From La Croix:
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn OP has voiced cautious openness towards re-introducing the female diaconate in the Western Church, saying it was once a centuries-long tradition and continued to be practiced in the East.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Austrian daily Wiener Zeitung on April 8th in the run-up to Easter, the cardinal said the fact that women were ordained deacons in the West up to the Middle Ages should give the Latin-rite Church food for thought.
“The big theological question is, of course, what sort of ordination this was and what consequences one can draw from this today,” said the cardinal, a noted theologian and member of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans).
He noted that while the Eastern Church had always been “much more open” to the difference between what is a sacrament and what is only a sacramental sign, Latin-rite teaching on ordination had since been far more precisely defined.
The 72-year-old cardinal said he had no doubts that more women should have leading positions in the Church, adding that not nearly all the options had been explored for that to happen. But regarding women deacons, he voiced a more cautious note.
“First let us wait and see what the Vatican commission concludes,” he said.
In early August last year, Pope Francis set up a 12-member commission to study the issue of women deacons, especially in the first centuries of the Church’s history.
Six members of the still-ongoing commission are women. They include American professor Phyllis Zagano, considered the leading scholar on the question.
In his recent interview, Cardinal Schönborn was asked what he told committed women who felt discriminated against in a Church where only men were ordained.
“I admit that this does sometimes seem strange,” he replied.
“I can understand the malaise which women feel when they see only men concelebrate. I can understand that we must look like a men’s squad up at the altar,” he said.