Pope Francis, who has said the Catholic Church has "not yet come up with a profound theology of womanhood," named five women, a record number, to the International Theological Commission.
One of the women is U.S. Mercy Sister Prudence Allen, former chair of the philosophy department at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, and now a member of the chaplaincy team at Lancaster University, England.
On Sept. 23, the Vatican released the names of 30 theologians who will serve a five-year term on the commission. Women have served on the panel since 2004, but, until now, there have never been more than two.
The five women appointees also include Australian Tracey Rowland, dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne, who is a prominent authority on the theology of Pope Benedict XVI; and Moira Mary McQueen, a Canadian-British citizen who serves as director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute at the University of St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto.
In addition to Sister Allen, the commission will include one other American: Capuchin Franciscan Father Thomas G. Weinandy, former executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Doctrine.
According to a Vatican statement, women now constitute 16 percent of the commission’s members, "a sign of growing female involvement in theological research."
The International Theological Commission was established in 1969 to study important doctrinal issues as an aid to the pope and to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It has produced documents in recent years on such topics as "Christian monotheism and its opposition to violence" and "sensus fidei in the life of the church."