04/10/17

The Queerest Week –Palm Sunday 2017

 

By Rev. Dr. Robert E. Shore-Goss

I have written queer theology for the last 27 years, and I now write about a period of 8 days, the queerest days that I can imagine. I am speaking from the moment that Jesus arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey to God’s resurrection of Jesus from the death.

Now let me dispel a notion: I am not writing about LGBTQI concerns, they are included but not the focus this morning. Queer theory and queer stories focus usually on LGBTQI concerns and inclusion in history, but I am speaking about God’s dream for life and humanity, and that dream is very queer. It is God’s unconditional grace and love for creation and all life.

Let me define queer for a moment. To “queer” is to interfere or disrupt. It is to transgress exclusive categories, notions, boundaries, and all boxes. I queer Christianity because it has remained exclusive, often violent and oppressive of someone or some life. Queering exclusiveness is to interfere and spoil exclusiveness and make it more inclusive.

My colleague and friend Rev. Dr. Patrick Cheng, understands queering as eliding dualism. Dualism is a destruction form of binary thinking used by dominant theologies, church leaders and politicians. It separates the world into male and female, culture and nature, the have and have-not, human and non-human, and so. For Patrick, God’s love is queer because it elides such thinking and behaviors. Dr. Justin Tanis comprehends queer as dawn or dusk, that liminal or ambiguous space between night and day. My deceased theologian and friend speaks of indecent and perverse. In Luke’s gospel, the Temple high priests bring a charge against Jesus before Pilate: “This man has perverted the nation.”

I have engaged with God’s Christ in Jesus of Nazareth. God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit have made me “queer” and more so over time. I describe myself as “a queer seeker of God and disciple of an even queerer God.” Jesus laid the foundations of ministry and message of the companionship of empowerment or kindom of God as a “topsy-turvy and upside-down kindom. He opens God’s table to everyone and upsets nearly every religious Jew of his time. Just listen to the parables of Jesus—the Good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the mustard seed, the baker woman who sneaks leaven into 50 pounds of flour, and so on. They provoke and disrupt religious exclusivism that reserves God’s grace and favor for the chosen “holy.”

My often quoted author, Diarmuid O’Murchu, calls the parables as “enlightened confusion.”

The story Jesus told them turned their world upside-down,
Bombarding every certainty they knew.
The boundaries were disrupted,
Their sacred creeds corrupted,
Every hope they had constructed,
Was questioned to the core!
By the story ended,
Stretching meaning so distended,
What they had known for long before.

O’Murchu speaks about Jesus’ parables. But what if we understand the gospel stories of Jesus as a parable about God? God is queering in the story of Jesus on a massive and unprecedented scale, not since the big bang. God has incarnated in a human being—such a queer and scandalous notion. God is queering and communicating a thoroughly queer and radically inclusive love. All are beloved—all humanity, all life, and all creation. No on is left behind or out.

Let me point out the queer highlights of this week:

For Jesus, God was a king unlike all kings and rulers. God’s rule was “queer,” meaning “not fitting in, strange, at odds with, out of place, disruptive, blasphemous, revolutionary, dangerous, outside the box, or my word “mischievous.” It is a topsy-turvy non-ruling but luring us through unconditional gift and love. God’s strategy is never coercive but always luring us through unconditional grace and love.

The Temple high priest and his colleagues brought Jesus before Pilate with the charges: “He perverted the nation.” Here “perverted” means inverting religious values, hierarchies, breaking all sorts of purity codes and religious laws for the sake of compassion. Jesus was always out of place; a peasant was meant to be quiet and subservient to the rulers of the Temple. Jesus spoke out compassion and was not afraid to break religious rules to extend God’s compassion.
Let’s examine today’s gospel a little more carefully. Unfortunately, the distribution of palms on Palm Sunday has become a spiritual blessing for us today. Many Christians tie up their palms into a bow and hang the palm crosses in their homes. And I am not opposed to anyone doing so if you determine to ask God to make you a bit queerer. But Palm Sunday has a deeper meaning than just the palms. Jesus rides on donkey into Jerusalem accompanied by a ragtag group of male and female disciples.

Jesus enters Jerusalem or to use biblical scholar Warren Carter’s phrase “making an Ass of Rome:” The conflict between Jesus and Pilate begins the day that Jesus enters in Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and praised as the “Son of David.”

Roman entrances into city were always triumphant. No red carpets, but soldiers trumpeting, followed by cadence war drums sounding the entrance of the conquering hero. In this case, it was Pilate who represented the triumphant Roman Empire and Emperor Tiberius. Days before Pilate rode on a war horse from the sea resort of Caesarea followed by marching his Roman legionnaires with standards, Pilate entered Jerusalem as conqueror and made it clear to the populace that the Rome was in charge of their city and their lives. They paraded and displayed extravagantly the power of Tiberius Caesar and Rome. It communicates Roman greatness and military power, reminding the crowds that they were conquered by the powerful Roman legions—the greatest power in the world blessed by the Gods. Augustine was the true Son of god Apollo, and the savior of the world.

But Jesus intends to literally make an ass of Pilate and Rome. He choreographs his own dramatic and symbolic entrance into Jerusalem. He queers some of the Roman ritual entry or rather mischievously reframes them as symbolic challenges. His entrance into Jerusalem reminds the Jews of their religious history in which God enters the holy city to serve, not dominate. He chooses an ass, not a war horse in which Pilate rode into the city. Matthew remembers the line from the prophet Zechariah: “Tell the daughter of Zion, your king is coming on an ass”(9:9). The rest of the verse states that your king comes triumphant and victorious, and humble riding an ass.

Jesus is recognized not as a king but more likely anti-king. He teaches humility, non-violence, compassion and love, forgiveness, and peace-making, empowerment through mutuality and service, not conquest and domination. God’s community is constituted by a new a kinship as children of God—not be wealth, prestige, gender, or ethnicity. It is constituted by God as Abba, our parent in love with all and equally. And God lives within us and in our midst.
Another example of this last week of Jesus’ life that reveals God’s queer activity among people as empowering mutual companionship is the Last Supper. Companionship is created when we share food together, and we eat with God in our midst. Companionship was based on exclusion but gathering together to eat with God and one another.

I want you to remember the video from Centering Prayer this morning, Eating Twinkies with God. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9N8OXkN0Rk It expresses the incarnational vision of the Last Supper and Jesus’ ministry of eating together with God and finding God present.

There is no question that for Jesus the Last Supper had to be open and inclusive. I cannot accept the readings of the Last Supper as an exclusive meal. It goes against the very queer nature of who Jesus was and who God is. People from the highways and byways were to be invited into the meals. It was populated with diversity: outcasts, prostitutes, abominable people, tax collectors, those folks that terrify Pharisees and Christians alike. He did not moralize, berate them how to change their lives, or threaten them that could not share the table if they did not change their ways.

In Christianity’s Dangerous Memory, Diarmuid O’Murchu describes Jesus’ parables, healings, and ministry. The description is equally applicable to his meals and his to Last Supper:

They defy the criteria of normalcy and stretch creative imagination toward subversive, revolutionary engagement. They threaten major disruption for a familiar manageable world, and lure the hearer (participant) into a risky enterprise, but one that has promise and hope inscribed in every fiber of the dangerous endeavor.

There were no hierarchies at table, no one in charge and in power. There were only those who voluntarily served others, gladly washed the feet of their companions, who assisted folks at table to heal from the years of religious abuse and oppression. And God was mischievously present through each other. Jesus encouraged them to dream a future with hope, with God with shared resources and the abundance of food created by the companions of the bread and the cup.
Jesus’ Last Supper, like all his meals, undid social ordinary patterns and hierarchical behaviors, introducing people into a new egalitarianism, an equality before one another and God. No Roman official like Pilate would ever serve food to another person, especially with a male lesser of status or serve even his wife. No religious Jew would invite men and women together at table, suspected impurity and sinfulness.

And then there is the radical service of Jesus at table that evening– washing the feet of his male and female disciples. This was the service of only household slaves or women. No free male would do such a washing service because it demeaned his masculinity and patriarchal authority. Jesus turns the social hierarchies inside out, breaking down the gender boundaries and social hierarchies. There is only table fellowship of mutual service and equals, revering those who were the socially least, and inviting the disciples to imitate Jesus in his act of foot-washing.

Finally, Jesus dies a cruel death inflicted by the powers of imperial domination and religious exclusivism, always an unholy marriage of violence. It is an ultimate queering of human expectation, God’s vulnerability and suffering on the cross. God understood vulnerability in the incarnated Christ on the cross, and God identified with the suffering Christ and the least and vulnerable humanity and life in history. We have no comprehension of the depths of God’s suffering for all suffering life, but we do have a window into the depth of God when Jesus told his disciples: “Be compassionate as Abba God is compassionate.” Abba God suffered and died with Christ out of compassion, for God has suffered with all suffering life and human life. God the Creator becomes vulnerable and experience suffering the incarnated Christ on the cross and the Holy Spirit that groans and suffers with all created life. This is the queerest notion of God in history—God who becomes vulnerable and experiencing suffering. God is with us in so many unimaginable ways.

But the queer God surprised all of us. God said “no” to such violence and cruelty, God proclaimed a “yes to unconditional love” on Easter Sunday. Next Sunday I will speak how the queer God queers death for resurrected life!

03/10/17

The priest who welcomed the LGBT community into his church

By Michael Cox

Seamus O’Boyle was leader of London’s gay Catholic Mass for six years, until it came to an end under pressure from the Vatican in 2013. Now a parish priest in the borough, Monsignor O’Boyle speaks to Michael Cox about the bittersweet feeling of helping a hurt community which was again cast aside, and the changing attitudes of the Church to LGBT people.

In April 1999 neo-Nazi David Copeland, known as the London Nail Bomber, killed three people in the Admiral Duncan Pub on Old Compton Street, at the heart of London’s gay community.

“After the pub bombing in Soho where people got killed, there was a group of gay Catholic men and women who wanted somewhere to pray,” says Monsignor Seamus O’Boyle. But the Church’s teachings forbade this.

“They started gathering together in an Anglican church to have Catholic Mass. That was a bit of an anomaly really, to put it mildly.”

Eight years later Mgr O’Boyle was Vicar General, a senior position in the Church which made him responsible for every priest in London. He had an opportunity to do something.

He decided that after what the community had suffered, he wanted LGBT Catholics to worship in a Catholic setting.

“The move was to try and make sure this was happening in a Catholic parish instead, and that it was open to everyone.

“We looked for a church and it was decided that we would use Our Lady of the Assumption on Warwick Street in Soho. I was appointed as the parish priest so I was responsible for what went on, in the sense of having an oversight of what was going on there.

“I was blamed for it all, being reported to Rome every five minutes.

The blame came from more conservative Catholics who did not want to see homosexuality being publicly welcomed by the Church. The furore over an officially sanctioned gay Mass began immediately.

“It was a wonderful thing to be able to reach out to that community. It was a very hurt community by the Church, and yet there they were wanting to be part of it. I think we did a very good thing by allowing that to happen, but others didn’t feel that way.

“More traditional Catholics didn’t like it much. There was a group who used to meet outside and protest, saying the rosary. It was just horrendous, really. And then writing every five minutes to Rome to tell them that we were doing this atrocious thing. All kinds of ministry of disinformation, it was awful.

“Sometimes the group didn’t help by reacting in a bad way to some of the criticism and trying to reign them in a bit was not always easy. The group meeting outside was always invited in, you know, ‘come in and see that we’ve not got two heads’.

“Actually it was a very traditional celebration of mass, just that there happened to be a lot of musicians…

“To go to a Mass on a Sunday evening and have 150 people there who wanted to be there and participate in that way was just extraordinary. It was causing more and more trouble, every five minutes there was another complaint so the Archbishop wanted to find a different way of operating it.”

The Archbishop at the time was Vincent Nichols, and as leader of all Catholics in England and Wales he was responsible for dealing with the Vatican and, ultimately, the Pope.

He shut down the Soho Mass in 2013, saying it conflicted with the church’s teachings on sexuality.

Archbishop Nichols told the BBC at the time: “The moral teaching of the Church is that the proper use of our sexual faculty is within a marriage, between a man and a woman, open to the procreation and nurturing of new human life.

“This means that many types of sexual activity, including same-sex sexual activity, are not consistent with the teaching of the church.”

The Mass was moved out of the jurisdiction of the Archbishop into a Jesuit church on Farm Street in Mayfair, where it has continued.

“A number of the Jesuit priests were involved in the Soho masses so it seemed like a natural progression,” says Mgr O’Boyle. “It’s still thriving.

“The problem with Warwick Street was it is a very tiny community, so that particular group swamped it. Farm Street is a much bigger community so to get them to mix has worked well. It means they’re not the only thing that’s happening.”

Mgr O’Boyle believes that despite initial approval from the Vatican, the Archbishop came under increasing pressure from the top of the church to end the LGBT Mass.

“Every step along the way, there was discussion with bishops, then Rome was involved and they were notified about what was going on. They were informed about it, it wasn’t like we were doing anything behind anyone’s back. But it wasn’t appreciated by everyone.

“[Archbishop Nichols] would go to meetings in Rome in all he would hear about was who had written to complain about Soho Mass, it became ridiculous and out of proportion. He was irritated by the reaction from Rome, so it was a neat way to bring it to an end at Warwick Street.

“And then I moved from there to here in Islington.”

Mgr O’Boyle thinks the attitude to LGBT people in the Catholic Church is changing, a shift largely driven by the actions of an unusually liberal Pope.

“Pope Francis has given people hope that the church doesn’t seem quite so judgemental or dictatorial about things.

“He was interviewed [about homosexuality] and famously said “who am I to judge?” To hear a Pope say that when others seem to have been very judgemental and harsh was a real sign of hope for the LGBT community I think.

“He’s trying to modernise the church but he’s up against it. He needs to do it, which I think is why he’s right for his time.

“He doesn’t care what he does really which is great – he’s the Pope isn’t he? He can do what he likes.

“I think there are those who would like to stop him doing what he’s doing – the establishment would. Centuries-old structures of bureaucracy are not easy to break down.

“But I think he’s been a breath of fresh air for the Church.”

Complete Article HERE!

10/6/16

B.C. bishops open to funeral services for assisted deaths, despite new guidelines

Physician-assisted death called a ‘grave sin’ that contradicts the teachings of the Catholic church

By Jon Hernandez

assisted-dying-palliative-care

Catholic priests in B.C. can still offer funeral services in physician-assisted deaths, despite new controversial guidelines that prohibit the act for bishops in Alberta and the N.W.T.

Guidelines issued by the Catholic Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories suggest that priests should refuse funeral rites in physician-assisted deaths, which are declared a “grave sin” in the documents. But John Corriveau, the bishop for the Diocese of Nelson and the Okanagan, says providing funeral rites will be at the pastor’s discretion.

“We will not refuse funerals for people to everybody who has had assisted suicide,” he said on CBC’s Daybreak South, adding that priests do have compassion for instances where patients are undergoing extreme and unmanageable pain.

“If it’s a case that somebody in a moment of extreme pain made a choice — I’m sure, in many of these cases, we will be able to celebrate a funeral,” he said.

The bishop’s statements directly contradict the orders given by the Alberta/N.W.T. group, which clearly states “such a request for funeral rites must be gently but firmly denied” and refers to assisted-death as both “evil” and “morally unjustified”.

Physician-assisted death has been hotly contested by the Catholic Church, which instead calls on palliative care and pain management as effective tools for treating people with serious illnesses.

But in June 2016, the Canadian government approved physician-assisted death across the country under several conditions and limiting it to adults facing ‘foreseeable’ death and undergoing a “grievous and irremediable” illness.

According to Corriveau, under the federal conditions, it is likely that at least some pastors in B.C. will provide funeral services.

Complete Article HERE!

09/17/16

“The world is tired of dishonest charmers, fashionable priests and leaders of pointless crusades”

In his address to new bishops attending their annual formation course, the Pope urged them to make mercy pastoral, to do their utmost to reach out to God’s people and be close to fragile families. In the seminaries, he advised them to aim for quality not quantity and not to trust those who retreat into a rigid way of thinking

Francis to newly-appointed bishops: “The world is tired of dishonest charmers, fashionable priests and leaders of pointless crusades”

Francis to newly-appointed bishops: “The world is tired of dishonest charmers, fashionable priests and leaders of pointless crusades”

By iacvopo scaramuzzi

“The world is tired of dishonest charmers… And, I dare say, ‘fashionable’ priests and bishops. People sense this, the people of God have this sense and they refuse and distance themselves when they recognise narcissists, manipulators, defenders of their own causes, leaders of pointless crusades.” Pope Francis addressed a long speech to newly appointed bishops attending a training course in Rome, touching on a number of aspects relating to their ministry. He started with the importance of making mercy pastoral, in other words “accessible, tangible and possible to find,” “mercy” being “the essence of what God offers the world”. Bishops, Francis said, must be capable of seducing and attracting men and women of our time to God, without “complaints”, “leav[ing] no stone unturned in order to reach them, and spare no effort in recovering them”. Bishops must also be capable of initiating their Churches (“Today we ask for too much fruit from trees that have not been sufficiently cultivated”). Francis then asked them to take special care of “the structures of initiation of your Churches, especially the seminaries”, focusing on the “quality of the discipleship” rather than on the “quantity” of seminarians. The Pope beseeched bishops “to act with great prudence and responsibility in welcoming candidates or incardinating priests in your local Churches”. Francis also invited bishops to be close to their clergy, who were placed along their path “by chance” as well as families with their “fragility”.

“Ask God, who is full of mercy, what the secret is for making his mercy pastoral in your dioceses,” Francis said in his speech to the 154 new bishops (16 from missionary territories) who took part in the annual training course jointly organised by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. “Mercy must form and inform the pastoral structures of your Churches. … Do not be afraid of proposing mercy as the essence of what God offers the world because there is no greater thing the heart can aspire to. As my venerable and wise predecessor taught, ‘it is mercy that puts an end to evil,” Francis said quoting Benedict XVI, adding two rhetorical questions: “Can our insecurities and mistrust perchance inspire tenderness and consolation in the midst of solitude and abandonment?”

To make mercy “accessible, tangible and possible to find,” the Pope recalled first and foremost that “a remote and indifferent god can even be ignored, but one does not so easily resist a God Who is so close, and wounded out of love. Goodness, beauty, truth, love – this is what we can offer to this begging world, even if it is in half-broken bowls. However, it is not about attracting to oneself. The world is tired of dishonest charmers. And, I dare say, ‘fashionable’ priests and bishops. People sense this, the people of God have this sense and they refuse and distance themselves when they recognise narcissists, manipulators, defenders of their own causes, leaders of pointless crusades. Rather, seek to follow God, Who already introduces Himself before your arrival. … God never gives up! Instead we, accustomed to surrender, who often give in, preferring to allow ourselves to be convinced that truly they were able to eliminate him and invent bitter discourses to justify the idleness that blocks us in the immobile sound of vain complaints. It is horrible when a bishop complains.”

Secondly, the Pope said it is essential to “initiate” those who are entrusted to pastors: “Please, I ask you to have no other perspective from which to look upon your faithful other than that of their uniqueness; leave no stone unturned in order to reach them, and spare no effort in recovering them. Be bishops capable of initiating your Churches in this abyss of love. Today,” Francis underlined, “we ask for too much fruit from trees that have not been sufficiently cultivated. The sense of initiation has been lost, and yet the truly essential things in life may be reached solely through initiation. Think of the educational crisis, the transmission of both content and values, emotional illiteracy, vocational paths, discernment in families, the search for peace: all these require initiation and journeys guided with perseverance, patience and constancy, the signs that distinguish the good shepherd from the hireling”.

Francis focused his attention especially on the formation of future priests: “I urge you to take special care of the structures of initiation of your Churches, especially the seminaries. Do not allow yourselves to be tempted by numbers, by the quantity of vocations. Seek instead the quality of the discipleship. Do not deprive seminarians of your firm and loving fatherly touch. Let them grow until they are free to be with God “as calm and peaceful as a child weaning in its mother’s arm”, not prisoners of their own whims, overcome by fragility but free to embrace all that God asks of them, even when this is not as pleasant as the maternal womb was at the start. Beware also of seminarians who retreat into a rigid way of thinking – there is always something ugly beneath the surface”. “I also beg you to act with great prudence and responsibility in welcoming candidates or incardinating priests in your local Churches. Remember that from the very beginning the relationship between a local Church and her priests is inseparable, and a vagrant clergy in transit from one place to another is never accepted”.

Finally, quoting the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Pope said bishops should be “capable of accompanying”: “Be bishops with a heart wounded by a mercy like this, tireless in the humble task of accompanying the man that God, ‘by chance’, has placed in your way.” Francis had another request for bishops: “Accompany first, and with patient care, your clergy” and “reserve special accompaniment for all families, rejoicing with their generous love and encouraging the immense good they bestow in this world. Be watchful, above all, of those that are most wounded. Do not pass over their fragility.”

“I am pleased to welcome you and to share with you some thoughts that spring to the Successor of Peter’s mind when he has before him those who have been “fished” from God’s heart, to lead his Holy People,” the Pope had started by saying. “May God save you from rendering this thrill fruitless, from taming it and emptying it of its ‘destabilising” power”. Let yourselves be destabilised, it’s good for bishops,” Francis said. “Many people these days mask and conceal themselves. They like to construct personalities and invent profiles. … They are unable to bear the thrill of knowing that they are known by Someone Who is greater and Who does not despise our littleness, Who is more Holy and does not reproach our weakness, Who is truly good and is not scandalised by our wounds. May it not be so for you,” he concluded, “let that thrill run through you, do not remove it or silence it”.

Complete Article HERE!

05/12/16

Francis agrees to possibility of setting up commission to study women deacons in early Church

In an audience with female religious superiors, the Pope has agreed to back the establishment of a commission to study women deacons in the early Church. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini proposed such a move back in the 90’s. The Italian diocese of Padua, began experimenting some time ago

The female diaconate: a possibility for today?

The female diaconate: a possibility for today?

By ANDREA TORNIELLI

Pope Francis has said he wants the study of the female diaconate in the early Church to resume. He talked about this during his audience with the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), whom he received in the Vatican. This is not a new question and was in fact mentioned again recently. After the clear message John Paul II sent out when he reacted to the Anglicans’ open approach by issuing the “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” letter (1994), categorically rejecting the possibility of ordination for women in the Catholic Church, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini spoke of the possibility of studying the institution of the female diaconate, which is not mentioned in the papal document. The Archbishop of Milan at the time said: “There have been female deacons in the Church in the past, we could consider this possibility.” Some early Church historians pointed out that women were admitted to a specific diaconal service of charity which differs from today’s concept of the diaconate as the first step towards priesthood.

During the question and answer session that took place during the meeting, the Pope was asked, amongst other things, why the Church excludes women from the diaconate. Women religious told the Pope that women served as deacons in the early Church and asked: “Why not construct an official commission that might study the question?” The Pope responded that he had spoken about the matter once some years ago with a “good, wise professor” who had studied the use of female deacons in the early centuries of the Church. Francis said it remained unclear to him what role such deacons had. “It was a bit obscure,” said Francis. “What was the role of the deaconess in that time?” “Constituting an official commission that might study the question?” the pontiff asked aloud. “I believe yes. It would do good for the church to clarify this point. I am in agreement. I will speak to do something like this.”

“I accept,” the pope said later. “It seems useful to me to have a commission that would clarify this well.”

According to an ancient tradition, deacons were in fact ordained “not to the priesthood but to the ministry”. There is some historical evidence of the presence of female deacons both in the western and eastern Church. This evidence relates also to liturgical ordination rites as well. What needs to be looked into further, is what type of ministerial figures they were, what their roles within the community were. The magisterium considers the diaconate as the first step in the ordained ministry and reserves this function as well as that of the presbyterate and the episcopate to men.

By announcing his approval of the setting up of a study commission on the female diaconate in the early Church, Francis intends to verify whether and how this form of service can be brought up to date, believing that the role of the permanent female deacon could be reinstituted in the modern day. In the early days of Christianity females deacons did exist (St. Paul mentions them) and there is documentary evidence showing that in 3rd century Syria, there were female deacons who assisted the priest with female baptisms. This role is also mentioned in apostolic constitutions dating back to the 4th century, which contain references to a specific ordination rite that differed from the ordination rite reserved for male deacons.

Some forms of female diaconal service have been institutionalised for some time now, as is the case with the diocese of Padua, where said forms of service were introduced by the former bishop Antonio Mattiazzo. Although these women do not wear a religious habit, they have taken vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, meaning they have been consecrated as “diocesan apostolic collaborators”. The northern Italian diocese defined the role and tasks of this new form of service as such: “This form of female diaconal service is inspired by the Gospel. For female apostolic collaborators entering the apostolic diaconate is a life choice that is approved and oriented by the bishops”. One of the tasks of female deacons is to proclaim the Gospel message, educate people about the faith, do charity work for the poor, distribute Holy Communion, enliven the liturgy and manage structures such as schools and institutes.

Pope Francis has spoken on many occasions about the need for the Catholic Church to value the role of women. But he has always avoided presenting this as a form of female “clericalisation”. “I don’t know where this idea sprang from. Women in the Church must be valued not ‘clericalised’. Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism,” Francis said in an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa in December 2013, in response to a question about whether the Church would have women cardinals in the future.

In September 2001, the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger, along with his “colleagues”, cardinals Medina Estevez (Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship) and Castrillón Hoyos (Congregation for the Clergy), signed a brief letter, approved by John Paul II, which stated that “it is not licit to put in place initiatives which in some way aim to prepare female candidates for diaconal ordination”. The text referred to the diaconate as a sacrament and first step towards priesthood.

New studies on the female diaconate in the early Church, on the duties and responsibilities of female deacons compared to those of their male counterparts and on the types of ordination rite, could open up new possibilities and new forms of consecrated service besides the already existing women’s religious orders.

“The Church needs women to become a part of the decision-making process and for them to head up an office in the Vatican,” Pope Francis said, responding to six questions put to him at a meeting with 900 nuns from across the world. Speaking in the Nervi hall, he explained that “the Church should involve lay and consecrated women in consultations but also in decision-making because it needs to hear their point of view. This growing role women are playing within the Church is not feminism but co-responsibility which is a right of all Christians, men and women alike.” Francis also underlined that “too many consecrated females are mediocre women rather than people who engaged in the ministry of service. Consecrated life,” he added, “is a path of poverty, not suicide”.

Complete Article HERE!