11May ACP Statement on Women Deacons


Saturday 11 May 2019


Pope Francis’s comments on women deacons at the press conference on the plane back from Bulgaria, his kicking the can down a timeless road, is a major disappointment. We had come to expect reactions like this from previous popes, but we thought Francis was different, and consequently our disappointment is greater.

The equality of women is critical for the credibility and the future of the Church. Introducing women deacons is such a minimalist step that if he cannot move on that, there is little or no prospect of any real movement towards equality.

His comments send all the wrong messages about women to women and men.

It confirms that women are not good enough, and that in the eyes of the ‘official’ Church men are more worthy than women.

It confirms that many of women’s gifts will continue to be wasted.

It confirms that the official institutional Church is a men’s Church.

It confirms that to be a full member of the Church, exercising all the privileges, you have to be a man.

It confirms that the Church is a structure built by men for men.

It confirms that the Church continues to be a clerical hierarchical patriarchy.

It confirms that injustice is built into the heart of the Church.


This is an enormous blow to reforming the Church and bringing it into the 21st century.

Now is the time for all of us who believe in equality to make our voices heard, clearly and without equivocation. There must be no fudge about where we stand; bishops, priests and people in the pews. Now is not the time for looking over our shoulders, thinking of our chances of promotion, or of offending those in authority. This is much too important.

24 Responses

  1. Anne Faulkner

    God bless you for your honesty.
    What I found particularly distressing was Pope Francis’ comment when he addressed the meeting of superiors of women religious in Rome this week.
    “We cannot go beyond revelation and dogmatic expressions,” he said. “We are Catholics. If someone wants to make another church, they are free to do so.”

  2. Paddy Ferry

    Excellent statement with which I completely agree.

  3. Ned Quinn

    Is this another Humanae Vitae moment?

  4. Michael Saso

    Women make far better readers, acolytes, and deacons than men. The catacombs show many murals of women celebrating the Eucharist. Our church of the Immaculate Conception in Los Angeles uses women for all major liturgical duties.

  5. Phil Dunne

    Thank you for this truthful statement. Action needs to follow. I offer two suggestions

    On a Sunday in the NEAR future a woman proclaims the gospel in all churches

    On a Sunday in the NEAR future a woman preaches in all churches

    You mentioned three cattagories of people who need o make their voices heard. I speak from a large catagory you omitted I.e. thoseno longer in the pews because present structures and practices are intolerable

  6. Phil Greene

    Thank you ACP members, each and everyone of you who agree with the public statement above, To those of you clergy and religious whom are not members but also agree, it really is important to also let your voice be heard.

    After some major events in the churches recent history over the years, it has struck me how , when i go to Mass , it is often as if nothing happened.. it was as if it has nothing to do with us.
    So i wonder if it was the same in Churches around the world today..
    (Was it all just a dream!!),a case of say nothing and it will soon be forgotten, listen to my pastoral message, nothing else matters…
    except it does matter..
    ACP statement above “Now is the time for all of us who believe in equality to make our voices heard, clearly and without equivocation. There must be no fudge about where we stand; bishops, priests and people in the pews” … plus those physically not in the pews but wanting to be.
    So what is the next step then after this statement? – will the ACP/ACI/WAC
    etc.,as one for this purpose, hold a public meeting for instance? Will the bishops actually engage? or
    Do laypeople together buy an existing church edifice (they are sold to Publicans, hoteliers etc, after all) and make another church as Pope Francis suggested above..?
    Well,maybe not just yet 🙂

    You are right of course, it must be joined-up thinking. As you are all no doubt aware, it is important to those parishioners who care, to know that they are not being disloyal to their priests in their parishes, even at a cost to them. After all, these men have married them, baptised their children, prayed with them, shared secrets in the confessional, buried their loved ones, help them through their grief, celebrated in times of joy. (you guys are so privileged!). So firstly please , your parishioners (not just the chosen few) must know that this matter is important to you also and that you support their endeavours. Making a public space available in your parish is also important with not only one First meeting , but a number of them , opening up the opportunity for busy people to fit this conversation into their lives (organise babysitters etc.).
    I believe that the Dublin Archdiocese can expect major change in the near future so will it be a case of heads- down until all the uncertainty is over.. realistically can anyone expect these men to act on behalf of their female staff/parishioners, potentially risking being banished to a remote parish etc..?
    Interesting times ahead, let’s make them count, not only to the next generations but to us too, we are worth it and worthy of it.

  7. Mary Vallely

    Like everyone here I applaud this ACP statement. 👏🏻👏🏻Actually taken aback a bit by the strength of conviction it expresses. No more fence sitting, guys!

    Like Phil Greene I suggest we need to get together to discuss what steps to take next. I am not as radical as some of you, being a dyed -in -the -wool northern Catholic who is loyal to my parish and reluctant to take radical steps as I believe change, to be effective, must come when we have persuaded those in positions of authority to listen with respect and then, working with lay groups, to initiate some step towards putting this in motion. We have to do an awful lot of work to persuade people to take a stand. I know that withholding finances is one major suggestion but I just cannot do this yet.

    The biggest obstacle in parishes, sad to say, is the lack of support for women from other women, those women who form the backbone of every parish. Until we persuade that core group that we ARE worthy then we won’t progress. How do we go about doing this? More discussions? Anyway I am delighted to read this ACP statement which has restored my faith a bit in the team. For a while there I feared there was a little too much navel gazing going on and that this most important issue of woman’s equality had been pushed to the sidelines. This statement has given me heart and hopefully listening to Mary T Malone this evening in Baggot Street will give me the courage I need to ACT!

  8. Iggy O Donovan

    For the life of me I cannot fathom why we still have to cling on to that relic of medievalism ie a male only clergy. Not only should we have women deacons but women priests as well.
    Appealing to traditional practice is in my view nonsence. The Church is a living organism and must continue to develop in dogma and teaching.
    This does not mean past practices were wrong. What it does mean is we move on and continue to learn. Nothing is written in bronze. We must not reject the past. In fact errors of the past are rich experiences which our church has come through and hopefully learns from.
    Is reform of the Roman system so fiendishly difficult that even a prophet like Francis is buckling before it.?

  9. Pádraig McCarthy

    A full report of the Press Conference on 7 May on the flight from North Macedonia to Rome is on the Vatican website: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/events/event.dir.html/content/vaticanevents/it/2019/5/7/voloritorno-macedoniadelnord.html
    It is given in six languages, but not in English. The Italian version has 2,345 words. The matter of ordaining women to the diaconate was the last of the question; it was put by Joshua McElwee, of the National Catholic Reporter.

    Let me say that if I were elected Pope tomorrow (not a chance!), my inclination would be to address immediately some matters of great importance to the church. Among these would be the question of ordination of women to diaconate and priesthood, with a view to bringing these forward as soon as possible, hopefully without leading to schism, but to enrich the church.

    I understand the impatience with the present state of play. However, the reaction of the ACP seems to me to be somewhat precipitate. It is not the case that the Pope’s comments “send all the wrong messages about women to women and men. It confirms that women are not good enough, and that in the eyes of the ‘official’ Church men are more worthy than women.”
    He makes it quite clear that the report so far is very much an interim report, in which the men and women theologians on the commission arrived at a certain level of agreement, but then diverged enormously. This, of course, is unsatisfactory whatever one’s views, but it is a fact of human life. We might want Pope Francis to make a diktat on the matter right away, but as we know his approach is to encourage people of diverse views to exercise the freedom to speak boldly and honestly. Yes, it does postpone a final decision, but it is surely a valid way to proceed.
    I would prefer that it had not taken two years to get to this point, and that the work of the commission will now continue without an end in sight. I would prefer that a time limit of perhaps one year more be given. But what if no conclusion can be arrived at in that time?
    Pope Francis addressed the matter again on 10 May in meeting the UISG (International Union of Superiors General), who had suggested the idea of the commission to him. The report again is on the Vatican website, but not in English. Here he said that the commission had arrived at a certain point of agreement, and he has given this section of the report to the president of the UISG. But then “each one had their own idea … one moving ahead, another stopping at a particular point.” He says he has the full document, but it clearly needs more study.

    I hope strongly that it does not emulate the process of contacts towards the unity of Christians, which so often seems to have lost all momentum.
    Pope Francis concluded his response to Joshua McElwee with the comment: “We have reached a certain point, and now each of the members is studying according to his thesis. This is good. Varietas delectat.”

    Varietas delectat is a well-known Latin adage (google it) similar to the English saying: “Variety is the spice of life”, contrasted with the saying “Familiarity breeds contempt” (Similitudo fastidium paret). Our world today challenges us to accept diversity, and to learn from it and rejoice in it. As used by Francis, it could mean simply that variety of understandings in the Church can enrich us in our unity, and that uniformity impoverishes us. I hope too that, in his mischievous way, Francis is also saying that diversity in the ordained ministerial priesthood, with men and women, married and single, can enrich the Christian community.

  10. Joe O'Leary

    Hi, Pádraig, be assured of my vote if I had one.

    “Familarity breeds contempt” is actually a quite snotty proverb, which means that being over-familiar with your betters or those you are not on close terms with leads to them despising you! “Similitudo fastidium paret” is just a banal rhetorical saw.

  11. Niamh Kent

    I completely disagree with the ACP stance. The Pope is correct. I am actively involved in the Church, and as a woman do not feel the need to prove myself part of it by pushing to read the Gospel, become a deacon etc. I find it truly sad that the feminism that is infecting the world, with a chip on on its shoulder, is trying to seep into the Catholic Church. Men and women are different, with different gifts , graces and roles. Not unequal, just different. In a world where Diversity is the new buzz word, it is time for Catholics to stop being manipulated by the world doctrine. It is good to be a woman in all our femininity and perhaps the question we should be asking is WHY we are constantly being fed the line that we need to be more masculine in our roles in order to be worth something.

  12. pat savage


    I am amazed at some of the comments on this page from both laity and clergy.

    The call for female deacons maybe sincerely held but I have met members from clergy and laity on this page that can’t even accept the permanent deacons that are presently called into our church.

    As one lady member of a pastoral council who held the role of chair said when I passed an observation after a perm deacon(PD) giving a homily.”what would he know or could tell me”.if that’s the attitude then what would it be like if we had women deacons.

    From a member of the clergy on PD ” I don’t need yellow packers in my parish” or as another stated do you think I have struggled here after 7 years of study to have some one come in after less than 24 months.

    By the way both young guys.I truly question if religious and clergy both here on this site and in Ireland are capable of acceptance of such a change if one was allowed let along with those who have stood by the ” church” when others walked away.

  13. Colm Holmes

    The ACP statement has been translated into French:

    Actions speak louder than words. I hope a number of congregations will take up Phil Dunne’s proposals for women to read the gospel and women to preach.

    Change will come via the grassroots taking initiatives as many are already doing.

  14. Clare Hunt

    I totally agree with the statement and hope it will be taken up by women and men. This is the time to move towards acceptance of what I feel Christ would like

  15. Kay McGinty

    Two weeks ago I attended Sunday morning mass in my local church.. two African priests and a deacon ( singing Soul of my Saviour) arrived on the altar to say mass.. a religious sister from the nearby convent read both readings.. the male deacon read the gospel and gave quite a lengthy homily explaining the gospel to the congregation.. he also distributed holy communion along with a female minister of the Eucharist.. the deacon finished off mass with a final prayer, and one of the priests gave the final blessing.. mass over the deacon leaves the altar singing “Hail Queen of Heaven.. .. the floral arrangements on the altar were beautiful..

  16. Phyllis Zagano

    Let the discussion continue! The Holy Father said he needed more support for a sacramental decree regarding women deacons. So, give it to him. Speak and write about support in Scripture. Speak and write about support in history. Speak and write about how the current theological anthropology of the human person finds males and females equal if not the same. Polemics go only so far. Maybe start a study group of the book Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future (Paulist Press) using the free Study Guide available on my website: https://people.hofstra.edu/Phyllis_Zagano/. (The book and Study Guide are also available in French; the book in Portuguese with the Study Guide on the way.)

  17. Jane Doherty

    So let me get this straight:

    You want the approval of a male priest (bishop, pope) for you to be women-deacons?
    Doesn’t that show that women are in fact inferior for requiring such approval?

    They are plenty of churches that have women in the orders,
    or you can start your own and show the fruits of the Gospel in your new organization.

    Only that way you can show how equal you are to the male hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

    If you want approval of men, even if you get it, it will always be true that you required it, you needed it, and that makes them superior.

  18. jane coll

    Have just read the above comments. As always with these discussions, I am saddened by the contributors lack of recognition that Ordination is a sacrament, not just a job title. It therefore has to be based on the words and actions of Jesus himself. Lots of evidence for women as deacons, none for women as priests. Pope Francis mentioned Revelation, which ended with the apostles. Again, lots of evidence for women as deacons, none for women as priests. I am with Niamh Kent (above) We do not need to take over male roles to be active members of the Church – check the Global Sisters web page for examples. For a detailed and unbiased look at the question, see my book ‘Handmaids of the Lord:Women Deacons in the Catholic Church’.

  19. Roy Donovan

    The last contributor mentions Revelation. Remember revelation is a two way channel/ system. Unfortunately the channel from our side is mostly from a male patriarchial lens. This exclusively male view communicates from very early on in Christianity (certainly from 55AD) that this is normal. This was not normal with Jesus. The Jesus’s movement with its openness to women met a very quick death.
    Mary T. Malone holds that Vatican II which claims it went back to the sources, did not go back far enough ie. to the early days of the Jesus movement – before 55AD.

  20. jane coll

    While I absolutely agree with Roy Donovan’s comment ‘The Jesus’s movement with its openness to women met a very quick death.’, I am not so sure of his definition of Revelation. I think that Pope Francis was using this term to mean the teachings of the apostles to the early Church – a one-way process. This teaching, and thus Revelation, ended with the death of the last apostle.Church teaching cannot contradict Revelation, so any new practices must be in accordance with Revelation. So Pope Francis is saying that he cannot authorise the ordination of women as deacons without being sure that this would not contradict the teaching and practice of the Church in the days of the apostles. OK, he is probably using this as a way of hitting the ball into the long grass, but it is up to historians and theologians to present the evidence needed. Actually, I think that the first step needed is to educate both clergy and laity on the role of the deacon, male or female. They are not just ‘priests-lite’!

  21. Phil Greene

    The seven sacraments being baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, marriage and holy orders. The first 5 being open to all , the last 2 unfortunately call for a choice that many would prefer not to have to make..

    I think of Pat Savage’s comments at 12 above.
    The member of the Parish Council appears quite bitter about the male Deacon , to me I think in her heart she would like the opportunity to be a PD too, to show that she too has something worthwhile to say but has been silenced because of her gender.
    The young priests appear bitter about PD’s – I have to wonder , especially the priest who “struggled” , if they were bitter about the fact that deacons can both marry and preach whilst they cannot..

    It is easier to get personal when there is no solution in sight,the person is the problem… but of course that is not the case…it is the outdated approach to these 2 sacraments that causes so many problems- a closed shop approach that belongs in the past.

    Regarding Niamh’s comment about having to be more masculine in our roles to be worth something.. why would this be a masculine role.? I see women bringing their own qualities to these roles as equal partners in service..
    It really is such a pity that some women find it so difficult to help their sisters realise their calling in this life. Why is it so hard to see that we women should have the choice , just like men do, to be ordained.. deacon or priest.? Change is afoot -so check where you are on the change curve, know that you are not alone, and if you yourself cannot move along the curve please, open your hearts, and do not deny others (perhaps your daughter. granddaughter in the future ) the ability to do so.

  22. Roy Donovan

    I hold that Revelation is a two way process. The Holy Spirit is very dependent on open minds and hearts and is so often restricted and gagged by human prejudices and conditioning. It’s handy to hold that Revelation stopped at the Apostles and that Revelation is a one way process. Vat 1 said no need for any more councils – everything is decided! Then Vat 2 – let’s read the ‘signs of the times’!??

    Many reports today say that there are at least 33 gender identities. Therefore to be without prejudice one should refuse to sign any either male or female forms. So which one or more of these 33 gender identities does Jesus want ordained for priestly ministry!!? If God has become a human being – all human beings can represent Christ – otherwise God only become human for men only (whatever gender identity or identities that is). If God has become fully human – every human being of the 33 gender identities is sacred and can exercise Christ’s priestly ministry.

  23. Eileen Clear

    The idea that Revelation ended with the death of the last apostle contradicts every I understand about Christian living. Does God not reveal God’s self to us through the holy Scriptures, through other people and through whatever happens to us in life? Is this not part of the purpose of prayer and reflection – to discern what God is saying to us, encouraging us, teaching us, challenging and guiding us? Practices such as Lectio Divina are aimed at bringing us to a greater understanding of God’s Word so we can try to live by Gospel values and apply them to our lives. The Word of God is alive and active today. It is Revelation and it is as real as the Incarnation.

  24. Paddy Ferry

    I would like to enquire of Jane Coll @18 how she justifies her assertion below and especially her statement that “It therefore has to be based on the words and actions of Jesus himself.” I am wondering now if I have missed something Jesus said about the priesthood.

    ” … As always with these discussions, I am saddened by the contributors lack of recognition that Ordination is a sacrament, not just a job title. It therefore has to be based on the words and actions of Jesus himself.”

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