Phyllis Zagano and Jesuit Fr. Bernard Pottier, two members of that commission, told a packed auditorium at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus here that the evidence indicates women deacons have a long history in the church and that they are needed in ministry worldwide.
“History alone is not dispositive. It can’t answer the question one way or another,” said Zagano, author of numerous books and articles on the topic of women deacons and senior research associate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. But, she said, the ministry need is there.
Zagano, an NCR columnist, has long studied the diaconate in the ancient church and is involved in current discussions. “I would like to think of women’s deacon future. But I have no promises for you,” she told the audience of more than 300 at the seminar sponsored by the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture.
The commission, founded two years ago and led by Cardinal Luis Ladaria, is a Vatican first. Comprised of 12 members, it includes an equal number of men and women. Their task was to study the history of the diaconate of women.
“We are better, men and women coming together,” said Pottier, a permanent member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, making the point that the commission modeled what a mixed-gender clergy could accomplish.
The permanent diaconate was reinstituted in the church after Vatican II. There are currently 45,000 permanent deacons in the world, men who serve in various ministries and can preach and witness marriages and perform baptisms, among other duties. They include both married and single men, with some 18,000 serving in the United States.[….. ]