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Q7. Was genuine Catholic Tradition against the ordination of women?

The authorities in Rome maintain that the Catholic Church has never given sacramental ordination to women. This claim is simply not true.

From the earliest times onwards, women were involved in various ministries: mainly as apostolic helpers, prophets, members of the order of widows, and women deacons.

Women Deacons

As the Council of Trent defined in 1563, the diaconate is part of the sacrament of holy orders. Even though in the early Church, the term ‘sacrament’ was not yet applied to holy orders, it is crucial to understand that women deacons were given a sacramental ordination as defined by the Council of Trent. Read ‘Women were Deacons’ and ‘ The Sacramental Ordination of Women Deacons’.

The sacramentality of the women’s diaconate can be proved by the fact that women deacons were ordained through an ordination rite that was entirely equivalent to that used for male deacons. It is worth looking at the actual texts found in these ancient rituals:

The point is that women did, therefore, receive holy orders. And if they could be ordained deacon, they can be ordained priests. Moreover, the women’s diaconate was widespread in the Church for at least nine centuries, as can be seen from historical records. Church Councils endorsed the practice of ordaining women as deacons. Women deacons enjoyed a variety of tasks in the parish. We have an impressive list of Women Deacon Saints. The causes for the decline in women deacons are the prejudice against women in Roman law (Roman law became the basis of Church law!) and the taboo of menstruation.

Women ordained as priests?

Though this never became general practice, there is evidence that in some parts of the early Church women functioned also as bishops and priests:

  • In the second-century ‘New Prophecy’ movement, which was originally not a heresy, Prisca and Maximilla were leading prophets. See the article by Anne Jensen.
  • During the 3rd and 4th century some women priests were found in the south of Italy.
  • In the early sixth century, there is evidence of Celtic priests in France encouraging the participation of women in the liturgy.

In other words: the fact that women received sacramental holy orders, especially as fully ordained women deacons, is indisputable. Catholic Tradition does include the practice of ordaining women.

If you have questions at any stage, please, let me know. Click on the envelope and send me an email!Drop me a line!

Other documents on our website to consult: Go to the next step?


Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

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