Press Release by the Women’s Ordination Conference
By Kate McElwee and Erin Saiz Hanna
Rome, Italy: The Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) applauds the women religious of the International Union Superior Generals (UISG) for brazenly dialoguing with Pope Francis on leadership and ministerial roles for women in the Church, including the opening of the diaconate to women. In response to the sisters’ questions, Pope Francis agreed to launch a Vatican Commission to study the diaconate to include women, stating: “It would be good to clarify this.”
Opening a commission to study the diaconate for women would be a great step for the Vatican in recognizing its own history. Decades of research on this topic has already been published by renowned feminist voices. WOC recommends that the Vatican’s commission include the following scholars: Gary Macy, Dorothy Irving, Ida Raming, Sr. Christine Schenk, John Wijngaards, Phyllis Zagano.
Biblical and historical evidence cites several women deacons working alongside men in the early Church including: Phoebe, St. Olympias, Dionysia, St. Radegund and St. Macrina. Such a commission, similar to the Pontifical Biblical Commission of 1976 that concluded there is no scriptural barrier to women’s priestly ordination, could begin to restore the Gospel values of equality and justice.
Pope Francis also stated that a woman cannot be in Persona Christi, and therefore cannot preach or preside over the Eucharist. WOC rejects this flawed interpretation that a male body is a necessary condition of representing the Body of Christ. Upholding this discrimination, as though it were the will of God, is simply indefensible.
While WOC celebrates this step from the Vatican, until women are included in all decision-making structures and as priests and Bishops of the Church, equality remains painfully denied.
May 22nd marks the 22nd anniversary of the Vatican’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, banning all discussion on the ordination of women. WOC advocates that a new commission on the diaconate include discussions on priestly ordination for women in the Roman Catholic Church.