Nichole Flores on Pope Francis’ Commission on Female Deacons

Millennial writer Nichole Flores was recently interviewed by UVA Today:

Q. What can history tell us about the role of female deacons?

A. Female deacons are mentioned a few times in the Bible. A prominent reference is Romans 16:1, when Paul writes, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.” The question, for some, is if the term is a description of the service work Phoebe was doing or an indication that she was formally ordained to such service.

Many other Christian denominations have interpreted Paul’s comment as a sign that women can be called to the ordained diaconate.

Q. What are arguments in favor of female deacons?

A. Scholars like Phyllis Zagano, a professor at Hofstra University and one of two Americans on the papal commission, have done careful historical work finding examples of ways that women have worked as deacons. Many Catholics see this as a really exciting opportunity to formally and sacramentally acknowledge work that Catholic women are already doing and have already done. The work of women in the church around the world is crucial, and there is so much that the Catholic Church does that could not be done without the time and energy that women invest.

Q. What are arguments against the change?

A.  There is debate about the role of the diaconate in general and if women could be included in that. Most biblical instruction about the diaconate seems directed to men. For example, 1 Timothy 3:12 says that a deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. There is a sense that the deacon is a male head of household, but there is no specific teaching that deacons must be men.

Another argument, also used against the idea of women priests, is that the first-century ministry was comprised of men. Of course, this is arguable, since we are debating women like Phoebe and their role. However, if it is true that only men were ordained in the early church, many see that as an argument that ordination can only be conferred upon men since Christ would have intended to set up his church in this way.

You can read the full interview here.