Francis to create commission to study female deacons in Catholic church

VATICAN CITY Pope Francis has announced he will create a commission to study the possibility of allowing women to serve as deacons in the Catholic church, signaling an historic openness to the possibility of ending the global institution’s practice of an all-male clergy.

The pontiff indicated he would create such a commission during a meeting at the Vatican Thursday with some 900 leaders of the world’s congregations of Catholic women religious, who asked him during a question-and-answer session why the church excludes women from serving as deacons.

The women religious, meeting with the pope as part of the triennial assembly of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), told Francis that women has served as deacons in the early church and asked: “Why not construct an official commission that might study the question?”

The pope responded that he had spoken about the matter once some years ago with a “good, wise professor” who had studied the use of female deacons in the early centuries of the church. Francis said it remained unclear to him what role such deacons had.

ncronline.org/news/vatican/francis-create-commission-study-female-deacons-catholic-church

The International Theological Comission looked at the Diaconate over a five year period, (per ZENIT article) and also looked at Deaconesses: vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_pro_05072004_diaconate_en.html

"The general secretary of the International Theological Commission, Father Georges Cottier, O.P., has responded to certain questions about the Commission’s study of the diaconate raised by the October 8th issue of La Croix. Fr. Cottier stated that the Commission’s study has not concluded that the possibility that women could be ordained to the diaconate remains open, as asserted by La Croix, but rather tends to support the exclusion of this possibility.

The Commission of theologians, even if it has not the role of pronouncing with the authority, which is characteristic of the Magisterium, presented two important indications which emerge from study of the matter. In the first place, the Commission observed that the deaconesses mentioned in the tradition of the early Church cannot simply be assimilated to ordained deacons. In support of this conclusion, Fr. Cottier noted that both the rite of institution and the functions exercised by deaconesses distinguished them from ordained deacons.

Furthermore, Fr. Cottier noted that the Commission’s study reaffirmed the unity of the sacrament of Holy Orders. The distinction between the ministry of bishops and priests, on the one hand, and that of deacons, on the other hand, is nonetheless embraced within the unity of the sacrament of Holy Orders. The Commission’s reaffirmation of this teaching arose from a careful study of the ecclesial tradition, of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and of the postconciliar Magisterium of the Church.

Fr. Cottier stated that “it belongs to the Magisterium to pronounce with authority on the question, taking into account the historical and theological research presented by the study of the International Theological Commission.”

The International Theological Commission devoted over five years of research to the topic of the history and theology of the diaconate before approving the text of its study at its recently concluded meeting. The study was produced at the request of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

zenit.org/articles/theological-commission-s-statement-on-women-s-ordination-to-diaconate/

Bold text by me.

Here is a Crux article on the possible new commission
cruxnow.com/church/2016/05/12/pope-agrees-to-set-up-commission-to-study-women-deacons/

That’s from 2002

:popcorn:

Oh, this is going to be interesting to watch… :slight_smile:

I know it’s not the same Commission.

The current prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, took part in the 2001 commission. He said afterwards that women could not be ordained as deacons for the same reason they could not be ordained priests. “It would be a real discrimination against women if they were considered as apt for the diaconate, but not for the priesthood or episcopacy,” the cardinal said.

catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/05/12/pope-says-he-will-ask-cdf-about-history-of-women-deacons/

My Facebook feed is bursting with this news. People are quite excited. It will be good to hear what you all think.

Even if the Church were to designate female deacons, that would not, in the words of the article, end the “global institution’s practice of an all-male clergy,” because female deacons would not be clergy. They would not receive ordination to the clerical state.

I am very far from being an expert in Catholic clericalism, but I have to agree with this. The clergy are the clergy. From the institution of the office, the deacons have been the servants of the Church, taking care of routine tasks (especially filling charitable needs) so that the clergy have the time to tend to the tasks that only they can do.

The Church is already too feminine
The Church needs more men to step up or it will fade away.
That’s the commission that’s needed.
PS
A deacon ( priest ,bishop ,or even The Pope) are servants ,in the Church women are served not servants.
What is the greater to be a servant or served?

Yup.
I doubt it will ever come to pass anyway.
There is a trend to Lay Ecclesical Ministry.
Those of us who received that certification are not even recognized as having Theology degrees by some clergy.
I can’t imagine anyone will jump on board the Deaconess bandwagon.
But it will interesting to read the Commission’s report anyway.
Posters will have a field day. :smiley:

So deacons aren’t clergy?

From the NCR article:

The women religious, meeting with the pope as part of the triennial assembly of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), told Francis that women had served as deacons in the early church and asked: “Why not construct an official commission that might study the question?”

The pope responded that he had spoken about the matter once some years ago with a “good, wise professor” who had studied the use of female deacons in the early centuries of the church. Francis said it remained unclear to him what role such deacons had.

“What were these female deacons?” the pontiff recalled asking the professor. “Did they have ordination or no?"

“It was a bit obscure,” said Francis. "What was the role of the deaconess in that time?”

“Constituting an official commission that might study the question?” the pontiff asked aloud. "I believe yes. It would do good for the church to clarify this point. I am in agreement. I will speak to do something like this.”

“I accept,” the pope said later. “It seems useful to me to have a commission that would clarify this well."

Although NCR thinks this means that Francis is “open to studying the possibility of women serving as deacons”, it seems to me – in the text I quoted – that he’s only signaled that he’s open to having a commission clarify the roles of women deacons in the early Church. Given the (little) information presented here, the question he’s asking to be examined is “were they ordained?” and not “should there be a female diaconate today?” :shrug:

meh

Male deacons are clergy. The three degrees of Holy Orders are Deacon, Priest, Bishop. But women, even women deaconesses in the early Church, did not and cannot receive ordination.

Of course, in the early Church, there were not orders of nuns as there are now. And as pianistclare mentioned, there is now a trend toward lay ministries in many areas of parish and Church life, involving both women and men, often with advanced theological degrees.

If the point of such a commission is to study female deacons as a foothold to ordination, it would be a mistake, as women cannot be ordained.

I actually recall Father Benedict Groeschel mentioning the possibility of deaconesses in the Church, in one of his Sunday Night Live shows on EWTN, years before Pope Francis was in the picture.

It also seems that while the office of deacon has existed for millennia, for most of the Church’s history it was meant to be a transient state. The expanded role of male permanent deacons in the Church, actually is fairly new.

Though, it’s interesting that St. Francis himself was a deacon, not a priest. But I think this was mostly because Francis did not wish to become a priest, even being a deacon was something he accepted reluctantly, mostly because the Pope himself (who was also a good friend), thought it appropriate for him to have some kind of ordained position.

Anyway, I don’t think this commission is something that either the secular press, or the traditionalist-minded Catholic, should make too much of, at least not yet.

How is the Catholic Church too feminine? :confused:

You do realize that from a non-Catholic’s perspective that is a VERY perplexing statement to make.

Thanks for posting this. Unfortunately we will have an 800 page thread speculating on what the Pope did not say, rather than talking about what he did say.

Idle speculation might be one of the greatest evils plaguing the Church.

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