Vatican's Doctrinal Chief Plays Down Papal Commission on Women Deacons

Cardinal Gerhard Müller (center) at a Vatican press conference June 14, 2016, to present the new document "Iuvenescit Ecclesia".
Cardinal Gerhard Müller (center) at a Vatican press conference June 14, 2016, to present the new document "Iuvenescit Ecclesia". (photo: Daniel Ibáñez/Catholic News Agency)

Cardinal Gerhard Müller has dampened speculation that a study, commissioned by Pope Francis on the possibility of women deacons into the Church, would result in anything new.

Speaking to reporters at the Vatican today, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the Vatican is preparing a list of experts on the theme, but stressed that a thorough study was conducted over a decade ago.

“We’re preparing a list on this theme, this historical theme,” he said, but added that the International Theological Commission had already conducted a “major study” in 2002 “with many experts” in systematic and dogmatic theology.

That study, entitled From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles, found that female deacons of the early Church were unlike the ordained male diaconate of today.

It concluded women could not be ordained to the diaconate, although the matter was left to the future discernment of the magisterium.

Cardinal Müller further stressed to reporters today that he, too, has written three books on this theme, adding that his aim was to bring together all the texts of the early Church Fathers in order to “raise the level of discussion.”

Responding to a question last month from a religious sister, Pope Francis said he would set up a commission to study women deacons in the early Church.

Cardinal Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at a penance service in St. Peter's Basilica, March 29, 2019.

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Cardinal Müller recalled that the Church of Rome has primacy not so much “because of the prerogatives of the Chair of Peter”, and certainly not as if its “occupant could do as he pleases,” but primarily “because of the pope's grave duty, assigned to him by Christ, to guard the unity of the universal church in the revealed faith.”