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Jul 1, 2020

In April of this year, the Vatican announced the creation of a new commission to study the female diaconate, following up on Pope Francis’ promise to reopen the question at the behest of the Amazonian bishops.

Pope Francis had set up a previous commission to study the roles of female deacons in the early church in 2016. Though that commission’s final report had not been published, the pope described its findings as inconclusive and the members as “toads from different wells.”

This week, on our last episode of “Inside the Vatican” before our summer hiatus, producer Colleen Dulle speaks with one of that commission’s members, Hofstra University Professor Phyllis Zagano. We discuss the church’s history not only of ordaining women deacons, but also the recent history of the conversation around ordaining them again.

When the new commission was named in April, some who favor reinstituting the female diaconate expressed concern that the many of the new commission’s members opposed ordaining women deacons. On this week’s show, Ms. Zagano, who favors ordaining women deacons, gives her take on the new commission: “Looking at the membership, they are, interestingly enough, qualified to answer a single question that I think still needs to be determined on behalf of the Holy Father, which is, what is the ministry of the diaconate today? … And if you describe that, then what about that can a woman not do?”

Links from the show:

Pope Francis has set up a new commission to study women deacons

Women: Icons of Christ by Phyllis Zagano, via Paulist Press

Review: Phyllis Zagano makes the case for women deacons

Video: Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future with Phyllis Zagano and Bernard Pottier, S.J.

Inside the Vatican Listener Survey