New commission to study women deacons

New commission to study women deacons

by Gerard O’Connell and Colleen Dulle

Pope Francis has set up a new commission to study the diaconate for women, the Vatican announced today, April 8. He had promised he would do so last October as he concluded the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region at which the question was also discussed.

The commission has 10 members, including five women, who are all European, and five men, two of whom are deacons from the United States. Its president will be Cardinal Giuseppe Petrocchi, archbishop of L’Aquila, and its secretary will be the Rev. Denis Dupont-Fauville, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This is the second commission established by Pope Francis to study the question of a women’s diaconate. He agreed to set up a first commission, which focused primarily on the role of women deacons in the early church, in response to a request made in May 2016 at the triennial meeting of International Union of Superiors General of women’s religious orders and established the commission in August 2016.

The members of that commission, however, could not reach agreement in the report they gave him in January 2019, as the pope explained in a press conference on the flight back from Skopje to Rome in May 2019. He said then that they “all had different positions, sometimes sharply different; they worked together and they agreed up to a point. Each one had his or her own vision, which was not in accord with that of the others, and the commission stopped there.”

He described the contrasting conclusions drawn by members of the commission, using an Italian expression, as “toads from different wells.” He said that the issue would need further study. The new proposed commission is expected to do just that.

Pope Francis handed the first commission’s report, which has not been made public, to the president of the U.I.S.G. when he met with its leaders at their triennial meeting in May 2019. Francis has not appointed any member of that first commission to this new group.

The Vatican said the pope made the decision to reopen the issue at a recent meeting with the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Spanish-born Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J.

The 10 members of the new commission are all scholars.

Catherine Brown Tkacz is a professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine. She has written on women deacons in the early church as well as women as “types of Christ”—characters that prefigured the Messiah—in the Old Testament.

Dominic Cerrato is a deacon and the director of Diaconal Formation for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois. He previously taught theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and has published a book on the theology of the diaconate.

The Rev. Santiago del Cura Elena is a priest of the Archdiocese of Burgos in Spain and former member of the International Theological Commission. He currently lectures on, among other subjects, the Sacrament of Holy Orders at the Faculty of Theology of Northern Spain and has written on “the renewal and deepening” of the theology of ordained ministry in the wake of the Second Vatican Council

Caroline Farey is a catechist for the Diocese of Shrewsbury in the United Kingdom. Her work was recognized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, and she served as an expert advisor to the Synod on the New Evangelization that same year. In 2013, she was one of three top lecturers who resigned from Britain’s Maryvale Institute and went on to found the Center of Formation for the New Evangelization at Belfast Abbey.

Barbara Hallensleben is a professor at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, and was one of the first women appointed to the International Theological Commission by Pope John Paul II. Her research and teaching has focused in part on ecumenism, and she is a member of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

The Rev. Manfred Hauke is a German theologian teaching in the Faculty of Theology of Lugano, Switzerland. He has previously written on women’s ordination and feminist theology.

James Keating is a deacon and director of theological formation at Creighton University’s Institute for Priestly Formation. He has written several books on the diaconate and Holy Orders.

Monsignor Angelo Lameri is a priest of the Diocese of Cremona in Italy and teaches liturgy at the Pontifical Lateran University. Pope Francis appointed him a consultant to the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff in 2013.

Rosalba Manes is a biblical scholar and professor at the San Pietro Theological Institute in Viterbo, Italy, and the Center of Theology for the Laity at the Pontifical Lateran University. She has worked on official translations of St. Paul’s letters.

Anne-Marie Pelletier is a French biblical scholar and was the first woman to win the Ratzinger Prize in theology. She was asked by Pope Francis to write the reflections for his 2017 Way of the Cross at the Coliseum.



Similar Posts


  1. Ci aran McGuinness says:

    Re Pope’s Commission.
    The information regarding Professor Farey is slightly inaccurate. The Centre of Formation for the New Evangelisation was at Buckfast Abbey not Belfast Abbey. Unfortunately this Centre has now closed.

  2. Eddie Finnegan says:

    If you’ve never heard of Belfast Abbey or its Centre of Formation for the New Evangelisation, noli timere. Someone at America Magazine must be going too heavy on the Buckfast – the center is at Buckfast Abbey, not Belfast. Caroline Farey’s sudden departure in 2013 from Maryvale, just after that 2012 Synod, may be enough to ring alarm bells over the new Commission.

  3. Roy Donovan says:

    Why is Pope Francis so ‘shutdown’ on women?
    Why is it that he only offers crumbs to women? He has taken back one crumb (last Commission on Women Deacons) and now seems to offer an even ‘smaller crumb’!!

    Has anyone done a thesis on why the last three Popes are so ‘shut down’ on women? How can they justify Patriarchy as central to the Good News and to a Church that would dare to represent Jesus? Pope Francis spoke eloquently about separating colonialism from the spread of the Good News at the pan-Amazon synod. What about separating male culture from the spread of the Good News?

    Is it that all the feminine is so projected by so many in the Church on to Mary that there is none left for ordinary women? Mary must have been a formidable woman and the matrix in her home given that she kept Jesus under wraps for 30 years! That was some feat!

    Where did Jesus get his respect for women from? From his mother? From God? From both? If from God, how come the leaders of the Catholic Church have not the same respect?

    Why is it that the Catholic Church speaks so much with fork-tongue around women? Says nice things about women but nothing substantial. Can’t listen to real women and what they are saying?

    These real women follow on from the women who stood at the foot of the Cross when the men had fled. Why is it that Jesus chose to make Mary Magdala the first witness of the Resurrection – the Apostle to the Apostles?

    Phyllis Zagano, states that “since there has never been any Magisterial finding that women cannot be ordained as deacons, I can only hope and pray that this new commission does not present an argument that women are ontologically different from men or that women cannot image the risen Christ.” “Such would be a terrible betrayal of the people of God, the Body of Christ,” she said.

    What will it take to open up all the structures and ministries of the Church to women? I have no hope that any Pope/ Cardinals/ Bishops are going to do so. Bishop Bill Morris, Australia, would do it, but he was taken out. Will the German Church, who had no time for the New Missal, and with the possibility of ordinary people including women around the table, break with Patriarchy and give us the Good News without any strings attached?

  4. Iggy O Donovan says:

    It would appear Roy that when it comes to the role of women in ministry Francis is into the system just as much as Ratzinger, JPII and all the others. I can think of no other logical reply to the questions you raise.

  5. Colm Holmes says:

    Even the ultra conservative “Church Militant” says Pope Francis has stacked the deck with this new commission on Women Deacons dominated by conservatives.

    I expect them to declare that Women Deacons never existed and never will exist. They will propose instead a new Non Sacramental Ministry of Humble Service reserved for Women alone.

    In April 1976 the Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded unanimously: “It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate.” In further deliberation, the commission voted 12-5 in favour of the view that Scripture alone does not exclude the ordination of women, and 12-5 in favour of the view that the church could ordain women to the priesthood without going against Christ’s original intentions.

    The ordination of women to all ministries has never been formally discussed in the Catholic Church. Several popes have declared they can not be ordained without giving any credible arguments. Yet here in Ireland some 77% support the ordination of women.

    Change will come from the grassroots, not from our patriarchal hierarchy.

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.