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FutureChurch Disappointed by Pope Francis’ Dismissal of Historical Evidence, Global Call for Women Deacons

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Russ Petrus, Executive Director
russ@futurechurch.org

In an April 2024 interview with Norah O’Donnell, which aired on CBS on May 20, Pope Francis rejected the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate. Asked if a young girl growing up Catholic today could have the opportunity to “be a deacon or participate as a clergy member,” Francis’ one word answer was simply “No.” When O’Donnell followed up specifically about his previous openness to women deacons, Francis elaborated on the topic of sacramental ordination: “If it is deacons with Holy Orders, no. But women have always had, I would say, the function of deaconesses without being deacons, right?”

The comments represent Francis’ strongest public opposition to ordaining women deacons during his papacy. Pope Francis has previously signaled openness to it in interviews and by forming two commissions to study questions pertaining to women deacons. The fruits of those commissions have not been made publicly available. It was also recently reported that Salesian Sister Linda Porcher, who has helped organize sessions for Pope Francis and the Council of Cardinals to learn about women’s  leadership and ministries, said he is “very much in favor” of a “female diaconate,” though it was unclear whether she meant an ordained diaconate. Porcher also indicated that Francis was looking to grant “some rights” to all the baptized that have previously been reserved for clerics.

FutureChurch is profoundly disappointed that Pope Francis’ response is an apparent dismissal of both the historical evidence and the global calls for restoring women deacons.

“Pope Francis is either unaware of or has chosen to ignore the significant historical and textual evidence that women not only served but were in fact ordained as deacons in our history,” said FutureChurch Executive Director, Russ Petrus. “Even still, as Francis admits, women continue to serve the ‘function’ of a deacon today. Who are we to deny them the sacramental grace of Holy Orders as they respond to their call and minister to the urgent needs around them? We should celebrate and support these women, including by ordaining them,” he continued.

A Synodal Church in Mission, the final synthesis of the October 2023 Synod Assembly, indicates that significant conversation regarding women deacons took place during the assembly (I.9.j). Moreover, synod delegates specifically call for continued theological and pastoral research and discernment and making the reports of previous study commissions available (I.9.n). In light of this interview, FutureChurch reaffirms and joins those calls.

“It would be a betrayal of his own vision for a synodal church for Pope Francis to silence the global conversation this way,” said Petrus. “But the Spirit will not be silenced. And neither will women and their allies – lay and cleric alike – who, led by the Spirit of Pentecost, which we just celebrated, will continue to call for women’s full equality and access to all seven Sacraments in our Church.”