New Commission on Deaconesses formed

Here is something pretty bizzare…

This has come out of the blue like a… that thing that comes out of the blue.  A bolt?  A raise in your health insurance premium?  A sprained ankle?  My point is that, as I write, none of the usual suspects are crowing about this yet, and the sun is rising here.  That means that this wasn’t known by enough of the right (read = wrong) people so that it would be leaked to approved sources to help them write about it, spin it before anyone else could.  I’ve only seen it mentioned at Jesuit-run (surprise) America and Zenit, but in a neutral way.

From today’s Bolletino:

Istituzione della Commissione di Studio sul Diaconato delle donne, 02.08.2016

Il 12 maggio 2016 il Santo Padre, nel corso dell’incontro – svolto in forma di dialogo nell’Aula Paolo VI – con le partecipanti all’Assemblea Plenaria delle Superiore Generali, ha espresso l’intenzione di “costituire una commissione ufficiale che possa studiare la questione” del Diaconato delle donne, “soprattutto riguardo ai primi tempi della Chiesa”.

Dopo intensa preghiera e matura riflessione, Sua Santità ha deciso di istituire la Commissione di Studio sul Diaconato delle donne, chiamando a farne parte i seguenti:

Presidente: Mons. Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.I., Arcivescovo tit. di Tibica, Segretario della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede. [This is good news.  He was involved with this question before.]


Rev.da Suor Nuria Calduch-Benages, M.H.S.F.N., Membro della Pontificia Commissione Biblica; [I hear she is faithful to the Magisterium.]

Prof.ssa Francesca Cocchini, Docente presso l’Università «La Sapienza» e presso l’Istituto Patristico «Augustinianum», Roma; [We’ll see.] Mons. Piero Coda, Preside dell’Istituto Universitario «Sophia», Loppiano, e Membro della Commissione Teologica Internazionale; [Okay.] P. Robert Dodaro, O.S.A., Preside dell’Istituto Patristico «Augustinianum», Roma, e Docente di patrologia; [Excellent.] P. Santiago Madrigal Terrazas, S.I., Docente di Ecclesiologia presso l’Università Pontificia «Comillas», Madrid;

Rev.da Suor Mary Melone, S.F.A., Rettore Magnifico della Pontificia Università «Antonianum», Roma; [This is probably good news.] Karl-Heinz Menke, Docente emerito di Teologia dogmatica presso l’Università di Bonn e Membro della Commissione Teologica Internazionale;  [Probably okay.] Aimable Musoni, S.D.B., Docente di Ecclesiologia presso la Pontificia Università Salesiana, Roma; [Good news.] P. Bernard Pottier, S.I., Docente presso l’«Institut d’Etudes Théologiques», Bruxelles, e Membro della Commissione Teologica Internazionale;

Prof.ssa Marianne Schlosser, Docente di Teologia spirituale presso l’Università di Vienna e Membro della Commissione Teologica Internazionale;

Prof.ssa Michelina Tenace, Docente di Teologia fondamentale presso la Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Roma; [Not good.]

Prof.ssa Phyllis Zagano, Docente presso la «Hofstra University», Hempstead, New York. [Not good news but predictable.]


I know a least a little bit about a few of the people on the list.  Some I’ve never heard off.  There are at least a few good scholars and necessary fields are represented, with a range of language skills.  Others, … meh.  There are several people from the ITC, which suggests that Archbp. Ladaria (presently Secretary of the CDF) had something to do with this.  The ITC already wrote about the question, but didn’t take a hard position.  They left it an open question, but, according to my reading, leaned away from saying that it was possible to ordain.

You might recall that Pope Francis, during an off-the-cuff Q&A with the International Union of Superiors General (heads of women’s religious orders), said that he’d think about a commission to study the question of deaconettes.  It seems that he thought about it!

The question will eventually be resolved (frankly, it probably is already) wholly on the basis what it means to be ordained TODAY, not centuries ago.  What do Holy Orders mean NOW.  That’s the key.  Inevitably our present understanding of Holy Orders will trump history, philology, etc.  I suspect that this move will forever bury the question, and properly so.

The moderation queue is ON.


I was reminded of this by a commentator, below.

Pope Francis: We had a president of Argentina who used to say, and he would give this advice to presidents of other countries, “When you want something to remain unresolved, set up a commission!”

During presser on papal airplane returning from Armenia 26 July 2016  HERE


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. David in T.O. says:

    Phyllis Zagano was in Toronto just a few days before the Bishop or Rome mused about this. She was speaking at the Basilian, St. Michael’s College on this very subject. I wonder who ensured that she would be put on this commission.

  2. Father K says:

    ‘Out of the blue,’ well I actually did sprain my ankle on Sunday! I agree that this commission will probably bury the question for good. As they say, don’t call a commission unless you know what the outcome will be… [Although in this pontificate… ¡Hagan lío!]

  3. PostCatholic says:

    That is interesting. Have you ever served (on) such a study commission? Can you give us a sense of the process of how it will accomplish its charge? What sort of timeline do you expect? For example, will the eventual report likely come during this pontificate? [First, it won’t get underway until, probably, October, or after. They’ll have to set some parameters, which will take time. Then the members will have to read a lot of stuff, which will take time. Then they will have to write some stuff, which will take time. Then it’ll have to be collected, which will take time. Then it will have to be collated and distributed to the other members, which will take time. Then it’ll have to be studied and mulled over, which will take time. Then reactions and responses must be penned, sent in, collated, studied, boiled down into precis, which will take time. There will have to be meetings of some or all of the members, which will produce a few headlines, which will waste time. In a nutshell, I doubt this will be swift. Either way, I don’t see that such a commission (with mostly serious people) will suggest that sacramental ordination of a woman to any level of Holy Orders is possible. This is because, at the end of the day, after all the historical work is rehashed (such as what did “Holy Orders” and “ordination” means waaaay back when), they will have to deal with key questions of what do “Holy Orders” and “ordination” mean TODAY.]

  4. Fr. Timothy Ferguson says:

    I’m hoping they draw heavily on the work that Sr. Sara Butler did a few years ago to dismiss the notion of ordaining women to the priesthood. I would have hoped that her background would have made her a natural for this commission.

  5. Fr. Timothy Ferguson says: Sr. Sara Butler

    Dead on! Alas, perhaps they figured that they had a couple women religious on the commission already and/or they didn’t want to lean too heavily toward English speakers. Who knows. She is qualified.

  6. Vox clamantis in deserto says:

    Prof. (profesoress? prefossorette? :-) ) Marianne Schlosser is known as quite a conservative theologician. Btw, she is a consecrated virgin.

  7. jhayes says:

    One of the differences since the ITC studied this matter is that Benedict changed the Code of Canon Law to say that deacons do not act in the person of Christ the Head

    Those who are constituted in the order of the episcopate or the presbyterate receive the mission and capacity to act in the person of Christ the Head, whereas deacons are empowered to serve the People of God in the ministries of the liturgy, the word and charity”.

    –Omnim in mentum (2009)

    Prior to that, the CIC (1008, 1009) said that bishops, priests and deacons all act in the person of Christ the Head – which was the argument for not ordaining women as priests.

  8. Ralph says:


    As a simple pew-sitting layman, I grow weary of, what I see as, attempts to re-design the Church to more closely align with the world.

  9. Father K says:

    ‘Although in this pontificate… ¡Hagan lío.’ Yes, unfortunately you are right…but I keep hoping.

  10. TimG says:

    My apologies. Not to be a pessimist, but I am afraid this question (like many others) will never be put to bed. One thing about the progressives that I will give them much credit for….they are persistent!

  11. Quanah says:

    If I remember correctly, Pope Francis during a recent airplane presser said something to the effect that if you want to see something die form a commission.

  12. wolfeken says:

    Regardless of how things turn out with the commission, the tangible product is one of communication. Yet again, because of something Pope Francis has done and/or said, the masses think that X or Y is now allowed. This pope is a brilliant public relations specialist. Too bad he is supposed to be guarding the Deposit of Faith, not running a left-wing messaging operation.

  13. Hoover says:

    It is good to be reminded on the biblical reasons for Catholic tradition and the Divine Order.

    Celibacy: because celibacy was always required in the Old Testament at the dedication of a temple, a Theophany (the Sacrifice of the Mass), or a war.

    Male priests: because priests represent/become the person of Christ in the Sacrifice of the Mass, Christ who is married to the Church. The Divine Order is based on nuptials. As Fulton Sheen says “The Word is the seed. The seed is the Word. And the Word gives the seed to the earth, gives the seed to the Church -every time we mount a pulpit the Word is the seed. MAN GIVES THE SEED. The woman receives the seed. She fecundates it, nourishes it, brings it to life, educates it, caresses it, loves it. So that in the new order we have Christ and His bride the Church. Now those who want women to become priests, no longer want the bridegroom Christ to have a bride.”

  14. It is surprising, and a bit disappointing, that the commission does not include 1) any deacons and 2) anyone from the Eastern rites.

    [While your point is taken about Eastern Rites, with respect for the diaconate, I’m not sure what being a deacon brings to the question. The fact of the diaconate doesn’t confer special skills. But wait! All the priests and bishops on the Commission are, in fact, deacons! Seriously, I think get what you mean: It is disconcerting to be talked about without some sort of representation.]

  15. Joseph-Mary says:

    Keep on beating that dead horse! But it does give rise to some wailing and gnashing of teeth among certain ones when the exact same outcome as ever before is reiterated. I do not see the time needed to rehash this settled question again.

  16. Ave Crux says:

    OR….they intentionally EXCLUDED Sr. Sara Butler precisely because she concluded against any justification for women deacons.

    Stacking the deck as they say…..we know how that goes in Rome.

    I hope it doesn’t give an idea of where they are headed, as we found with the biased selected spokesmen for the Synod On The Family to facilitate a preordained outcome.

  17. Lavrans says:

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that Venerable Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution, Sacramentum Ordinis, stated that the diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopate were three levels of the same Sacrament. In other words, the Sacrament of Holy Orders is one: a unity of three in one. It would be illogical to suggest that a Sacrament, which is one, could then be split apart, by allowing women to be deacons, but not priests or bishops. And before it is said, remember that a permanent deacon, single or widowed and with a special dispensation, may still be ordained a priest and, conceivably but not likely, a bishop as well. That is by virtue of his being male. How silly it would be, and probably rather offensive to feminists, to allow women to enter the lowest portion of Holy Orders, but go no further. Does anyone really expect that to satisfy their desires? Of course not. Either Pius XII, and the Magisterium for that matter, is correct that Holy Orders is one Sacrament made of three levels or orders, or they are incorrect and everything is up for grabs. I pray for this commission to have a speedy end, though I know better. The best I hope for is for the CDF representative, as well as Father Dodaro, to steer this commission towards little more than a historical exercise, with Zygano quitting halfway into it because she is disgusted with its direction. In fact, I consider it a success if Zygano quits.

  18. TimG says:

    Here’s a shocker (not);

    “Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis has set up a commission to study the role of women deacons in early Christianity, the Vatican said on Tuesday, raising hopes among equality campaigners that women could one day have a far greater say in the Roman Catholic Church. The Church bans women from all but a few decision-making roles and the pope and his predecessors have ruled out allowing them to become priests. The Church barred women from becoming deacons centuries ago.”

    [Given the source… yeah… that’s about it. First, women are “equal” in the Church now. They have different roles. Second, the Church always barred women from becoming ordained as deacons with the sacrament of Holy Orders. It might be possible to find some historical aberration by some goofy bishop in the sticks, but that is not evidence of acceptance or practice by the Church.]

  19. Traductora says:

    Jhayes, that was an interesting observation and I didn’t know that (about the revised status or function of deacons). Aside from making me wonder why most permanent deacons don’t seem to realize it, and indeed seem to believe that they are just like priests but better, it reveals a vast general misunderstanding of the role of the deacon. In my opinion, except for liturgical deacons, who should be well-trained enough to be MCs, the deacons should be out there running St Vinnie’s or figuring out how to get elderly non-driving parishioners to Mass on Sunday.

  20. kiwiinamerica says:

    A process which will:

    1) Raise expectations that deaconesses will come to pass and stimulate a louder and more vociferous protest if the commission nixes them

    2) Give encouragement to those agitating for female ordination

    3) Produce no good.

    It’s a natural progression, though. One cannot move from the pre-Vatican II situation of no females in the sanctuary to womyn priests in one giant step. The hoi polloi must first become accustomed to seeing females hovering around the altar. The hordes of “Extraordinary” Eucharistic Ministers cluttering up the sanctuary does this. Then we must become accustomed to seeing females in the sanctuary wearing ecclesiastical vestments. Altar girls accomplish this. Then comes female “deaconesses”, one step removed from altar girls. Finally, it’s simply one more short step to womyn priests.

    I’ve been watching this circus for 50 years. This malarkey is so transparent and obvious now.

  21. Benedict Joseph says:

    Another brick removed from the edifice. This is all long-term calculation. The crew in charge will have do its best to accomplish its purpose. Will they succeed? One can hope not, but the chaos and carnage along the way will be vast. That is, unless, the faithful and reasonable regain the upper hand and definitively put an end to this waste of time, resources and credibility.
    The immediate goal is to deconstruct. A little at a time — it adds up.

  22. Geoffrey says:

    The inclusion of Zagano leaves me with a very queasy feeling.

    Some months ago, on some social media site (Facebook, I think?), I got into a debate about this. I paraphrased the Catechism, saying how the Sacrament of Holy Orders consists of three degrees: bishops, priests, and deacons. Zagano herself called me out, misspelling my name, and said that what I said was wrong but not an uncommon belief.

    I did not engage her. Not because of her mistaken notions of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, but because she misspelled my name. :-)

  23. James C says:

    What’s the bill for this hugely important commission, I wonder? Thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands?

    In any case, in the spirit of Pope Francis’s ‘revolution’ of charity and mercy and social justice, would it be better to take the money spent on this commission and give it to the poor?

    Just saying…

  24. pappy says:

    … Pope Francis further told journalists during the June 26 press briefing there was no change in the works to allow for the ordination of women to the diaconate…

  25. mo7 says:

    I invite the lady from Hofstra to join us at the huge Planned Parenthood at the edge of campus, where the same group of stalwart pro-lifers have been praying week to week for 30-40 years, and bring some students.

    [Phyllis Zagano (the one from Hofstra) is wrong about a lot of things and as vindictive as most feminists can be, but I’ve got to give her props for being solidly pro-life. That counts a lot for me. To my knowledge she has always defended the unborn… including unborn males. I both would be and wouldn’t be surprised if she did join you.]

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