Phyllis Zagano, a senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University who has advocated for the ordination of women to the diaconate, is scheduled to speak at two Catholic universities this fall, University of St. Francis in Jolliet, Ill., and Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
In 2012, the Reporter ran an open letter from Zagano to Pope Benedict XVI, titled, “Your Holiness, it is time for women deacons.” She wrote:
If I may, I think it is time for you to make a decision about women deacons.
It is an opportunity for you to state the Christian message in a way that can be heard. Yes, God is love and all persons are made in the image and likeness of God. But the world will not and cannot hear that until you have a woman deacon standing beside you and proclaiming the Gospel in St. Peter’s.
Zagano co-authored the book Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future. One of her co-authors, Deacon William Ditewig—a professor in the pastoral ministry program at Jesuit Santa Clara University—has been denied a speaking platform in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as reported by the National Catholic Reporter in late 2012. The archdiocesan Speaker Approval Committee reportedly cited “the possibility of doctrinal confusion” if he were to be approved as a speaker.
According to the Reporter, although the Committee “did not mention the women deacons book in its statement… it vaguely references Ditewig’s ‘publications and blog postings.’”
Zagano penned another article about ordination at the Reporter, writing, “The law is not theology. The law that effectively keeps women’s hands off the Gospel is just that: a discipline, not a theological fact.”
So when you visit your bishop, you might point that out to him in case the subject of women ordained to the diaconate comes up. Women were and can again be deacons. Deacons rightfully proclaim the Gospel. Deacons rightfully preach.
However, Catholic Answers apologist Jimmy Akin explained in a radio segment that, although there were women called deaconesses in the early Church, the root of the word can broadly mean “servant.” In fact, he continued to explain, historical references such as the First Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. “expressly indicate that deaconesses are not ordained.” Catholic Answers provides further explanation of the topic here.
Additionally, Zagano has dealt criticism to Church leaders. At the Reporter, she wrote a piece commenting on a speech delivered by the Irish Prime Minister. She wrote:
The fact is, the Vatican is looking more and more like the dysfunctional, disconnected, elitist and, yes, narcissistic operation the Prime Minister says it is. He has bluntly pointed out the very large elephant beneath the Catholic carpet: it is all about them.
Zagano is currently scheduled to speak September 18 at the University of St. Francis in Jolliet and November 9 at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, according to the Reporter.
Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.