Loading
March 20, 2014
Advancing the roles of women in the Church
By Msgr. M. Francis Mannion *

By Msgr. M. Francis Mannion *

The Church continues to be at a loss as to how to advance the roles of women in its administrative structures. While the Church does not see its way to the priestly and episcopal ordination of women, some responsible scholars have argued that there exist no doctrinal reasons impeding women from being ordained to the diaconate. Likewise, the question of appointing women to the College of Cardinals – since this does not require holy orders – has been raised intermittently since the Second Vatican Council.

Since the Council, women have become diocesan chancellors, and can do much of the work formally assigned to vicars general and moderators of the diocesan curia--positions currently tied to holy orders, but not necessarily so in the future. Women canon lawyers can informally coordinate the canonical affairs of a diocese, including the marriage tribunal, where their gifts would be most profitably employed. Women now chair many of the advisory commissions of dioceses. They also hold positions of considerable importance in the agencies of national bishops’ conferences.

Some women already hold prominent positions in the offices of the Holy See. While there are presently canonical impediments (which could be changed, since they are man-made), the possibility of appointing women as prefects (heads) of some Roman congregations (departments) might be further explored.

Were a woman to be appointed prefect of the Congregation for Religious, that gesture would surely be taken by women religious as a powerful gesture of goodwill and could reduce considerable tension in a very troubled area. (Women religious are now ultimately under the leadership of men!).

Appointing women as presidents of the pontifical councils for the laity, the family, social communications, Christian unity, peace and justice, inter-religious dialogue, and culture – for which holy orders are not even now a prerequisite – seems highly desirable.

In the opinion of some, there exists no fundamental theological impediment to the appointment of women as papal nuncios and apostolic delegates within the Church’s diplomatic corps. Such roles need not be tied to ordination.

While the Holy See and bishops around the world would balk at the idea of having women play a central role in the appointment of  bishops, perhaps the Church could separate out the role of  apostolic nuncio (which deals in great part with the Vatican’s relations with governments) and assign it to lay persons, while the role of  apostolic delegate (which deals primarily with matters like the relationship of the Holy See to local Churches and the appointment of bishops), could remain attached to holy orders.

Could such new roles for women in the Church be institutionalized? I believe so, and history provides some useful precedents.

For instance, soon after the fourth century, canonesses constituted an order of exemplary women dedicated to the Church. They were not nuns or sisters in the modern sense, but laywomen who owned property, lived in their own houses, did not wear religious insignia (except at formal ecclesiastical events), did not profess vows – and could be married.

Such an office – restored and updated – could be for life, have a formal blessing by the bishop, and involve ceremonial insignia and dress, and the holder given a place of honor in the liturgies and gatherings of the Church.

There is, I believe, nothing theologically radical or unorthodox in these proposals. They could be effected with profound respect for the Church’s hierarchical order and would involve no change in the fundamental doctrine of the Church. And they would go a long way toward showing that the Church is serious about advancing women’s roles – something to which Pope Francis has repeatedly committed himself.

Msgr. Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul parish in Salt Lake City. He holds a Ph.D in sacramental theology from The Catholic University of America. He was founding president of The Society for Catholic Liturgy in 1995 and the founding editor of the Societys journal, Antiphon. At the invitation of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago he founded the Mundelein Liturgical Institute in 2000.
« Previous entry     Back to index     Next entry »
Ads by Google
(What's this?)
blog comments powered by Disqus

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
Dec
21

Liturgical Calendar

December 21, 2014

FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 21:23-27

Gospel
Date
12/15/14
12/14/14
12/13/14

Daily Readings


Gospel:: Lk 1: 26-38

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
12/15/14

Homily of the Day

Mt 21:23-27

Homily
Date
12/15/14
12/14/14
12/13/14
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: