The Catholic blogosphere is abuzz with the news from the Vatican, that Pope Francis has appointed a commission of academics to study whether the ordination of women to the Permanent Diaconate is theologically possible. The commission is made up of six clergymen, and six women, two of whom are religious nuns. One of the women theologians is Phyllis Zagano, who is an author, and columnist for the National Catholic Reporter newspaper. She has been a long advocate for bringing women into the diaconate.
I personally would like to see women being able to be ordained as deacons. A vast number of Catholic women are already involved in the service of charity; serving the poor and homeless. Many Catholic women are already involved in the service of Word, through being religious educators; being lectors at Mass; and by the example of their own lives. Many Catholic women are already involved in service to the Altar, through being extraordinary Eucharistic ministers at the celebration at Mass; and by bringing communion to the homebound. And I am sure that many of these women, like the men, feel called to deepen this sense of service by becoming deacons.
Now, people should not fool themselves, or have high expectations on how soon this will come about, if at all. We have just made the very first small step, with a long road ahead for those advocating for women deacons. But, it is a beginning; may the Holy Spirit guide us!
Yesterday, Pope Francis celebrated his 79th birthday. And I am sure that the majority of Catholics, other Christians, and peoples of other faiths are all wishing him: “Ad multos annos!” (Many more years!) However, it cannot be denied that there are those within the Church who are hoping for a short pontificate. Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press has a interesting article posted on Crux; which looks into this undercurrent of hostility aimed at the Pope, by the every ones who are suppose to be assisting him.
When, in 2013, the College of Cardinals elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy, the conventional wisdom was that they were looking for a reformer. They saw a Vatican Curia mired in scandal, inefficiency, and dysfunction. They expected Pope Francis to “clean the stables,” and reorganize the Curia to be more responsive to the needs of today’s universal Church. Shortly after his election, Pope Francis established a “Council of Cardinals”, one of it’s members is Boston’s own Cardinal Sean O’Malley OFM Cap. He gave it the task of proposing structural changes to the Curia, and other suggestions on dealing with issues affecting the Church. He began the structural reform of the Vatican financial institutions, appointing the strong willed Cardinal Pell of Australia to insure the reforms take hold.
At the same time, Pope Francis has said and done things that may have made some of the cardinal electors wondering what they have themselves into. Traditionalists are up arms at what they see as his reversal of liturgical trends put in place by his predecessors. Others are concerned that he is taking a more pastoral approach, at the cost of watering down Church teachings. And then there are those bureaucrats in the Curia, who are more interested in preserving their positions, perks, and power; then in actually serving the members of the Church.
I am among those who wish the Pope “ad multos annos;” but I fear that it may be a short pontificate. I am afraid that the expected reforms may not be finalized. And that Pope Francis may not have enough time to appoint those bishops and cardinals who will ensure that his reforms will survive his passing. Part of me wishes that he would spend more time in Rome; and not on these strenuous trips; that tax his health, and puts him in harms way.
However, the Pope will do, what he believes God is guiding him to do. And those of us who support him, and wish him well; will pray that God’s hand will be on him, protecting him, and strengthening him. “Ad Multos Annos!”
March 13, 2015, was the third anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, as the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church. As he enters the third year of his pontificate, he appears to enjoy a great deal of support from the vast majority of the world’s Catholics. However, on the opposite sides of the theological, ecclesiastical spectrum, there is a divided opinion.
When conservatives heard that the cardinals had elected a South American Pope, and a Jesuit no less; there were some who started getting a little nervous. When he came out in just the white papal cassock, throwing election night protocol to the winds, conservatives became increasingly concerned. When traditionalists heard that he was not occupying the papal quarters; saw him adopting simpler vestments, compared to the liturgical finery of his predecessor; they were up in arms!
Then there were Pope Francis’ homilies, off the cuff remarks, and his actions towards reforming the Curia, the papal bureaucracy. Not taking an extreme hard line approach against those who disagreed with the Church teachings on sexual matters, abortion, and homosexuality; while at the same time, denouncing the negative effects of a freewheeling capitalist system; caused some conservative commentators to question the legitimacy of his election. Career bureaucrats in the Curia are upset over Pope Francis charges of clericalism, and cronyism in the Vatican. They see his efforts to reform the way financial affairs are handled, as a threat to their way of patronage. His intentions to introduce more laity, especially women, into the Vatican offices, are equally seen as threatening the curial lifestyle.
Now on the left, many saw Pope Francis as one of them, and expected a wholesale change of Church’s teachings on women’s ordination, sexual morals, homosexuality, and on divorce and remarriage. And they were extremely disappointed when none of that happened, and with the Pope’s indications that such radical changes was unlikely to happen under his watch. There are survivors of sexual abuse by clergy who feel that this Pope has not moved fast enough to implement worldwide protections for children, or to hold any bishops accountable for covering up the clergy abuse scandal. Many are disheartened at the slow pace of the reform of the Curia. There is a feeling among left wing Catholic reformists, that Pope Francis is all fluff and no substance.
Now I think the conventional wisdom is that when both extremes of a social spectrum are against you, you must be doing something right. There are many commentators in the middle, one of them being John Allen of the Boston Globe’s website Crux, who feel that Pope Francis has already achieved much. His reform of the Vatican’s financial system is in place, despite one curalist attempt to weaken it. His council of cardinals, who are advising him on how to reform the Curia, has presented suggestions that have been discussed with all of Church’s cardinals. The Synod of Bishops will convene again to discuss the status of the family in the Church and the world. And Pope Francis continues to encourage open discussion on these and other topics among the Church’s bishops. Where this will lead, no one is sure. This will be a test of whether the Pope will continue to be a collegial shepherd, or be the Supreme Pontiff, enforcing his will on the bishops. John Allen has written an interesting column on what we could see on what the third year of this pontificate might bring. Strap in folks, this could be quite a ride!