Women and the Diaconate

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12 April 2017

On May 12, 2016, at a meeting of the International Union of the Superiors General of Women’s Religious Orders, one sister asked Pope Francis why women were excluded from decision-making processes in the Church and from preaching at Eucharistic celebrations. In asking, she cited his words, “the feminine genius is needed in all expressions of the life of the Church and Society.”[1]

In reply, Francis mentioned the presence of women deacons in the ancient Church: “it seems that the role of the deaconesses was to help with the baptism of women, with their immersion […] and they also anointed female bodies.”

In addition, they had another task: “when there was a judgment to be made on a marriage because a husband had beaten his wife, and had gone to the bishop to report it, deaconesses were responsible for inspecting the bruises on the woman’s body resulting from her husband’s blows, and then informing the bishop.”

The pope continued: “I would like to constitute an official commission to study the question: I think it will be good for the Church to clarify this point; I agree, and I will speak [to the Congregation] in order to do something of this nature.”[2]

Three months later, on August 2, the pope honored that commitment and instituted a commission to study the theme of women’s diaconate, especially from a historical perspective. The commission has already begun its work. While awaiting the commission’s conclusions, here are some historical reflections.

The Gospels and women

The Catholic and non-Catholic media spread the news of this around the world, provoking diverse and contrasting reactions. There are those who believe that the permanent diaconate of women is a return to what existed in the early Church and hence legitimate. Others see it as the first step toward the priesthood of women, and maintain that this is impossible in the Catholic Church.

The Gospels offer a new and positive stance toward women, free of prejudice: Jesus speaks in public with women, a behavior then considered improper for a teacher.

He “opposes all the men who in the name of the Hebrew law wanted to condemn the adulteress; he defends the affectionate actions of Mary of Bethany; he praises the stance of love in the repentant woman as far beyond that of Simon the Pharisee; at the time of the Resurrection he shows himself first to Mary Magdalen and then to the Apostles.”[3]

This last choice is the most significant: it is to Mary Magdalen that the Lord entrusted the first message of the resurrection, on which Christianity is based, and her witness has spread through the entire world by evangelic proclamation.[4]

Jesus knew all too well that the testimony of women would have been received as “nonsense” (Luke 24:11), but he chose them all the same for a primordial task of witness in the Church and to enlighten the apostles themselves.[5] Analogously, the first Christian community has an innovative way of relating to women, so much so that this period is considered by academics as a “springtime for women’s ministry. […] Many historians are convinced that, at the time of the first evangelization, women not only participated in the mission, but also directed domestic churches.”[6]

 Women deacons in the apostolic and subapostolic age

As for women deacons, there are some passages in the New Testament where they are mentioned. The Letter to the Romans speaks of them in its final chapter, where Paul writes “I commend to you Phoebe, our sister, who is also a deacon of the Church at Cenchreae” (Rm. 16:1). Phoebe is the only woman deacon of the first century Church whose name is known.[7] In the text “deacon of the Church” the word for “deacon” has a feminine form,[8] and the very structure of the phrase ennobles her diaconal function without specifying her area of service. Paul also gives her another qualification, prostatis (one who takes care of, a benefactor), to indicate another specific role.[9]

Anyhow, it is hard not to give the term “deacon” the same meaning as “deacon of the gospel” that Paul attributes to himself and to his collaborators.[10] Origen commented on this passage: “Women were also constituted into the Church’s ministry. […] So [the apostle] teaches […] that in the Church there are women in ministry; and those women should be assumed into the ministry who have assisted many and have merited by their good services to attain the praise of an apostle.”[11]

Women also carried out functions of apostolate and prophecy as we see in Rom. 16:7, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my companions who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, en tois apostolois.” They are perhaps a married couple; in the Greek text, the gender of Junia is an issue, as it could be male,[12] but is in fact female.[13]

St. John Chrysostom commented: “Being among the apostles is a great thing already, but being prominent among them is a great praise .[…] This woman is considered worthy of this appellative of the apostles.”[14] According to Chrysostom, Junia is the name of a woman, and she is qualified with the title of the “apostles.” This is the same term that Paul uses of himself in opening his Letters.[15]

Another document is the passage of 1 Tim 3:11 where the author, after giving instructions to bishops and deacons, refers to women who must be “serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things.” But who are these women? Are they the wives of the deacons just mentioned? If such were so we should have expected a “their” women. The opinion of exegetes today is unanimous: these are the women deacons of the community.[16] This passage is considered an important argument for the institution of “women deacons.”[17]

Here we should signal a letter of Pliny the Younger to the Emperor Trajan, which speaks of ministrae, a term that could be the translation of diakonoi.[18] The governor reported some news from the Christians themselves: “I thought it necessary to put to torture two slaves who were called ministrae.”[19] While it is impossible to be precise about the functions the term alludes to, it is clear that it offers witness to the existence of a form of female diaconate in the second century.[20]

It should be noted here that in the first two centuries the terms “deacon” and “bishop” do not have a particular signification, such as that following an ordination, but indicate a commission, given by Church authority, to one Christian to carry out a particular task in the community. It is not possible to project onto these terms a meaning that is based on later sacramental interpretation. [21]

 The following centuries

In the early years of the Church’s history, women did not maintain such a role due to the probable reabsorption by the Judaic tradition.

The passage in 1 Cor 14:33b-35 where women are told to be silent in the assembly could well be a sign of that influence. While exegetes consider it a later addition the restriction expressed here is confirmed in 1 Tim 2:11-12 where women are categorically forbidden “to teach or have dominion over men.”

However, in the third century, women deacons were attested both by Clement of Alexandria[22] and – as we have seen – by Origen, but we cannot deduce from this that there was an order of deaconesses at that time. Such was documented by the Didascalia Apostolorum (preserved in a Syriac translation of 240).

According to the liturgist Martimort, this is a text that “presents the deaconess as a true ministry, both pastoral and liturgical.”[23] Here, it refers to the baptism of women carried out through immersion; deaconesses were also carrying out baptismal unction and the task of religious education of neophytes; they also had to take care of the infirm. Nevertheless, their ministry still appeared limited: they could neither baptize nor teach.[24]

In the fourth century, Epiphanius and the Apostolic Constitutions make reference to the ministry of deaconesses. Epiphanius confirms that in the Church there is an “order of deaconesses”[25] whose task is to assist women during baptismal immersion and in cases of sickness. Epiphanius enters into a polemic with the priestesses of the Montanists who were censured because they were carrying out priestly functions, and recalls Scripture, noting how in the Old and New Testaments the existence of any type of female priesthood is excluded; he repeats, moreover, that there were no women among the apostles and that Mary, the mother of Jesus, did not have priesthood.[26]

At the end of the fourth century, the Apostolic Constitutions gave indications concerning the female functions that the deaconesses carried out in the baptismal rite, confirming those indicated by Epiphanius and adding that women were not allowed to teach or baptize, for they were precluded from the priesthood.[27]

In the rite of benediction of the deaconesses, the word “ordination,” the expression “imposition of the hands,” and the prayers are the same as those used for the sub-deacon and the reader.

In the West it is a text of Ambrosiaster, at the end of the fourth century, that affirms forcefully that only man is the image of God and so it would be a disgrace if women were to speak in the Church, as also it would be inconceivable that women be ordained to the diaconate.[28]

Some particular Councils also pronounce against women who take on sacramental functions.[29] Even so, the Latin Church does have an Oratio ad diaconam faciendam in the Hadrianum sacramentary from the end of the eighth century.[30] Generally, it can be affirmed that the female diaconate was found sparingly in the West.

From the fourth to the fifth centuries, and thereafter, new factors occur: adult baptisms diminish, the type of life lived by deaconesses becomes more like that of a woman who guides the monastic communities. The deaconess, the Cappadocian Fathers attest, is now in charge of a female coenobium and takes care of the poor and the needy.[31]

Chrysostom has an extensive epistolary exchange with various deaconesses, including with Olympia, hegoumena (abbess) of a monastery. Canon 15 of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 affirms that the deaconesses are ordained with the imposition of hands (cheirotonia); the ministry is called leitourgia; and that deaconesses are not allowed to marry after ordination.[32]

In the East, at least for the Byzantine period, deaconesses were ordained in women’s convents. Still today the orthodox Churches have ordained deaconesses, an institution that has never been abolished.[33]

The problem of the female diaconate

At Pentecost in 1994, with the apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II summarized what had been developed in previous magisterial interventions (including Inter Insigniores), concluding that Jesus had chosen men alone for priestly ministry. So “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women. […] This judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”[34] The pronouncement was a clear word for all those who maintained that the refusal of priestly ordination to women could still be discussed. Nevertheless, it permitted an idea from Paul VI to re-emerge, where he affirmed that the Church must “recognize and promote the role of women in the evangelizing mission and in the life of the Christian communities.”[35]

Later, following problems raised not so much by doctrine as by the strength with which it was presented, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was asked a quaestio: is Ordinatio sacerdotalis to be “considered as belonging to the deposit of the faith?”

The response was “affirmative,” and the doctrine was qualified as infallibiliter proposita, that is “it has to be held always and everywhere by all the faithful.”[36]

Difficulties in the reception of this response created tension in the relations between the Magisterium and Theology for associated problems. These are pertinent to fundamental theology concerning infallibility. It was the first time in history that the Congregation appealed explicitly to the constitution Lumen Gentium, n.25, where a doctrine is proclaimed infallible because it is taught as being necessary to be believed definitively by the bishops throughout the world in communion between themselves and with the successor of Peter.[37]

In addition, the question touches upon the theology of the sacraments, for it looks at the subject of the sacrament of Orders, which is traditionally a man, but does not take into account the presence and role of women in the family and in society as it has developed in the twenty-first century.[38]It is a question of dignity, responsibility and ecclesial participation.

 An observation from Fr. Congar

The historical fact of the exclusion of women from priesthood for impedimentum sexus is undeniable.

However, in 1948, long before the contestations of the 1960s, Fr. Congar taught how “the absence of a fact is not a decisive criterion to conclude prudently that the Church cannot do so and never shall do so.”[39]

Also, another theologian adds, “the consensus fidelium expressed over many centuries has been called into question in the twentieth century especially in light of the profound socio-cultural changes regarding women. It would make no sense to maintain that the Church must change only because the times have changed, but it remains true that a doctrine proposed by the Church asks to be understood by the believing intelligence. The debate about women priests could be placed in parallel with other moments in the history of the Church; anyhow, today the auctoritates, that is the official positions of the Magisterium, are clear on the question of women’s priesthood, but many Catholics struggle to understand the rationes of choices which, more than expressions of authority, seem to signify authoritarianism. […] Today, there is discomfort among those who are unable to understand how the exclusion of women from the ministry of the Church can coexist with the affirmation and valorization of their equal dignity.”[40]

The principal issue, resurfacing in the debate, remains: why did the early Church admit some women to the diaconate and even to the apostolate? And why were women then excluded from such functions?

The “grace of the diaconate” for women

Speaking in the general congregations before the 2005 conclave, cardinal Carlo Maria Martini spoke about the possibility of studying the institution of the diaconate for women, given that Ordinatio sacerdotalis did not touch upon the question.

He recalled that in the early Church there were deaconesses[41] and suggested criteria of discernment that are the same as those of the Second Vatican Council: return to the sources, study the origins, evaluate all in the freedom of being children of God, but especially in rigorous fidelity to the Gospel. This is the same spiritual discernment that is so dear to Pope Francis.

This journal has spoken about the issue many times, and can indicate the contributions of Fr Jean Galot, which date back to the years of the Council and provide an overview on the previous situation.[42] More recently, Fr. Piersandro Vanzan’s article discusses the topic of deaconesses specifically,[43] and the author traces their history through post-conciliar publications.

The inextricable problem is that of the sacramentality of such roles, in as much as theologians reach opposite conclusions from studying ancient texts. J. Danielou, R. Gryson and C. Vagaggini support a substantial analogy between the ordination of deaconesses and that of deacons.[44] Meanwhile A. G. Martimort maintains that the ordinations of the eastern deaconesses are to be placed, so to say, half way between the major Orders (diaconate, presbyterate, episcopate) and the wider series of minor ministries (subdiaconate, and those of acolyte and door-keeper, etc.,) which do not involve ordination.[45]

Finally, Fr. Corrado Marucci has faced the intricate problem that sees the presence, functions and sacramentality of women’s diaconate in the Church in the first millennium[46] He affirms that most studies recognize the ordinations of deaconesses would have had sacramental dignity, and concludes by repeating that “almost all the arguments lead us to consider it very likely that the deaconesses of the ancient and medieval Church received a sacramental ordination analogous to that of deacons.”[47] This is the grace of the diaconate for women.[48]

Some concluding observations

From what has been said, there is no doubt that the Church had ordained deaconesses in the fifth century (Can.15, Council of Chalcedon[49] Whether that ordination (cheirotonia) was considered a sacrament (with the imposition of hands, cheirothesia), or only a benediction, or a sacramental is a problem to clarify for the future, keeping in mind the evolution of liturgical terminology.[50] In addition, and above all, there is a need to reply to requests from the second half of the twentieth century to the current time, to recover the women’s diaconate.[51]

The clarifying word can come from the Magisterium, authoritative interpreter of Tradition. In any case, it is not only a question of returning to the past, as though in the past alone are found indications of the Spirit. Today also, the Lord guides the Church and suggests She courageously assume new outlooks. Besides, the affirmation of Pope Francis cited at the beginning of this article is not limited to what is already known, but is intended to enter into a complex and current field, so that it is the Spirit who guides the Church.

The true problem is not only female diaconate, but the sacramentality of the male diaconate. Some theologians hold that this is implicitly declared in the Council of Trent (DS 1765 and 1776). The Second Vatican Council, in the constitution Lumen Gentium, implies that the diaconate is a sacrament: hands are laid on the deacon “not for priesthood, but for service, to be sustained by sacramental grace, […] in communion with the bishop and his presbytery.”[52] Benedict XVI in 2009 with the motu proprio Omnium in mentem excluded the diaconate from the ministries configured in persona Christi capitis. So “the deacons are enabled to serve the people in the diaconate of the liturgy, the word and charity.”[53]

The International Theological Commission considers the diaconate a sacramental reality,[54] but it has explicitly excluded women, for according to the tradition of the primitive Church their functions “cannot purely and simply be assimilated to deacons.”[55]

Outlook for the future

In the past, and still today, in some Carthusian convents there is a solemn consignment of a diaconal stole by the bishop to allow the superior to preside over the Liturgy of the Hours and proclaim the Gospel in the absence of a priest.[56] The Statutes of the Carthusians define that consignment as “the great sacrament that is fulfilled in solitude, that of Christ and the Church, of which the most eminent example is in the Virgin Mary.”[57] This is an important indication of the presence of a female ministry

[1].Question from a religious sister, in Francis, Speech to the International Union of Superiors General (IUSG), May 12, 2016, in vatican.va/ Cfr Id., Apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (November 24, 2013), n. 103.

[2].Id., Speech to IUSG, cit.

[3].J. Galot, “L’accesso della donna ai ministeri della Chiesa”, in Civ. Catt. 1972 II 325. Last year the memorial of Mary Magdalen was elevated to the level of a feast at the wish of Pope Francis. The decree, with the significant name Apostolorum Apostola, is dated June 3, 2016. The title “apostle of the apostles” goes back to Hippolytus of Rome.

[4].Cfr M. Perroni – C. Simonelli, Maria di Magdala. Una genealogia apostolica, Ariccia (Rm), Aracne, 2016, 81-117.

[5].Cfr A. Destro – M. Pesce, Dentro e fuori le case. Il ruolo delle donne da Gesu alle prime Chiese, Bologna, EDB, 2016, 19-30.

[6].E. Cattaneo, I ministeri nella Chiesa antica. Testi patristici dei primi tre secoli. Milan, Paoline, 2012, 182. See also “Il ministero delle diaconesse”, in International Theological Commission, “Il diaconato: evoluzione e prospettive”, in Nuovo Enchiridion sul diaconato. Le fonti e i documenti ufficiali della Chiesa, ed E. Petrolino, Vatican City, Libr. Ed. Vaticana, 2016, 550-557.

[7].Cfr K. Madigan – C. Osiek, Ordained Women in the Early Church, Baltimore – London, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005, 12f.

[8].Ousan diakonon: a female deacon, for the community had not yet started to use the term “deaconess,” which arises for the first time in the fourth century.

[9].Cfr M. Scimmi, Le antiche diaconesse nella storiografia del XX secolo. Problemi di metodo, Milan, Glossa, 2004, 166-171.

[10].Cfr 1 Cor 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6; 6:4; 11:15.23; 1 Ts 3:2. See C. Marucci, “Il ‘Diaconato’ di Febe (Rom 16,1-2) secondo l’esegesi moderna”, in Diakonia, Diaconiae, Diaconato. Semantica e storia nei Padri della Chiesa. XXXVIII incontro di studiosi dell’antichita cristiana, Rome, Augustinianum, 2010, 684-696, particularly 689.

[11].Origen, Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, vol. II, Rome, Citta Nuova, 2016, 549.

[12].However, the male name is not attested in Greek in any literary or epigraphic source.

[13].This interpretation has prevailed in the Latin Vulgate and in history. Cfr R. Penna, La Lettera ai Romani, Bologna, EDB, 2010, 1084f.

[14].Ivi, 1086 (PG 60, 669-670).

[15].Cfr Rm 1:1; Gal 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1 etc. See also P. A. Gramaglia, Le diaconesse, Turin, Tipografia Saviglianense, 2009, 216-236.

[16].Cfr C. Marucci, “Storia e valore del diaconato femminile nella Chiesa antica”, in Rassegna di Teologia 38 (1997) 771-795, particularly 772f. Note that diakonos in the male form (cfr Phil 1:1; 1 Tm 3:8.12) is considered a written proof of diaconate, but when in the female form it is considered a problem, or at least there is a tendency to give a wider interpretation, see for example the Italian Episcopal Conference’s version in 2008 of Rm 16:1, that translates the noun form ousan diakonon with a verbal form: “Phoebe, who serves the Church of Cenchreae.”

[17].Cfr C. Simonelli– M. Scimmi, Donne diacono? La posta in gioco, Padova, Messaggero, 2016, 84-89.

[18].Analogously, in the latin Vulgate, ministrare translates diakoneo (cfr Mt 20:28; Lk 10:40 etc.).

[19].      Pliny the Younger, Lettera 10, 96,8. Cfr C. Simonelli – M. Scimmi, Donne diacono?..., cit., 55-57.

[20].Cfr M. Scimmi, Le antiche diaconesse…, cit., 173 s.

[21].Cfr K. Madigan – C. Osiek, Ordained Women…, cit., 5.

[22].Cfr Clement of Alexandria, Stromata III, 6, 53,4. Although Clement refers to the time of Paul.

[23].A. G. Martimort, Les diaconesses. Essai historique, Rome, Centro Liturgico Vincenziano, 1982, 73-80.

[24].Cfr E. Cattaneo, I ministeri nella Chiesa antica, cit., 193; A. Borras – B. Pottier, La grazia del diaconato. Questioni attuali a proposito del diaconato latino, Assisi (Pg), Cittadella, 165-206.

[25].Epiphanius, Panarion 79,3: but the deaconesses do not have sacerdotal offices or directive functions. Cfr P. Sorci, “Ministeri liturgici della donna nella chiesa antica”, in C. Militello (ed.), Donna e ministero, Roma, Dehoniane, 1991, 17-96, particularly 57-60.

[26].Cfr A. Piola, Donna e sacerdozio. Indagine storicoteologica degli aspetti antropologici dell’ordinazione delle donne, Cantalupa (To), Effata, 2006, 129-131.

[27].The Apostolic Constitutions came to life in the Syrian sphere and follow the text of the Didascalia Apostolorum. Priesthood is precluded by the Pauline injunction : “If the man is the head of the woman, it is not right that the rest of the body – in this case the woman – should command the head” (Cost. VIII, 1; cfr 1 Cor 11:3).

[28].Cfr Ambrosiaster, In 1 Cor 14:34: CSEL 81/2, 163f; Ad Tim 3,11: CSEL 81/3, 268.

[29].For example, the particular Council of Saragossa in 380, that of Nimes of 394 or 396, the 1st of Orange of 441 etc.

[30].Cfr International Theological Commission, “Il diaconato…”, cit., 564.

[31].Cfr the witness of Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa, in I. Trabace, “La figura della diaconessa negli scritti dei Padri Cappadoci”, in Diakonia, cit., 639-651.

[32].Cfr International Theological Commission, “Il diaconato…”, cit., 555.

[33].Cfr A. Borras – B. Pottier, La grazia del diaconato, cit., 175f.

[34].John Paul II, St., Ordinatio sacerdotalis, n. 4.

[35].Paul VI, To the committee for the international Year of the Woman, April 18, 1975.

[36].Congregatio Pro Doctrina Fidei, Responsio ad propositum dubium (October 28, 1995), in AAS 1995, 1114.

[37].The history of infallibiliter is complex: “It is in this context that the relatively new notion of the ‘hierarchy of truths’ appeared. The CDF document of 1990 mentions five times the notion of ‘truth proposed in a definitive manner’ (cfr CDF 1990, § 16 [twice], 17 et 23 [twice], referencing the oath of faithfulness proposed the previous year (Professio 1989), and using a formula of LG 25, definitivo actu proclamat. John Paul II’s motu proprio of 1998, Ad tuendam fidem, returns to this question and insists on it once again, modifying the Code of Canon Law at canons 750 and 1371 to introduce this notion. This third category of truths, which come between the truths in which ‘I believe’ and those to which ‘I adhere’, gathers the truths that ‘I embrace and hold’, to use the formula of the oath of faithfulness. This new category of truths astonished quite a few theologians (cfr Sesboue). The matter is not yet entirely brought to light” (B. Pottier, in ETStudies 7 [2016] 117-118)..

[38].Cfr John XXIII, St., Pacem in terris (April 11, 1963), n. 22. For the pope, the role of the woman is one of the connotative phenomena of the modern era. See also T. Beattie, “Simboli infranti. Riflessioni sull’ antropologia dei documenti ecclesiastici dal Concilio alla ‘Mulieris dignitatem’”, in M. Perroni – H. Legrand (eds), Avendo qualcosa da dire. Teologhe e teologi rileggono il Vaticano II, Milan, Paoline, 2014, 107-123.

[39].P. Congar noted this about the relations between priests and bishops: “Where the Church has done something, we can conclude that she could have and still could do so. But where she has not done something, or where one has no knowledge of what She might have done, it is not always wise to conclude that She cannot and never will do so.” Cfr Y. Congar, “Faits, problemes et reflexions a propos du pouvoir d’ordre et des rapports entre le presbyterat et l’episcopat”, in La MaisonDieu 14 (1948) 128.

[40].A. Piola, Donna e sacerdozio, cit., 8f.

[41].He had previously spoken about this at the eucharistic congress in Siena in 1994, “hoping for a serious reflection on the theme of the diaconate,” in order to understand the nature and the strength of the presence of women in the Church: cfr Il RegnoDocumenti 41 (1996) 304.

[42].Cfr J. Galot, “La missione della donna nella Chiesa”, in Civ. Catt. 1966 II 16-20; Id., “La donna e il sacerdozio”, ivi, 255-263; Id., “L’accesso della donna ai ministeri della Chiesa”, in Civ. Catt. 1972 II 317-329.

[43].Cfr P. Vanzan, “Diaconato permanente femminile. Ombre e luci”, in Civ. Catt. 1999 I 439-452.

[44].Cfr J. Danielou, “Le ministere des femmes dans l’Eglise ancienne”, in La MaisonDieu 61 (1960) 70-96; R. Gryson, Il ministero della donna nella Chiesa antica. Un problema attuale nelle sue radici storiche, Rome, Citta Nuova, 1974, 124; C. Vagaggini, “Le diaconesse nella tradizione bizantina”, in Il RegnoDocumenti 42 (1987) 672f.

[45].Cfr A. G. Martimort, Les diaconesses…, cit., 155.

[46].Cfr C. Marucci, “Storia e valore del diaconato femminile…”, cit., 771-795.

[47].Ivi, 792.

[48].See the title of A. Borras – B. Pottier, La grazia del diaconato, cit.

[49].Cfr Conciliorum Oecumenorum Decreta, Bologna, EDB, 1991, 94.

[50].C. Vogel maintains the two terms (cheirotonia and cheirothesia) are practically equivalent: cfr “Chirotonie et chirothesie. Importance et relativite du geste de l’imposition des mains dans la collation des ordres”, in Irenikon 45 (1972)  7-21 and 217-238.

[51].During the last Synod of Bishops on the family, Mons. P.-A. Durocher, president of the Episcopal Conference of Canada, expressed his hope that the process be opened for the access of women to the diaconate.

[52].Lumen Gentium, n. 29: “Diaconi, quibus ‘non ad sacerdotium, sed ad ministerium’ manus imponuntur. Gratia etenim sacramentali roborati...” This is mentioned also in the Decree Ad gentes, n. 16, and in Orientalium Ecclesiarum, n. 17.

[53].International Theological Commission, “Il diaconato…”, cit., 341 (can. 1009, § 3). Cfr H. Legrand, “Traditio perpetuo servanda. La non ordinazione delle donne: tradizione o semplice fatto storico?”, in C Militello (ed.), Donna e ministero, cit., 210-213; P. A. Gramaglia, Le diaconesse, cit., 673-676.

[54].Cfr International Theological Commission, “Il diaconato…”, cit., 622.

[55].Ivi, 634 f. The text adds that “the unity of the sacrament of orders […] underlined by ecclesial tradition, especially in the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council and in the post-conciliar teaching of the Magisterium” implies that any ministry of service for women cannot be assimilated to that of sacramental diaconate.

[56].Cfr H. Becker – A. Franz, “Die Frau mit der Stola. Zum Ordo Consecrationis Virginum proprius Monalium Ordinis Cartusiensis von 1978”, in Theologische Quartalschrift 192 (2012) 320-328.

[57].Ivi, 323.