NCR Online: Pope Francis voices firm opposition to women deacons in CBS interview

BY CHRISTOPHER WHITE, Vatican Correspondent, Rome — May 21, 2024

Pope Francis expressed firm opposition to the idea of ordaining Catholic women as deacons in a new U.S. television interview, raising doubts about the possibility that the ongoing three-year synodal process could move forward on the issue.

In an hourlong special aired on CBS May 20, Francis was asked by interviewer Norah O’Donnell specifically about the issue of women deacons.

“I understand you have said no women as priests, but you are studying the idea of women as deacons,” O’Donnell asked Francis. “Is that something you’re open to?”

“If it is deacons with Holy Orders, no,” replied the pope, referencing the sacrament by which deacons, priests and bishops are ordained to their respective ministries.

“But women have always had, I would say, the function of deaconesses without being deacons, right?,” Francis continued. “Women are of great service as women, not as ministers, as ministers in this regard, within the Holy Orders.”

The pope’s remarks, which came in an April 24 interview that was aired in two segments over the last month and in full on May 20, are among the most definitive he has offered on the matter, at least on the public record. They come at a critical time when the question of women’s leadership in the church — and the restoration of the female diaconate, in particular — is among the most hotly debated topics to surface during the pope’s ongoing synod on synodality, a global consultation process on the future of the Catholic Church.

“For a little girl growing up Catholic today, will she ever have the opportunity to be a deacon and participate as a clergy member in the church?” O’Donnell asked the pontiff.

“No,” he bluntly replied. 

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  1. Peadar O'Callaghan says:

    I always understood my ‘diaconal’ ordination as ‘transitional’ to priesthood and in service to ‘episcopy’. So, I am not surprised (if quoted correctly) Pope Francis’ comments on diaconate ordination being reserved.
    I think it is time for us before the next session of SYNOD 23-24 to reopen (not another sterile debate) but maybe the pages of ‘INSTRUCTION – On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of The Non-Ordained Faithful In The Sacred Ministry of Priests’ issued by various Congregations from the Vatican City on 15 August 1977.
    One might also find useful material in theologian Fr. Thomas J. Lane’s ‘The Catholic Priesthood – Biblical Foundations’ (2016) and in chapter 2 of ‘The Catholic Priesthood: A New Testament Reflection’ in Catholic priest and scholar Francis J. Moloney’s ‘Broken for You – The Catholic Priesthood & the Word of God’ (2018). He says, quoting Acts 6:1-6 “The diaconal role was to see to the practical needs of members of the community, especially the poorer members or those most neglected.” (p 35) One can conclude the sacraments of Christian initiation are sufficient for this charitable work of mercy.
    In the same interview Pope Francis said he would bless LGBTQ+ people but does not support same-sex marriage, and would not “bless the union”.
    Giving his reason, he added: “That cannot be done because that is not the sacrament. I cannot. The Lord made it that way. But to bless each person, yes. The blessing is for everyone.
    “To bless a homosexual-type union, however, goes against the given right, against the law of the Church. But to bless each person, why not? Some people were scandalised by this. But why?”
    I’ve often wondered – does one need to have ‘a vocation’ to be ordained a deacon that is not transitional to priesthood, is it sufficient to ‘volunteer’?

  2. Joe O'Leary says:

    Pope Francis’s interview well exemplifies the paralysis of Catholic thought.

  3. Paddy Ferry says:

    Once again, Joe your analysis is so accurate and insightful.

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