In my email a Communiqué of the Holy See Press Office
Today, November 25, 2016, the first meeting of the Study Commission on the Diaconate of Women took place. This commission was established by the Holy Father on August 2 with the purpose of doing an objective study on the situation in the early Church. Chaired by Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Commission members will meet in morning and evening sessions over two days in the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
So, their slow march to the vanishing point has begun.
Reading that Communiqué’s carefully crafted text suggests a few things.
First, the commission has a purpose: “the purpose of doing an objective study on the situation in the early Church” with respect to the “Diaconate of Women”. That’s the commission’s purpose. Not another.
The purpose of the commission, as stated at least, is not to make recommendations about what to do (i.e., Holy Father you can ordain women / you can’t ordain women!). Also, they are confined to the early Church. That takes us up through, probably, what many scholars call “late antiquity”. There is still a lot of material there, but most of it has been picked over already.
Second, they are tasked to produce a “study”. What sort of “study” can 12 members produce collectively? And on what time line? Don’t hold your breath or keep your calendar open.
Third, they have four meetings over two days for this round.
Consider how meetings go.
The first meeting has to be nuts and bolts and introductions. Then at 1 PM they will break for a long lunch, because when in Rome that’s what you do. The first day’s second session will probably allow individual members to make short presentations. Since there are twelve of them, they would have to be really short, maybe 10 minutes a piece. In Rome things rev up after lunch at about 4 PM and they go to 7 PM: 3 hours. That’s two hours plus and the bulk of the afternoon session. They might be asked to turn in texts so that everyone else can get them tomorrow morning, if they weren’t collected and distributed ahead of time. They won’t be that organized.
And there was – or will be – evening, and morning, the first day.
On the second day, tomorrow, they’ll probably hear anyone who didn’t get squeezed in today because some members will run long and take 15-20 minutes. Then, after a coffee break with dry biscuits around 10:30 (‘case that’s when we did it when I worked there), they might open up the table for a kind of round-table discussion, with some backing and forthing. Then they’ll break at 1 PM for another long lunch, because that’s what you do in Rome. In the lunch-groggy evening session, punctuated by a coffee break with more biscuits, they will have a soul annihilating philological rag chew about what the meaning of the “is” is in 4th century Coptic manuscripts (there will be claims and counter claims) until Archbp. Ladaria, poor man, calls a halt around 7 PM. They’ll be congratulated for a couple of fruitful and enlightening days and then adjourn sine die.
So…. Nuts and bolts. Introductions. Initial comments. A little discussion. They go their separate ways without knowing the date of the next meeting.
I’ll guess 6 months, at the least. Maybe 9. Why rush?
This will go nowhere, verrrrrry slooooooowly.
Meanwhile, Deacon Greg Kandra has on his blog a piece with an update about how some Orthodox have begun their own study of deaconesses. I can’t see that going anywhere, either. HERE
Bottom line: As I wrote before and stick to now:
The question will eventually be resolved (frankly, it probably is already resolved) 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 [establishing a commission to “study” the early Church] will forever bury the question, and properly so.