Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A POPE WHO LOVES WOMEN

A Pope Who Loves Women

BY: ANTHONY ADAMS.


(Tony Adams was ordained in 1977 after studying for the priesthood at The Pontifical North American College in Rome and at Rome's Gregorian University. He was friendly with the Irish Catholic bishop - John Magee of Cloyne - and was involved in papal ceremonies at The Vatican. 
He left the priesthood at the age of 30 and is married to his partner for 33 years. He lives in Florida and is a writer, playwright, critic, columnist, tour guide and wedding officiant.) 

There is a refreshingly heterosexual aura on Pope Francis. He seems to be a man with a healthy and mature appreciation for real women. This sets him apart from most of the hierarchy comprised of men who are stunted in their visions of women, comfortable with an imaginary Mary-Queen-Of-The-Universe-Star-Of-The Sea-Mediatrix-Of-Salvation, but flummoxed by flesh-and-blood women with whom they shrink from shoulder-rubbing in the halls of church authority. (I will return to why I think Francis is a mature heterosexual at the conclusion of this.)

Pope Francis has given sudden evidence of his appreciation for real women in a spontaneous response to a nun who, during the May 12, 2016 meeting with the 50th  anniversary conference of leaders of religious orders of women (the International Union of Superiors General) dared to ask him if the Catholic Church might be well served by women deacons. His answer – akin to his “Who am I to judge?” comment that temporarily thrilled gay Catholics – might be a slightly opened door to the ordination of women, albeit at a pace that will probably prohibit the ordination of any of the nuns present for his response in the Sala Nervi audience hall that day.

Pope Francis is willing to call for a study of the idea that women might be ordained deacons. This is significant, even though it is the same kind of side-stepping that he used when he convened a pow-wow over the issues of marriage and family. Pope Francis harbours personal opinions about these matters, but feels that it is his responsibility to act collegially and to discern the will of God as voiced by his bishops. In the case of granting Communion to divorced/remarried Catholics or granting marriage to LGBT Catholics, Pope Francis let his bishops temper what I suspect was his personal inclination to act more compassionately in those areas.

What does a Roman Catholic deacon do, and what would be the impact of women deacons. In short, a lot!

A deacon can do everything a priest can do sacramentally except offer Mass (Eucharist) and grant absolution via the sacrament of Penance (Confession.) In a twist that is perhaps indicative of the media-driven time in which we live, reserving the sacramental act of transforming bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus to male priests has less impact than allowing women the deacon’s voice, not just proclaiming the Gospel during Mass but also preaching/delivering the homily. Having women deacons would mean that the Catholic in the pew on Sunday might receive most of the vocalized sentiment and truth about God via a woman. The central mystery of Transubstantiation would be reserved to the male priesthood, but because it is a mystery, it is already beyond our hearing.

Women proclaiming the Gospel and preaching the Good News at Mass is really not the biggest impact of allowing women to be ordained as deacons. The biggest impact might be something Francis had not thought of when he made his spontaneous response about having the issue studied. Ordaining women to the diaconate opens the door to naming women cardinals. This is the bonus round of women’s rights in the Catholic Church and a place where Church tradition, law, history and progress get extremely confusing, and where it is impossible to predict how the dominoes set in motion by the ordination of women deacons may fall.




The historical facts provide more openness than prohibitions. St Paul mentions the deaconess Phoebe, but how her authority stacked up against her male counterparts is anyone’s guess. Also, in the earliest years of the Church, cardinals were not always ordained priests. They were princes whose authority was practical and temporal. Even today, becoming a cardinal does not involve a sacrament. In other words, it is the conferring of an honorific that does not necessitate the flow of grace that comes through sacraments. Over centuries, the church decided for practical reasons that popes and cardinals really ought first to be ordained priests/bishops, but it took a number of Church councils and papal proclamations to hammer out this restriction. (The Synod of 769, the Papal Bull In Nomine Domini of 1059, the third Lateran Council of 1179 and the revision of the Code of Canon Law by Pope Benedict XV in 1917 stating that all cardinals must first be ordained priests/bishops. The last non-priest/bishop cardinal died in 1899.)




Adding to the historical confusion is the fact that there are three classes of cardinals: cardinal bishops, cardinal priests and cardinal deacons. These distinctions are rooted in extinctions involving Roman ecclesiastical infrastructure and authority that simply do not exist today, even in the Curia. If women can be ordained deacons, logic would dictate that they can also be made cardinals. Once the College of Cardinals is populated by a significant number of women, the Catholic Church will, if it has not yet expired under the suffocating weight of its recalcitrant patriarchy, be revived by the election of a pope who will dare to do what is in his/her heart and soul. This proposed study is the type of leadership that Pope Francis favours. Timid about making sweeping changes, he is quite willing to plant the seeds of change, trusting that long after he is gone, good seed will produce good fruit.

Why do I suspect that Pope Francis is a mature heterosexual? Obscured by all he has said and done in the whirlwind of his papacy, was an early report about how he, as Cardinal Bergoglio, treated a widow in Buenos Aires. A predecessor bishop had left the priesthood to marry a woman. When that bishop died, Bergoglio telephoned the widow every Sunday afternoon for several years. This very simple gesture goes beyond civility and indicates his acknowledgement of her value in his own episcopacy. He sought her out because she possessed something he lacked as a celibate man, something that might inform his leadership and shape his compassion. That is certainly not the kind of counsel kept by most of the hierarchy.

Finally, as happy as I am about Pope Francis’ openness to the ordination of women deacons, he is well acquainted with how committees work on these matters. When Pope Paul VI set up a committee to study the regulation of birth, the majority report given to him by Jesuit Father Josef Fuchs (my moral theology professor at the Gregorian University) was in favour of allowing parents to make informed conscience-driven decisions. That report was discarded in favour of a minority report that resulted in Paul’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae saying no to artificial birth control.

Tossing an examination of the historical and traditional indicators of the merits of ordaining women deacons to a committee directed by a bunch of elderly virginal males protective of their exclusivity is not an encouraging process. We’ll see, if we and the Catholic Church live long enough.

Meanwhile, I think back upon my time in the priesthood, knowing that the greatest amount of good I did was through my presence at key moments in the life of my parishioners, including baptizing their children, marrying those in love and presiding over funeral rites for the departed. These are among the responsibilities that would be granted to women deacons. These are the moments that Catholics never forget. Give women this kind of voice and authority, and they will be one or two generations away from full equality in the Catholic Church.


I also recall my years in Rome as a seminarian. An order of American nuns sent a young woman to Rome the year I was sent by my archbishop. Sister Barbara attended all the classes I attended at the Gregorian University for four years. She finished her course of studies with an award for excellence, but in the course of those years, as I was received first into the minor orders and then ordained a deacon and finally a priest, Sister Barbara watched from a pew at every ceremony, praying for her privileged male friends. She deserved the sacraments I received. Maybe it is not too late.

36 comments:

  1. Congratulations Tony on this article. One of the best I've read on women in ministry. Thank you for allowing me to reproduce it.

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  2. If Pope Francis is heterosexual, then I'm a giraffe.

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    1. MourneManMichael18 May 2016 at 11:41

      I don't think there's any indication or proof concerning ++Francis, but I'm amused by the reference to the giraffe. It's obvious, but I'll say it. Maybe anon @ 10:03 you ought to "wind your neck in" making such unsupported statements.
      And Pat, Tony Adams spoke good sense when he described those negative/hostile anonymous comments as a "sewer of trolls".
      I also liked another descriptive comment referring to them as lemmings. Very apt.
      MMM

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    2. Interesting thoughts MMM.

      At least the lemmings are completely quiet today.

      The Union pub must be closed.

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    3. His well known passion for the tango, unless it's a deliberate Jesuitical obfuscation, makes speculation about his sexual orientation superfluous. These modern terms "homosexual", "heterosexual" have had unfortunate consequences. Those of us who are natural celibates regret the passing of a world in which intense friendships could be publically acknowledged without all the nudge nudge wink wink that now inevitably attends them.

      Celibate Proud & Happy

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    4. A good and thoughtful comment.

      Its good for us to be reminded that there are "natural celibates".

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    5. You're a giraffe.

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  3. Hello! Somehow an apostrophe has crept into the text. Third to the last graf: "virginal male's" should be "virginal males." Cheers!

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  4. At least Tony Adams is honest. Why do priests,of whatever orientation,who are sexually active remain in ministry? It is hypocritical.Catholic priesthood demands celibacy.Publicly they pretend to be celibate but privately they are not.It's very dishonest.Generally, they are living very comfortably from the offerings of parishioners (some of whom are even barred from receiving Holy Communion themselves due to personal circumstances). There is no integrity in this kind of 'witness'. It is living a lie. Better to leave the priesthood and be poor, but at least they'll have some integrity left.Many good men couldn't be priests because they felt they couldn't commit to celibacy.What do they think when they see the hypocrisy of priests who are not celibate and even worse when hierarchs turn a blind eye?

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  5. THE RORY COYLE STORY:

    You're asking all the wrong questions Pat and haven't caught on to the bigger story yet. You call the Irish News coverage "Sanitised". I would call it extremely "cautious". Get back onto your sources, Pat; what they've told you is a long way short of the full story. You've only been told about one cog in the wheel.

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    1. My only source on Rory being on Grindr was the gay man who entrapped him on Grindr.

      My sources about the pictures / text was a journalist - NOT in The Irish News.

      If you can point me in the right direction my email is bishoppatbuckley@hotmail.com

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    2. I think entrapment is when someone sets out on purpose to induce someone.

      I thought the younger man just happened across Coyle on Grindr and after recognising him as a priest decided to ‘out him’ for his hypocrisy.

      Being outed for hypocrisy is fair game. Not so sure about entrapment.

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    3. You are right. I stand corrected.

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    4. Since it is clear I am not the only one to know the full stretch of the story I will leave it to the other informed commentators to give you the details. I think worldwide viral might be over egging it slightly, but it will certainly cast a few 'high and mighty' individuals from their thrones.

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    5. I know nothing of the involvement of Dundalk. The stretch to which I refer is not geographic. It is more individual oriented. It sounds like Dundalk Dan has even more details that I have been privy too and I thought I had enough to blow the wind up a few cassocks as it was. Perhaps Dan will share his intelligence with this blog's author and let him know what has been going on. I look forward to tomorrow's installment of the scandal to compare it with what I know.

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    6. You may want to attempt to re-connect with the young "outter" Pat. I guarantee he knows more than he seems to have told you. Haven't you seen the transcript for yourself? It's all there. No doubt the Irish News will wait for another outlet to break the full extent of the story and pile on in behind them rather than take the risk of going solo with it. Otherwise, as you say, it will remain locked in their vault to protect those involved.

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    7. Anon. @ 17:36, to out Coyle for his hypocrisy, or to make loads o' money out of his hypocrisy?

      I doubt if that young gay man's motive for outing Rory Coyle was as noble as you seem to think.

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  6. I'm glad you have been alerted. There is much much more to the Coyle story. You've only scraped the top of an iceberg !! This hasn't even started yet. I'm surprised you haven't been appraised of the whole goings on. When you find out your blog will go viral.
    Go for it Pat.
    Dundalk Dan

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    1. DD, can you point me t.in the direction?

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  7. Excellent Article Tony, Thank you Pat for posting it.
    You can breathe a sigh of relief today as the 'Unionist Lemmings' obviously jumped off that cliff ;-)

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    1. I think DD is trying to tell you Pat that this is not the first time Rory Coyle has caused admiratio and that his history is more colourful and there is a bigger scandal awaiting birth.

      PP Armagh.

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  8. Now we are getting somewhere. Thanks PP Armagh.
    Pat you may well find there are "colourful" clerics in this presbyterate as well as D&C- if not more so by the time this is all " out in the open"
    Moy Marty

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    1. Its certainly beginning to look like that.

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    2. Was Dundalk not Rory's first parish?

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  9. If I'm reading between the lines correctly it looks like one Coyle was "functioning" but another coil wasn't????
    Collegelands Cathy

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  10. Maybe RuRu the Red is going to call time on all his other clerical Grindr-ites in Armagh, Down and Connor, Clogher, Dromore, Derry....????

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  11. Observers in the Fortwilliam area of Belfast report midnight oil being put into lamps in a big house on Somerton Road. Could Timmo be preparing the PR brief to defend the indefensible ?

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  12. I see the secret of Timmo's involvement is out !!! Good man Pat !!!

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  13. WE have had a woman deacon for quite a few years in my old parish in the N E of England, you would nearly think that this was something new, then again Ireland is quite a few years behind England in everything spiritual at the moment.

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    1. You have many claims to fame, including a Cardinal living exile in the N E of England.

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  14. I will read tomorrow's edition of this blog with extreme anticipation!

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  15. Replies
    1. Priest + Grindr = Hypocrite.

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