Bird’s Eye View of the News
Since until yesterday, when I finished writing this column, the only Vatican official copies of the Final Document were in Spanish and Italian (L'Osservatore Romano, October 29, 2019), I am offering readers my own translation of it into English.
Under the pretext of the scarcity of priests in Amazonia and the need to make the Sacraments more accessible, the Synod asked for the ordination of married men.
Indeed, §111 of the Final Document reads: “Considering that legitimate diversity does not harm the communion and unity of the Church, but instead expresses and serves it (Lumen gentium 13; Orientalium Ecclesiarum 6), which is exemplified by the plurality of existing rites and disciplines, we propose that criteria and dispositions be established by the due authority, based on Lumen gentium 26, to ordain as priests serious men known in the community, who have a permanent deaconate and receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, having a legitimately constituted family, in order to sustain the Christian community life – through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments – in the more remote areas of the Amazon region.”
The tone of the Amazon Synod was set by a chaotic tribalist ‘procession’ at its start
If this request is accepted by Pope Francis, this becomes a historical text that breaks a bi-millennial tradition of the Catholic Church maintaining that celibacy is inseparable from the priesthood in the West. Since the Council, the progressivist forces have been bashing their battering ram against this gate. I have pointed out some of these attempts from time to time through the years (here, here, here, here, here and here). With this document, inspired and encouraged by Pope Francis and fully endorsed by him, the gate has burst and the death sentence for priesthood celibacy in the West has been officially announced.
The excuse that this is an exception, which would be rigorously applied only in Amazonia to those few viri probati (men of proven virtue), can only convince the naïve. We have seen in this pontificate – and those preceding it – other doors opened to exceptions, which soon became the rule. The case of Communion given to divorced and civilly “remarried” Catholics is just one of many.
So, in effect the ordination of married men is meant to become generalized when similar conditions are present. That is, in any other region where the number of priests is not sufficient to assist the faithful, the same argument is meant to be applied to reach the same result: the abolition of priestly celibacy. Now then, since there is a general lack of priests in the Church, we see that this same solution will be applied sooner or later in all the Church.
What is the due authority mentioned in the document that will establish the criteria and dispositions to ordain the viri probati? It will most probably be the organ suggested in §115, which will be a new supra-national independent organism to be created exclusively to handle the “missionary” work in Amazonia. This organ will be probably the due authority mentioned.
Although the Final Document makes a strong pressure for women to receive the orders of Deacon, the texts recognize that it is not as simple as the media is affirming since there are documents of the Conciliar Popes opposed to this step.
The paragraphs that deal with the role of women in the Church are §§101-103. I will transcribe and comment on the essential part of each.
The project of deaconesses gains in strength
It is a pledge to make a stronger feminization of the Church regarding her power of government. This feminization follows the general lines of the decisions of the Conciliar Popes in the last 50 years. Nothing is essentially new in this paragraph.
The next paragraph is turned more to the power of teaching and the power of orders.
§102 – “We recognize the ministry that Jesus reserved for women. It is necessary to promote the formation of women in studies of biblical theology, systematic theology and canon law, valuing her presence in organizations and her leadership inside and outside the ecclesial milieu. … We ask that the Motu Propio Ministeria quedam of St. Paul VI be re-evaluated so that women, duly formed and prepared, also can receive the ministries of Lector and Acolyte, among others to be developed.”
If deaconesses are allowed, it would become inevitable to have also priestesses
The second part of the text, which I posted in bold, refers to conferring to women the orders of Lector and Acolyte, which traditionally were called minor orders until Paul VI changed their names to ministries. Here there is something new. We have seen many women in churches exercising the role of lectors and acolytes, but they have done so in most of the cases without receiving the corresponding minor orders or ministries. This de facto reality has prepared the way for what is now being officially requested by the 182 Bishops who signed this Final Document.
So, this document asks for the revision/annulment of the previous decision Paul VI issued affirming that these minor orders could not be given to women.
But, §102 does not stop here. It continues:
“In the contexts of the new evangelization and pastoral ministry in the Amazon, where the majority of the Catholic communities are led by women, we ask that the institution of the ministry for ‘woman directorship of the community’ be created and recognized within the service of the changing demands of evangelization and community care.”
Since the Church does not have an order/ministry of “directorship of community,” this request can be understood not only as a request for the deaconess, but also for the female parish “priestess.”
So far, the word deaconess did not appear. What has appeared is the reason for the deaconess to be instituted: They would make official a de facto situation that already exists in Amazonia.
The word diaconate for women appears in §103. Let me see the terms applied. I reproduce the full paragraph:
§103 – “In the many consultations carried out in the Amazon, the fundamental role played by religious and lay women in the Church was recognized and emphasized, given the multiple services they provide. In a large number of these consultations, the permanent diaconate for woman was requested. For this reason the topic was also very present in the Synod. Already in 2016, Pope Francis had created a ‘Study Commission on the Diaconate of Women,’ which, as a Commission, arrived at a partial result based on the reality of the diaconate of women in the early centuries of the Church and its implications for today. Therefore, we would like to share our experiences and reflections with the Commission and await its results.”
A tribalist Synod to destroy whatever the Conciliar Revolution has left standing
In short, we know that most of the Bishops present at the Synod were open to deaconesses – the reports of the partial conclusions of the different Synod groups published in the L’Osservatore Romano (October 19, 2019, pp. 3-10) are clear in this regard. We know that Pope Francis is also favorable to a female diaconate and founded a Commission to study the possibility to establish it. So, the obstacle must be that in the Roman Curia there is a strong reaction against it. This is why we are seeing pressure from above – the Pope – and from below – the Synod Bishops – to establish it.
I do not know how long this retaining wall will resist such an enormous pressure. I pray that it stands for a long time; I fear it will fall soon.
What I know is that at present neither the diaconate major order/ministry was officially allowed to be conferred to women, nor were the lector and acolyte minor orders/ministries.