The Catholic Church should find ways to empower women
The Plenary Council of the Catholic Church, held in Sydney from July 3-9, was a major moment for the Australian Church.
The gathering provided an opportunity for the country’s bishops – as well as its priests, nuns and laity – to discuss the big issues facing the Church as it seeks to rebuild its reputation following the sex abuse crisis. clerical. Even with the decline of Christianity in Australia, as demonstrated by the most recent census results, one in five Australians still identify as Catholic. The Catholic Church matters, despite the increasingly secular nature of our society.
The full council got off to a promising start, passing motions apologizing to victims of sexual abuse and supporting an Indigenous voice in Parliament. But things turned sour when the council failed to pass two motions on raising the role of women in the church. About 60 of the 277 delegates staged a silent protest; some women were in tears.
One of the motions – which, among other mundane demands, called for women to be “appropriately represented in decision-making structures of church governance” – easily passed the first ballot but failed to attract the required support of two-thirds of the nation. bishops.
To their credit, the bishops soon realized they had fallen into a crisis. They asked that the motions be rephrased and put to another vote. These motions, which were not radically different from the original motions, ended up passing easily. As Bishop Shane Mackinlay later said the first ballot had been a “terrible look” for the church, but disaster was ultimately averted.
Basically, the attendees – including 37 of the 43 bishops – backed a motion saying the church would consider how best to allow women to serve as deacons if such a move is approved by the Vatican. Some proponents of reform, who want the Australian church to strongly advocate for women deacons, have been disappointed by this formulation. But the motion was definitely a small step in the right direction.
In a powerful opinion piece for the herald Last week, Elizabeth Young, a Catholic pastoral and high school chaplain, shared why she and other Catholic women would love the opportunity to serve as deacons.
“This would enable us to organize weddings, funerals and baptisms, which have been shown to play the most valuable role for churches in Australian society,” she wrote. “I am not asking for power, but to better meet people’s spiritual needs and to open more avenues of ministry for future generations of Catholics.
The theological debate over whether Catholic women can be deacons is complicated. Proponents of reform point to the fact that women showed themselves as deacons until the 12th century (when the role was subsumed into the priesthood) and that the biblical figure Phoebe was described as a deacon in the New Testament.