|A male-dominated sanctuary at the LMS Priest Training Conference at Prior Park.|
This shouldn't be alarming, however, once a few pertient facts are remembered. These ladies were not ordained into the order of deacon: it was a non-sacramental ministry with distinct functions from that of ordained deacons. They would, for example, assist women who were being baptised when this meant full immersion. They ceased to exist because their special functions, like the one just mentioned, ceased to be necessary, after a period in which it it had been just an honorary role. There is no reason to imagine they existed in the primitive Church in a formalised way: there is no reference to them in Acts or St Paul's letters, though naturally women worked for the Church in all sorts of ways, by contrast with the order of (male) deacons, who were clearly quite significant.
This role could in principle be revived, as Pope Paul VI revived (or tried to revive) various other roles, like Lector and Acolyte, which had become simply steps on the way to ordination to the priesthood, and the permanent diaconate. It wouldn't be so easy to revive the things which they used to do, but maybe they could do something else. After all, women do all kinds of things in the Church.
One powerful reason against such an act of archaeologism is that it would be misunderstood. The ordination of female deacons was a major step towards having women priests in the Anglican Communion, and however much it was explained that this was different, it would create the impression that we were going down the same road, and create not only confusion but frustration and anger among the women who want to see the role of deacon as just such a stepping-stone to sacramental ordination. I have no doubt that this kind of argument will be sufficient to kill off the propsal in Rome.
Another reason is that giving out permanent ministries to the laity, instituted by special blessings or even, in the case of permanent deacons, by sacramental ordination, carries with it a huge danger of clericalisation. I should concede that at least some of the roles are perfectly real; having people trained and ready to perform them is genuinly a service to the Church; and having a blessing or formal induction can hardly be a bad thing in itself. Nevertheless, the multiplication of these ministries tends to embed the idea that involvement in 'the Church' is involvement as a cleric or quasi-cleric. It reinforces the unfortunate idea that it is only clerics who have real power and prestige in the Church, and that to get a slice of the action you need to become a cleric too. Thus, if women are to be given power in the Church, they must at least become quasi-clerics.
This is a disastrous road to go down, because far from undermining clericalism, it reinforces it, and buries still more deeply the reality of the separate, important, and dignified role of the laity. The laity, whether male or female, don't need to inducted into some footling role in the parish as the priest's little helpers in order to have something to do for the Kingdom of God. As Vatican II taught with great emphasis, our work for the Church is principally in the world, not in the liturgy or the parish office.
Apostolicam actuositatem 7:
The laity must take up the restoration of the temporal order [ordo temporalis] as their own special task. Led by the light of the Gospel and the mind of the Church and motivated by Christian charity, they must act directly and in a definite way in the temporal sphere.
The connection between the liturgical role of acolyte - server - and the priesthood has been the subject of a great deal of discussion: see this blog here.