Pope Francis, in a recent interview for the book “The Shepherd: Struggles, Reasons, and Thoughts on His Papacy,” reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s stance that holy orders would remain reserved for men.
Upholding the Tradition
The Pope’s declaration aligns with the teachings of his predecessors, including Pope John Paul II, who upheld this tradition.
The interview, originally published in Spanish as “El Pastor: Desafíos, razones y reflexiones sobre su pontificado,” became available in Italian as “Non Sei Solo: Sfide, Risposte, Speranze,” or “You Are Not Alone: Challenges, Answers, Hopes,” on October 24.
Some progressive activists had hoped for a shift in this policy, specifically advocating for the ordination of women as deacons within the Church.
However, Pope Francis indicated that allowing women into the diaconate, which is the first degree of holy orders in the Catholic Church, would be challenging due to its hierarchical structure.
The diaconate precedes the priesthood and episcopate. In the context of the Catholic Church, the diaconate is a position or role that precedes (comes before) the roles of priesthood and bishop in terms of hierarchy or order.
A Stepping Stone in Structure
It’s like a stepping stone in the church’s leadership structure, with individuals typically becoming deacons before they can become priests or bishops.
He argued that limiting discussions of ministry to the priestly aspect alone would undermine the core identity of the Church.
Pope Francis emphasized that women, as the reflection of Jesus’s bride, the Church, hold a crucial role within the Church’s spiritual landscape.
He countered the idea of women’s exclusion from the ministerial sphere, asserting that their significance transcends traditional clerical roles.
“The fact that the woman does not access ministerial life is not a deprivation, because her place is much more important,” he said.
Says It Wouldn’t Work in the Longrun
“I think we err in our catechesis in explaining these things, and ultimately we fall back on an administrative criterion that does not work in the long run.”
The Pope acknowledged women’s valuable “ecclesial intuition,” affirming the unique qualities they bring to the Church.
Some have suggested that ordaining women could attract more followers and ease the requirement of priestly celibacy, but Pope Francis disagreed and said that programmatic changes alone cannot address cultural issues.
“Lutherans ordain women, but still few people go to church,” he said.
“Their priests can marry, but despite that, they can’t grow the number of ministers.”
The Root of the Problem
He pointed out that Church growth concerns stem from cultural, rather than structural, issues, requiring more profound paradigm shifts.
“Mere ecclesiastical reforms do not serve to solve underlying issues,” he stated.
Pope Francis’s unwavering stance underlines the Catholic Church’s longstanding tradition of reserving holy orders for men, reinforcing the roles of men and women within the Church.
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