Notes from WATERtalks: Feminist Conversations in Religion Series

with Phyllis Zagano

on her book Women: Icons of Christ

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The audio recording of this WATERtalk is available here on SoundCloud.


Mary E. Hunt

Greetings from the WATER Office in Silver Spring, MD where I am with Diann Neu and Anali Martin of the Mennonite Voluntary Service on this historic day, January 13, 2021, of the second impeachment of a sitting president. The ouster of Donald Trump cannot come soon enough for the health and safety of the world.

WATER colleagues met for our monthly meditation on Monday night, using Mary Galeone’s inspired choice of Maya Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” and for tea yesterday with colleagues from 7 countries. WATER is committed to keeping our connections close and our commitments strong in these dangerous times.

It is great to have Phyllis Zagano with us for the third WATER event this week. I only wish you were here in the office for a proper cup of tea, Phyllis. In her book, Women: Icons of Christ (Paulist Press, 2020), which we will discuss today, Dr. Phyllis Zagano makes the case that women image Christ as much as men do. That seems so blatantly obvious that a scholar should not have to spend time rehearsing it. Alas, the failing arguments against the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church must be countered by such scholarship which Phyllis does with clarity and conviction.

Like all of WATER’s efforts, this session is not simply an academic seminar, but a way to learn in order to bring our learning to the creation of a more just and equitable world. Who could have predicted months ago, when we set up this date, that Phyllis would also have just published an article in the National Catholic Reporter entitled “Catholic Mob Rule and those who support it,”  which was followed by an article by James Martin in America magazine entitled “How Catholic Leaders Helped Give rise to Violence in the U.S. Capitol.” Of course, many WATER colleagues have long argued theology can be a cause of violence on many fronts, not least of which was the attack on the U.S. Capitol. So, looking with Phyllis today at the truism that women image Christ is another way of exposing and hopefully remedying the roots of religiously inspired violence.

Join me in welcoming Phyllis Zagano who is an internationally recognized Catholic scholar and lecturer on contemporary spirituality and women’s issues in the church. Dr. Zagano is well known in Catholic feminist circles for her sharp focus on women in the diaconate.

She has written widely on that topic and on related topics including her books Holy Saturday: An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic ChurchWomen & Catholicism: Gender, Communion, and Authority, and Women Deacons? Essays with Answers. She has a rare ability in the academic world to communicate erudite scholarship in readable, accessible prose. No wonder her work is translated and cited so often.

And this book, what some call “a slim volume,” packs a real punch: Women: Icons of Christ. The title alone says it all.

Phyllis served on the first Papal Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women, appointed by Pope Francis. She holds a research appointment at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, and works fulltime to make the Roman Catholic Church more inclusive and thus, by those efforts, to make the world more just.

I always enjoy talking with Phyllis even when we do not agree completely on a topic. She has a marvelous sense of humor, an eye for detail; she is a keen judge of character and a tireless advocate for women. By the end of this hour, I am confident many will agree that she is in fact an icon of a scholar activist committed to an inclusive church.

On our What We’re Reading” page on our website, we wrote this about Women: Icons of Christ: “In plain, clear, unambiguous prose Phyllis Zagano puts to rest the bogus arguments against women being ordained as deacons. Of course, women image Christ as much as men do, and of course women are not tainted so as to have to be kept away from the sacred. Read the history. Teachings to the contrary are simply outmoded, outdated, in a word, wrong. Dr. Zagano advocates for the diaconate, but presbyterate supporters will finds lots here for their case. Both cases are now so embarrassingly obvious that this book should settle the question and let us move along to thinking about how best to meet the pastoral needs of our day.”

Today, Phyllis will be talking about the diaconate. Thanks for joining us, Phyllis, and let’s talk about women deacons.

Phyllis Zagano

Thank you. I would be there, near you, but I think you are a little too close to the Capitol today for me to risk the trip, but “risking the trip” is what I have been doing for my entire academic career.

The question of women as icons of Christ has an interesting background. I can tell you how the title came about, and then I will talk with you a little about the book, and other things. Maybe today, I can present three different topics: I can talk about the book, Women: Icons of Christ, the Catholic mob, and the new Apostolic letter, Spiritus Domini, which was published on Monday, which formally changes Canon Law to allow women to be installed as lectors and acolytes.

But, to begin with, how I started with the title, Women: Icons of Christ. I was seated at lunch at the Casa Santa Marta during a break in the deliberations of the first Papal Commission on women deacons, and I was seated across from a priest named Hermann Geissler, who at the time was an official of CDF, and I said, “Why can’t women be ordained as deacons?” And he said, “Because women can’t image Christ.” And I said, “Watch me.” That was really the beginning of the end of my discussion with him. He has since been removed from CDF because of accusations that he accosted a woman religious in confession, but the title really does say it all. I will say that 20, 21 years ago I published a book called Holy Saturday: An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church, and in that book, I have an entire chapter discussing the ways sign and symbol are confused, and that is the end of the story and the beginning of the story. Those who say women cannot be ordained sacramentally say that women cannot symbolize Christ. If you look at the documents, the ordinandi (those who are ordained) are signs of Christ. So, the person who is ordained points to the Christ and certainly represents the Christ as the Risen Lord who is beyond gender. What the argument rests on is that women cannot physically resemble Jesus the human being, and that’s just not who we’re talking about when we talk about people being ordained.

This book took a long time to do because I began it before I was appointed to commission, had a lot of commission work, and then finished it after the commission closed. I thought about it in terms of sacraments: what are the sacraments that women enjoy and what are the sacraments that we know they not only participated in, but actually administered? we have baptism, catechisms and catechesis, altar service, spiritual direction, and confession, and anointing the sick. Basically, the two sacraments we know women deacons (and, actually, women) administered are those of baptism and anointing.

Baptism has a very simple understanding: In the ancient world, no man would touch a woman he was not related to or married to, nor would he see the woman. There is a document referred to in one of the books Mary mentioned, Women Deacons? Essays with Answers, which was the darndest document to translate. The ancient baptismal fonts were concentric circular stone things where you would go down these steps with no railings. I have been on one, south of Naples [Italy]—no water in it, thankfully–and it’s pretty dangerous going up and down those steps, and when you think of it, if you have a woman either unclothed or with a simple slip or veil on her and she’s going to have full-body anointing, you need somebody to help you out. Typically, that would be the woman deacon, who would help bring the woman in and out of the pool. The woman deacon would also anoint the individual in baptism and also in chrismation (confirmation), which in the Eastern Church were given together. Do not be confused that I am talking about an Italian baptismal pool, because at the time, there were 500 Eastern monasteries in Italy (there are now two), but the Eastern Church, the farther down you get in the “boot” of Italy, is more and more prevalent in the Medieval Church, and of course I am talking about a baptismal pool in Naples. So, this document that I was trying to translate—I could not figure out what they were talking about—and we finally figured out that there was the baptismal pool the women being baptized, the woman deacon or deacons, and then a screen or curtain, and the bishop was on the other side of the screen or the curtain. All the action went on out of his sight, and at the appropriate time he was told to stick his hand through the curtain and do whatever he did—bless the people—and I translated it with Dr. Carmela Leonforte and we kept talking about it and finally figured out what they were talking about. In the American culture, at least, it sounds very odd, but in some cultures not so. And, even in modern times in many cultures, men—Christian men—will not touch women they are not related to or married to. Certainly, in Orthodox Judaism, no Orthodox Jew will touch a woman he’s not related or married to—at no age. A woman cannot touch a man she is neither married to nor related to.

Let me digress. I think of a little boy in Brooklyn who was hit by a car, in a Spanish neighborhood, and he was carried into the bodega by some Spanish men, none of whom spoke English. He was a little Hasidic boy. I was there and sat down next to him because I felt that these were older men and this little boy was waiting for his mother and the police to show up. He was crying terribly, and I said to him, “Son, I would put my arm around you, but I know I am not allowed to.” And he said, “It’s OK. It’s an emergency!” And, when you think about it, the young man had more sense than half the Catholic Church, which feels there is something bad about women being near the sacred, something that makes the sacred unclean because women are unclean. If you read church history, there is documentation about Eastern practices: the male deacon, if he was going to receive communion, could not have marital relations with his wife the night before. You know the rest of the misogynistic stories. But, the point of baptism and the point of anointing brings us to anointing the sick. Saint Genevieve, in the 5th-6th century (now the patron of Paris) was well-known for her healing powers. She was not necessarily a deacon, but she did anoint, and we have a great deal of evidence, East and West, that women deacons for sure anointed ill women. Why? The bishop of Damascus, Syria told me, “Of course,” Maronite women deacons would anoint other women because, first of all, you would not have priests in the small villages; secondly, no man could touch a woman. We have Jean Daniélou, the Jesuit scholar, interpreting Epiphanius, saying, of course they [the women deacons] were sacramentally anointing people. This went on as long as women were ordained as deacons, I would say up to the 12th century, even after women deacons were relegated to the monasteries and abbeys.

In the 16th century, deacons themselves are increasingly forbidden from performing certain sacraments, including anointing and confession. We know that abbesses heard confessions. We know that abbesses gave prebends and stipends. We know that abbesses presided over trials. We know they had a lot of territorial authority, and the last of those lost her territorial authority, the abbess of Las Huelgas in 1873/74 with a papal bull by Pius IX, who said that even though she had been given this territorial authority in perpetuity, he was ending it. There are two trajectories of thought in this book: one, the question of sacramental authority and the other, the question of juridical authority, or legal authority. The wires get crossed—a certain analogy might be that you are dealing with spaghetti—because in the case the juridical authority of the woman deacon who is an abbess, is the juridical authority because she is an abbess or is it ordained authority as a deacon? Her ordained authority as a deacon would allow her to administer sacramental anointing and possibly sacramental confession, but she also must have territorial or juridical authority to administer these sacraments, as well. So, you are following spaghetti the closer you get to the current times.

The book itself makes clear arguments that a lot of the questioning of female sacramental administration or female juridical authority has to do with misogyny.

In the 14th century, Matthew Blastares, an Eastern canonist, wrote, “Hardly anyone, however, now knows what ministerial service women deacons fulfilled in the clerical offices at that time…Others say that it was permitted for these women to approach even the holy altar and to go about the [tasks] of the male deacons much like them. But they have been prevented by later Fathers both from ascending to this and from pursuing the [tasks] of this ministerial service because of the involuntary flow of their menses. But that the holy altar was accessible long ago also to women is something that has been inferred from many other things” (Women: Icons of Christ, p. 52).

Without question, women did approach the altar. We know this because in the firth century Pope Gelasius I was very upset because they were “doing what the men did.” There is only one article I have seen that he was complaining about women actually doing priestly service; most others, including myself, assume he was complaining about their performing diaconal altar service.

That gets us to the question of altar servers and reading the Scriptures. In most liturgical law, including some liturgical traditions or regulations to this time, women are not allowed the sanctuary. You can say what you want about how in America, we have altar girls, we have women lectors, we have women cantors, etc. In 1967, Musician Sacrum, a document coming from the Second Vatican Council about sacred liturgy still stands, and it says that a mixed choir (male and female) will not sing from inside the sanctuary. Look at St. Peter’s Basilica. You will not see women in the choir and you certainly will not see a woman in the sanctuary or assisting at the altar. That is why the change to Canon 230.1 is so important. Canon 230.1 said lay men may be installed as lectors or acolytes, and it has now been changed to say lay people; any lay person can be installed as lector or acolyte. “Oh, no,” you say, “Women could always do this!” Well, that took a while: In 1983, when the new Code came out, Canon 230.2 said any lay person can be temporarily deputized by the bishop to perform the services of lector or acolyte. It took until 1992 for Pope John Paul II to approve an opinion of the Congregation for Divine Worship that “any lay person” included females. So, from 1983 to 1992, there was a discussion over whether Canon 230.2 included women. Now, we have the Holy Father calling to baptism, the baptismal equality of males and females, to change the law so Canon 230.1 now reads, “Any lay person can be installed as lector or acolyte.” What does that mean? In 1967, the church voted as the result of the Second Vatican Council to allow permanent deacons. In 1972, Pope Paul VI wrote Ministeria Quaedam to which suppressed the minor orders: lector, porter, exorcist, acolyte and suppressed the major order of subdeacon; and he said these will be replaced, and their functions will be replaced by the installed lay ministries of lector and acolyte. And, since that time, individuals who were on the path to diaconal ordination, or diaconal and priestly ordination, were required to perform these two ministries. I have a letter denying me access to the lectorate when I was studying in Huntington in seminary. Because I was female, I could not be installed as a lector.

What does this mean? Well, it does not mean anything in the U.S., people say, because we already do it anyway. Well, it does mean a lot because the release of the document included not only the document, but a letter from the Holy Father to Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and there is also an official commentary published by the Holy See Press Office, by Professor Angelo Lameri of the Pontifical Lateran University. Why is that important? Well, Professor Angelo Lameri is one of ten members of the New Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women. The New Commission has not met yet; it was established April 8, 2020. They are expected to meet in September. It is 50%-50% male-female. It is chaired by Cardinal Petrocchi, the cardinal archbishop of Aquila, northeast of Rome; the secretary is a French priest, Denis Dupont-Fauville, who for five years managed diaconal preparation in the Archdiocese of Paris. He is now a CDF official. I have had meals with him in Rome. Now, the fact that Professor Lameri was the official commentator on this document, the Apostolic letter, to me was astonishing because nobody knows where the new names came from. We know where the older names, the original commission names, came from, but nobody knows really where the new names came from. But Lameri emphasizes two things in his commentary, as with the Holy Father’s commentary to Cardinal Ladaria, and as in the Apostolic letter itself: that we are really looking at the baptismal equality—this is revelation, we are all made in the image and likeness of God—the baptismal equality of males and females, number one. And, number two, throughout the document, the diaconate and the priesthood are clearly separated. In fact, the Holy Father references Omnium in Mentem (2009), by Benedict XVI, which codifies the distinction between the diaconate and the priesthood. It says, the diaconate is not the priesthood, and the one does not imply the other. So, these become very important clues to the Holy Father’s thinking, and very important points for “synodality”—the discussion that we will continue, I hope, about women in the diaconate.

Well, who doesn’t like this? There are a lot of people who do not like this. That would be the “Catholic mob,” which has gathered to incite insurrection, some of whom have threatened me in writing on the internet and certainly who incites others to send me the most awful emails. I think we have “touched a hot stove,” as was said by one of the Congress persons a couple of days ago, relative to the place of women in society. I think the change to Canon 230 is important, because it emphasizes the baptismal equality of all people, male and female, and while it might not make a lot of difference in the United States, if you look at countries where women are still considered chattel, where they are still liable to be put into menstruation huts, where they are still considered unclean, where they are in danger of female genital mutilation, where they are in danger of  dowery burning, where they can legally be raped in marriage. When you think of all these points, I would hope that even if they may not be Christian countries, that the sanity of Christianity might somehow seep into their legislatures and somehow protect them a little more.

We find that, however, the Catholic Church harbors a lot of men, many of whom are clerics, whom we could kindly say are malformed, who are threatened by females, threatened by women, particularly threatened by educated women who speak their minds. There is one cleric in the United States who has actually received a “ban letter” from Hofstra University to keep him away from me, personally, because of his asking his followers basically, “You know what to do.” That’s unsettling when it comes in the name of defending some kind of a malformed religion that I certainly find odd. I am a Christian just like a big part of the world—2 billion people—I bear no one any ill, but I find it unusual and disgraceful. Jim Martin’s comments, which Mary mentioned earlier, particularly about they who abuse religion, abuse our beliefs, and essentially abuse their listeners to incite them to riot, and to incite their insurrection. One of the most chilling things I saw in last Wednesday’s coverage was people standing next to a huge wooden Cross. It’s absolutely egregious.


Mary E. Hunt

Thanks to Phyllis Zagano whose book, Women: Icons of Christ (2020) is available from Paulist Press.

Thank you for this tour de force both through questions of women’s iconographic role as it has had to be corrected in the popular thinking by the unpopular clergy, and for your efforts to draw the parallels between that long-standing erasure of women’s full baptismal agency and what is going on today.

I was on a call recently with theologians of the Network of Rainbow Catholics, and someone raised the question of the development of doctrine. Do you see this as an example of an acknowledgement of the development of doctrine? Do you see this as hopeful for the deaconate of women or just being thrown a bone?

Phyllis Zagano

It depends on how strongly you draw the line between doctrine and non-doctrine. The development of doctrine is the fact that the development of these lay ministries, which women are allowed into replaces not only the four minor orders, but the major order of sub-deacon, which was a sacramentally ordained order. Now you have women being able to be installed formally into what has replaced a major order. So, in terms of a development of doctrine, this is the first thing that struck me. And the other thing I see is the emphasis on the baptismal equality of all people. On May of 2019, when the Holy Father gave a portion of the report of the first Commission to the assembled sisters of the International Union of Superiors General —I was in the room—he said “If I am going to make a doctrinal determination, I cannot go against revelation. Many people said “oh, he’s not going to do it.” But revelation means: males and females are not the same, but they are equal in the eyes of God. So, for me, the big takeaway with this particular document is that he is affirming that male and female baptism makes us equal in the eyes of God and of the Church. It is a big deal. You have the querelle des femmes, which raged in the later Middle Ages about whether women were the same species as men I recall someone denigrating the change, saying “oh, now, do you think he is going to give us permission to drive?” But, that is the deal. In many countries in the world, women are still chattel, women are still under the control of a male in their families. Yes, this is a doctrinal development that women can be installed—not appointed, not commissioned—but installed to the lay ministries that replace four minor orders and one major order.

Ruth Steinert Foote

Can the church make women deacons without ordination?  Installation is not ordination.

Phyllis Zagano

I hope not. That is something that people have suggested…

Mary E. Hunt

That said, the other side is that if men can still be ordained as priests, does that backdoor give those ordained men even more power as it reserves the sacramental and juridical authority to only those validly ordained? I don’t want to ordain anybody, but I see the danger in this as if we ordain some and install others.

Phyllis Zagano

In the 1980s, there were four drafts by the USCCB of a document about women in the church, and in the second draft—Joseph Imesch, the bishop of Joliet was the chair—in the second draft they talked about installing women as deacons. That was a suggestion that was made and has been made, that women could be installed as deaconesses—one cardinal said they could dress up and walk around the altar, but we would not ordain them. That still is an argument. I think that would be foolish for the Church to do that, and I think the women who are on their way out already would really be out the door. In terms of “why ordain anybody,” I did an event March 25, 2019 at Santa Clara University with Gary Macy and Paul Crowley. Gary Macy talked about how ordination came about, and one of the things he talked about regarding ordination is that all ordination means is ordering. The books behind you are in order. You order your books. When he presented his analogy, he said if you are going to have a picnic, you say, OK, you bring the potato salad, and you bring the forks, and you bring the sodas and your bring the hot dogs, because, otherwise if you don’t give everybody a specific job, you will end of with a picnic where everybody brings potato salad. And, Robert Taft, SJ, who died about a year ago, said pretty much the same thing. Ordaining in the early church—if you needed a left-handed bell-ringer you could “ordain” one. It really had to do with who needs to do what job. I am reminded here of a conversation I had with the bishops of Cambodia and Thailand, in Rome, when they were there for an ad limina visit, I asked about women deacons. They said, they would not mind having women deacons, or men deacons, they just did not have the trained people. So, we are looking at this through and American lens, and thinking about it with American minds, but there are countries where more people could get involved in the church– it’s an opportunity to educate more people –I would love to see more people better educated in the Church in America if they are going to be lectors and acolytes. I cringe at some of the things I hear and see.

Mary Grace Crowley-Koch

In your research, did you find that Abbesses had the right to celebrate Eucharist?

Phyllis Zagano

I don’t know. I can say that deacons certainly celebrated the Eucharist. Male and female deacons did celebrate the Eucharist. There’s a fresco in which we see with a woman with a stole around her neck, and many say she is a woman priest. It is more likely she is a woman deacon, because that is the way a woman deacon wore the stole. We have no evidence of women who being ordained as priests, but women performing priestly functions—I am sure that, as you know, a lot gets “lost,” and so we have not seen that much evidence, and I really have not looked for it. it diverts the discussion.

Janice Poss

Can you speak to who, if namable, are the Catholic “Mob” and what are they trying to do?

Phyllis Zagano

[Many of the people, specific and nonspecific, that Phyllis mentions in her answer are named in detail in her article “The Catholic mob and those who support it” in the National Catholic Reporter.]

Mary E. Hunt

And there are minor league players like Timothy Cardinal Dolan whose been like Lindsay Graham to Trump these past years, and the Right to Life March coming up to commemorate January 22nd, happening virtually.

Rosemary Ganley

All efforts to confront misogyny in the church are to be hailed, so thank you. But it seems to me that for America, it has been the single issue of reproduction that has brought you and us to this deep crisis January 6. Do you see links between the sexual misogyny of the right-wing Church and these liturgical issues?

Phyllis Zagano

There’s certainly a link between misogyny today and the denial of history, and there is certainly a misrepresentation of history. I was at the Catholic Historical Society meeting in Chicago about a year ago, and a priest I did not know was lecturing me, was kindly explaining to me, “dear, women were blessed, not “ordained, dear.” A couple of weeks after that I happened to be at the seminary where he taught, up in Yonkers, doing research. I was eating with some young men, first year students from my own diocese and from others in the New York Metro area, and I asked them, what do you think about women deacons? Well, they explained, “Jesus ordained the first priests at the Last Supper.” I said, I did not know that; where did you learn that? They said, well, did you ever hear of Fulton Sheen? We saw a movie and that is what he said. This is what is being taught in the archdiocesan seminary, Saint Joseph’s at Dunwoodie. It is worse than a denial of history; it is a denial of reality.

I think it’s unfortunate that abortion has become such a lightning rod. When I think of abortion, I think of Margaret Sanger, who wanted to eliminate and eradicate the “Italian vermin” in Brooklyn. That was how she started Planned Parenthood, and I wouldn’t be here if she had succeeded. Abortion horrifies me, as an activity, because to me and to science, the fetus is a separate genetic reality, and a potential person. It is not a potential frog. However, to make it a political issue supported by religion is a mistake. I used to work with John Cardinal Connor in New York who said he didn’t get upset with the individuals who supported abortion, or the individual who suffered abortion, because, in terms of Catholic teaching, they were invincibly ignorant. But, he said, the individuals responsible for their invincible ignorance are the bishops. They are the ones to whom the sin redounds if it is a sin at all. If Catholic teaching was done properly, it would not be done politically, and Catholic issues would not become political issues. There is a total disconnect that has to happen between these issues.

I was on an airplane a while ago with Joe Biden, a senator at the time, and gave him my business card. He ended up catching up with me in the airport, and we walked from the farthest gate at Washington National all the way to the curb, and we talked about Catholic issues, and he said that what upset him the most, and this was around the time of the beginnings of the understandings of pederasty, was that the Bishops in the U.S. had lost all political and moral authority. As a United States Senator, he said, he could pick up the phone and talk with anyone in the world, but he does not want to call a bishop. He said they have lost all their moral authority because of the way they have handled pederasty. What they say is ignored. So, it is not only is the invincible ignorance that redounds to their shame, it is also the fact that people just don’t listen to them anymore.

I think that the bishops calling abortion “the preeminent issue” is not the right way to say it. We are within 24 hours of the federal government having executed a mentally ill woman. Why? What Bishop has spoken up about that today? We need to talk more about the value of life. That’s the doctrinal issue. That is what the Holy Father is saying with Canon 230. We have a baptismal equality and are all made in the image of God. Until Bishops are able to say that clearly and forget the politics, they won’t be listened to.

Mary E. Hunt

The flip side of this is that because people don’t listen to Bishops, we are listening more closely to women’s experiences and to one another. I see that as a development of theo-politics, in terms of the sources and what we take in which has broadened enormously. Many prominent women in the Church spoke against the government killing Lisa Montgomery, and we’ve broadened the base of whom we listen to and where we get our input.

Ruth Steinert Foote

I think those in the pew, the average person, do listen to bishops. Priests are telling people who they can and cannot vote for. I don’t see that changing, and it’s all about abortion – of course they don’t talk about birth control or ways to have less abortion. They never refer to it as choice, only abortion. I don’t listen to that, but many other people do.

Anne Winslow

I was thinking of Orthodox Judaism about women being unclean and if that’s just a parallel in the current Church?

Phyllis Zagano

Those traditions were inherited (Semitic traditions) into the Catholic Church. There was “churching” and other commentary about women and menstrual blood.

Jackie Minnock

Today, here in Ireland, we had the release of a very important report on the Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland. These homes were run by the Church. Between Church abuse and the report on these homes, nothing coming from the Bishops is believed these days.

Phyllis Zagano

I want to conclude with a reading from my book:

The “less-than-human status for women is echoed in today’s headlines, as women and girls are routinely disrespected, raped, trafficked, and murdered in every country of the world. Unless the Church allows itself to return to its historical respect for women, allows itself to once again sacramentally ordain women, the tears, violations, slaveries, and deaths of thousands and thousands of women will be charged against it” (Women: Icons of Christ, p. 119-120).

I’m here to tell you this, that I sit at a table at Casa Saint Marta, arguing about this, and they’re starting to get it.

Mary E. Hunt

Deep thanks to Phyllis Zagano for your work and your presence with us.

Please find her book Women: Icons of Christ (Paulist Press), and give it to those who have not yet seen the obvious.

Related and Referred-to Resources:

Phyllis Zagano’s faculty website:

Article by Phyllis Zagano: “Women at the Altar” in Sapienta, a publication of the Center on Religion and Culture at Fordham University: