Mar 20, 2014
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!).