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!

End celibacy and bar on married priests

— Or risk having none in the western world in 30 years, former President Mary McAleese argues

Former Irish President Mary McAleese.

Trinity University Chancellor McAleese responding to comments by influential Vatican figure suggesting revising celibacy requirement

By John Breslin

The Catholic Church must end celibacy and the bar on married priests or there will be none left in the western world in 30 years time, former President Mary McAleese has said.

Mrs McAleese, currently chancellor of Trinity University, was speaking after a highly influential figure within the Vatican suggesting revising the requirement that priests be celibate.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, an adviser to Pope Francis, said: “If it were up to me, I would revise the requirement that priests have to be celibate. Experience has shown me that this is something we need to seriously think about.”

Senior Vatican figure believes conversation on celibacy of priests must start
Archbishop Charles Scicluna

He told the Times of Malta: “This is probably the first time I’m saying it publicly and it will sound heretical to some people.”

“I am delighted he came out and said it because he is regarded very, very highly by pretty much everybody in the church,” said Ms McAleese, a canon lawyer and also a supporter of ordaining women.

Archbishop Scicluna first came to prominence in 2018 when he was tasked with investigating allegations of a sexual abuse cover-up in Chile.

This followed what Ms McAleese described as one of Pope Francis’ worst visits of his papacy, during which he essentially denied there was any evidence supporting the allegations of a cover up by senior clergy.

After their investigation in Chile, Scicluna and colleague Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu delivered a 2,600-page dossier which prompted the Pope to apologize for mishandling the issue.

“It established his credentials and integrity….when he speaks, people listen,” said Ms McAleese.

Many within the Vatican agree here are no theological arguments in favour of celibacy and that the bar on priests was introduced a millennia ago in order to protect the property rights of the church.

Pope Francis applauds while he remembers late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who died a year ago (Andrew Medichini/AP)
Pope Francis

Pope Francis has agreed there is no formal church doctrine on celibacy and marriage, and admitted a future pontiff may change the rules, but he has decided not to do so, Ms McAleese said, adding she believes the most “interesting possibilities” for the next Pope are from the “excellent leadership” in Belgium and Germany.

Proposals in recent years, ruled out by the Pope, include allowing elderly married men in the Amazon to be ordained to cover a chronic shortage in remote areas and to let the previously ordained who have married to return to church duties.

The latter are still regarded as ordained but Ms McAleese said proposals to allow older men to become priests or for ones to return “does not really solve anything”.

An entirely new cohort of eligible, younger, men are needed, she said, adding a warning if the status quo is maintained the church will be “looking at the western world in 30 years where there will not be any priests”.

Opposition to married priests – and ordaining women – is strongest in the more conservative “global south”, where the church is still growing and it is argued celibacy allows a man to devote himself entirely to the church.

Ms McAleese is not impressed, comparing the situation to Ireland 100 years ago. Young men, often surrounded by poverty, saw the church as a route to education, a job, status and influence, Ms McAleese said.

“And we know where that ends up,” she said.

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!