Friday, August 5, 2016

Deaconess Commission

The Vatican has recently announced that Pope Francis has instituted a new commission to study the possibility of women deacons in the Catholic Church. This is the second time that the pope has created such a commission, following a request from the International Union of Superiors General in 2016. The new commission consists of 10 members, five men and five women, from seven different countries. They will examine the historical and theological role of women deacons in the early Church and the implications for today.

The question of women deacons has been debated for decades, especially in regions where there is a shortage of priests and where women already play a significant role in pastoral and social work. Deacons are ordained ministers who can perform many of the same functions as priests, such as presiding at weddings, baptisms, and funerals, and preaching. They cannot celebrate Mass or hear confessions. Currently, only married or celibate men can be ordained as deacons.

Supporters of women deacons argue that there is evidence that women served as deacons in the early Church and that ordaining women would give them more voice and recognition in the Church's ministry and governance. Opponents contend that allowing women to be deacons would undermine the male-only priesthood and the Church's teaching on the complementarity of the sexes.

The first commission that Pope Francis established in 2016 failed to reach a consensus on the issue and did not produce a definitive report. The pope said that the commission's research was inconclusive and that further study was needed. Some members of the commission claimed that there was no clear evidence of sacramental ordination of women deacons in the early Church, while others argued that there were different forms of diaconal ministry for both men and women.

The issue was revived during the 2019 synod of bishops in the Amazon region, where many bishops called for the ordination of women deacons to address the pastoral needs of the local communities. Pope Francis agreed to reconvene the commission and perhaps expand it with new members. The new commission includes some members of the previous one, as well as some new experts.  The new commission consists of 10 members, five men, and five women, from seven different countries.

The pope has repeatedly affirmed the Church's teaching that only men can be priests, citing the example of Jesus who chose only male apostles. However, he has also expressed his desire to enhance the role of women in the Church and to promote a more synodal and inclusive model of the Church. He has appointed more women to leadership positions in the Vatican and has encouraged more participation of women in decision-making processes.

It is not clear how long the new commission will take to complete its work or what kind of recommendations it will make to the pope. The pope has said that he is open to listening to what the Spirit is saying to the Church through this commission. He has also asked for prayers for the commission's work and for discernment on this important matter.

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Sources:

- Vatican to again study whether women can be deacons in the Catholic Church | CBC News 

- Pope institutes new commission to study women deacons - Vatican News 

- Francis to create commission to study female deacons in Catholic church | National Catholic Reporter 

- Pope Francis establishes new commission to study women deacons | Catholic News Agency

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Study_Commission_on_the_Women%27s_Diaconate

https://www.ncronline.org/spirituality/news/francis-creates-new-women-deacons-commission-naming-entirely-different-membership

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/44137/pope-francis-establishes-new-commission-to-study-women-deacons

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2019/05/07/pope-francis-says-commission-women-deacons-did-not-reach-agreement

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