With these words, Francis held out the likelihood of a time to come when deacons, nuns, and even ordinary Papists would carry out an increasing number of functions at present reserved for priests. But again, he did not actually close the door to married priests at some time in the future.
And what about priestesses?
Francis stated: “This summons us to broaden our vision, lest we restrict our understanding of the Church to her functional structures. Such a reductionism would lead us to believe that women would be granted a greater status and participation in the Church only if they were admitted to Holy Orders. But that approach would in fact narrow our vision, it would lead us to clericalize women, diminish the great value of what they have already accomplished, and subtly make their indispensable contribution less effective.”
Here Francis was being very cunning. Within the Romish system many liberal voices have been raised, calling for priestesses. But Francis proceeds with Jesuitical caution. Rome has firmly maintained, despite the cacophony of voices calling for a change, that only men may be priests. It has maintained this even as, one after another, “Protestant” denominations caved in to the liberal agenda and began to ordain “pastoresses”. For Rome to now change course on this issue, the impression would be given that it was merely following the Protestants, playing catch-up with their supposedly “enlightened”, “progressive” approach. This would not look good, considering that Rome claims to be the only true Church, the “mother Church”, the one possessing the fulness of divine revelation. It would not look good to suddenly change course and say, in effect, “We were wrong, we’ve seen the error of our ways, we will now ordain priestesses.”
By choosing his words very carefully at this point, Francis sought to make Roman Catholic women feel that they are valuable, and that their contributions are great without the need to be ordained as priests. He was saying in effect, “You women have served our Church so well, for so long, without being ordained, bringing your unique gifts to the Church, gifts which no man could bring. To ordain you would be like saying your ministry within the Church cannot be complete unless you are ordained as priestesses as well – and we don’t want you to feel that way.”
This was cunning enough. For doubtless he is hoping that Roman Catholic women will say, “Our pope is right. We don’t need ordination to serve God. We’re doing a great job just as we are!” If they take this approach, all well and good – Rome will not be under pressure to ordain women.
On the other hand, however – Francis’ words do not actually close the door, categorically and forever, to eventual priestesses within the Roman Catholic system! Read his words again: he could have been far stronger, far firmer, categorically stating that never, never, never would Rome ordain women to its priesthood. But did he? No. His language was very mild. Therefore if Roman Catholic women, despite what he has written, continue to clamour for female ordination, and the calls become louder and more insistent, Rome will be able to turn around and say, “Well, Francis did not actually forbid it. He merely raised concerns. He didn’t want women to feel that they had to be ordained to be useful to the Church. But if they would still like to be ordained notwithstanding this concern, he didn’t forbid it.”
Do you see the Jesuitical cunning?
And in fact his next words in the document only serve to confirm this:
“Jesus Christ appears as the Spouse of the community that celebrates the Eucharist through the figure of a man who presides as a sign of the one Priest…. The Lord chose to reveal his power and his love through two human faces: the face of his divine Son made man and the face of a creature, a woman, Mary. Women make their contribution to the Church in a way that is properly theirs, by making present the tender strength of Mary, the Mother…. without women, the Church breaks down…. This shows the kind of power that is typically theirs.”
Without going into the sheer unbiblical nature of the Roman pope’s heresy at this point regarding Mary, it is clear that Francis was buttering Roman Catholic women up. He was saying to them, “Look at how powerful you already are in our Church! You don’t need the priesthood as well.” But it still was not an outright prohibition. Doubtless he feels the time is not right, now, for priestesses. But a little further down the line? If that day comes, his words do not forbid it outright.
Reaction to His Document “Disappoints” Francis
Francis told a group of bishops that he was disappointed with the reaction to his post-synodal document. As one bishop put it, “You could see his consternation when he said that for some people it was all about celibacy and not about the Amazon.” And this was surely one of his reasons for downplaying the issue: the Amazon Synod was about many other issues (as my previous article on the Synod shows), and he wanted these to be emphasised, not the issue of ordination. The ordination issue was deliberately raised at the Synod to test the waters – but that was all. It was never the Vatican’s intention to change Roman Catholic teaching about ordination at that time.