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Commission on Women Deacons: 12 Things to Know

May 13th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

From the National Catholic Register

By Jimmy Akin

Pope Francis has agreed to create a commission to study the possibility of women deacons.

Here are 12 things to know…

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4 Responses to “Commission on Women Deacons: 12 Things to Know”

  1. avatar Diane Harris says:

    As Bernie has posted, and Jimmy Akin has said, we don’t know much about the ultimate “commission” which might be charged with reviewing this matter. Nevertheless, there is an interesting background which might be worth noting. It involves the International Theological Commission, which might ultimately be charged with this work, which is under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Mueller. Since I have raised the point with a number of friends who responded by asking what is that Commission, it seems worth giving a bit of a backgrounder before raising the important question regarding recent changes.

    The International Theological Commission was instituted by Pope Paul VI on April 11, 1969 for the purpose of assisting the Holy See, and in particular the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in examining the most important and current doctrinal questions.

    Every five years the Pope reviews the composition of the 30-member International Theological Commission, reappoints members or appoints new members to five year terms. This appointment event last occurred in June 2014 under Pope Francis’ direction. Pope Francis increased representation from the US (from 1 to 2) and also from Africa and South America, but perhaps the most striking change is the increase in the number of women members, from 2 to 5. That may be a relevant change, even anticipating the woman/deacon question that might be addressed through that Commission.

    I noticed that one of the women he replaced in June 2014 was a 10-year member, Sister Sara Butler, M.S.B.T., who has written well in support of the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope St. John Paul II, regarding the impossibility of ordaining women to the priesthood. She is the author of “The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Teaching of the Church.”

    Replacing, so to speak, Sister Sara Butler as the lone US Woman’s Religious Voice on the International Theological Commission (not that one person directly replaces another) is Sister Prudence Allen, R.S.M., who has written the two-volume “The Concept of Woman: The Early Humanist Reformation, 1250-1500,” and “The Concept of Woman, Volume 3: The Search for Communion of Persons, 1500–2015.” (This Volume 3, a paperback book, priced at $55, with a pre-release order price of $37.50. Obviously, I haven’t read it, since it is not yet available but it appears it might make a ‘timely’ appearance in the midst of the deaconess discussion.)

    The teaser ad reads (without mentioning anything of a theological nature):
    “This pioneering study by Sister Prudence Allen traces the concept of woman in relation to man in Western thought from ancient times to the present. In her third and final volume Allen covers the years 1500–2015, continuing her chronological approach to individual authors from the first two volumes and also offering systematic arguments to defend some philosophical positions over against others.

    Building on her work from Volumes I and II, Allen draws on four “communities of discourse” — Academic, Humanist, Religious, and Satirical — and she traces several recurring strands of sex and gender identity from the Renaissance to the present. Now complete, Allen’s magisterial [sic] study will be a valuable resource for scholars and students in the fields of women’s studies, philosophy, history, theology, literary studies, and political science.” It is unclear what empowers Sr. Allen to use the word “magisterial” about her work.

    Her order, the Sisters of Mercy, has not exactly taken a back seat in the agitation for a broader role for women in the Catholic Church, some even advocating ordination to the priesthood or other socially controversial issues (see local Rochester story here: http://www.cleansingfire.org/2014/07/lighting-a-single-candle-a-temporary-experiment-july-2014/ )

    But the question regarding Sister Prudence Allen isn’t really about her at all. The question is what is the reason she was chosen for a 5-year seat in 2014 on The International Theological Commission by Pope Francis? What does that imply regarding the comment by His Holiness about reviewing the issue of women deacons?

    The following is quoted in the May 13, 2016 issue of the National Catholic Register in reply to being asked about deaconesses: “… [Pope] Francis said, ‘I think that I’ll ask the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to refer me to the studies on the issue.’ He also voiced his desire ‘to establish an official commission to clarify this point. I am in agreement, and I will speak to [others about the possibility to] do something of this kind.’ … ‘To me, it seems useful to have a commission that clarifies this well, above all regarding the ancient times of the Church.’” It is not clear if the International Theological Commission is the “commission” he is thinking about, or not. We will find out.

  2. avatar annonymouse says:

    The Vatican press office walked back the Holy Father’s commission on Friday, to less fanfare than the press coverage of his meeting with the nuns.
    http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/05/13/fr_lombardi_on_pope%E2%80%99s_remarks_about_female_deacons/1229620

  3. avatar Diane Harris says:

    One wonders if, perhaps, Pope Francis was unaware that the International Theological Commission had already studied a number of aspects of Deaconesses, summarized in their release “From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles” found here:

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_pro_05072004_diaconate_en.html

    The 2002 document was approved by then Cardinal Ratzinger for release.


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