Deacons, Women and the Call to Serve | Segment 1: History of the Diaconate

Here is the first part of the three-part series from the Fordham University Center for Religion and Culture, and America Media, entitled “Deacons, Women and the Call to Serve.” For more information about the series, you can read my earlier post that provided an overview here.

The other two segments will be:

Dec. 5:     Women Deacons and the Papal Commission

Dec. 12:   The Diaconate and the Future of Ministry


  1. i have just watched this discussion. When you were talking about the relationship between the deacon and the bishop, I was waiting for someone to bring up the Vatican II ruling that only the bishop has the fullness of the sacrament of ordination but no one did. Perhaps you were all trying to avoid being too technical. However this is a vital point for future discussion. The bishop delegates some of his authority to the priest and some to the deacon. The important point is that the deacon, as a servant, does not receive any of the juridicial powers that are delegated to priests (hence why he cannot give absolution for sins). As the deacon is not in a position of judgement/authority, a woman can be a deacon without contradicting the teachings of St Paul.

  2. Jane, thanks for watching. To clarify: The bishop can delegate certain aspects of his proper role — for example, he can delegate the ministry of confirmation of Catholics to a pastor (as happens frequently in Canada, for instance) — but the office of priest and deacon are not delegated by the bishop. They are theirs by right; they are ordained to their respective ministries rather than receiving them by delegation. It would be a fundamental misunderstanding of the idea of the “fullness of holy orders” to draw the conclusion that the other ordained ministries are granted by him personally, which is what delegation implies. The bishop oversees and confirms the discernment of the church concerning the fitness of candidates for Holy Orders, but it is the sacrament itself rather than his act of governance that empowers them for the ministries to which they are ordained. Pax.

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