A journal of academic theology

Women Deacons and Service at the Altar

What did women ordained to the diaconate do during the celebration of Eucharist? What were they forbidden to do? Why? This article reviews papal edicts as well as local episcopal, synodal/conciliar, and canonical restrictions against women’s participation in the liturgy, the liturgical responsibilities of Western deacons, and concludes, noting contemporaneous discussion regarding women’s altar service. The analysis demonstrates that the liturgical tasks of women ordained as deacons were eventually forbidden all women, whose “impure” state required that they be kept distant from the sacred.