Deaconette study commission won’t make decisions, recommendations

From Fishwrap comes news that will have their readers weeping into their chai lattes and Cosmos.

You might recall that I have said that the deaconette study commission (which Pope Francis set up to look at historical issues) would not make a determination about whether or not women could or ought to be ordained and that the would not make a recommendation.  Their job is to study the issues, not to decide anything about the ordination of women.

Now we have a statement from the chairman of that study commission, the Prefect of the CDF and soon-to-be Cardinal, Archbp. Luis Ladaria Ferrer.

Deacon commission won’t advise Francis on ordaining women, says doctrinal chief

Letter to Germans about inter-Communion a ‘call to reflection,’ he said

VATICAN CITY — The president of Pope Francis’ commission to study the history of women deacons in the Catholic Church says his group is not planning to advise the pontiff on whether to reinstitute the practice of ordaining women as deacons[That’s not its brief.]

“The Holy Father did not ask us to study if women could be deacons,” said Cardinal-designate Luis Ladaria. “The Holy Father asked us to search to say in a clear way the issues … that were present in the early church on this point of the women’s diaconate.”

Speaking to press June 26, Ladaria, the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the “primary objective” of his commission is to consider what role women who served as deacons in the first centuries of Christianity were fulfilling.

He also said that there are questions over whether women deacons had the same role as male deacons of the time and over whether their role was dependent on local needs.  []

“We know that in the early church there were these so-called deaconesses,” the cardinal-designate continued.  [aka “deaconettes”.]

“What does it mean to say this?” he asked. “Was it the same as male deacons? Or was it not the same? Was it a very diffused thing, or was it a local thing?”

Ladaria, who is one of 14 prelates Francis will make cardinals in a Vatican ceremony June 28, was speaking during a press briefing organized by the Vatican press office.

The pope first instituted the Study Commission on the Women’s Diaconate in August 2016, appointing Ladaria as its president alongside 12 other members. The prefect’s June 26 comments appear to be his first public statements on the issue since his appointment to the group.

[NB] Of what his commission will be telling Francis, the doctrinal prefect said that “it is not our job” to tell the pope whether to ordain women as deacons today. “This is not what the Holy Father asked and it is not our job,” he said.

The cardinal-designate added that the work of the commission is at “a good point.”

While the Catholic Church has claimed several times in recent decades that is has no authority to ordain women as priests, many church historians have said that there is abundant evidence that women served as deacons in the early centuries of the church. [However, this is extremely murky.]

The apostle Paul mentions such a woman, Phoebe, in his letter to the Romans. [Which doesn’t tell us much of anything about diaconate for women in the early Church.  Who knows what Paul meant when he called her “deacon”.  The word was equivocal.]


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  1. Chuck4247 says:

    If only the US government were as aware of what was and was not their job…

  2. Sieber says:

    I was in Lake Lucern where I bumped into a friend, a Swiss lady. I was looking for a church for Sunday Mass. She pointed across the river & said, “that steeple in the catholic church and that steeple is the Jesuit church.” This was over 50 years ago.

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  4. Geoffrey says:

    I grow weary of this topic. I am no scholar, but it seems obvious to me that the ancient office of deaconess was akin to the current instituted ministries of acolyte and lector; nothing to do with the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Finis.

  5. HvonBlumenthal says:

    Take the term Serjeant.

    Serjeant Buzfuz in Dickens’ novel, for example was a very senior legal counsel.

    Whereas a Searjeant in the Brigade of Guards is a non-commissioned officer.

    They share the same name, but are they the same thing?

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