Pope Francis made a small step to give women a more prominent role in the Catholic church. For decades, women have been working to hold higher and more significant positions in the church. And for decades, their attempts have been thwarted by commissions appointed by Pope Francis.
While women in the church have had their roles sorely limited to menial roles, the new step allows women to hold positions of altar servers and readers. Admittedly this minor step could finally open the door to women playing larger roles.
In recent years, the church has come under fire for its stance on women’s role in the church. The issue has become extremely divisive among Catholic women groups.
An unnamed source says the law really does nothing because women were already performing the roles anyway.
“All this does is enact it into Catholic law. Several women in the church were already serving in the roles, which is completely at the discretion of local church authority.”
In most cases, conservative priests have very strict rules regarding women in the church. The services they perform are often male-only.
Although Pope Francis has never completely committed to a position one way or another, some of his statements at least make it seem that he is moving in a more progressive direction, says Massimo Faggioli, religious studies professor at Villanova University.
“The Pope seems to be on the right side of history. He has on more than one occasion contradicted a number of conservatives bishops on this issue.”
Some Catholic officials say allowing women to become deacons could be helpful in rehabilitating the church’s reputation. Decades of sexual misconduct allegations have led to multimillion-dollar payouts and even prison time for some priests.
The appointed commissions have gone in circles trying to decide whether or not women are fit to conduct mass. Because no consensus could be reached a few years ago, the commission was disbanded. Pope Francis reconvened a new commission late last year with the hopes that a final decision could be reached.
There is a definite shortage of priests globally. And in the meantime, manpower is being stretched razor-thin. Women theologians are not giving up. In Germany, a Catholic women’s group has organized boycotts of the church. They sent an open letter to Pope Francis asking him to give women more prominent roles within the church leadership.
“The entire issue is absurd,” said Italian Association of Female Theologians President Cristina Simonelli. She went on to say that while she is pleased that a small step was made by the Pope, it is not nearly enough.
“We are still way behind and that is inexcusable. Hopefully, this will lead to something more significant.”