Why can women not be deacons?

I was at the the launch of the Vocations DVD in Armagh City Hotel last Thursday night where Cardinal Seán Brady spoke with great conviction and infectious enthusiasm. It was good to see him looking so well and in such passionate form. I do love to see a joyous Christian. Keeps me inspired!
The video featured people from the five different vocations, priesthood, religious life, married and single states and the permanent diaconate. Sean Cardinal Brady’s own small contribution to the DVD was also quite inspiring. He was one of very few who actually spoke about following Christ.
I do not doubt for a minute the sincerity of the two married men featured on the DVD who are studying for the diaconate but I struggle to understand why religious sisters, who do not have the distractions or responsibilities of a spouse, children or grandchildren, are forbidden from applying to this particular state.
The launch and the DVD were sponsored by the Knights of Columbanus. They do good work, I know. I have asked for an application form but been told that I am forbidden to apply. Like the priesthood and the diaconate it is for males only.
God loves us all equally. Isn’t it a pity that His church still favours the male offspring?
I think of the Jesus I’m getting to know and love more each day in the Gospels and I wonder how He must feel at the marginalisation of so many. Didn’t He come on earth to show us that discrimination against any section of the community was wrong? Wasn’t his life an amazing example of love in action, reflecting the love of His heavenly father who loves all his children equally? Didn’t he confound everyone with his attitude towards the status quo, quietly subverting many preconceived notions and still confounding us today. Wasn’t he – isn’t he – absolutely on fire with love, compassion and a sense of justice? Why do we still not hear what he says?
I am just a simple woman of the pews, theologically uneducated but instinctively I feel in my gut that there is a great failure here in the Catholic Church to address that vast untapped resource of women, particularly the religious sisters and single, retired women who have given so much to their faith communities and who could enrich this diaconate in such a great way with their gifts for the benefit of all.
Here is the lovely Vocation Prayer distributed the night of the launch:- Please share.
“Lord, make us generous people, more considerate towards others, more honest with ourselves, more faithful to you. Help us all to find our true vocation in life, so that through it we may find happiness ourselves and bring happiness to others. Lord, grant those whom you call to priesthood or religious life, the generosity to answer your call so that those who seek your help may always find it.” 

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  1. I couldn’t agree more, but I think that they should also be made ministers of The Word, because, was it not Christ Himself who sent Mary to the apostles with Word of His resurrection?

  2. Thanks for your views, Mary; and thanks for the vocation prayer.
    To determine if God has called one – the “vocation” – we must be satisfied as to the sincerity and suitability of the candidate. Surely an examination of the heart and hands is a good indicator. An examination of the crotch, on the other hand, serves no positive purpose other than an excuse to deny God and the candidate and the community the blessings of a worthy agency/ministry.
    Fergus P Egan

  3. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Mary, good to hear Cardinal Brady’s back to form at what he does best. No immediate vacancy at Heaven’s Altar in Armagh, then? For a while there Seán Baptist seemed to be in a “he must increase, I must decrease” frame of mind. +Noel of D&C was after all born on Christmas Day in the Holy Year. 🙂
    You’re quite right about the diaconate. Whatever the hopes for women deacons, I’m sure we’ll have women heading all the Roman Curia Congregations and Northern Catholics leading all the Loyal Orange Lodges before we see a Dame of Columbanus processing on Sandy Hill or down the aisle of the Pro-cathedral.

  4. What about St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Brigid of Sweden, St. Joan of Arc, St. Clare, St. Brigid, and countless other women Saints and Doctors of the Church who have had an immense influence on the Church. Perhaps recognising these wonderful women amongst so many others and their writings would help towards renewal in the Church. It is unfortunate that we rarely hear about the Saints these days, it is as if they never existed. There are so many still unknown to us and it is a shame to ignore these incredible lives of such powerful and enduring influence.
    A link for those who wish to know more of the great women Saints in the Church

  5. Elizabeth Byrnes says:

    I, too, fully agree with you, Mary, but I don’t see why the admission of women to the diaconate need sto be confined to women who are religious sisters or retired SINGLE women. I agree that married women who are currently rearing children possibly wouldn’t have the time to do the job, but the same could just as well apply to married men. I see no reason why the permanent diaconate
    cannot be open to all men and women who are suitably qualified and who have a vocation for it. There are many committed women who are married and whose children are grown up, as well as women who do not have any children and who would serve as excellent deacons. Married men who wish to be ordained deacon need to have their wives consent, so why not ordain women who have their husbands’ consent and blessing?

  6. Mary O Vallely says:

    No, of course, Elizabeth, I would love to see the diaconate open to all those with clean hands and open hearts (apologies if I’ve misquoted the Psalm). Whether married or single women/men it shouldn’t matter. I was just suggesting that religious sisters and many single women have the time to devote to this onerous responsibility. Eddie is probably right and the anti-feminist Vatican mindset will not change overnight, if indeed it will ever change. The blue tabard of the Knights of Columbanus will never be mine to wear.
    Why do men like wearing uniforms and dressing up anyway? Some of the chasubles I’ve seen recently would not be out of place in a West End Musical. I love the creativity and the artistry of the work-wo/man-ship but I do wonder at the impression we’re giving to those not of the Catholic faith and tradition.

  7. Dear All,
    Excellent essay by the eminent theologian Fr. Edward Holloway
    Christ and His Church: Why Infallible? Well worth reading!

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