National Catholic Reporter: I got a glimpse of the future of women deacons, and it’s troubling

Last week, two members of the Pontifical Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women spoke publicly for the first time since their appointment.

The commission members were Phyllis Zagano, one of the world’s leading experts on the history of women deacons (and an NCR columnist and a friend of mine),

 and Jesuit Fr. Bernard Pottier, a scholar in the early church, philosophy and psychology and a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission.

As they offered their reflections during a panel discussion at Fordham University, several questions were answered: the commission’s report is complete; it is on Pope Francis’ desk; no one knows how, or if, or when the report will influence the pope’s decision on whether the Roman Catholic Church should restore the diaconate for women.

But even with these new revelations, I came away from the event with even more questions, and some of them rather troubling. Though much was said that evening, just as telling was what was not said and what, apparently, could not be said.

As NCR reported last week, at the conclusion of the question-and-answer period, an audience member, Karen Gargamelli-McCreight, expressed her frustration from the back of the room that none of the pre-selected questions dealt with women’s ordination to the priesthood. (Full disclosure, Karen is also a friend of mine.)

Karen asked the panel to “look me in the eye and tell me you do not believe women are called to be priests.” The panelists simply responded that the ordination of women as priests was not the topic that they were there to discuss.

The avoidance of the question was no surprise since throughout the course of the two-hour event, the panelists took pains to make it clear that they were in no way suggesting that women should be ordained priests.


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