Recent comments by Pope Francis on the role of women in the Church not only assert that their status does not depend on ordination, but call for a developed “theology of women,” says a Catholic analyst.
“He’s acknowledging that a lot has changed with the modern world for women, and that maybe the Church hasn’t spoken as much as it could to the issues that women are facing,” said Ashley McGuire, senior fellow of The Catholic Association.
“He put to rest,” however, “any question as to whether or not he’s going to change Church teaching,” she told CNA.
Pope Francis spoke on the role of women during a 20-minute interview with the Spanish newspaper, El Pais, during a July 29 flight back to Europe following World Youth Day in Brazil.
During the interview, the Pope emphasized that the understanding of women’s participation in the church cannot be limited “to the acolyte, to the president of Caritas, the catechist,” and advocated for “a more profound theology of women.”
The Pope also spoke plainly on the topic of the ordination of women, saying that “the Church has spoken and said no.”
“John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed.”
He noted that the existence of a male-only priesthood does not diminish the role of women, adding that the “Virgin Mary was more important than the apostles and bishops and deacons and priests,” and that the feminine Church, as the Bride of Christ “is more important than the bishops and priests.”
“This is what we should try to explain better,” Pope Francis said.
McGuire said that she was “ glad to see him talking about and addressing the role of women” and “appreciated what he said, because it’s not sufficient just to say what women can or cannot do.”
The topic of women’s ordination, she said, is “not something that he has the ability to change,” stressing a “continuity” between Pope Francis’s words and the work of previous Popes.
“I think that Pope John Paul II laid a really great foundation,” in works such as “Mullieris Dignitatem,” McGuire said, in providing steps towards the new “theology of women” Pope Francis mentioned.
“I think it’s exciting to think that Pope Francis is going to build on that,” she added.
McGuire also said she appreciated that the Pope “hinted at professional women,” and his “acknowledging where ‘woman’ is in our times.”
“I’m excited to see him addressing the role of women without it having to do with women’s ordination.”
“I just see him acknowledging something that the laity has been talking a lot about recently: that women make a very positive contribution to the professional world, to the Church, to society more broadly.”