Commission Watch

On May 12, 2016, in an audience with the leaders of religious congregations of women, Pope Francis agreed to constitute an official commission to study the history and nature of women of deacons in the Church. “It will be good for the Church to clarify this point,” he said.

On August 2, 2016, the names of those on the commission were announced. To our joy, it included an equal number of women (n=6) and men (n=6). To add to our joy, Phyllis Zagano, one of the world’s foremost experts on the topic, was named. Sr. Nuria Calduch-Benanges, who teaches at the Gregorian, is on the commission. In 2008, Sr. Nuria became fast friends with FutureChurch’s  Sr. Chris Schenk. Sr. Nuria was appointed as an auditor/expert at the 2008 Synod on the Word and consulted with Chris regarding the work of raising awareness among the bishops regarding the missing and misrepresented women from the Lectionary. News that Sr. Mary Melone is on the commission is also welcome. Sr. Melone has been a welcoming presence in Rome as the first Rector of a pontifical university in Rome – the Pontifical University Antonianum. She hosted a book launch for Tina Beattie and Catholic Women Speak. She also supports the Voices of Faith event inside the Vatican highlighting women’s leadership on International Women’s Day.

Here is the list of all the commission members. The bios are shortened versions of those composed by Anthony Ruff, OSB (

Phyllis Zagano who teaches at Hofstra University in New York, is well known to us here in the U.S. as a scholar who has written and published extensively on the topic of women deacons. Most recently she edited an anthology published by Liturgical Press entitled Women Deacons? Essays with Answers. She will be a strong advocate for reading the history objectively in favor of women deacons.

Sister Núria Calduch-Benages teaches at the Gregorian University in Rome and is a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. She is Catalan. “The Bible is my passion” she says. She seems to have pastoral interests as well as impressive scholarly record as a biblical scholar and philologist.

Francesca Cocchini, an Italian, is a professor at the University La Sapienza and at the Patristic Institute (the Augustinianum), in Rome. She is immersed in research on Origen and the Alexandrian tradition, but has also published books on the reception of the Pauline epistles and on Augustine.

Sister Mary Melone, SFA, also an Italian, is an expert in the life and thought of St. Anthony of Padua. She is rector of the Pontifical University Antonianum, an institution of the Friars Minor, in Rome — the first woman to head a Pontifical University. Journalist Inés San Martín, writing in Crux, observed that although she has not openly advocated for women in the diaconate, she “has long spoken of the role of women in the Church, saying it’s unfair to dismiss the request for the diaconate because it might lead to female priesthood.”

Marianne Schlosser is professor of spiritual theology at the University of Vienna and a member of the International Theological Commission. She has written about Bonaventure and Catherine of Siena. She has also written about Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus, and has a recent volume on the theology of prayer.  

Michelina Tenace, an Italian, is professor of fundamental theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. She is an expert on Vladimir Solovyov, and teaches theological anthropology and the Christian East.

Rev. Msgr. Piero Coda, is dean of the University Institute Sophia, Loppiano (near Florence), and he a member of the International Theological Commission. The Institute is a work of the Focolare movement. Coda has written about Chiara Lubich and he writes about the Trinity.

Rev. Robert Dodaro, O.S.A., an American, is dean of the Patristic Institute Augustinianum, in Rome. He is professor of Patrology and an expert on Augustine. He is also known for his book on marriage: Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church.  

Rev. Karl-Heinz Menke, is emeritus professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Bonn and member of the International Theological Commission. He specializes in the nineteenth century and writes about Christology.

Rev. Santiago Madrigal Terrazas, SJ, is professor of ecclesiology at the Pontifical University Comillas, in Madrid. He specializes in ecclesiology, especially the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, reflected in the theological works of Rahner, Congar, De Lubac, and Ratzinger. He is also an authority on Ignatian spirituality.

Rev. Aimable Musoni, SDB,is professor of ecclesiology at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome. He is an expert on the canonization process, a consultor for the Congregation for Saints.

Rev. Bernard Pottier SJ, born in Liège, Belgium, is professor at the Institut d’Etudes Théologiques in Brussels, and a member of the International Theological Commission. His published work is in the fields of philosophy and psychology, and he also has expertise in patristics (Gregory of Nyssa).

The commission will be presided over by the Mallorcan bishop and Jesuit Lluís Ladaria Ferrer, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.