The Study Commission on the Women’s Diaconate was established in August of 2016. Who knows what the commission will decide? The members have expressed diverse views on the subject. Perhaps they will issue a report which offers both points of view: that women may be ordained, and that they may not.
But Pope Francis is not bound by the decision of the commission. Blessed Pope Paul VI did not adopt the majority opinion of the commission he established to study the question of contraception. He excluded all direct contraception as intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. So we should ask what Pope Francis might decide, independently of the commission.
My opinion, based in part on eschatology (i.e. the role of the schism at the beginning of the lesser tribulation), is that the holy Pontiff will teach that the Church possesses the authority to ordain women deacons. And then he will change Canon law to permit the ordination of women deacons, and that ordination will begin very soon. Pope Francis is not one to procrastinate. He rushes forward toward his goal to reform the Church, to correct the errors of conservatives, and to teach in-season and out-of-season.
How will the papal critics respond? They have already decided that their understanding of Catholicism is the standard by which all Papal decisions on doctrine and discipline shall be judged. They have already reduced the Vicar of Christ to the role of their disobedient student, who refuses to accept their teachings and corrections. They should repent with humility and accept his decisions on doctrine and discipline. But we all know how a sinner, filled with pride, behaves. They will lash out against the Supreme Teacher of all Christians, falsely accusing him of teaching material heresy and of committing formal heresy. They will falsely claim that he is therefore automatically excommunicated and no longer a valid Pope. And they will reject all Cardinals and Bishops who side with the Pope.
If so, then they will be guilty of formal schism, and they will be unworthy to receive holy Communion. They will be automatically excommunicated for the sin of formal schism (and probably also for formal heresy). And although a person can possibly commit formal schism with a sincere but mistaken conscience, the extremes of pride needed to publicly denounce the Supreme Pontiff, and to assume that he is a heretic and no longer a valid pope, means that for some persons these offenses are actual mortal sins.
The argument in favor of ordained women deacons is simple.
1. Deacons only administer two Sacraments, Baptism and Marriage, and both already can be administered, in extraordinary cases by lay persons, including lay women. So the ordination of women deacons does not give women a role in any Sacrament which is not already approved and accepted by the Church.
2. Deacons do not stand in persona Christi, and so, deacons do need not be male. Bishops and priests are required to be male because they exercise the priestly function of Christ himself. The priestly power of the person of Christ acts in them. And so, they are required to be male (and preferably celibate), so as to be as much like Christ as possible. The role of a deacon does not have the same inherent requirement.
3. The teaching of Sacred Scripture on the differences in roles of men and women, is not necessarily violated by the ordination of women deacons. The role of deacons is primarily and fundamentally one of service, not of teaching or authority. No one can say that women Christians are not called to serve those in need. And female deacons need not have exactly the same role as male deacons. A husband has a different role in the family than his wife, even though they are joined by the same Sacrament of Matrimony. So the role of female deacons should be, in some ways, different from the role of male deacons, and, in other ways, the same.
I fully expect Pope Francis to approve of women deacons. And I expect the response from his critics to be pride-filled and sinful.
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