Archbishop Durocher speaks in favor of women deacons

In a recent program on Tout le monde en parle (TLMEP), Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of Gatineau, Canada, pleaded for a more serious consideration of the role of women in the church, and spoke in favor of women deacons.

Archbishop Durocher was one of the first bishops in recent years to publically advocate for women deacons, which he did in an intervention at the Synod on the Family in Rome, in 2015. This gesture earned him an award for his “visionary proposal” and support for women in leadership, from the organization FutureChurch.

In his recent remarks at TLMEP, he noted that:

If women were deacons, for example, they would have the power to marry, to baptize. They would be part of the management teams. It’s a first step, I think.

«Si les femmes étaient des diacres, par exemple, elles auraient le pouvoir de marier, de baptiser. Elles feraient partie des équipes de gestion. C’est une première étape, je pense.»

As reported at Métro, by Henri Ouellette-Vézina, “Archbishop Durocher believes that we must ‘work now on what we are capable of doing,’ especially in local churches, in order to make clerical institutions more egalitarian.”

I looked up some statistics for the place where Archbishop Durocher serves. The Gatineau Archdiocese includes about 283,000 Catholics (it has grown during his tenure there), and has 64 priests, total. That’s 4,564 Catholics for every priest.

Of course, if the presence of “more clergy” was his sole concern, he could ordain lots of male deacons — something that has not happened. The status of women in the church is the deeper question he is setting out to address.

It may indeed be a brilliant idea to welcome women into the diaconate now, as one component in an overall program to include women more equitably in the life of the church.

Women are integral to any plan to revitalize the church — not just among the francophone Canadians, but let us say pretty definitely it would be helpful there. After all, consider the history. Women built modern Canada; women missionaries and the foundresses of religious orders brought education and healthcare, tamed the wilderness, and held together communities. They reached out in service; they overcame obstacles; they built up communities from within.

French Canada was once deeply religious and the Catholic church wielded great power there. Not anymore. Alienation and secularization have seriously set in. If this situation is going to turn around, I think it is safe to say that it will only do so with the support and energy of women.

6 comments

  1. I think it is important to note that Archbishop Durocher’s intervention at the Synod acknowledged the Church cannot speak with authority about the role of women in various cultures, including the abuse and violence against women, because the Church does not treat women as equal. Archbishop Durocher’s comments point to the larger issue of the Church’s credibility. Ordaining women as deacons is a good first step towards affirming the dignity of women.

  2. “Ordaining women as deacons is a good first step towards affirming the dignity of women.” Ditto. Phyllis

  3. In my mid twenties I freely chose to become a Roman Catholic. I would have liked to become a minister but I could not overlook this huge pull I felt from the Catholic faith. At age 30 I went off to graduate school and after 4 years I received a Masters of Divinity. Before I could pursue this degree I had to assure the school that I was not doing it because I expected to become ordained. Actually, I did it because( A.) I wanted to work for the Church and (B) I never wanted to be seen as someone with “less than” education as a priest. In the years following I have worked at local church level teaching adult religious education and leading RCIA.. Now I am 65 and I am gratified to see more and more people and clergy raise this issue of women’s ordination and the dignity of women in the Church. This topic must NOT disappear as much as some might hope! Keep the spirit moving!

    1. Among other noteworthy passages:

      “For centuries scholars have agreed that the earliest ritual used to ordain female deacons is the same one used for male deacons. Jean Morin, a 17th century liturgical expert, catalogued a large collection of ordination rites in Greek, Latin and Syriac:

      ‘Three of the most ancient Greek rituals, uniformly one in agreement, hand down to us the ordination of women deacons, administered by almost the same rite and words by which deacons [were ordained]. Both are called ordination. Both are celebrated at the altar by the bishop, and in the same liturgical space. Hands are placed on both while the bishop offers prayers. The stole is placed on the neck of both, both the ordained man and the ordained woman communicated, the chalice full of the blood of Christ placed in the hands of both so they may taste of it.'”

  4. My wife worked for the Catholic Church in Brazil in the seventies, most of the time in large rural parishes with one priest and many scattered communities. The Bishop comissioned her, a lay pastoral assistant, to witness marriages on behalf of the church, in addition to the community building she was engaged in. And of course any baptized Chritian can themselves baptize others., which she did not because it was done by the catechists in the ‘Base Communities’.

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