Pope Francis appoints Commission on Women Deacons

And so it begins. Pope Francis has appointed 13 persons — 6 women and 7 men — to a group called “Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women”. Here’s the story at CruxNow.com: Pope taps pro-women deacon advocates to new commission. And the list of members of the Commission is here.

Very early indications that the Commission might decide to favor ordaining deaconesses:
* the inclusion of 6 women
* the inclusion of Phyllis Zagano, a strong advocate of ordaining women deacons
* the use of the phrase “the Diaconate of Women” in the name of the Commission. It speaks as if there were already such a thing as “the” diaconate of women.
* And the appointment of the #2 person at the CDF as head of the Commission, which guarantees that their conclusions and advice will have weight. The Pope does not intend to use the Commission to sideline the controversy.

This type of Commission is merely advisory. They have no authority to decide any question of discipline or doctrine. And their deliberations could drag on for many months. But I suggest that Pope Francis will not permit any delay. So here is what I think will happen — possibly! — as a theological speculation!

+ the Commission will complete a document by Nov 2016, give or take a month
+ the document will not entirely decide the question
+ the document will say that women have not been previously ordained, but with some equivocation
+ the document will opine that establishing the historical fact of ordained women is unnecessary, since the diaconate, per se, was not explicitly established by Christ, but by His Church.
+ the document will opine that women deacons are substantially different from the idea of women priests, since deacons only administer two Sacraments, the same two which can be administered by laypersons (men or women) in extraordinary cases.
+ the document will refute the objection that women cannot be deacons because of the Pauline restriction on women’s roles in the Church, citing the limited role of deacons, primarily a role of service, and the need for expanding the roles of women in the Church
+ It is possible that the Commission may be split, and that therefore the document will merely provide two points of view, for and against, and leaving it to the Pope to decide the question.

Again, the above comments are highly speculative. We must wait and see what the Commission says. More importantly, we must wait and see what Pope Francis says. He is not obligated to agree with the Commission. If the Commission says “women must never be ordained”, Pope Francis can nevertheless decide to ordain women deacons. And vice versa.

However, I believe that the Commission will issue a document mildly favoring women deacons, and the Pope will then write a brief papal document teaching that women can be ordained as deacons and instituting the discipline needed to begin ordaining women deacons. And I think all this will happen rather quickly.

And then the great conservative Schism will begin, apparently led by Cardinal Sarah.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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7 Responses to Pope Francis appoints Commission on Women Deacons

  1. Anthony says:

    This question is unrelated to the article, but since this post is recent, I thought I would post it here.

    In your article titled, “The Ordinary Magisterium,” you stated that

    “the possibility of error is limited because even the teachings of the non-infallible Ordinary Magisterium are guided by the Holy Spirit. The limit to the possibility of error is that these teachings cannot possibly lead the faithful off of the path to salvation.”

    And elsewhere,

    “Some claim that a Bishop cannot teach under the Magisterium at all, except when teaching one and the same doctrine in union with all the Bishops of the world and the Pope. This claim is heretical.”

    However, we have cases when bishops did in fact teach heresy, and were rightly condemned by local and Ecumenical councils. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_heresies

    So, either bishops “cannot teach under the Magisterium at all, except when teaching one and the same doctrine in union with all the Bishops of the world and the Pope,” or the non-infalliable Ordinary Magisterium can teach heresy (unless, of course, you want to make the claim that bishops who taught heretically were already excommunicated for believing in heresy privately).

    • Ron Conte says:

      The Pope cannot believe or teach heresy at all. Individual Bishops cannot teach infallibly by themselves.

      As for the ordinary non-infallible Magisterium, an heretical Bishop loses his magisterial authority by teaching heresy. So any attempt to teach heresy under the ordinary non-infallible Magisterium fails, and is not of the Magisterium. This can be recognized by the faithful by comparison with the teachings of Tradition and Scripture, as well as the teachings of the Pope and the body of Bishops.

      Not every error is heretical. The ordinary non-infallible teaching of a Pope or a Bishop or a local group of Bishops can err, to some extent, without being heresy. A non-infallible ordinary teaching is usually taught by some Bishops, or by a Pope but not definitively, yet is short of the criteria for the ordinary and universal Magisterium (which is infallible). See LG 25.

  2. Anthony says:

    Would you mind responding to my reply to your comment? I am interested in seeing a solution to the obvious problem.

  3. Anthony says:

    Sorry, I thought I did send it? It must have not gone through. Let me email it again.

    [content deleted]

    • Ron Conte says:

      Oh, I see. Yes, I did delete that comment, twice now. You can’t use my blog to argue against the Pope or to promote any opinion that is harmful to faith in the Church. The First Vatican Council declared that the Pope has the gift of truth and a never-failing faith. As the Rock on which the Church is founded, he cannot teach heresy nor commit the sin of heresy. For the Church would not be indefectible if Her head could go astray. If the Pope could teach or commit heresy, he would not be correctly called the Rock.

  4. Anthony says:

    “You can’t use my blog to argue against the Pope or to promote any opinion that is harmful to faith in the Church.”

    Your comment is condescending, and demonstrates an unwillingness to engage in dialogue.

Comments are closed.