Pope 'accepts challenge' of more women's rights in Church, creates new commission to study female deacons

Pope “takes up challenge” of more women’s rights in Church, creates new commission to study female deacons

The daily noon bulletin released by the Holy See Press Office Wednesday contained an announcement regarding the institution of a new commission to study the possibility of women deacons.

It contained the information that Pope Francis, in a recent audience with Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had decided to create a new body to investigate the question of the female diaconate.

– The make-up of the new commission

The following people will make up the new commission:

President:

His Eminence, Cardinal Giuseppe Petrocchi, Archbishop of Aquila, Italy

Secretary:

Rev. Denis Dupont-Fauville, Official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faioth

Members:

  • Prof. Catherine Brown Tkacz, Lvov (Ukraine)
  • Prof. Dominic Cerrato, Steubenville (USA)
  • Prof. Don Santiago del Cura Elena, Burgos (Spain)
  • Prof. Caroline Farey, Shrewsbury (Great Britain)
  • Prof. Barbara Hallensleben, Friburgo (Switzerland)
  • Prof. Don Manfred Hauke, Lugano (Svizzera)
  • Prof. James Keating, Omaha (USA)
  • Prof. Mons. Angelo Lameri, Crema (Italy)
  • Prof. Rosalba Manes, Viterbo (Italy)
  • Prof. Anne-Marie Pelletier, Parigi (France)

As can be seen from the list of the members of the new commission, the make-up of the ordinary members is strictly gender equal with five men and five women, although with the commission president and secretary the balance is tipped in favour of the male gender.

Another fact that jumps out from the list of members is that of the Euro- and US-centric focus of the new commission, with representatives from the African, Latin American or Asian Churches being noticeably absent.

Two members of the new commission are permanent deacons, three are priests and five are lay women.

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– Yeas and nays since 2016

A previous commission had been composed in August 2016, shortly after the International Union of Superiors General had asked the Pope to think about it in an audience they had with him in May 2016.

That commission handed in their research, which the Pope said was inconclusive.

“For the female diaconate, there is a way to imagine it with a different view from the male diaconate”, Francis said in May 2019 aboard the papal plane returning from North Macedonia and Bulgaria, adding that “fundamentally, there is no certainty that it was an ordination with the same form, in the same purpose as male ordination”.

Soon after, the Pope doubled down on his ‘no’ to the female diaconate in an audience with participants at the XXI plenary assembly of the International Union of women Superiors General.

On that occasion, Francis said: “with respect to the diaconate [the diaconate of ordained women], we need to remember the beginning of Revelation: if there was no such thing, if the Lord did not want a sacramental ministry for women, it can’t be”.

But in his final address at the conclusion of the Special Synod of Bishop on the Pan-Amazon Region in October last year, Pope Francis indicated that he was thinking of creating a new commission.

“I welcome the request to reconvene the Commission and perhaps expand it with new members in order to continue to study the permanent diaconate [of women] that existed in the early Church”, the pontiff said on that occasion.

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“You know that they [the members of the first commission] reached an agreement among all of them, which however, was unclear.

“I delivered this to the women religious, to the Union of [Superiors General] of Women Religious who asked me to conduct the research.

“I delivered it to them and now each of the theologians is seeking, is investigating.

“I will try to do it again with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and include new people in this Commission. I welcome the challenge that you have given me, ‘that [women] may be heard’. I accept the challenge”.

In his post-Amazon Synod apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia, however – issued in February this year – the pontiff warned against thinking that “women would be granted a greater status and participation in the Church only if they were admitted to Holy Orders”.

“That approach would in fact narrow our vision”, the Pope cautioned, adding that such a “functional approach… would lead us to clericalise women, diminish the great value of what they have already accomplished, and subtly make their indispensable contribution less effective”.

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(With reporting by Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp, Vatican News)

More on Novena on the fight for women’s rights in the Church:

Irish clerics, on married priests and women deacons: “Francis needs to bite this bullet. Soon”

Despite Amazon exhortation letdown, German bishops, laity pledge to fight on in synodal path for married priests, female deacons

Apostolic exhortation: lay groups, too, lament Francis’ “lack of courage for real reforms” on married priests, women

Women’s ordination advocates blast Amazon exhortation: “Outdated”, “institutional sexism”, “degradation”, “discrimination”

Let us vote in Synods! Catholic women already fighting back in wake of Amazon exhortation disappointment

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