VATICAN CITY (CNS): The International Theological Commission has concluded that women deacons in the early Church performed a role that was different from that of the ordained male diaconate.
The conclusion was part of a document on the theological role and identity of permanent deacons, approved by commission members during a September 30-October 4 meeting at the Vatican.
The document has been under study for several years, and its findings were considered important in the ongoing debate about the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate in the modern Church.
Last year, the commission gave preliminary approval to the text, pending further research in two areas Ð whether the permanent diaconate was part of the sacrament of orders, and the role of women deacons in the early Church, said Fr Thomas Norris, a commission member who teaches dogmatic theology in Ireland.
Fr Norris said the commission concluded that the diaconate did indeed belong to the sacrament of orders.
On the second question, he said, the commission unanimously agreed after studying ancient documents that ‘you can’t make a simple equivalence between what was called ‘diaconate’ in relation to women in the ancient Church and the diaconate of men’.