Will Pope Francis ordain women deacons?

Pope Francis is liberal and orthodox. He certainly believes and teaches the past infallible teaching of the Magisterium, that Christ did not give the Church the authority to ordain women to the priesthood.

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful. (Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, n. 4)

However, the dogma specifies “priestly ordination”. The question is open as to whether or not the Church possesses the authority to ordain women to the deaconate. For the priest stands in persona Christi, but the deacon does not. The deacon can baptize and can officiate at a wedding; but he has no authority over other Sacraments. In an extraordinary circumstance, a layperson can baptize or officiate at a wedding. So the deacon does not dispense any Sacrament that cannot be dispensed by a layperson. The role of a deacon is very different from the roles of priests and Bishops.

Some conservative Catholics claim that a woman cannot be ordained because a female is not the “valid matter” for that Sacrament. And if this were true, then she could not be ordained to any degree. But the Magisterium has never taught this idea. The Magisterium has an infallible teaching on the ordination of women to the priesthood, and it does not mention such a claim at all. (And this is an example of a continuing problem in the Church, that of persons who teach as dogma or doctrine ideas not found in Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium.) The Magisterium only says that the Church lacks the authority to ordain women to the priesthood; women as valid matter is not at all a part of that teaching.

So Pope Francis or a future Pope might decide that the Church has the authority to ordain women deacons, and he might permit that ordination by changing Canon Law. Currently, a woman cannot be validly ordained to any degree (diaconal, sacerdotal, or episcopal). But that could change.

Even the very conservative Fr. Z. has in the past admitted that the Magisterium has not yet definitively decided the question of women’s ordination to the deaconate, though you can’t always tell from his posts.

Then, as I said in yesterday’s post, the wheat will be separated from the chaff. Many conservative Catholics will accuse the Pope of heresy, if he ordains women deacons. For they treat their own understanding of Catholicism as if it were entirely dogmatic. But the truly faithful will accept this belief and practice, if indeed it is the teaching and decision of Pope Francis or a future Pope (or Ecumenical Council).

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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4 Responses to Will Pope Francis ordain women deacons?

  1. Joe says:


    As in regard to matter and form. Would not no know knowledge of a women priest/bishop prior to the death of St. John the Apostle (end of public revelation) mean the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood because woman as gender are not proper matter for transference and receipt of this sacrament? What else could not have authority refer to if not this? I think your spot on about the diaconate. It is not a sacrement. The church could change its rule on women being deacons, though i think wisdom would recommend not straying from tradition, unless it can be strongly proven the Church during the time of the Apostles allowed. Same as I think girl servers (obviously) is permitted, but is it wise – two seperate things.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Public revelation did not end with the death of John the Evangelist; the Gospel of John was probably completed after his death. Also the letters of John might be from a different and later John.

      You are presenting your own conclusion that the absence of female priests or bishops implies a female is not valid matter. But the Church has no such teaching. I don’t believe that your conclusion follows from the premise. God intends men and women to have different roles in the Church, the family, and society, as is clear from the Pauline passages on that topic. So perhaps the basis for no priestly ordination of women is roles, not valid matter.

      The ordination of men to the deaconate is a Sacrament. In the past, there were non-ordained women deacons. But it is an open question as to whether or not women can be ordained to the deaconate.

  2. Joe says:


    Thanks for your reply. That helps me understand your point better. I will need to take a look at some of my understandings. Like you I’m struggling for truth and I do appreciate correction.

  3. kathleen says:

    I pray that Pope Francis will not allow women to be ordained Deacons. In our parish Deacons often preach on Sundays, and they read the Gospel. To have women deacons would be a significant departure and not prudent at all. If it happens I will stay with the Church of course but I worry about the consequences of such a decision. There are many gifted women in leadership positions in our Church today. Mary Ann Glendon comes to mind. And Mother Angelica: look at the magnificent contribution she has made to the Church. If Mother Angelica were younger and in good health I don’t think she would want to be a deacon. She talked about the holy women in the early Church, but she never thought of them as deacons. Why women deacons? What’s the need? We need men to answer the call to the priesthood. Many more holy priests who will spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of His Church. Let’s pray for that.

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