In Germany, women are already studying to become deacons, arguing that “gender equality and diaconality are indispensable for the future of the Church”.

– “The efforts to open the diaconate to women will bear fruit at some point”

This Friday in the motherhouse of the Waldbreitbach Franciscan Sisters in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate 16 women will begin a three-year course with the title “Diaconal leadership service for women” to prepare them for the day in which the diaconate is opened to women.

Irmentraud Kobusch – the chairwoman of the group organising the classes, “The Women’s Diaconate Network” – spoke to September 10 about the goals of the course, which is being held for the third time now after successful editions in 1999-2002 and 2003-2006.

“I can’t say when, but I am firmly convinced – as are all the men and women in the network – that the efforts to open the diaconate to women will bear fruit at some point”, Kobusch said.

“Hopefully in the not too distant future, otherwise the impatience and anger of many women will surely become even greater.

“But I believe that all these tender shoots that have been sown in the last few years are growing and will ensure that something will change”, she explained.

– “We want women to acquire skills that they can use in many places in the Church”

Kobusch said the course starting today on preparing for the female diaconate is primarily aimed at women already carrying out ministries of service in the Church, “many” of whom feel a calling to the sacramental diaconate.

“We want women to acquire skills that they can use in many places in the Church”, the chairwoman of the Women’s Diaconate Network highlighted, even if out of a personal choice or because of the Vatican’s ongoing veto of women deacons graduates don’t go on to be ordained.

Kobusch was careful to point out that even if organisers have incorporated some elements of seminary training into the course for would-be female deacons, “we also do a lot of things differently, preparing women for a path that we do not yet know where it will lead them”.

“We are moving explicitly within the bounds of what is possible under canon law”, the course convener stressed, highlighting that “there are no elements in the course in which we prepare for things that male deacons do on the basis of their ordination·, like baptisms, for example.

That being said, Kobusch explained that course participants will still undertake studies on basic principles of the Church’s work including in service, the liturgy and preaching, and that much “always with an eye to the needs of the people of today, including those on the margins or far from the Church”.

– “There is broad support from many sides” for the re-introduction of the female diaconate

Kobusch celebrated the fact that “there is broad support from many sides” for the re-introduction of the female diaconate, including from bishops in last October’s Amazon Synod, some bishops in the USA, participants in the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ reform process and even, possibly, from Pope Francis himself, whose establishment of a second commission on women deacons “shows that [he] does not yet consider the issue to be settled”.

Calling for the sacramental diaconate for women deacons, and not a “special ministry” of deaconesses, Kobusch stressed that “I am firmly convinced that if men and women in the same ministry and with different charisms set out together, this will bear fruit and also creatively change the diaconate itself”.

Recalling that not only have scholars over the last quarter of a century found time and again that there were sacramental female deacons in the early Church – and that even Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 taught that the diaconate differs in its theological basis from the priesthood and the episcopate – Kobusch denounced that “it is no longer understandable why the prohibition of ordination of women according to the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis of John Paul II should also apply to the diaconate”.

Stressing that “there are married deacons, some in civil professions – the development of the understanding of the office is not yet complete”, the self-described “advocate” for women who “have been suffering painfully for years because they are not allowed to live” their calling to the diaconate pleaded that “I am convinced that the Church needs change, especially in this area”.

On Novena, all the latest news on demands for female deacons, priests and bishops:

Female candidates for male-only Church roles in France: “Jesus never wanted a hierarchical structure that would exclude women”

“The discussion is still alive”: German archbishop, Austrian bishop want more debate on ordination of women

Austrian clerics push bishops to petition Vatican for male and female married priests

Female Catholic priest, to hierarchy: “If you don’t want women to celebrate the sacraments, console and bless… stop baptising us!”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.