Synod should reflect on possibly allowing female deacons, says archbishop

Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, arrives for the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the family celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 4. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, said the synod should reflect on the possibility of allowing for female deacons as it seeks ways to open up more opportunities for women in church life. 

Where possible, qualified women should be given higher positions and decision-making authority within church structures and new opportunities in ministry, he told Catholic News Service Oct. 6. 


Discussing a number of proposals he offered the synod fathers to think about, he said, "I think we should really start looking seriously at the possibility of ordaining women deacons because the diaconate in the church's tradition has been defined as not being ordered toward priesthood but toward ministry."

Currently, the Catholic Church permits only men to be ordained as deacons. Deacons can preach and preside at baptisms, funerals and weddings, but may not celebrate Mass or hear confessions.

Speaking to participants at the Synod of Bishops on the family Oct. 6, Archbishop Durocher said he dedicated his three-minute intervention to the role of women in the church—one of the many themes highlighted in the synod's working document. 

The working document, which is guiding the first three weeks of the synod's discussions, proposed giving women greater responsibility in the church, particularly through involving them in "the decision-making process, their participation—not simply in a formal way—in the governing of some institutions; and their involvement in the formation of ordained ministers."

Archbishop Durocher, who recently ended his term as president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNS that much of his brief talk was focused on the lingering problem of violence against women, including domestic violence. He said the World Health Organization estimates that 30 percent of women worldwide experience violence by their partner.   

He reminded the synod fathers that in the apostolic exhortation "Familiaris Consortio" in 1981, St. John Paul II basically told the church that "we have to make a concerted and clear effort to make sure that there is no more degradation of women in our world, particularly in marriage. And I said, 'Well, here we are 30 years later and we're still facing these kinds of numbers.'"

He said he recommended one thing they could do to address this problem was, "as a synod, clearly state that you cannot justify the domination of men over women -- certainly not violence—through biblical interpretation," particularly incorrect interpretations of St. Paul's call for women to be submissive to their husbands.

In his presentation the archbishop also noted that Pope Benedict XVI had talked about the question of new ministries for women in the church. "It's a just question to ask. Shouldn't we be opening up new venues for ministry of women in the church?" he said.

In addition to the possibility of allowing for women deacons, he said he also proposed that women be hired for "decision-making jobs" that could be opened to women in the Roman Curia, diocesan chanceries and large-scale church initiatives and events.

Another thing, he said, "would be to look at the possibility of allowing married couples -- men and women, who have been properly trained and accompanied -- to speak during Sunday homilies so that they can testify, give witness to the relationship between God's word and their own marriage life and their own life as families."

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alan macdonald
3 years 3 months ago
Here's what the last three Popes said about ordaining women: Pope John Paul II "no" Pope Benedict XVI "no" Pope Francis "no".
Deirdre Pierson
3 years 3 months ago
Pope Francis has conceded - more than once - that the Church needs a new theology of women. Without far more development on that front, pronouncements on family or sexuality are necessarily incomplete. At times, especially in these areas, the scope of what is absent deforms the presentation of the whole. Saint John Paul II made some in-roads with his Theology of the Body, but "complementarianism" is sorely lacking when posited as a comprehensive answer to the role of women in creation. Or in the Church. The best is yet to come. (That would be Jesus, of course, but as before, he'll be sending some women before him. Peace in all things.
Anne Chapman
3 years 1 month ago
".... pronouncements on family or sexuality are necessarily incomplete. At times, especially in these areas, the scope of what is absent deforms the presentation of the whole". "Deformed" is a good way of describing too much of the current body of church teachings on women, marriage, sexuality, marital sex, and family. Unfortunately, suggestions to limit holy orders for women to the dianconate are not a good idea. Women perform plenty of service for the church right now, as they always have, mostly unpaid, and those who are paid are usually paid far less than they would be paid in the non-church sector for similar work (teaching, administration, etc). Until women can hold positions of true authority over governance matters and doctrinal definition, they will remain second class citizens of the church. The problem with a "women's theology" is that the pope seems to think it should be different from theology for all. He also seems to believe that having men define women's roles for them in the church (and family and world), and having men define a "theology of women", will somehow suffice in embracing his often mentioned "feminine genius". It won't. It will simply serve to perpetuate the status quo. Women must be among those who define church teachings. Much of the harm that occurs because of church teaching reflects the total denial of feminine understanding, feminine insights, especially when it comes to teachings related to sexuality, marital sex, family, children, and, of course, about women themselves. Those who are outside the Catholic church (with the possible exception of Mormons, Orthodox, and fundamentalist Protestants) must be amazed at how blind the RCC is when it comes to women, clinging to ancient patriarchal understandings. The church's stance on denying women a sacrament due to gender would be almost laughable if it weren't so damaging to the church.
3 years 3 months ago
When Mary said “Yes” to the Angel, did she not transubstantiate maternally into her body and blood “that which is, and that which is to come,” the “Bread of Angels.” A different way, but Mary’s Mass as it were. St. Augustine said, “Mary gave milk to our Bread” her body and blood transubstantiating into His, the Incarnation, intrinsic to the Holy Sacrifice of the Cross, one and the same with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Blessed Mary is called “Mother of Priests.” More importantly she is called “Mother of the Priesthood” those entitlements achieved through Trinitarian reciprocality, that is, Trinity and Marian relationships so intimate, that, “that which is, and that which is to come,” are one and the same? Therefore, if Mary is “Mother of the Priesthood” how could she also not be a priest, incarnatal ordination. Is this some kind of strange, new theology, or is it glimpsing something “ever ancient, ever new?” Is the Church ready for women Deacons? If Mary is prototypical of Christian priestly service as Mother of the Priesthood,” prototypical too of Christ, as the Suffering Servant, then why not women Deacons whose essential mission is SERVICE – all the rest is “drapery!” At least so it seems to me. (BRUCE SNOWDEN)
Anne Chapman
3 years 1 month ago
If the "church" isn't "ready" for women deacons, then the "church" (meaning the celibate males in charge apparently) needs to do some serious examination of conscience. Its perpetuation of patriarchy, keeping women as subservient to men in the church, is a sin. It's long past time that these men in mitres realize that. They are hurting not only women in the church, but the entire church, with collateral damage to the whole world, because of stubborn pride and obstinance.
William Rydberg
3 years 2 months ago
I for one, would like to hear from Son Excellence Monseigneur Paul-André Durocher. Given his strong stance, he might consider taking a second look at his bilingual Pastoral letter still on his archdiocese website at: Pax


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