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If you explore more deeply, however, there is much to praise. Here is my own list.
Pope Francis has a clear respect for women working among disadvantaged populations. He met with members of the Union of International Superiors General last May and agreed to establish a commission on women deacons to better serve the people of God.
Francis ended the ill-advised investigations of women religious and actively praised apostolic women's communities. This long-awaited affirmation of Vatican II interpretations of religious life by church authorities has put a stop (at least for now) to decades-long attacks from church conservatives.
A 37-member Women's Consultation Group has just been named to the formerly all-male Pontifical Council for Culture, and some progress has been made to increase the number of women in Vatican positions.
But perhaps the biggest change is a new openness to listening to the experiences of women rather than avoid or ignore them. This is very evident in the Voices of Faith events held annually inside the Vatican on March 8, International Women's Day. For each of the last four years women have discussed their concerns about justice, peace and involvement in the church. At the same time, an increasing number of consultations with and about women have been held in various venues around Rome.
Then, last June, the Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW) coalition was for the first time permitted to prayerfully demonstrate outside St. Peter's Basilica before the Vatican Mass for the Jubilee of Priests began. And there are signs that WOW's simultaneous three-day June conference, "Open the Door to Dialogue," may be bearing fruit.
In February, Jesuit Fr. Giancarlo Pani published what would become a controversial article in La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal, whose editor, Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro is known to be close to Pope Francis. According Sandro Magister, a frequent Francis critic, Pani "calmly rips to shreds" the idea that Pope John Paul II uttered the last word on the possibility of women priests. Magister is predictably critical of Pani's opinion, which he quotes in part:
One cannot always resort to the past, as if only in the past are there indications of the Spirit. Today as well the Spirit is guiding the Church and suggesting the courageous assumption of new perspectives.
The point here is not that Pope Francis is on the verge of changing church practice about women priests, which is quite unlikely. The point is that discussion of both women deacons and women priests is now occurring within influential Vatican circles. (Pani's article is actually about women deacons.)
Under Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II, discussions about women's ordination to the diaconate or the priesthood were actively suppressed. In Francis's papacy, they are occurring without apparent fear of repercussions. This pope is a great believer in discernment. He does not shy away from controversial issues, even those, it seems, that are related to women's full inclusion in church decision making..."