Thursday, October 15th, 2020
Pope Francis used his post-Angelus remarks to call for more female leadership in the church.
He would like women to “participate more in areas of responsibility in the church.”
“Today there is a need to broaden the spaces for a more incisive female presence in the church,” he said on October 11, “because in general women are set aside. We must promote the integration of women into places where important decisions are made.”
Adding, however, that women leaders in the church must maintain their vocation as laity and not fall into “clericalism.”
Pope Francis has made many gestures to give momentum to this desire to give women greater weight in the Church.
“Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded,” he wrote in Evangelii Gaudium.
Fr. Frédéric Fornos S.J., International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, says that since 2013, much has been accomplished, but more needs to be done.
Earlier, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus’ parable from the Gospel of Matthew about the king who prepared a wedding feast for his son. When the initially invited guests did not arrive, he sent his messengers out to invite anyone and everyone.
God loves and has prepared a banquet for everyone — “the just and sinners, the good and the bad, the intelligent and the uneducated.” Every Christian is called to go out to the highways and byways sharing God’s invitation to the feast, Pope Francis said.
“Even those on the margins, even those who are rejected and scorned by society, are considered by God to be worthy of his love,” the pope told the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray with him.
The church as a whole and each of its members, he said, are called to go out to “the geographic and existential peripheries of humanity, those places at the margins, those situations where those who have set up camp are found and where the hopeless remnants of humanity live.”
“It is a matter of not settling for comfort and the customary ways of evangelization and witnessing to charity,” the pope said, but rather “opening the doors of our hearts and our communities to everyone, because the Gospel is not reserved to a select few.”
Pope Francis enunciates what many people – including Roman Catholics – feel about the status of women in the Church. However, he does stop short of recommending their priestly ordination –
………women leaders in the church must maintain their vocation as laity and not fall into “clericalism.”
While recommending their full inclusion into the adminstration and management of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis – by his reference to ‘clericalism’ – indicated that he is not ready to accept the possibility of ordination of women into the Sacred Ministry of his Church.
While Pope Francis uses his influence in the Catholic Church in a way that can only be beneficial for the prospect of an equal sharing of lay government and administration by women, it is interesting that he should stop short of presenting a case for their ordination – citing the problem of ‘clericalism’ as the reason for not proceeding to what might seem a natural progression for the role of women in the Church.
No doubt, although Pope Francis expresses a sincere intention for the equality of status for both male and female members of the Church, the current dogmatic insistence on a male-only priesthood is so deeply ingrained within the culture and praxis of the Vatican Tradition, that even the Pope would be courting rebellion amongst the conservatives among the College of Cardinals is he were ever to contravene this deeply-held tradition
However, for the Pope to encourage a feminisation of the Church’s administrative wing must be seen as a fillip to the women of the Church who have long wanted to take their rightful place as sharers in its governmental polity and administration. In the meantime, women may have to wait a little longer for a change in the climate of exclusion from sharing in the Catholic Church’s clerical functions.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand