The Vatican Commission studying the possibility of a female diaconate has reached no consensus, requiring further study for a “definitive response.”

In 2016, Pope Francis established the Study Commission on the Women’s Diaconate to review the theology and history of the diaconate in the Church to study whether women could become deacons. The commission is led by Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with a total of six male and six female members.

Last week during an in-flight press conference, the Holy Father said the commission worked together for two years and by the end their answers “were all different.”

“They worked together, and they found agreement up to a certain point. But each one of them has their own vision, which doesn’t accord with that of the others. They stopped there as a commission, and each one is studying and going ahead.”

The commission has found 100 points they can all agree on, but has failed to reach a consensus because “for the female diaconate, there is a way to imagine it with a different view from the male diaconate.”

“Fundamentally, there is no certainty that it was an ordination with the same form, in the same purpose as male ordination. Some say there is doubt, let’s go ahead and study.”

The commission disagrees over the formula that was used in the ordination of female deacons, whether it had “sacramental” weight, and what their duties might have been. Some historical documents have shown that formulas once used for female ordinations “are not the same as for men’s diaconal ordination.”

“They looked more like those for what would today be the blessing of an abbess. There were women deacons at the beginning. But was it a sacramental ordination, or not? It’s what they are discussing and are not seeing clearly.”

Some historical duties of female deacons included verifying domestic abuse in cases of matrimonial disputes and assisting bishops with full immersion baptisms of women and annointings.

Pope Francis said that “each member of the commission is studying, according to their own thesis – this is good,” but did not mention whether or not if they work together in any capacity.

When the commission produces their final report, it “could serve as the launching point for going ahead and studying, and giving a definitive response as to yes or no, according to the characteristics of the era.”

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  1. I must be missing something. Of course the commission didn’t reach a conclusion, its makeup guaranteed that. Not just the 6-6 male-female split, but the fact that at least one of the commissioners had already firmly declared her desire that women be ordained. Why is the Pope sending these people back for more study? Does he believe they will reach a different set of conclusions after spending two years reaching these?

    And what, for the sake of argument, could the Pope do if the commission unanimously reported that women had been and could be ordained? Remember that the question has been resolved:
    “In 1994, Pope John Paul II issued the Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, a document that banned even the discussion about the ordination of women. “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful,” he wrote, effectively slamming the door.”

    I believe, sadly, that the Pope is just buying time, hoping the excitement over the issue will fade or that the question can be passed to some future Pope. Not a very forthright or honest position, but perhaps politically wise. It’s what he did with the Dubia questions.


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