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Pope Francis appoints another commission to study female deacons

Pope Francis has reopened the investigation into the possibility of women’s ordination as deacons. 
Wed Apr 8, 2020 - 7:32 am EST
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Pope Francis next to a statue of Martin Luther placed in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. October, 2016.

VATICAN CITY, April 8, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― Pope Francis has reopened the investigation into the possibility of women’s ordination as deacons. 

This morning the Vatican released a memo stating that the pontiff had decided “during a recent audience granted to His Eminence Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF]” to appoint a new commission on the “study of the female diaconate.” 

Francis appointed Cardinal Giuseppe Petrocchi, the Archbishop of L’Aquila, as the new commission’s head and Fr. Denis Dupont-Fauville of the CDF to be its secretary.

The ten other people officially named to the women’s diaconate commission are American Dr. Catherine Brown Tkacz, who received a PhD in Medieval Studies from the University of Notre Dame; Deacon Dominic Cerrato, a theologian in Steubenville, USA; Fr. Santiago del Cura Elena, a theologian from Spain; Dr. Caroline Farey, a British Catholic theologian; Dr. Barbara Hallensleben, a German theologian who teaches in Freiburg, Switzerland; Fr. Manfred Hauke, a German theologian in Lugano Switzerland; Deacon James Keating of Creighton University, Omaha; Fr. Angelo Lameri, an Italian professor of Liturgy; Dr. Rosalba Manes, an Italian consecrated virgin and biblical scholar; and Dr. Anne-Marie Pelletier, a biblical scholar from Paris. 

According to Joshua J. McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter, none of these people were in the previous commission asked to study the woman deacon question.

“Francis had promised at the end of the October 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon region that he would be instituting a new commission on the issue, but the April 8 announcement had not been rumored and was unexpected,” he wrote. 

In March 2019 German theologian Professor Peter Hünermann told LifeSiteNews that, according to members of the German bishops' doctrinal commission who spoke to him, the report of the first Vatican commission on female deacons found that “there is no historical evidence that in the patristics women were ordained as deacons.” 

A January 2020 book co-authored by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Cardinal Robert Sarah – the Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship – ruled out the possibility of the Church creating female deacons, a matter that came up at the Amazon Synod that concluded in October. 

The “possibility of women being ordained as priests or deacons,” Sarah stated in From the Depths of Our Hearts, “was settled definitively by Saint John Paul II in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis dated May 22, 1994.”

“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,” state the authors, quoting John Paul II. 

The New Commission 

The new commission is a stark contrast with the earlier commission, which was largely composed of theologians from pontifical universities and feminist Phyllis Zegano. 

Cardinal Giuseppe Petrocchi, 71, was born in Ascoli Piceno, Italy. He was appointed to the episcopacy by St. John Paul II in 1998 and nominated the Archbishop of L’Aquila by Pope Francis in 2013 soon after the latter’s election to the papacy.  Petrocchi was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2018. According to the Vatican, he speaks English, French, German, and Spanish. Petrocchi has a background in philosophy, psychology and pastoral work.  

Fr. Denis Dupont-Fauville, 53, was born in Paris, France. In 2003, he received a doctorate in theology from Rome’s Gregorian University. His thesis supervisor was Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, SJ, now the Prefect of the CDF.  Since 2013, he has been a full professor at the Faculté Notre-Dame at the Collège de Bernardins in Paris since 2013. 

Dr. Catherine Brown Tkacz graduated from the University of Iowa in 1974. In 1983 she received a doctorate in medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Since 1995, she has been a guest lecturer at a number of institutions and written on a variety of topics. Currently she is at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lemburg. In 2013 a paper by Dr Tkacz on deaconesses appeared in Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique. “Deaconesses and the Spiritual Equality of Women” concludes that the “ordination rites for deacons and deaconesses show them to be ontologically different.”   

Deacon Dominic Cerrato earned a B.A. in Theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1989 and subsequently received a Ph.D. in Theology from Graduate Theological Foundation. The first married deacon to be ordained in Steubenville (1995), Deacon Cerrato has been the Executive Director of Diaconal Ministries, a teaching service for deacons, since 2015.   

Fr. Santiago del Cura Elena is a Spanish priest. He received a doctorate in theology from Rome’s Gregorian University in 1981. A full professor since 1994, Del Cura has served as Dean of the Faculty of Theology of Northern Spain in Burgos (1994-2000, 2006-2009) and President of the same institution at its two locations in Burgos and Vitoria (2009-2012).  

Dr. Caroline Farey, a lay associate of the Diocese of Shrewsbury, is an authority on catechesis. She taught at England’s Maryvale Institute from late 1996 to late 2013, and at St. Mary’s College, Oscott from 2001 to 2011. During this period, she completed a doctorate at Rome’s Lateran University. In 2012 she served as one of 3 lay women experts for the Synod on the New Evangelization. Subsequently she was asked to work for the Pontifical Academy for the New Evangelisation and Catechesis. Working under Archbishop Fisichella, she joined others in reviewing the General Directory for Catechesis for its 20th anniversary (2017). 

Deacon Nick Donnelly of Lancaster, England told LifeSiteNews that Farey is “a very faithful, orthodox Catholic.” 

“Dr. Caroline Farey is passionate about the truth and beauty of the Catholic Faith, which informs and energizes her influential work as a world-renowned Catechist. Caroline has taught and inspired thousands of catechists in the UK and around the world,” he said. “As one of her students and then as a colleague I know how much Caroline cares about the transmission of the Faith handed down to us by the Apostles." 

Dr. Barbara Hallensleben, 63, received a doctorate in church history at the University of Munster in 1985 and a habilitation (post-doctorate degree) in theology at University of Tübingen in 1992. The subject of her post-doctoral thesis was “The origins of Theology of the  Mission in St. ignatius of Loyola and Mary Ward.” Since 1994 she has taught at the University of Fribourg as a full professor of dogmatic theology and theology of ecumenism. She is also a consultor to the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and has served as a member of the  International Theological Commission. 

Fr. Manfred Hauke, 63, was born in Hannover, Germany. He received his doctorate in theology in 1981 and then his habilitation in dogmatic theology at the University of Augsburg in 1991. He has been a professor at the Theological Faculty of Lugano, Switzerland, since 1993. Amongst his many publications, Fr. Hauke published a monograph on the “priesthood of women” which argued the ordination of women is impossible.   

Deacon James Keating, Ph.D. has been the Director of Theological Formation in the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska since 2006. He received his doctorate in moral and spiritual theology at Duquesne University. Keating was Professor of Moral and Spiritual Theology at the Pontifical College Josephinum, a seminary in Columbus, OH. from 1993 to 2006. Last month he was appointed to the Formation Staff and as a Professor of Spiritual Theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. Keating is well-known in the USA for his presentations and prolific writings

Fr. Angelo Lameri, 58, is a priest of the Italian diocese of Crema. Ordained in 1985, he received his doctorate in theology from the St. Giustina Institute of Pastoral Liturgy in Padua in 1995.  He serves as both Professor of Liturgy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and Professor of Liturgy and General Sacramentary at the Pontifical Lateran University. A consultant for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments since 2010, he also advises the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.  

Dr. Rosalba Manes, 43, is a consecrated virgin and a biblical scholar. She received a doctorate in biblical theology from Rome’s Gregorian University, where she now teaches. 

Dr. Anne-Marie Pelletier, 73, is a Catholic theologian and exegete from Paris, France. She was named a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life by Pope Francis in 2017. Pelletier studied modern literature and obtained an advanced teaching degree in that discipline, as well as a State doctorate in religion sciences, in Paris. After teaching in several Paris State universities, she studied exegesis and hermeneutics at the Faculté Notre-Dame at the Collège de Bernardins. Pelletier has written extensively about the place of women in the Catholic faith and Church and obtained the Ratzinger prize in 2014. 

Pelletier was chosen by Pope Francis to write the Way of the Cross meditations for Good Friday 2017. She told “La Croix” that “Being baptized should be sufficient qualification to open your mouth in the name of the Church.” 

The scholar is also known for her defense of Amoris laetitia. In the January 12, 2017 French edition of L'Osservatore Romano, she applauded the Apostolic exhortation’s “attention to concrete conditions of conjugal life” following “ample consultations of the baptized” and in a spirit of “true ecclesial collegiality.” She also praised its call for “discernment” and a “pastoral” approach to sometimes “chaotic” situations. In an earlier statement to La Vie, she referred to the prelates who had sent Francis questions regarding the document as “rebellious cardinals” who had “ordered the Pope to account for” his approach. 

The members of the last commission included Núria Calduch Benages of the Pontifical Biblical Commission; Francesca Cocchini of  Rome’s La Sapienza University and Patristic Institute Augustinianum; Piero Coda, president of Rome’s Sophia University Institute and member of the International Theological Commission; Robert Dodaro OSA, president of the Patristic Institute Augustinianum; Santiago Madrigal SJ, ecclesiologist at Madrid’s Pontifical University Comillas; Mary Melone SFA, president of Rome’s Pontifical University Antonianum, Karl-Heinz Menke, Professor Emeritus of Dogmatic Theology at the University of Bonn and member of the International Theological Commission; Rwandan Aimable Musoni SDB, ecclesiologist at Rome’s Salesian Pontifical University; Bernard Pottier SJ of Brussels’ Institute of Theological Studies and member of the International Theological Commission; Marianne Schlosser of the University of Vienna and member of the International Theological Commission; Michelina Tenace of the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome), and Phyllis Zagano of Hofstra University in Long Island, New York.


  catholic, female deacons, female diaconate, giuseppe petrocchi, pope francis, women's ordination

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