Pope names six women, six men to panel to study women deacons

| Cindy Wooden | August 2, 2016 | 4 Comments

Pope Francis has appointed six men and six women to a commission to study the issue of women deacons, particularly their ministry in the early church.

In addition to the 12 members named Aug. 2, the pope tapped Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to serve as president of the commission.

The pope set up the commission at the request of the International Union of Superiors General, the organization for the leaders of women’s religious orders around the world. Meeting the group in May, Pope Francis said that while his understanding was that the women described as deacons in the New Testament were not ordained as male deacons are today, “it would be useful for the church to clarify this question.”

The International Theological Commission, a body that advises the doctrinal congregation, included the question of women deacons in a study on the diaconate almost 20 years ago. While its report, issued in 2002, did not offer recommendations for the future, it concluded that biblical deaconesses were not the same as ordained male deacons.

In June, Pope Francis told reporters that he had asked Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the doctrinal congregation, and Sister Carmen Sammut, president of the superiors’ group, to suggest scholars to include in the study group.

At least one of the members Pope Francis named to the commission — U.S. scholar Phyllis Zagano — has written extensively on the role of women deacons in the early church, arguing that they were ordained ministers and that women can be ordained deacons today. Zagano is a senior research associate in the religion department at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

Another U.S. scholar also is among the 12 commission members: Augustinian Father Robert Dodaro, president of the Pontifical Augustinian Institute in Rome and a professor of patristic theology specializing in the works of St. Augustine.

The other members of the commission are:

  • Spanish Sister Nuria Calduch-Benages, a member of the Missionary Daughters of the Holy Family and member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
  • Francesca Cocchini, a professor of church history at Rome’s Sapienza University.
  • Italian Msgr. Piero Coda, a professor of systematic theology and member of the International Theological Commission.
  • Spanish Jesuit Father Santiago Madrigal Terrazas, professor of ecclesiology at the Pontifical Comillas University in Madrid.
  • Angeline Franciscan Sister Mary Melone, a theologian and rector of Rome’s Pontifical Antonianum University.
  • Father Karl-Heinz Menke, retired professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Bonn and member of the International Theological Commission.
  • Rwandan Salesian Father Aimable Musoni, professor of ecclesiology at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome.
  • Jesuit Father Bernard Pottier, professor at the Institute of Theological Studies in Brussels and member of the International Theological Commission.
  • Marianne Schlosser, professor of spiritual theology at the University of Vienna and member of the International Theological Commission.
  • Michelina Tenace, professor of fundamental theology at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.

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  • Charles C.

    The commission has been established to clarify the question. What question?

    “in 1994 Pope John Paul II formally declared that the Church does not have the power to ordain women. He stated, “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

    “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in
    virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4).

    “And in 1995 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in conjunction with the pope, ruled that this teaching “requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 25:2)” (Response of Oct. 25, 1995).”

    I’ve heard it suggested that way back in the beginning, when the Church was new and under persecution, there were deaconesses. Well, is 325 early enough?

    The first Council of Nicaea stated:

    “Similarly, in regard to the deaconesses, as with all who are enrolled in the register, the same procedure is to be observed. We have made mention of the deaconesses, who have been enrolled in this position, although, not having been in any way ordained, they are certainly to be numbered among the laity” (Canon 19 [A.D. 325]).

    This whole business of a commission reminds me of the Brexit vote. As soon as the “Remain” faction learned they had lost, they petitioned for another vote, hoping they might win that one. It looks like the priestess faction is petitioning for another vote, forgetting that the matter has been settled and the judgment is to be “definitively held.”

    If some don’t want to accept the Church’s teaching on this, how would they justify requiring anyone to accept any Church teaching on anything?

    • Derpen

      Charles C. You should be the editor. Is there anything you don’t know about–and is there anything you do other than read this paper? Get a life. Actually, the Catholic Spirit ought to “get a life” for almost weekly printing your hate and vile. First, THAT pope is dead and has a history of messing a lot of stuff up. Remember the Legionaries of Christ and how he “embraced” the founder? He elevated perverted bishops from his own country–only to have one renounced in the pulpit by all of the priests that bishop had sexually abused. Countless mistakes–and his word was not final, any more than yours is. Thank heavens for Pope Francis. And, Charles C., if you don’t like it why don’t you leave the Church? I think I speak for many when they see your name. Besides that, your real name is probably Blanche. You are a coward!

      • Charles C.

        Dear Derpen, thank you for responding to my little note. I’ll be even happier if you’d care to join me in a conversation. Reading and listening are the ways I learn new facts and ideas, and I’m extremely grateful when someone can point out to me where my facts or thoughts have gone wrong. That gives me an opportunity to change and improve.

        So let’s set aside, for a moment, that you think I’m the very lowest form of pond scum and evil, to boot. Let’s look at the discussion so far.

        For about 1700 years (at least), the Church and all of its Popes have refused to ordain women. That was strongly reinforced within the last 25 years by a Pope speaking about as firmly on the subject as he could.

        I mention those things, quoting the Church and the Popes, and you say I’m vile and hateful? I don’t understand that at all.

        Your counter argument is

        1. The Pope that said that is dead.

        2. The Pope that said that was a bad person.

        3. The Pope doesn’t have the final say on the matter.

        Your argument proves too much. First, pretty much any Pope that said anything at all about the Church is dead. We’re fairly short on living Popes, although if you want to steer the Church by the teachings of B16, I’m willing to listen. Your argument implies nothing about the Church can be relied on.

        Next, the second point of your argument has the same effect. While we have had saintly Popes, will you discard the teachings and rulings of all of the rest? Oh! Don’t look now, but Pope John Paul II was saintly. That’s why he was made a Saint — by Pope Francis, the pope you’re thanking Heaven for. So it sounds like Pope Francis approves of John Paul II and you don’t. Maybe you two can work it out together.

        Finally, you say that the Pope doesn’t have the final say on this matter. Now we get to something worth discussing. Considering what was said in Pope John Paul II’s statement and the followup by the Congregation, does Pope Francis have the ability to change it? I honestly don’t know. Perhaps you can point me to the documents indicating what level of teaching is involved and what would have to be done to reverse it. Again, that’s how I learn and improve.

        The other interesting question is why would Pope Francis change it, even if he could, and what is his reasoning? Has there been a new discovery in Scripture or a new Gospel or Epistle? Has anything changed except the winds of societal pressure? What has happened since 1994 to justify reversing a previous Pope?

        Be careful here. If you make it easy to overrule a Pope, then it will be easy to overrule Pope Francis (or any other Pope you happen to agree with). And if you want to reject and reverse this teaching concerning “a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren . . . .”, what stops anyone for rejecting any teaching of the Church whatsoever?

        I think we could have a fruitful discussion here, if you’re interested.

      • tschraad

        Derpen – I disagree that Charles C. posts hate and vile. In fact, your comments reek of hate and vile. Do you really believe that the teachings of the Catholic Church really changes when a new Pope is elected to represent the Vicar of Christ on earth?

        You were quick to tell Charles C. that either he must change or leave the Church. Really? You may be surprised that many others who have left the Catholic Church – Luther, Church of England, etc. and today we now have over 40,000 varieties of Christians. These Protestants are trying to out due one another in order to be religiously correct. All that has happen was their followers just started their own church allowing whoever is leading to decide what is right or wrong;

        I pray every day for Pope Francis that he listens to the Holy Spirit who guides him that he leads our Church towards our eternal home.