternity and paternity leave, these should definitely be for the same amount of paid time off. When I had my two kids, both I and my husband were working for government and did have exactly the same amount of time off and this helped us both enormously. Fathers and newborns need to bond just as badly as mothers and newborns. Many of our societies' problems with men come from our pretending that parenthood is a girl thing, or that men don't need to nurture and bond with their children as much as women do and this creates cold, unfeeling fathers who do nothing but spout rules and dish out punishments. Parenthood is about loving, nurturing, teaching, feeding, clothing, diaper changing, cleaning, by both parents, equally. When I nursed my children, I let my husband feed them their bottles of other fluids once they started having juices added to their diets because he really wanted to know what it was like to feed his babies. As far as lactation rooms, any private room will do for this. Many of our attorneys use their own locked offices.

Treating men and women the same does no damage to anyone and you can't just spout lies without real evidence to support your statements.

Women cannot act like men or vice versa because there is no standard way that women act or men act. Stereotypes from sexism try to claim women are more emotional or nurturing but these beliefs have already been proven by science to be completely false. People are all unique, and there are women who are more and less emotional, nurturing, tempermental, depressive, smart, bold, wise etc. as men and vice versa. Gender does not decide these things - personality does. In fact, recent gender studies in England have proven that groups of men disagree more with each other on fundamental issues than do groups of men and women. So men and women do not have a feminine or masculine wisdom or genius any more than black and white people have a genius based on race. This is just more false, already debunked, stereotyping made to oppress women.

You are only lying to yourself Tim and it is hurting you and our church. Stop it.

We will change, or our church will indeed become the church that hated itself to death. What a sad outcome. God will give our strength to another church if we refuse to act according to his command to treat all members the same and that means same opportunities and sacraments be made available, equally, to all members.

Equality does not take anything from men, Tim, and it adds greater enjoyment to their relationships with women. You need not be so terrified of it.

Elena Di Benedetto
1 year 4 months ago

Nora, you are incandescently right. Tim, you’re wrong. There, I settled it.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

Thanks Elena!

Tim O'Leary
1 year 4 months ago

Elena - I appreciate your brevity, even when you get it wrong.

Brian T
1 year 4 months ago

As a male it took me a long time to admit it, but the Catholic hierarchy and worldview is definitely based on a misogynistic theology and philosophy. Thomas Aquinas, who is considered by many to the be the greatest church doctor, considered women to be "deficient and misbegotten." He considered a woman's only value to be located in her womb. Women were misshapen men who for some reason suffered an unfortunate turn of biology and became female in the womb as opposed to male.
To deny this misogyny is comical. As a modern male, to me it makes more sense to admit it and then contribute to fixing the problem rather than accepting a contorted, created status quo.

Most of the Church's theology is built on Aquinas' thinking. He was instrumental in building the medieval Church's worldview. So much of the way the modern Catholic Church operates is because of Aquinas.

Here is just one little nugget:
"We learn two things from this little waltz down memory lane. First, that women are by nature “deficient and misbegotten.” The essential value of her creation is “for the generation of the species.” Women are important not for any inherent value or virtue, but for their ability to reproduce. For Aquinas, women are merely a means to an end. That the female is described as “misbegotten” is a pejorative term probably referring to Eve’s eating of the fruit in the garden of Eden. To be “misbegotten” carries the connotation of contempt and disgust. Second, we learn that the female was an inherently subordinate and inferior being (inferior in intellect and reason).

I say all of that to say this: It is quite clear that Aquinas did not believe females were made in the image of God in the same way as males. The simple fact of the matter is that Thomas was both a product of his times and a casualty of his devotion to the pagan Aristotle."

PS - Don't even get me started on Augustine...

Jay Zamberlin
1 year 4 months ago

Your point (BTS) is not without merit, but it really skirts the main issue, which is does the Church have the right to ordain women in light of Jesus' own example, which is also part of the Hebraic tradition per direction of God Himself restricting the priesthood to the Tribe of Levi, and of course, men of that tribe. So, the priesthood, from the beginning, is exclusionary. Also, Jesus is "the Great High Priest" according to the order of Melchizedek. We also have the idea of the 'bridegroom' (Jesus) and the bride (Church).

So, my arguments don't negate yours, as far as there being, perhaps, a strain of mysogeny in the writings of Aquinas, and perhaps that "infecting" elements in the Church. It just does not grant a "cause and effect" sequitor vis-a-vis the priesthood's being set aside for males, as the Church teaches that is God's directive, not hers, and one either believes that or not. if one says, no, I don't believe that, you are saying, by logical extension, that you would be then dealing with an institution of fools and/or liars - and why would any of it matter, at that point? That would be a 2000 year coverup, ruse that you'd be ascribing to the Church, given her unwavering position from the beginning.

Now, one could, (unless we deny any and all "supernatural" aspects of our faith, we don't need to dilineate, I'd hope) reasonably grant your premise without subsequently tying that to the nature of priesthood and who is called by God. (again, if one would deny the supernatural undergirdings of the faith, it's all meaningless anyway, and I mean ALL of it, ala Paul: "If Christ be not raised from the dead, I preach in vain.")

Tim O'Leary
1 year 4 months ago

BTS - You are right that Aquinas made some of the errors of his time, just as we are susceptible to make the errors of our time (note how much of the modern world cannot see the humanity of the unborn, or the differences between the sexes, we have forgotten some things). Aquinas could only argue on the state of science at the time, which relied on Aristotle's biological view that the product of a seed (male sperm) would be as perfect as it matched the source, which they thought was only the adult (male). So, the farther away from the match, the further away from perfection. But, neither Aristotle nor Aquinas were infallible and both were ignorant of how DNA comes equally from the man and the woman (as in sperm and egg). Science is often wrong and provisional, and is corrected with new evidence. Doctrine can also developed over time, not as deviation from the truth but as greater insight is achieved. Today, our scientific secular view has defects in the picture that we do not appreciate. So as science advances on the biology of the unborn, not all yet clearly see the individuality of the human being in the womb. Feminists, male and female, even against this scientific evidence, see the unborn as "deficient and misbegotten", and right for destruction. Even moreso, if the unborn is in any way unhealthy. Look to Saint Pope John Paul II the Great's theology of the body for the best Catholic understanding of the sexes today.

Jesus, being God, never made the mistakes of Aristotle, Aquinas or Augustine or moderns on biology or anything else. He quoted Genesis "male and female, He Created them." His high opinion of children ("let them come unto me") His rejection of divorce and of His treatment of the women caught in adultery (no adulterous woman commits the sin alone) are some examples. So is His choice of different duties for men and women in the Church was also part of that omniscience. The latter seems wrong to some moderns because their understanding is faulty and they think sameness and equality are the same thing, when in fact they are opposite when the male-female duality is concerned, in roles and responsibilities and less so in talents and temperament. Just one example, we know men are more prone to violence than women. Does that mean men are less than women in virtue? I say not at all, but that would be a longer discussion and I am not infallible and subject to the same modern biases as all presently alive (consider abortion on this violence question).

Holy Scripture gives an equality in its description of male and female, in several ways, even as it gives different roles and responsibilities to each. Even in his time, Aquinas says "I answer that, It was right for the woman to be made from a rib of man. First, to signify the social union of man and woman, for the woman should neither use authority over man,' and so she was not made from his head; nor was it right for her to be subject to man's contempt as his slave, and so she was not made from his feet. " ST, q. 92, a. 3 (link for further reading below).

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

Once again Tim, God in scripture nor science give different roles to men and women. But I know you are absolutely certain the sun goes around the earth because otherwise the church would consider you a heretic. Check all set.

John Stevens
1 year 4 months ago

Firstly, people aren't numbers and this question is not a mathematical one. Secondly, two things can be different without one being greater or lesser than the other. Thirdly, your argument is based in an assumption of a power disparity that does not exist, precisely because the ordained minister of the sacraments does not have personal power. The ordained minister of the sacraments is a servant of the people of God, not their master. We respect and revere them not because they have power over us, but because they love God and us enough to spend their lives in service to Him, and us, and of course mostly because in their duties they become Christ among us. Christ, of course, is a man, which is why the proper matter for the sacrament of ordination is a healthy, normal, fully functioning man.
Your argument fails on invalid premises.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

Jesus has us told us that all who believe in him represent him equally. He also did not ordain anyone a priest or tell anyone else to do so and neither did any of the twelve apostles anywhere in the new testament.

Jesus did command all his followers to treat each other the same and that they sinned when they did not do this.

Also, according to Genesis women are equally man. Christ did not come to save men but all man, both male and female, the whole creation, and he had to represent women regardless of his male form to be able to save them. Therefore women can equally represent him without being in the male form of man, equally to men, on the altar. All men and women in our church likewise represent the bride. If the people who represent and are the voice of the bride can be in the male form of man while representing the female bride, by being allowed votes as her voice, in the Divine marriage, then again we lack all balance if female forms of man can't represent the male side of the Divine marriage.

When are equals treated differently and one is not treated less than the other. Give an example when this has happened with any group of people?

Men have more sacraments all voice and governing authority and all sacramental authority and women have nothing to counter those important differences in our religion. This unequal treatment diminishes women's equal human dignity between the sexes. This constitutes oppression and it is painful and immoral.

To keep women from priesthood when they have been called to it by God and there exist nothing in the Gospels where Christ states he is against this is the equivalent of raping the soul of its vocation. Women do not seek priesthood for power any more than men do. They seek it for the calling to serve just as their male counterparts and should be ordained and treated exactly the same because that is the only kind of treatment with which Christ ever allowed any bishops or popes the authority to act.

Douglas Fang
1 year 4 months ago

For me, the theological debate about whether women should be allowed to be ordained as deaconesses or not is above my pay grade. I have a simple question. If every Christian is bestowed with the gift of prophecy, a.k.a. proclaiming the Good News, then what is the reason that women are not allowed to give homilies during the Mass?

I live in a decent size parish with close to 2000 families. Due to a lack of priests, my parish needs to hire/import foreign priests from Africa/Asia. These priests have such a heavy accent that I could only understand 10% to 30% of their words. Basically, the homily from these priests is useless for me and the congregation! This is not good, especially for the younger generations like my children or my nieces and nephews. Without a good understanding of the Words of God, how can they remain Catholic?

I know that many women are very good speakers. Why don’t allow them to give homilies in the Mass? I feel quite disappointed whenever I heard the homilies given by these foreign priests, not because they are foreigners, but because their English is so inadequate and the Church doesn’t allow capable Catholic women to do this! This is a ridiculous and arrogant mistake from the hierarchy to ignore this!

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago


Jay Zamberlin
1 year 4 months ago

Having been part of parishes you outline here (many foreign born priests, African, Asian) I have no problem understanding them, certainly 30 percent intelligiblity is NOT the norm, but I will say the misapplication of sound equipment (the tendency is to put multiple speakers in very reverberant spaces, very often at least) mitigates against speech intelligibility period, as the pew dweller hears multiple sound sources with varied different time lags, and a "smearing" of consonants occurs. I am at a loss for why so many parishes employ this sort of approach to "fixing" sound, it's not that they don't spend, they do, and more than they need to. In those environments, YES, I do strain to hear what the heavily accented person is saying, so it is really the combination. Otherwise, I can understand fairly well in all but the most extreme cases.

Anyway, speech intelligibility is thus mitigated, and becomes just that much worse with an accent Believe me, I have seen this pattern repeated over and over, and I am a sound professional.

The other factors involved are social, and sometimes prejudice, and/or 'progressive' mostly white parishes rejecting, on philosophical grounds, "conservative" priests from the third world, another phenomenom I have observed repeatedly.

The non-ordained never have, and should not, "preach" at Mass, except in rare circumstances. Perhapse in other settings. Our Mass is not up for grabs, it is the central prayer of the Church, and should not be seen as simple a "worship service," ala Protestant services.

I do credit women for teaching me the faith, especially my mom, aunts, grandmothers, and the wonderful nuns that taught me, they primarily. So, this is not an angry screed from a man who can't hear from women, but God has ordered this so, and what has worked before still works, but people are now egoists and looking for the Burger King Church, i.e., "Have it YOUR way."

J Jones
1 year 4 months ago

Pia, you sound very happy that the men of the Roman Catholic Church have permitted you to participate.

Ellen B
1 year 4 months ago

And look at her high level of leadership, she's the #4 person in one of almost 200 dioceses in the U.S. & almost 3000 worldwide. That's not a decision maker in the church.

Luis Gutierrez
1 year 4 months ago

This article is yet another "politically correct" rationalization of religious patriarchy and the patriarchal gender ideology of male headship. The church is "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic," but not necessarily patriarchal. This is not about women in leadership; it is about women in apostolic succession. Would Jesus today choose 12 males to represent the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel? For the new evangelization in a post-patriarchal world, we need women deacons, women priests, and women bishops.

J Jones
1 year 4 months ago

Luis, the hope is that we won't recognize it as patriarchy if smart and accomplished women like Pia tell us they are happy to be permitted to participate on the patriarchy's terms and tell other women to climb aboard.

Pia also suggests she believes other women are incapable of complex thought and multiple foci when she writes, "when we focus so narrowly on the question of women as deacons, we fail to see all the other ways women can - and do lead".

But not to worry, Pia. The men at America Magazine found your condescending finger-wagging so laudable, they pulled it out as a quote hoping their readers will be bamboozled into believing you describe the reality of women's thinking rather than what you have actually described: a myth of the Catholic patriarchy's making, a myth that reflects a fundamental disrespect for women's intellectual, spiritual and participatory capacity in the Church and in general.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

Amen J. Jones,

The costumes this church leadership puts upon its misogynistic heart are as varied as they are numerous. One must look very carefully, to see the wolf hiding underneath the facade.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

Always holding the torch for your sisters Luis. Thanks again!

1 year 4 months ago

The Church has already decided the issue of women priests. The Church says, "No." I believe because there were 12 male apostles. Jesus Christ did revolutionary things and if he had wanted women in apostolic succession, he could have and would have called them; he didn't. Interestingly, there are not women Prophets in the OT, there are no women priests in the OT, and there are no women kings in the OT. As to your question whether Jesus would choose 12 males to represent the patriarchs today, I think the answer is "Yes." I also realize it is insolent at best to ask God, why HE does things the way HE does, but I also believe if we give him our hearts and our trust, that he often reveals slivers of the bigger picture of his great love.
Women are the "God bearers," the Queen Mothers, Woman Wisdom.

arthur mccaffrey
1 year 4 months ago

my conclusion from this article is that, if we need so much work done by the laity, why do we need the Church at all?

Jay Zamberlin
1 year 4 months ago

"The Church" and the layity are not mutually exclusive terms.

Now, if by "the Church" you'd mean the Priesthood/heirarchy/ -- the Priesthood has one main function, to offer sacrifice, otherwise, we would, as do most Protestant Churches, not have priests, ministers would be fine.

So, if you'd grant that (which is obscurred today by modern CC's focus AWAY from "sacrifice" aspect of Mass and almost exclusively to the "meal" idea, or love feast gathering, etc..) then you get to the nature of the priesthood as put in place by God Himself, and you look at the priesthood of the OT, and that Jesus is called our "Great High Priest" according to the order of Melchizedek, and that the priesthood was conferred, by Jesus, on the Twelve, in two main directives, one at the Last Supper, and two when He spoke of forgiving men sins (or retaining them).

So, none of these came by way of the discretion of the Church, but by the Church following and implementing the example of Christ HImself. And thus, as the Church has said so often, she has not the power, the authority, to reconfigure the priesthood, and its "maleness" is a part of that essence.

That said, the Church is much bigger than simply the Priesthood. The Hebraic tribe of priests, the Levites, were but one of twelve tribes.

Molly Roach
1 year 4 months ago

I find no persuasive evidence that the exclusion of women from Holy Orders is about anything more than a long standing bias against women in Roman Catholic tradition. "Separate but equal" was the logic of school segregation in the 1960's.

Robert O'Connell
1 year 4 months ago

Perhaps our terminology unduly muddies the water.

We say Jesus instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper, and that He only chose men to be Apostles. I think we also say Melchizedek was a priest and that the Apostles were all Jewish (as well as men).

We also say, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is [a]neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.."

To me, the best argument for maintaining the status quo is that we ought not trouble the Orthodox churches just yet -- though that seems unfair to women. Likewise, to me the best argument for changing the status quo is that we want "all" to be "one in Christ."

Why not focus on loving one another, and loving as Jesus loves us? Why do we have these job titles anyhow? It seems to me that we could get by with words like "catholic" and "disciples" and not burden ourselves with words like deacon, deaconess, priest, etc.

I think this article is the best thing I have read on women in the Church in a long time. My thanx to the author. And though I wish Nora Bolcon did not see this as "the fools article" I also thank her for speaking up.-

I apologize in advance to anybody offended by my comments,

Lisa Weber
1 year 4 months ago

I am glad to know that Pope Francis is willing to consider a role for women deacons even if their ordination is distinct from that of men. The critical authority women need to be granted is the authority to preach at Mass. it is impossible to lead without being able to speak publicly at the principal gathering of the church. Women see and understand the Gospels differently than men and the feminine view needs to be heard. Jesus did many things that made the lives of women better, but we don’t hear about them because men don’t see them.

1 year 4 months ago

Lisa! Yes! Thank you for this insight. I have many superlative adjectives to describe this insight!!

John Chuchman
1 year 4 months ago

It’s about Full Equality, not some non-sacramental Women’s Auxiliary doing the dirty work.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 4 months ago

Exactly, that like begging the hierarchy to continue to take punches against our dignity as people.

Annette Magjuka
1 year 4 months ago

"Separate but equal" is not equal. Women are subordinate in the Catholic church, and young women will not stand for it anymore. It is misogynistic and wrong. Women should be able to be ordained. Period.

Jay Zamberlin
1 year 4 months ago

Please tell me, what would the place of women be in this world but for the Catholic Church? Try Iran, or Saudi Arabia, or Japan or non Christian Africa. The Christian religions, generally speaking, from the beginning, RAISED the status of women, not denigrated it. Learn history. There is but ONE "leader" in the Catholic Church, the rest are "servants," and the ordained are "called." And if you don't believe so, why believe any of it? Serious question.

Judith Jordan
1 year 4 months ago

Jay Zamberlin---
Your argument avoids the point. We should not compare how women are treated in the Catholic Church as to how they are treated in Saudi Arabia, etc. We should compare how women in the Catholic church are treated as compared to men in the Catholic church. Your analogy reminds me of people who used to say that blacks were better off in America than they are in Africa. So what? The issue is to compare how blacks are treated in the U S compares to how whites are treated in the U. S.

Please point out where the church was instrumental in raising the status of women. You said to learn history. I agree. History tells us the status of women (and of men) was raised at a painstakingly slow rate through the development of western civilization.

The Magna Carta, which established many of our rights, was condemned by the Church. Pope Innocent III published a papal bull annulling Magna Carta. The French Revolution, which spread the Enlightenment and which many of our Founders embraced, was denounced by the Church. Pope Pius X wrote an encyclical on Modernism. In it he condemns Modernism including many issues that Americans value.

Rick Bauer
1 year 4 months ago

I would hire 20 Catholic female MBA's and put them in charge of the Curia's finances. The deaconess argument is just a left-wing group of frustrated women who want to be Methodists and get ordained. But Francis, show that you are pro-women and get us some "Phoebe's" (whose gift was financial management, if you read 2 Corinthians carefully) who can clean up the dirty papal foundations, corrupt bribes and dirty slush funds, and run God's House like it should be run. Let the clergy trust people who are better at doing this than they are--which is just about any dedicated Catholic women well trained in financial management. The perception alone would be worth it. I bet Legatus would give you a few references.

Chuck Bartels
1 year 4 months ago

The issue of women not fully participating in the Catholic Church is quite amazing in this era - the 20th and 21st Centuries. The war in Afghanistan, books and articles about the subjugation (and much worse) of women in other parts of the world made it clear that the Church continues to demonstrate that women are less-than....
I took notice when an observant Jewish woman joined my team at work: covered from head to toe, no handshake with a man...etc. Then the war, stories, etc. about women and education, clothing (full covering again), beatings, etc. And our historical Church women - nuns in habits/burkas. The Church - we the people - have an incredible opportunity to come out of the dark ages and set a bright example for the rest of the world to follow. We can demonstrate that women are human, with equal God-given rights. Western culture - in the US for example - recognized this truth by "giving" women the right to vote only 100 years ago. The old, white, male "wise" men who carry the titles (and thus the power) in the Catholic Church developed many rules and constraints - many of which have no bearing on reality.
What would Jesus do? That's a real question that the hierarchical Church sets aside to maintain an historical perspective until it's no longer reasonable. (What happened to the last person to eat a hot dog on a Friday?) Women were key to Christ's ministry. He met them at the well, used them as examples for the men (not a bad idea in any era). They were at the Last Supper, first to witness His final suffering - and last to leave the foot of the cross. They were the first to witness the evidence of the Resurrection, to spread the news - to the guys who were hiding away.
If women are to be so powerless - what about Mary telling him what to do at Cana? No man had the courage in any scripture I can recall. Sure, it's a good Jewish son taking his lead from his strong Jewish mother - but that's the point, he listened to the subtle direction and acted. Jesus provided some of the most meaningful messages (and miracles) through women (throw the first stone, touch the hem and be cured, asked for your brother to be raised from the dead).
Only men counted - were recognized as human and present - in those historical times and for centuries to come. Some years ago, before I traveled to India, a friend was there on business. He had been told that all Indians had a college education. As he stood at the doorway of the office building with his host, he pointed and inquired about the truck driver (college education - no), woman carrying bricks on her head (no), street cleaner (no). It was then that my friend realized that his host was referring to "people" and that members of the "lower caste" did not count as people! When I visited southeast India some years later - a woman was a town leader - but widows were not allowed in the front portions of their homes. Women could not leave the house without permission from the husband, father or brother. CRAZY!
And that is our Church today. A high ranking woman in Orange County (thank goodness for one) while millions are told they are less-than....
We have an incredible opportunity to make the Church relevant in the world in which younger, mid-aged and some older less consistently white, men and women recognize Jesus' world, not some protectionist society of hierarchy, titles and power. We are a Church from the "bottom" up, not from some few at the "top."

What would Jesus do? He'd fix the mess made by humans - men in fact - and get on with it. Give women the respect and voice Christ did - often subtly - as clearly recorded in the New Testament.
By the way, how many of the men Apostles were married, stayed married or essentially walked away from their commitments? If the message is "men only," then let's consider the whole of the story.

[Another time.... consider not only no women ordained - - let's consider no marriage for priests, except those married priest converts who remain married and preside at Mass each Sunday.]

Marion Sforza
1 year 4 months ago

Thank you.

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