Panel explores ordaining women as deacons

written by: emma stevens, guest writer
Photo courtesy of
Dr. Anna Miller, Casey Stanton and Rev. Luke Hanson (pictured above) participated in a panel discussion sponsored by Bellarmine Chapel. They discussed issues surrounding the contributions of women in the Church.

On Monday, Bellarmine Chapel hosted a livestream panel discussing one of the most controversial issues being considered within the Catholic Church today: the ordination of women as permanent deacons.

Within the Catholic Church, a movement has begun in support of women being able to become ordained deacons, but the formal law of the Church still prevents women from holding this position.

 In the livestream titled   “Ever Ancient, Ever New: Exploring the Female Diaconate,” the panel sought to provide a complex and complete definition of the issue at hand. The panel included Dr. Anna Miller, Casey Stanton, M.Div. and Rev. Luke Hansen, S.J. Each panelist brought a distinct and powerful perspective to the issue. 

Miller, associate professor of New Testament and Early Christianity and director of the Institute for Spirituality and Social Justice, kicked off the conversation on a scholarly note. 

Looking to the past, Miller shared her historical findings of women being identified and labeled as deacons both within the Bible and in early Christian history. 

Moving from the past to the present, Catholic Chaplain at the Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice Hansen took Dr. Miller’s historical contextualization, then applied the issue to the modern Catholic Church, explaining that many women today already perform the role of deacon without receiving credit.

When asked why the Church has not recognized these women, Hansen explained that, “there is a long history of misogyny in the church.” 

This misogyny, from Hansen’s perspective, prevents women from being recognized for the work that they are already doing and stifles women’s ability to find a place in church leadership. 

In addition to Miller and Hansen, the panel included Stanton, Minister of Social Action and Discipleship at Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, North Carolina. 

Stanton provided the living example of a woman that wishes to be a deacon. 

In her presentation on the livestream, she explained that she feels called to be a deacon. 

Stanton addressed questions about her spiritual purpose by saying that being a deacon is a “particular vocation,” meaning she does not want to be a “mini-priest.” She views being a deacon as its own distinct spiritual occupation.

Together, the three panelists addressed the current issue thoroughly and provided many different perspectives, each hoping to advocate for change in the Church that will allow women to be recognized and ordained as deacons. 

For Miller, the panel “represented different avenues toward that change.” Stanton believes “in the power of encounter” and encourages other women who wish to become deacons to speak out and make others aware. 

When asked if he feels the Church will change, Hansen replied that the Church is “taking lots of steps.” Hansen went on to say that events such as this one give him hope for change.