..."Thus, his recent statements about easing the celibacy requirement are converging with an ongoing conversation about allowing women in the diaconate. Ordained female deacons supporting an all-male ministry does not entirely fulfil progressive Catholics’ demands to allow women in the priesthood, but it has calmed some anxiety and indicated a potential path forward.
The view from Latin America
How has this news been greeted in Argentina, the Pope’s home country, and in Latin America, home to 40% of the world’s Catholics?
To paraphrase Émile Poulat, the great Church scholar, Catholicism is a world. And in Latin America, as in other Catholic places, this world is comprised of diverse groups, all of which have received the papacy of their old acquaintance Jorge Bergoglio in different ways.
Progressive Latin American Catholics were leery of this Pope early on, given his origins in the conservative pastoral-theologian tradition. When he was Bishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, this group did not have the best relationship with him.
Unexpectedly, they’ve now been seduced by the open-minded pontiff who listens to concerns about the Church’s restrictive view on sexual diversity, abortion and convicted criminals. When the Pope was a cardinal, issues such as women in the priesthood, the celibacy vow and contraception were not on his agenda.
...Such is the character of Pope Francis, a refined and intelligent man educated in the turbulent waters of Argentinean ecclesiastic politics, which have always been linked to national politics. After decades of political acrobatics, the Pope has learned an operating style that plays with the divide between public statements and what’s said in private, between the general rule of mercy and actually engaging with personal suffering.
A sharp shepherd
As Pope, Bergoglio, the pastoral theologian who hews closely to the faithful and the marginalised, is seeking to reify his commitment to society’s most vulnerable – immigrants, the poor, peasants – without changing the Church in any fundamental way.
Bergoglio is a son of the Catholicism that has dominated in Argentina since the 1930s: plebeian in its social leanings, with strong government relations. This kind of Catholicism does not limit itself to personal belief; it has something to say to all society, is willing to recognise modernity and even, at times, to have a dialogue with it.
A sharp shepherd of his flock, the Pope has mastered the art of containing people without making structural changes. Argentina is full of stories about his papal calls: the time he called a divorced woman to comfort her with the possibility that she might one day again receive communion, for instance, or the human rights NGO director to whom the Pope committed his support for public political actions.
Much like these anecdotes, Francis’s recent declarations about married viri probati are an extension of his conservative, people-centred pastoralism, rather than a sign that he’s turned progressive on the moral question of sex. This is the Catholicism in which Father Bergolgio was raised, and Pope Francis continues to be its beloved son."