by Ann Gilroy RSJ
Women Religious welcome any development in Church that responds to women’s repeated call to have an equal share in the decision-making. Pope Francis’s proposal to set up a Commission to study the possibility of having women deacons, while not yet a decision to change a structure, is offering Catholic women a frisson of promise.
The composition of the members of the Commission will be crucial for credibility and for symbolic value. Will it have the usual token couple of women? Will at least half be women? Or even – will the majority be women? Certainly it will not be difficult to find qualified women to serve, as more than one Catholic theologian and scripture scholar has researched in this area in the last decades, including Phyllis Zagano, an internationally renowned academic in the United States, who has published extensively on women deacons. We remember the study of women deacons set up in the 1990s which fizzled out and we will be watching that this new initiative does not meet a similar fate.