Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pope Francis Agrees to Open Commission to Study Women Deacons, A First Step to the Full Equality of Women including Priests and Bishops in An Inclusive, Egalitarian Church?

Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP,
Today during an audience with 900 women religious from the International Union of Superiors General, Pope Francis said it would be good to establish a commission to study the possibility of "reinstating" women deacons. This could be a first step to the full equality of women as priests and bishops in a renewed priestly ministry in a community of equals.

It is clear from contemporary scholarship that Scripture affirms that Jesus treated women in his community not as subordinates but as equals. Women deacons, like Phoebe in Romans 16 played a major leadership role in their communities.  
The Roman Catholic Women Priests International Movement (with 225 members on 5 continents, 13 countries, and serving 81 faith communities in the U.S.) is leading the way to a renewed priestly ministry in an inclusive, egalitarian church where all are welcome to receive sacraments. I disagree with Pope Francis' position that a woman cannot be in Persona Christi, and thus, cannot preach or preside at Eucharist. This argument is sexist and denies the spiritual equality of women. All the baptized are images of Christ created In Persona Christi.

Visit our Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests to see a list of our inclusive communities.

..."The Roman Catholic Women Priests movement has ordained hundreds of women who are already ministering to the people of God around the world, yet their call to the priesthood remains unrecognized by top Church leadership, including Pope Francis.

In just over two weeks, we will be delivering a petition to Pope Francis at the Jubilee for Women Priests, encouraging him to dialogue with women priests.  We encourage all of our supporters to sign it at this crucial moment in Church history. " 

The following Petition to Support Women Priests will be delivered to Vatican on June 3rd at Worldwide Jubliee to Celebrate Women Priests


Catholics all around the world are served by the faithful actions of Roman Catholic Women Priests, who lead inclusive worshipping communities and live out Pope Francis' "Church of Mercy" every day. However, these priests have been excommunicated simply for following their call. Pope Francis-we are Catholics and people of faith and goodwill who support women priests, because they have changed our lives for the better. Hear our call, and lift the unjust excommunications of these priests and their supporters.

Why is this important?

Pope Francis says that "No one can be excluded from the mercy of God...[the Church's] doors remain wide open." Pope Francis has demonstrated his commitment to this mercy by reaching out to other orders of priests who have broken away from the church. In this spirit, we ask Pope Francis to affirm primacy of conscience for the women priests worldwide. In prophetic obedience to the Spirit, women priests live a renewed priestly ministry in communities of faith that welcome all and exclude no one.

Roman Catholic Women Priests, who stand in apostolic succession serve in a renewed priestly ministry in a community of equals. Those of us who are divorced and remarried, who are LGBTQ, and who have struggled with the Catholic faith, have found spiritual shelter in their worshipping communities. Here, we can fully participate in the Word of Jesus and the sacraments. They are living the Gospel message of radical inclusion.
Pope Francis, you have inspired the world with your message of a merciful Church, and we now implore you to live up to your message. Use the power of your office to open wide the doors to dialogue and lift all excommunications and ecclesiastical punishments against Roman Catholic Women Priests and their supporters. We are the Church. Listen to our cry for justice.

How it will be delivered 

This petition will be delivered by a woman priest to the Vatican on June 3rd, during the Jubilee for Women Priests hosted by Women's Ordination Worldwide and the Women's Ordination Conference.
Women's Ordination Conference Media Release

Kate McElwee: Italy (+39) 393-692-2100
Erin Saiz Hanna: USA (+1) 401-588-0457
For Immediate Release: 12 May 2016
Rome, Italy:  The Women's Ordination Conference (WOC) applauds the women religious of the International Union Superior Generals (UISG) for brazenly dialoguing with Pope Francis on leadership and ministerial roles for women in the Church, including the opening of the diaconate to women.  In response to the sisters' questions, Pope Francis agreed to launch a Vatican Commission to study the diaconate to include women, stating: "It would be good to clarify this."
Opening a commission to study the diaconate for women would be a great step for the Vatican in recognizing its own history.  Decades of research on this topic has already been published by renowned feminist voices. WOC recommends that the Vatican's commission include the following scholars: Gary Macy, Dorothy Irving, Ida Raming, Sr. Christine Schenk, John Wijngaards, and Phyllis Zagano.
Biblical evidence names several women deacons, working alongside men in the early Church including: Phoebe, St. Olympias, Dionysia, St. Radegund and St. Macrina.  Such a commission, similar to the Pontifical Biblical Commission of 1976 that concluded there is no scriptural barrier to women's priestly ordination, could begin to restore the Gospel values of equality and justice.
Pope Francis also stated that a woman cannot be in Persona Christi, and therefore cannot preach or preside over the Eucharist. WOC rejects this flawed interpretation that a male body is a necessary condition of representing the Body of Christ. Upholding this discrimination, as though it were the will of God, is simply indefensible.

While WOC celebrates this step from the Vatican, until women are included in all decision-making structures and as priests and Bishops of the Church, equality remains painfully denied.
May 22nd marks the 22nd anniversary of the Vatican's Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, banning all discussion on the ordination of women. WOC advocates that a new commission on the diaconate include discussions on priestly ordination for women in the Roman Catholic Church.  

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