Women Deacons in the Roman Catholic Church

For ten centuries women were routinely ordained deacons in the Roman Catholic Church.

The ignorance about the official status of these women within the ordained ministries is appalling. For there is absolutely no doubt about the fact that they received a fully sacramental ordination.

Abundant evidence about this can be found in the manuscripts that have preserved the exact rite of ordination, next to the ordination rites of bishops, priests and male deacons. We publish the full text of that rite in the documents listed here.

The ancient Ordination rites
*** The Apostolic Constitutions 500 AD
*** the Barberini gr. 336 manuscript 780 AD
*** the Grottaferrata gr. Gb1 manuscript 1020 AD
*** Vatican manuscript gr. 1872 1050 AD
*** Coislin gr. 213 manuscript 1050 AD
*** reconstructed from seven manuscripts
*** Syriac manuscript.
*** present-day reconstructions of the ancient ordination rite. See also here.

The sacramentality of the women’s diaconate can be seen from the six features recognised by contemporaries at the time:

1. ordination in front of the altar
2. public election through the Divine Grace formula
3. laying on of hands with the invocation of the Holy Spirit
4. a second ordination prayer with renewed laying on of hands and the calling down of the Spirit
5. receiving the distinctive diaconate stole
6. receiving the power to hold the chalice with the consecrated body and blood.
Moreover, male deacons were ordained with substantially the same rite. If women were not sacramentally ordained as deacons, then neither were the men.

Our debate with the Congregation for Doctrine in Rome

*** Document by the International Theological Commission with critical commentary(1)
*** The Ordination of Women Deacons was a full sacrament (2)
*** Women were ordained deacons
*** German Catholic Women write to Cardinal Ratzinger