Thursday, May 12, 2016
After 2000 years
Pope Francis has put forth a suggestion that would be a tectonic shift in the Catholic church if it came to be.
Pope Francis on Thursday told an international conference of nuns that he supports deeper study of female deacons, triggering debate over whether the news-making pontiff was opening the door for radical change or instead turning back the clock by reviewing biblical history many feminists see as settled.For a leader who is supposed to be second to God in the hierarchy and infallible, the paths taken by Pope Francis indicate how entrenched the opposition to Jesus really is in the Church. We can only hope he can appoint enough good cardinals to continue his legacy after he has gone.
Reaction Thursday seemed to fortify Francis’ reputation on the topic of women: A pope who speaks of moving the needle on female leadership but often in the voice of a macho elder.
“I never imagined there was such a disconnect, truly. Thank you for telling me so courageously and for doing so with that smile,” Francis told the group as he reaffirmed women’s lack of influence in church decision-making.
As is typical of the spontaneous Francis, his comments came unexpectedly during an unaired question-and-answer session, and the Vatican press office declined to immediately clarify or release a transcript. It wasn’t clear from reports, which came first from The National Catholic Reporter and the Catholic News Service, whether Francis meant to show support for studying more deeply the role of women in the early church or rather the possibility of allowing women to serve as deacons now.
Senior Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told the Washington Post that it was “too early to say what he has exactly in mind.” He said Vatican officials will need to more closely examine transcripts of his comments, which Lombardi described as coming in the form of a “spontaneous conversation.” It wasn’t clear, Lombardi said, whether the pope was speaking historically or was thinking of the future.
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