“‘I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae,’ wrote St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans (16:1). What did Paul mean when he referred to Phoebe as a deacon? What kind of diakonos was she? How did she serve the church? Was she ordained as a deacon? And if so, what did her ordination mean? These questions, which may once have seemed arcane, have taken on greater urgency in the wake of Pope Francis’ recent decision to appoint a commission to study the historicity of women deacons …
“As indispensable as it is, the historical data is neither wholly conclusive nor ultimately dispositive. The church’s discernment regarding women deacons must be guided, in the words of the International Theological Commission, by ‘a greater knowledge of both historical and theological sources, as well as of the current life of the Church’ (emphasis added). We should also bear in mind this additional insight of the commission: ‘Nowhere did the [Second Vatican] Council claim that the form of the permanent diaconate which it was proposing was a restoration of a previous form…. Vatican II never aimed to do that. What it re-established was the principle of the permanent exercise of the diaconate, and not one particular form which the diaconate had taken in the past.’
“This raises a question: If the church discerns in light of its reflection on the historical and theological data and the current life of the church that, at a minimum, it enjoys the freedom to admit women to the permanent diaconate, then should we do so? Yes, we should. What might that mean for the church today?”
By The editors at America: The National Catholic Review — Click here to read the rest of this editorial.