Study Groups an Encouraging Step on the Synodal Path

DD Public Statement

The Vatican recently announced that a group will be formed to study ministerial roles. Some headlines would lead us to believe that the question of ordaining women to the diaconate is once again being kicked down the road to be resolved some other time or never. 

However, we at Discerning Deacons recognize this is a genuinely hopeful indication that the topic is being seriously developed, along with other critical themes like priestly formation, digital evangelization, and ecumenical dialogue. 

A total of 10 study groups are being formed to do what the Synod Assembly in October asked Pope Francis to do! If he hadn’t – how would the work get done? 

The study groups are tasked with completing their work by June 2025. They will present their partial findings and report to the Synod Assembly in October 2024. 

So how is this announcement not an indication of “death by committee?” What makes this study group distinct from, rather than a repeat of, the 2016 and 2020 commissions that took up the question of women and the diaconate? 

The General Secretariat of the Synod is entrusted with forming groups that consider the “most relevant experiences taking place in the People of God gathered in the local Churches.” Synod Secretary General Cardinal Mario Grech is charged with guaranteeing that the study groups “work according to an authentically synodal method.” 

We hope that this commitment to create a culture of synodality in the study groups means that members will be encouraged to listen to the experiences of women in ecclesial ministry today who are responding to urgent pastoral needs – along with their pastors and bishops in the local Churches. 

The Vatican is taking responsibility for grappling with the relevant theological, canonical, and pastoral considerations to appropriately guide the Church’s response to this urgent question of women and the diaconate. The fact that the study group’s work will carry on beyond October’s second Synod Assembly ensures that relevant questions, experiences and tensions that surface within the Assembly can be carried forward, not drawn to a hasty conclusion at the end of October. 

In the spirit of synodality, there is much to be learned from listening to the experiences of the local Churches while taking seriously the role of the Magisterium to shepherd the development of Church practice and teaching. We are hopeful that these study groups can help us all continue to take steps forward in communion, as we follow the Holy Spirit’s lead to renew and guide the Church for mission.

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Promotor
“I have worked alongside many lay and religious women in my ministry who have exhibited outstanding ability for ministry.  Many have taught me by their example how to be a more effective minister, and by their instruction, helped me to grow in this role…It’s time that the Church gets in step with society and recognizes the equality of women in the workplace.  Women are as capable as men in the work of ministry, and have demonstrated the same equality in scholarship, skills and education as men.”
Fr. Joseph A. Genito, O.S.A
Pastor, St. Thomas of Villanova Parish, Philadelphia, PA
Testigo
“If there were women deacons in my parish, lay women would relate in a deep and meaningful way to deacons who look, act, speak and feel more like themselves…Though I am an unlikely choice to wear the alb and stole, I have a deep commitment to service in Christ’s name and I try to live it every day. Any need that arises, I am ready to shoulder it, though some needs of our sisters and brothers would be well- or better-served by a woman’s different compassion.”
Deacon Bill Zapcic
Parish Deacon and Homilist, Retired Journalist, Tinton Falls, NJ
Promotor
“Not only is ordaining women as deacons a restoration of the dynamism of the early Church, it is a matter of justice!”
Fr. Stephen P Newton, CSC
Executive Director, Association of US Catholic Priests, Notre Dame, IN

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