The inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the lived experience of the faithful are dynamic phenomena which perpetually seek viable expression in every epoch of Church history, therefore, since the church is a pilgrim which passes through history with various pastoral needs at different times, it requires a "living structure, capable of change," (p. 5). This mandate is even more compelling when certain systemic views and restrictive structures within the church perpetuate an unhealthy separatism among Her members. Motivated by the pastoral needs of the faithful and Pope John Paul II's own invitation to search for more meaningful ways for women to participate in the life of the church, Phyllis Zagano proffers a case for the restoration of the female diaconate in this succinct and clear work. Seeking to articulate a vision of ministry which embraces contemporary anthropological conclusions regarding the equality of men and women, Zagano offers a thorough assessment of the shortcomings of the traditional iconic arguments against women holding ordained ministries. Her conclusion is a simple one: "Ordaining women deacons would strengthen certain existing service and more clearly tie it to the whole Church, while expanding the presence of ordained ministers in the church" (p. 140).
Zagano staves off much controversy and maintains the issue at hand by accentuating the fact that "conferral of ordination to the diaconate does not automatically imply the ability of the ordinand to be ordained priest or bishop" (p. 38). (However, the work does, indeed, proffer significant consideration of the issue of ordaining women to the priesthood, material which is equally illuminating as well). Additionally, a compelling case is made which maintains that the ordination of women to the diaconate would actually enhance the Church's catholicity and unity for it would be a means by which the ministry of women would be more intimately united to the ministry of the episcopacy, and, thus, more directly safeguarded by the Church's jurisdictional and sacramental powers. Zagano states: "...the preference of the non-ordained lay minister over a woman deacon effectively presents a preference for no juridical authority over, or sacramental power on behalf of, the community by the bishop. Such preference risks, for example, the transmutation of base communities from Church-oriented groups tied to the diocesan bishop to politically oriented groups tied to local issues" (p. 139).
Analysis of the contemporary magisterial statements regarding female ministries, Inter Insigniores and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, is quite strong, whereas evaluation of the historical, traditional and scriptural evidence could be more fully developed. However, prolific referencing to Roger Gryson's The Ministry of Women in the Early Church points one in the direction of more substantive details in these areas, and brief accounts of such figures as the Beguines, Catherine of Siena, Julian of Norwich, Mary Ward, and Jane Frances de Chantal, invite one to more fully consider apostolic ministries performed by women. Significant and pertinent findings of such groups as the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on the Permanent Diaconate (USA), The Joint Synod of the Dioceses of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Canon Law Society of America, and the Catholic Theological Society of America, are well integrated and lend insights and strength to the work's thesis.
In short, the format and writing style of the text are systematic and clear, making it both accessible and informative, a good resource for students and academics alike. This is a lucid work which maintains its focus, substantiates its thesis, and has the pastoral needs of the Church always in view.