Pope Francis has said he will establish a Vatican commission to look at whether women can be ordained as deacons. Speaking today to a group of female religious, the Pope said a commission would be useful in order to clarify the role of women deacons in the early Church. The Tablet.
Campaigners calling for women priests are meeting in Rome this week where they have launched a poster campaign drawing attention to their cause and they will participate in their first ever official public demonstration… Fr Tony Flannery, the Irish Redemptorist priest who was suspended from public ministry by the Vatican due, in part, to his views in favour of female ordination, said the ‘in persona Christi’ argument was like suggesting the “earth is flat”. The Tablet
Veterans of the campaign to ordain women in the various provinces of the Anglican Communion can be forgiven for greeting recent news from the Vatican with a deep sigh of resignation. We have been there before. The path to women bishops is now well trodden and the milestones are familiar.
- Gain some sort of formal recognition for a representative body campaigning for women’s ordination within the Church, and open up ‘dialogue’. (Where the Catholic Church is concerned this is a significant step. For the Vatican authorities even to admit dialogue on a matter which has been declared to be de fide will be a major, and perhaps fatal concession on their part.)
- Secure the establishment of a Commission to consider women deacons. (The historical evidence is disputed, inconclusive and might be taken either way.)
- Ensure that women have parity with men in the membership of the Commission. (The Chair should be a woman – preferably a powerful nun.)
- Secure the ordination of women deacons. (This will need an assurance that ordination is to a permanent diaconate, and in no way affects the priesthood.)
- Press for the appointment of women deacons to significant posts on diocesan staffs. (Female ecumenical officers attached to Bishops’ Conferences would be especially desirable.)
- Organise demonstrations at every ordination and every Holy Thursday. Emphasise the ‘frustration’ of women deacons ‘waiting to be priests’. (Ignore the assurances given at  above).
- Secure the appointment of supporters of women ‘s ordination to seminaries and places of higher education. *
- Argue that St John Paul’s prohibition shows a failure to take into account the patristic doctrine of the inclusiveness of the humanity of the Incarnation. Rather than upholding the tradition it overturns it in a crucial area. It demonstrates, moreover, an eastern European mindset not fully attuned to the modern age. (Be patient, this may take some time.)
- Meanwhile, secure provision for women deacons to say Mass in ‘exceptional’ circumstances (e.g. in remote and inaccessible areas where priests are few and overstretched
- Once women have been ordained simply keep up the pressure. Women bishops will inevitably follow.(Within 20-25 years a generation will have grown up for whom an all male priesthood is unknown and the arguments used to defend it, for the most part unintelligible.)
The nest Pope but two
*At this stage press for the lifting of the excommunmications on women irregularly ordained