The ITC wrote: "a ministry of deaconesses did indeed exist, and that this developed unevenly in the different parts of the Church. It seems clear that this ministry was not perceived as simply the feminine equivalent of the masculine diaconate. At the very least it was an ecclesial function, exercised by women, sometimes mentioned together with that of sub-deacon in the lists of Church ministries."
In his seminal 1982 work Deaconesses: An Historical Study, referenced several times by the ITC, Aime Martimort wrote that "the Christians of antiquity did not have a single, fixed idea of what deaconesses were supposed to be," and that "the Greek and Eastern canonists of the Middle Ages were even less able than those of antiquity to know who and what deaconesses were."
He added that "the continuity of a true ecclesiastical tradition was lacking in the case of deaconesses," and that their institution "lasted only as long as adult baptisms were the norm" and that "it rapidly became obsolete."
According to Martimort "the resemblance between the ordination rituals of the deacon and deaconess … should not deceive us," and that "the various euchologies had already given fair warning that there were significant differences as well as resemblances."
"During all the time when the institution of deaconesses was a living institution, both the discipline and the liturgy of the churches insisted upon a very clear distinction between deacons and deaconesses."
Martimort concluded that "the real importance and efficaciousness of the role of women in the Church has always been vividly perceived in the consciousness of the hierarchy and of the faithful as much more broad than the historical role that deaconesses in fact played. And perhaps a proposal based on an 'archeological' institution might even obscure the fact that the call to serve the Church is urgently addressed today to all women, especially in the area of the transmission of Faith and works of charity."