There is still time for Pope Francis to listen to women

Los jóvenes peregrinos de Discerning Deacons se reúnen para orar y reflexionar en Roma, octubre de 2023. Foto de Kayla August.

The pope’s recent interview on 60 Minutes – in which he said that “no” a girl cannot dream to one day be an ordained deacon –  has prompted many people to offer varying perspectives on how to interpret this fragile moment in the Interim Phase of the Synod on Communion, Participation and Mission. This week we offer a roundup of some of the statements that speak to the possible stirrings of the Holy Spirit in which the conversation about women and the diaconate is still alive, active and visible.  

Discerning Deacons issued a public statement, The Discernment is Still Alive in which we maintain that the Church is in the midst of a three-year global synod – what some have called the largest consultation process in human history. One media interview does not close the door on a bold vision the pope himself initiated: “There is still time for Pope Francis to hear from women around the world who would discern a call to the diaconate in response to the many pressing needs of their communities.” 

Australian Sr. Elizabeth Young, RSM, asks us to ponder: Why ordination? For three years she has been interviewing deacons with a permanent vocation in Australia and asking them, “What do you think is made possible by the ordained diaconal ministry?” Sr. Elizabeth writes, “I have never heard a response that has been about power, influence, glory or male-specific roles.” Instead, you’ll find their varied answers reflect pastoral experiences of accompanying people in their joys and struggles. 

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) wrote a statement asking the Holy Father to clarify his intention following the media interview. AUSCP has submitted three questions: Does this statement supersede the synodal process? Will women as deacons still be on the October agenda? What are the pastoral and theological reasons for the “No?” 

Voice of the Faithful writes of the Holy Father’s remarks, “The incongruity of his ‘No’ with the foundational principles of synodality upon which to change the culture of the church is startling.” Yet, VOTF remains resilient in their support of synodality, stating, “We will keep walking on the synodal path Pope Frances inaugurated and pray that he fulfills his own promise to listen.”

In an op-ed I wrote for the National Catholic Reporter, I consider how Vatican II recommended the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent vocation for men to strengthen them by the imposition of hands so that they could carry out their ministry more effectively with the benefit of sacramental grace. I ask, “Are women any less deserving of the grace Jesus would offer them as they organize peace walks through violent streets, visit the incarcerated, offer a pastoral presence at immigration detention centers, serve rural indigenous communities or pray at the bedside of those who are ill and dying?” 

We have been hearing from so many people with a wide range of responses to the pope’s interview. We want to give you, faithful readers of The Witness, a chance to share your own perspectives in this short poll. We will share the results in an upcoming newsletter.

With active hope, 

Ellie 

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Organization
“This was such a great learning experience for all of us, and even more so, a chance to build momentum and connection.”
St. Basil's Catholic Parish
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Organization
“We are proud to stand on the shoulders of the many women who have ministered to the people of God throughout time!”
Holy Name of Jesus Parish
New Orleans, LA
Organization
“Learning about the history of women in the diaconate gave context to efforts to enable women’s participation in the diaconate today, and it was powerful to celebrate St. Phoebe and uplift the ministry of women in our own community.”
St. John Fisher Parish
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

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