Installed lectors and acolytes: Are women deacons next?

Phyllis Zagano, Senior Research Associate-in-Residence at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, and a member of the original Pontifical Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women (2016–18) reflects on the change to Canon 230 §1 of the Code of Canon Law allowing women to be formally installed as lectors and acolytes.

Despite Pope Francis’ efforts to encourage lay participation in the management of the Church as well as in the liturgy, women remain on the periphery. Quite simply, if one is not a cleric neither he – nor she – can obtain certain offices or fulfil certain liturgical tasks.

Even so, Pope Francis’ latest Apostolic Letter, Spiritus Domini, is quite commendable in that it recognises the equal humanity of men and women. By eliminating one word, the Pope has declared both to the Church and to the world at large, lay women are equal to lay men. Canon 230 §1 now reads: ‘Lay persons who possess the age and qualifications established by decree of the conference of bishops can be admitted on a stable basis through the prescribed liturgical rite to the ministries of lector and acolyte.’

But will women really have access to the altar? Can the remnants of misogyny be overcome? Will the Church adapt to the change? Does this change portend women deacons?

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