New Commission for Woman Deacons

A recent topic of interest in the Catholic Church has been the possibility of women being ordained deacons. There have always been deacons, since the early days of the Church, but the role has been for men only. Deacons serve in many of the ways a priest does. They administer baptism and marriage, can preach homilies at Mass, but are restricted from consecrating the eucharist or hearing confessions.

Pope Francis, last May, promised an assembly of nuns he would look into the possibility of female deacons in the Catholic Church. He recently fulfilled that promise by instituting a commission to study the concept. The “Commission to Study the Women’s Diaconate” was announced Aug. 2nd. The only male member and head of the Commission is Spanish Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer. There are twelve other members among them American professor Phyllis Zagano, Spanish Sister Nuria Calduch-Benages of The Missionary Daughters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Italian professors Francesca Coccini and Michelina Tenaci , Italian Sister Mary Malone of the Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Angela of Foligno, and German professor Marianne Schlosser.

The American professor, Phyllis Zagano, is an interesting choice and seems to be ‘pro women deacons’. In writing for Harvard’s Divinity School, she said that the current practice of not ordaining women deacons is a “merely ecclesiastical law,” meaning it’s a regulation, not a doctrine. She also wrote: “given the many evidences of women deacons throughout history, the restoration of women to the diaconate seems to be something Francis could do easily”.

Sister Mary Malone of the Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Angelina, rector of Rome’s Pontifical University Antonianum also appears to favor ordaining women to the diaconate from things she has been quoted as saying. It seems she would even favor women ordained priests.

Pope Francis has said he wants greater roles for women, including a greater presence in the arenas where decisions are made, also that Catholicism needs a deeper theology of women. He’s made it clear, however, that Pope John Paul II has already made it definitive there won’t be women priests.

I read an interesting comment in a Letter to the Editor of the Los Angeles Catholic news magazine. It brought up the fact that lay catholic men have never been part of decision making in the Catholic church either.

Well, it appears that things they are achanging. Pope Francis has just appointed Greg Burke, a lay man, to replace Jesuit Father Frederico Lombardi as his chief spokesman and director of the Vatican’s Press Office. This position will make Greg Burke known all over the world. And it gets even better: the Pope has appointed Paloma Garcia Ovejero, a lay woman Spanish broadcaster, to the number two position in the Press Office. This makes her one of the Vatican’s most visible female officials.