Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Pope Appoints Commission to Study Matter Exhaustively Studied by Earlier Papal Commission

I suspect most of our readers have already seen elsewhere that the Holy See has announced the formation of a commission to study the question of women deacons. A member of Fr Zuhlsdorf’s commentariat has very cleverly pointed out a statement by the Holy Father himself to the effect that the surest way to make sure a question remains unresolved is to appoint a commission.

I noticed while Googling the matter that almost all of what is available on the internet about this matter relates either to the Pope’s original statement back in May that he would consider appointing such a commission (in the statement linked above), or to today’s announcement. Very few results come back with any reference to the International Theological Commission’s study of women deacons, which examined the question during the papacy of St John Paul II. Their report was published in 2002 after four years of work, “approved in forma specifica by unanimous vote of the Commission on 30th September 2002. It was then submitted to its President, Card. J. Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, who authorised its publication.” It is available here in English from the Vatican’s official website.


Including the titles, foreword, introduction and footnotes, it clocks in at a bit over 42,000 words; this works out to about 85 single-spaced pages in the standard layout (Times New Roman, 12-point). The members of the new commission probably don’t have to worry about whether they can keep their day jobs, since a very large portion of their work has already been done for them. It is difficult to imagine that any significant historical documents or liturgical texts referring to women deacons in the ancient Church have been discovered since 2002.

I make bold to suggest to any fellow bloggers or Catholic journalists who may read this article that the existence of this earlier study really is essential information on the topic, and should be included in any future articles regarding what the Pope has done today and the work of the commission.

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