Pope Francis Backs Female Diaconate and Expands Rights for All Baptized Individuals

— Pope Francis advocates for a female diaconate and extended rights for all baptized individuals, triggering theological discussions on celibacy and women’s roles within the Catholic Church. This shift may redefine the Church’s future.

By Quadri Adejumo

In a groundbreaking revelation, an Italian theologian discloses Pope Francis’s support for a female diaconate and his intent to extend specific rights to all baptized individuals, previously exclusive to bishops, priests, and religious figures. This significant development was deliberated in a gathering of the Council of Cardinals, or ‘C9,’ which counsels Pope Francis on Church governance and reform.

A Plea for Change: Women’s Voices Echo in the Vatican

Simultaneously, a collective of 26 Italian women penned a heartfelt letter to Pope Francis, professing their love for priests and advocating for the abolition of the Catholic Church’s celibacy requirement. Their emotional appeal emphasizes the “soul-destroying” nature of their suffering and stresses the potential benefits for the entire Church if the celibacy rule were to be relaxed.

Tradition vs. Progression: A Delicate Balance

Notably, Pope Francis has previously articulated his inclination towards preserving celibacy, citing tradition and the positive experiences of the past. However, suggestions have emerged, proposing the replacement of the celibacy law with an alternative discipline. Yet, the Church maintains a lengthy history of skepticism towards amending its rules concerning women.

Uncharted Territory: Expanding Roles and Rights

The current discourse surrounding the expansion of rights to all baptized individuals, irrespective of their religious roles, signifies a monumental shift in the Church’s perspective. If realized, this transformation could potentially reshape the landscape of the Catholic Church. Consequently, theological discussions and debates are intensifying, as the potential implications of these changes continue to unfold.

As the conversation surrounding celibacy and the role of women in the Catholic Church forges ahead, the world watches with bated breath. The decisions made today could redefine the Church’s future, signifying a critical juncture in its storied history.

Pope Francis, in his pursuit of a more inclusive and progressive Church, faces the challenge of balancing tradition with innovation. The potential implementation of a female diaconate and the extension of rights to all baptized individuals are testaments to the Church’s evolving stance.

In this intricate tapestry of motives, histories, and potential futures, the voices of the 26 Italian women serve as a poignant reminder of the human element at the heart of these debates. As the Church navigates uncharted waters, the stories of struggle, ambition, and sheer human will continue to shape its transformative journey.

Complete Article HERE!

The Catholic Church needs married priests now

— At the Last Supper, Jesus said, ‘Do this in memory of me.’ He did not say, ‘Be celibate.’


Without the Eucharist, it seems obvious: There is no Catholic Church. It feeds us as a community of believers and transforms us into the body of Christ active in the world today. But according to Catholic theology, we cannot have the Eucharist without priests.

Sadly, in many parts of the world there is a Eucharistic famine, precisely because there are no priests to celebrate the Eucharist. This problem has been going on for decades and is only getting worse.

Last year, the Vatican reported that while the number of Catholics worldwide increased by 16.2 million in 2021, the number of priests decreased by 2,347. As a result, on average there were 3,373 Catholics for every priest in the world (including retired priests), a rise of 59 people per priest.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reports that in 1965 there were 59,426 priests in the United States. In 2022, there were only 34,344 . Over much the same period, the number of Catholics has increased to 72.5 million in 2022, from 54 million in 1970.

Priests are also getting older. In 2012, a CARA study found that the average age of priests rose to 63 in 2009, from 35 in 1970. When a Jesuit provincial, the regional director of the order, told Jesuits at a retirement home not long ago that there was a waiting list to get in, a resident wag responded, “We are dying as fast as we can.”

Archbishop Gregory Aymond conducts the procession to lead a livestreamed Easter Mass in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, April 12, 2020. The FBI has opened a widening investigation into Roman Catholic sex abuse in New Orleans, looking specifically at whether priests took children across state lines to molest them. The FBI declined to comment, as did the Louisiana State Police, which is assisting in the inquiry. The Archdiocese of New Orleans declined to discuss the federal investigation. “I’d prefer not to pursue this conversation,” Aymond told AP. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Archbishop Gregory Aymond conducts the procession to lead a livestreamed Easter Mass in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, April 12, 2020.

In many rural areas of the United States, priests no longer staff parishes but simply visit parishes once a month or less frequently. In 1965, there were only 530 parishes without priests. By 2022, there were 3,215 according to CARA.

All of these numbers are only going to get worse.

In the early 1980s, the archbishop of Portland came to a rural parish to tell them they would no longer have a priest and that most Sundays they would have a Scripture service, not a Mass.

A parishioner responded, “Before the Second Vatican Council, you told us that if we did not go to Mass on Sunday, we would go to hell. After the council, you told us that the Eucharist was central to the life of the church. Now you are telling us that we will be just like every other Bible church in our valley.”

Many American bishops have tried to deal with the shortage by importing foreign priests to staff parishes, but Vatican statistics show that the number of priests worldwide is also decreasing. New U.S. immigration rules are also going to make it more difficult to employ foreign priests in the United States.

The Catholic hierarchy has simply ignored the obvious solution to this problem for decades. Under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the discussion of married priests was forbidden. Leaders in the hierarchy tended to live in large cities where the shortage had less of an impact than in rural areas.

Even Pope Francis, who expressed his respect for married clergy in Eastern Catholic churches, did not respond positively when the bishops meeting at the Synod for the Pan-Amazon Region voted 128-41 to allow married deacons to become priests. At the recent meeting of the Synod on Synodality, the issue of married priests was hardly mentioned.

The decline in the number of vocations has many explanations depending on whom you ask. Conservatives blame the reforms coming out of the Second Vatican Council.

Certainly, the council did emphasize the holiness of marriage and the vocation of the laity. Priests seemed less special after the council. Prior to the council, only a priest could touch the consecrated host. Today, lay ministers of Communion do so at nearly every Mass.

However, sociologists note that vocations decline when families have fewer children and when children have greater educational and employment opportunities.

Thus, in a family with only one or two children, the parents prefer grandchildren to a son who is a priest. And, in the past, priests were the most educated person in the community and therefore had great status. Today, parishes can have many lawyers, doctors and other professionals, and becoming a priest does not confer the status it used to.

Catholic priests participate in a thanksgiving Mass for the elevation of Archbishop of Hyderabad Anthony Poola to cardinal, at St. Mary's high school in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. Archbishop Poola is the first member of the Dalit community, considered the lowest rung of India's caste system, to become a cardinal. ( AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
Catholic priests participate in a thanksgiving Mass for the elevation of Archbishop of Hyderabad Anthony Poola to cardinal, at St. Mary’s high school in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

Those who point to the continued increases in vocations in Africa and Asia need to listen to the sociologists. Already, there are fewer vocations in urban areas of India where families have fewer children and more opportunities for education are available. Africa and Asia are not the future of the church. They are simply slower in catching up with modernity.

Anticlericalism has also impacted vocations, first in Europe and now in America. Priests are no longer universally respected. They are often treated with ridicule and contempt. Being a priest is countercultural.

Despite this, there are still many Catholics who are willing to take up this vocation. People are being called to priesthood, but the hierarchy is saying no because those who feel called are married, gay or women.

A 2006 survey by Dean Hoge found that nearly half of the young men involved in Catholic campus ministry had “seriously considered” ministry as a priest, but most also want to be married and raise a family.

Having a married clergy will not solve all the church’s problems, as we can see in Protestant churches. Married ministers are involved in sex abuse, have addictions and can have the same clerical affectations as any celibate priest. But every employer will tell you that if you increase the number of candidates for a job, the quality of the hire goes up.

Nor is allowing priests to marry simply about making them happier. For the Catholic Church it is a question of whether we are going to have the Eucharist or not. At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me.” He did not say, “Be celibate.”

Complete Article HERE!

Belgian bishops could back women deacons and ending priestly celibacy in a Church more ‘present in the digital world’

David Nas (right) pictured during a ceremony for the ordination to the priesthood of the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels, at the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Basilique nationale du Sacre-Coeur – Nationale Basiliek van het Heilig-Hart) in Brussels, Belgium, 3 February 2024. Newly ordained priest Nas, 32, is married and has three children; he is a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

By Elise Ann Allen

In the lead up to this year’s closing session of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality, Belgian bishops have reportedly opened a national discussion on allowing women deacons and ending the requirement of priestly celibacy.

According to Belgian Catholic news site Kerknet, the Belgian bishops’ conference ahead of the October 2-27 synod happening later in the year have sent a letter to all dioceses proposing, among other things, an openness to the women’s diaconate and an end to mandatory priestly celibacy.

The draft text, apparently sent to various diocesan discussion groups and councils throughout Belgium, makes three basic points, the first of which is that “a synodal missionary church requires open dialogue with the world around us”.

The Church, it says, cannot limit itself “to a one-way street” when it comes to sharing the Gospel with the world.

In a second point, the bishops ask that the Synod of Bishops “define our Church tradition(s) as dynamic and in constant development”.

They also asked for encouragement in pursuing “concrete form to the decentralisation” of certain topics of discussion in the Church, “allowing us to work together in unity with more legitimate diversity”.

“We ask for a concretisation of the ‘accountability’ of the bishops in a synodal church,” they said.

The bishops then apparently call for a deeper reflection on the role of women in the Church, proposing that the decision regarding women deacons be left up to individual dioceses or national or continental bishops’ conferences.

Asking for “the green light to take certain steps per bishops’ conference or continental bishops’ meetings”, the bishops said that by doing this, “the giving of increasing pastoral responsibility to women and the ordination of women to the diaconate need not be universally obligatory or prohibited”.

They also weighed in on the longstanding debate over priestly celibacy, saying: “There have long been strong questions about the obligation of celibacy for priests and deacons who become widowed.”

In this regard, they said there is a need to “rediscover the symbolic-sacramental nature of the ordained ministry”.

They said the relationship between priestly ordination and absolute authority in decision-making requires new clarification and asked that both priests and deacons involve more laypeople in the decision-making process, working “within teams in which lay people also have their place and task”.

Regarding the controversial debate over ordaining viri probati, or tested married men of proven faith and virtue, to the priesthood – one of the major proposals of the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon that Pope Francis chose not to act on – the bishops also weighed in, signalling an openness to the proposition.

“The priestly ordination of viri probati should not be universally obligatory or prohibited,” the bishops said in their memo.

They also stressed the need to prioritise communication with young people and to invest more resources in how to spread the Gospel in and through the digital world.

To this end, they suggested that a mechanism local bishops’ conferences and continental assemblies be established, “so that every local church has the necessary opportunities to be present in the digital world”.

Going forward, according to Kerknet, the Belgian bishops’ letter containing the proposals will be submitted for discussion in the country’s various dioceses. The results of this discussion must be gathered and submitted to the bishops by 7 April 2024, and will then be sent to the Synod of Bishops office in Rome.

A theological committee within the Belgian bishops’ conference will also explore the issues addressed in the letter, delving further into questions surrounding Church tradition and the various offices and ministries in the Church.

A multi-year process formally opened by Pope Francis in October 2021, the Synod of Bishops on Synodality is based on a global consultation process that has unfolded at the local, continental and universal levels, and is set to close with this year’s second Rome gathering, scheduled for Oct. 2-27.

Aimed at making the Catholic Church a more collaborative, welcoming and inclusive place for all of its members, the synod has been controversial due to the hot-button topics being discussed, including women’s priestly ordination, the female diaconate, the married priesthood, and outreach to the LGBTQ+ community.

Issues related to women, specifically women’s ordination to the priesthood and the diaconate, and LGBTQ+ issues have so far been the most divisive and contentious, with synod participants sparring far more than they agree.

The Belgian bishops have previously pushed for more liberal reform in the Church, openly going against the Vatican at times, amid a country considered one of the most secular in the whole of Europe.

While Pope Francis has welcomed discussion on women deacons and the ordination of viri probati throughout his nearly 11-year papacy, and has had repeated occasions to take action, he has yet to make a move on either, and has not indicated what decision he will make, if any, at the close of this year’s synod process.

Complete Article HERE!

No, Married Priests will not Solve the Abuse Crisis

By Mary Pezzulo

They’ve been talking about married priests on X/Twitter lately.

A Vatican official brought up ending the usual requirement for priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church as a possible way to help priests not feel the need to live “double live.”  He didn’t draw any links between celibacy and sexual abuse, but since he also investigates clerical abuse he mentioned how it’s changed his point of view. And people got to talking. The question was asked, as I’ve often heard it asked: could letting priests have a wife help prevent the horrific sexual abuse scandals that just seem to keep happening? And as I always do when it’s asked, I cringed.

I am all in favor of examining the expectation that priests should be celibate. There are many reasons it might be good to have a married priesthood more like they do in the Eastern tradition. But it’s very dangerous to claim that giving priests wives will stop them from abusing. I don’t think there’s any evidence that not being allowed to have sex makes people abusive, and I think it’s dangerous to claim that it does.

If a vow of celibacy was really the cause of sexual abuse, we wouldn’t be having a depressingly familiar crisis in Evangelical Protestant churches right now, but we certainly are. Baptist pastors are men who can marry; in fact, a married pastor is not merely permitted but presumed to be the norm. They’re supposed to have a helpmate and children. It hasn’t stopped them from acting eerily like Catholic priests have been caught acting time and again. Anybody, from any walk of life, can abuse, but what is it about those religious traditions that makes sexual abuse by clergy so endemic there? What do they have in common? It’s not clerical celibacy.

And in any case, if you say that being married will keep a man from abusing, you’re putting the responsibility to stop him onto his wife.

You’re suggesting either that the wife will hold him accountable and protect any potential victims, or that she’s supposed to sexually gratify him so he doesn’t seek victims in the first place.

If you believe that married priests would end the abuse crisis because women would hold their husbands accountable: I don’t know how to begin to explain how crass it is to instrumentalize Catholic women and the sacrament of Holy Matrimony by using it as a pair of handcuffs for an abusive man. But most of the people who support giving priests wives to end sexual abuse seem to be claiming the latter. They seem to think that sexual abuse happens because priests are celibate, so having an outlet in the form of a wife will satisfy them so they don’t find a victim to force themselves onto.

This is also a disgusting instrumentalization of women, and of sex, which is supposed to be a free gift of love from one spouse to another. And it assumes that abusers abuse because they’re craving sex, which isn’t the case– most abusive people abuse because they get off on dominating others and making them suffer, not because they’re desperate to have sex. Sex and sexual abuse are fundamentally different things. But in addition, this idea betrays an extremely disturbing notion about how sexual urges and self control are supposed to work.

You don’t have to accept the Church’s teaching on sexuality to see the problem.

Any kind of healthy or ethical relationship with sex begins with the understanding that people don’t have to act on their urges. Sex, or at least sex with another person, is one of those things you can’t have merely because you think you’d like it; it always involves another person’s consent, and even if the other person is willing you can’t just have it wherever and whenever you think might be fun. No one can constantly be sexually gratified exactly as they’d like. Everybody is, in practice, celibate most of the time. You have to have self-control to exist among other people.

Being a functioning human involves being able to say “no” when your urges say “yes–” whether your urge is to shoplift Nutella and eat the whole jar in the supermarket, or to drive your car at 120 miles per hour in the middle of the city, or to have sex. If you can’t handle that, you shouldn’t be a priest;  you shouldn’t even be allowed around other people. You should be locked up.

I am deeply disturbed that a sizable number of people don’t seem to understand that having an outlet for his sexual urges isn’t going to fix a man who can’t control himself– even if that were fair to his wife.

If you want to say that expecting a man to be celibate for his entire life is bad for his mental health, we can have that argument. If you want to say that a vow of celibacy, combined with the Church’s stance on sexual issues, is only going to be attractive to a man who’s prone to abuse, we can argue about that too. We can sure talk about ordaining married men for other reasons. But if you think that sexual abuse is something that happens because a man needs an outlet one way or another so we’d better give him a wife, that’s not a position that can be defended. Because women are people, and because that’s not how sexuality works.

Complete Article HERE!

Will the Catholic Church allow married priests?

— Should it?

A Catholic priest’s life can be lonely

By Richard Ostling

The new year began with the surprise revival of this perennial issue by a prominent Catholic insider who asserted that the mandate for priests to be unmarried and celibate “was optional for the first millennium of the Church’s existence and it should become optional again.”

This came in a media interview with Archbishop Charles Scicluna, 63, named by Pope Francis in 2015 to lead the church in the nation of Malta. As he indicated, celibacy for all priests, not just those under vows in religious orders, was not made an absolute rule till the Second Lateran Council in A.D. 1139. Back then, one reason was to stop corrupt bishops from handing sons their lucrative posts.

Catholicism is the only branch of Christianity that imposes this requirement.

Sciclina is an especially influential figure due to his 2018 appointment by Francis to a second post as Adjunct Secretary of the Vatican’s all-important agency on doctrine. Over the years, the Vatican has also entrusted the archbishop, who holds doctorates in both secular and canon law, to prosecute delicate cases of sexual abuse by priests.

Married priests already exist

As Scicluna pointed out, the Catholic Church has long welcomed priests who marry prior to ordination in its Oriental Rite jurisdictions, centered in Ukraine, India, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Mideast. Such is also the tradition in Eastern Orthodoxy. (Catholicism occasionally ordains married Protestant ministers who convert.)

The archbishop demanded, “Why should we lose a young man who would have made a fine priest just because he wanted to get married? And we did lose good priests just because they chose marriage.” He said “experience has shown me this is something we need to seriously think about.” For one thing, some priests cope with the rule “by secretly engaging in sentimental relationships” and “we know there are priests around the world who also have children.” Therefore “if it were up to me I would revise the requirement.”

Was Scicluna nudging delegates who next October will attend the second and final session of Pope Francis’s Synod of Bishops at the Vatican? After all, the delegates’ guidebook said local and national discussions leading to the Synod had raised this: “Could a reflection be opened concerning the discipline on access to the priesthood for married men, at least in some areas?” Any such historic proposal voted by the Synod would be merely advisory. The Pope has full power to implement Synod conclusions, or not.

What would Francis do?

How might Francis lean? Last March, he reminded an Argentine news outlet that celibacy “is a temporary prescription” in the western Latin Rite, not a dogma that is unchanging. He added the ambiguous remark that “I do not know if it is settled in one way or another.” In 2019, Francis told journalists “I do not agree with allowing optional celibacy, no,” though he also said he saw leeway to consider exceptions for “pastoral necessity,” as with remote regions that lack priests.

The following year, a book co-authored by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI championed the traditional celibacy discipline. The modern case for celibacy was officially formulated by Pope Paul VI just after the Second Vatican Council in his 1967 encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus (“Priestly Celibacy”).

The encyclical candidly addressed objections raised against the celibacy discipline starting, appropriately enough, with New Testament. Jesus commended workers who “have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it ” (Matthew 19:12). St. Paul wrote concerning unmarried believers that “it is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do” (1 Corinthians 7:8). However, neither mandated singleness for the 12 apostles or subsequent Christian ministers.

In the earliest Christian communities, 1 Timothy 3 teaches that a bishop should be “married only once” while “keeping his children under control,” and Titus 1:5-6 says presbyters  must be “married only once, with believing children.” The Pope’s encyclical admitted all that. The clear inference is that most or all would be married as a matter of course. But over later centuries, the practice of clergy celibacy became widespread and, in some areas, a requirement.

Notably, the Pope’s encyclical cited a dozen passages in 1 Corinthians but skipped 9:5, where St. Paul asks “do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (another name for St. Peter). In other words, the man who in Catholic belief was the church’s first pope was married and traveled with his wife as a Christian evangelist.

A Bible verse ignored

The Catholic Answers Web site likewise ignores the 9:5 verse, thereby demonstrating devotion to celibacy in its treatment of St. Peter. This site admits Peter had been married at one time because we know Jesus cured his mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-154, Luke 4:38-39). But it echoes a tradition (not any official Catholic view) that he was a widower whose wife “died prior to the ministry of Jesus.”

On other objections, the Pope granted that “some” think celibacy underlies the obvious shortage of priests, and sets up temptations for sexual “waywardness” that damage the church’s witness. Then there’s the contention that the rule prevents development of “a mature and well-balanced human personality,” “disparages human values,” and imposes “loneliness.”

But the Pope insisted that with proper spiritual formation the priest can control his “temperament, sentiments and passions.” And he questioned whether the end of celibacy would “considerably increase the number of priestly vocations.”

Most of the text was a heartfelt argument that the church always makes celibacy voluntary as priests’ “tranquil, convinced and free choice.” It was portrayed as “the total and generous gift of themselves to the mystery of Christ, as well as its outward sign,” that allows full devotion to “pastoral service of the People of God,” with “maximum efficiency and the best disposition of mind, mentally and emotionally.”

Complete Article HERE!