Theological Panel Rules Out Ordination of Women as Deacons

Defers to Magisterium for a Definitive Decision

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The International Theological Commission announced that one of its recent documents excludes the possibility of the ordination of women to the diaconate.



In the statement issued through the Vatican Press Office today, the general secretary of the International Theological Commission, Dominican Father Georges Cottier, responded to questions about the commission's five-year study of the diaconate raised by the French newspaper La Croix.

Father Cottier stated that the commission's study "tends to support the exclusion" of ordaining women to the diaconate. La Croix on Oct. 8 reported that the commission's study left the issue open.

The commission, which includes renowned theologians, voted to approve its document during its Sept. 30-Oct. 4 plenary assembly in the Vatican. The commission is coordinated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Today's press statement noted that the commission does not have "the role of pronouncing with the authority which is characteristic of the magisterium." Yet, the panel "presented two important indications which emerge from study of the matter."

"In the first place, the commission observed that the deaconesses mentioned in the tradition of the early Church cannot simply be assimilated to ordained deacons," the statement said.

"In support of this conclusion, Father Cottier noted that both the rite of institution and the functions exercised by deaconesses distinguished them from ordained deacons," the statement continued.

It added: "Furthermore, Father Cottier noted that the commission's study reaffirmed the unity of the sacrament of holy orders. The distinction between the ministry of bishops and priests, on the one hand, and that of deacons, on the other hand, is nonetheless embraced within the unity of the sacrament of holy orders."

In his 1994 apostolic letter "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis," John Paul II concluded "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."

The Vatican statement released today said: "The commission's reaffirmation of this teaching arose from a careful study of the ecclesial tradition, of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and of the postconciliar magisterium of the Church."

It added: "Father Cottier said that 'it belongs to the magisterium to pronounce with authority on the question, taking into account the historical and theological research presented by the study of the International Theological Commission.'"

The theological commission devoted over five years of research to the topic of the history and theology of the diaconate before approving the text of its study. The study was carried out at the request of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.