Recent statements by Pope Francis and top Vatican officials support the need to bring more lay women to top leadership positions at the Roman Curia. However, Voices of Faith is concerned about the apparent difficulties and lack of transparency in regard to how those women are chosen and the process undertaken to appoint them. In an extensively quoted interview with Reuters on June 17th 2018, Pope Francis is reported saying, “I don't have any problem naming a woman as the head of a dicastery." At the same time, he talks about difficulties in finding the right candidates and convincing curial officials to accept women for leadership positions. The Prefect of the Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, stated that the Vatican is "overloaded with clerics" and that "administrative functions within the church can be done by anybody" including laity.
Science tells us about the Big Bang and the ongoing history of the cosmos.A living faith tells us that God’s creation continues to emerge, toward a peace and oneness for which we all yearn. The people can contribute to this emergence. Come to The Peoples Synod in Dallas, October 12-14, 2018, and experience how.Take that experience home and make a difference that will help pull all of us closer together.
Motto of the synod: “Always discern what is loving; rely upon law only when necessary.”
Those who come to the synod will be in circles of ten or twelve, to listen to one another and reflect on stories that place the tension between love and law at the center of the circle. The circles will consider different ways of looking at this tension and finding practical alternatives to take home and implement.Participants will also take with them tools for rekindling and drawing strength from the relationships they have cultivated at the synod.
All are welcome.The synod is an enterprise of pilgrims. People from different communities that relate in different ways with the ineffable can by listening together free the Spirit in their midst from the habits and perspectives of any one community and foster creativity within the circle.
by Clyde Christofferson (pictured with his grandchildren)
Francis was speaking to an Italian family association (at Forum delle famiglie, on June 16, 2018) and interrupted his remarks to give an off-the-cuff condemnation of “eugenic” abortion and “fake marriage”. The editor of The Catholic Thing, a conservative publication, took heart in this and wrote an article that expressed concern rather than hope that Francis would now more fully back traditional Catholic doctrine.
Pope Francis continues to speak from the heart, with a serenity that doesn't fit neatly into either traditional or progressive categories.
Maybe that's the point. The idea is to be more loving. It was the shift from law to "loving one another" that was Christ's "new covenant".
As the article notes, Francis has criticized "Catholics who are constantly 'insisting' and 'obsessing' on life issues and marriage." Maybe there is some balance here, the same kind of balance that Christ preached by shifting from law to love in the "new covenant". There was something different in what Christ did. It wasn't a doubling down on the law.
Perhaps Francis is criticizing both traditionalists and progressives, because both these groups of Catholics seem overly focused on Church doctrine, either to keep it or to change it, to the point of distracting from the sole purpose of doctrine, which is to direct our attention (Francis uses the term "gaze") to God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit (see Dei Verbum #2).
There is something significant about discernment, about getting in touch with the Spirit of Christ "written on our hearts". Francis keeps emphasizing the importance of having more discernment in our Church, as he did last January with the Jesuits in Chile. We can cope with our sinful nature -- our more primitive inclinations -- the easier way or the harder way. The easier way is with the law, which is clear and requires interpretation and resolve. The harder way is discernment, which requires building a relationship with the living presence of God in our hearts.
These are both good and helpful ways. But Jesus saw an imbalance in Jewish preoccupation with the law and preached the "new covenant" -- the harder way -- in response. Francis is following in the footsteps of Jesus and is risking a sort of "virtual Crucifixion" from those -- both traditionalists who want to keep the law as it is and progressives who want to change it -- who are preoccupied with doctrine.
I think Francis gets it. The reign of God which Jesus preached is not about law. It's about shifting our attention toward loving one another, not some "lovey dovey" kind of love but the harder way of building a relationship with Christ, by the power of the Spirit. It's that kind of relationship through which we can experience the priority of love that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 22:40 and the freedom from the law that Paul spoke of in his Letter to the Galatians. The law remains useful in pointing toward Christ, but not if we use the law as a substitute for discernment.
So I disagree with the article to the extent that it expresses some measure of concern over the direction that Francis is leading us. There is no doubt about his direction. He has been perfectly clear. But his clarity in Christ remains an anxiety for those who are preoccupied with Church doctrine, whether to preserve doctrine or to change it. It is noteworthy that Francis has left doctrine alone. He clearly hopes that we will shift our gaze to Christ.
Vatican II began this shift, but these things take time. We are just human beings. The serenity of Francis in the face of all this is a comfort, at least to me.
In L’Osservatore Romano on 29 May 2018, Cardinal-designate Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote an article in which he said,
Christ wanted to give this sacrament to the twelve apostles, all men, who, in turn, communicated it to other men. The Church has always recognized herself bound by this decision of the Lord, which excludes that the ministerial priesthood can be validly conferred on women. ... All (Episcopal Conferences), without exception, have declared, with full conviction, for the obedience of the Church to the Lord, that she does not possess the faculty of conferring priestly ordination on women.
Clyde Christofferson responded on CCRI's Face Book Group saying:
This is an embarrassment to the People of God. On the one hand, it is clear as a bell that this treatment of women by the institutional Church is not "part of the deposit of faith". As Vatican II asserted in Dei Verbum, the deposit of faith is defined by God's self‐revelation in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a significant shift from the pre‐Vatican II habit of
equating revelation with a series of propositional statements, some drawn from scripture and some drawn from tradition. The question is not "what does a long accepted propositional statement say about an all male priesthood?" To take that answer at face value is to risk (if not outright commit) idolatry.
The better question is "what does God's self‐revelation in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit say about calls to priestly ministry?" This requires the same kind of discernment that Francis describes in Amoris Laetitia. It is plain that the Spirit continues to call people to priestly ministry without regard to gender. When Paul VI in 1975 rejected the offer of the Archbishop of Canterbury to join the Anglicans in considering the issue of women's ordination, an opportunity was missed. The Church was on doctrinal autopilot set in place before Vatican II. It's a very human mistake. The Church has dug itself a deeper hole.
Clyde recommended two actions:
- The injustice must be called out. People must speak from their own hearts. There will be those who defer to the magisterium, but that deference has a long history and is part of the messiness of life.
- We must work toward recovering the foundations for a "sense of the faithful" that was so rudely stifled at the time of the Gregorian reforms. This is more than calling out injustice. We need to enable and promote an examination of conscience by the institutional Church on this matter. And this will be futile unless we also find a way of conceptualizing Church history so that such an injustice can be admitted without compromising the integrity of the institution.
Organisations around the world have joined in: