The struggle for women’s rights continues across that globe and in the United States, Catholics feel strongly that church leadership and gender equality should come together.
A recent study revealed that an overwhelming majority of American Catholic orders support a movement to have women serve as ordained deacons. This trending opinion continues to put pressure on the Vatican to place women on equal footing and remove gender bias.
According to data released by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University in Washington, upwards of 77 percent of superiors view the ordination of female deacons as a realistic move by the church. Approximately 72 percent of men and women believe the Vatican should move forward with a policy opening the door to women deacons. The pervasive thinking inside the Catholic church appears to be that women have earned increased leadership roles and the current church lags behind in terms of gender equality.
The bad news coming out of the research study is that less than half of Catholics polled believe Pope Francis will implement such as gender equality policy despite the progressive rhetoric he has put forth.
What Opponents of Women Deacon Say
Although deacons are ordained ministers in the Catholic faith, they are not considered priests. Deacons carry out church-related responsibilities such as presiding over weddings, funerals and even baptisms. Deacons may also preach. They are not, however, empowered to celebrate Christian Mass.
Historical information points to women serving as deacons during the early years of the Catholic church. The Bible confirms a greater leadership role than women enjoy today in the Catholic Church. Records indicate that the practice of female leadership was discouraged by Pope Gelasius I. However, small groups claiming Catholic affiliation continue to ordain women as deacons today.
Pope Francis pushed to create a commission to study the issue of female deacons and an expanded role of women in the Catholic faith. This comes at a time when the church continues to suffer a backlash due to priest sexual misconduct and child molestation on a global scale. The negative reports and growing secularism in the United States have caused a shortage of men entering the priesthood. However, resistance to more women leadership remains.
Some opponents of the movement claim that ordaining female deacons is the first step on a slippery slope to women becoming priests. Traditionalists point to Jesus having only male apostles and therefore priesthood should be reserved for men. Pope Francis has reportedly confirmed his position that only males should be priests in the Catholic Church.
“Saint Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands, this stands,” Pope Francis confirmed, referring to a 1994 document that says women may not enter the priesthood. “If we read carefully the declaration by St John Paul II, it is going in that direction.”
One member of the Vatican commission studying the issue of women deacons has been critical of the status quo.
Phyllis Zagano has published opinions that church members confuse the work of deacons and priests. She also seems to indicate that conspiracy theorists within the faith believe women have a long-term agenda to gain control of the church’s direction.
“We know today that married deacons are not eligible for priesthood. Neither would women deacons be eligible,” Zagano wrote in U.S. Catholic magazine. “To deny the people of God the ordained ministry of women deacons is a serious failing that the church in the west has lived with for 800 years.”
It should also be noted that Pope Francis does not have a single female senior advisor in the Vatican.
Women’s Roles Could Be Redefined
Early literature for the Vatican’s 2019 Summit on the Amazon brings into question a change to women’s “official ministries” in the region. There has been some speculation that women may be called upon to provide increased leadership roles to fill the void. Elevating them to deacon status may be on the table during the summit.
That change has widespread support, according to the CARA study. Approximately 385 of 777 polled responded and 84 percent advocated for expanded female ministry roles.
Pope Francis has repeatedly said in public forums that women should enjoy greater roles in the life of the church. The progressive Pontiff has a rare opportunity to further gender equality in a Catholic faith that lags behind many others. Americans will soon discover whether his words are backed by women becoming deacons. American Catholics appears ready for change.
~ Christian Patriot Daily