(Crux) During his customary in-flight news conference at the end of his trip to Sweden yesterday, Pope Francis took a question on women priests and not only reiterated, as he has several times in the past, that St. Pope John Paul has already said no, but he appeared to suggest that the Church’s “no” is forever.
“If we read carefully the declaration of St. John Paul II, it goes in that direction,” Francis said.
What that response didn’t address, however, is the more interesting question currently percolating about women clergy, which is the matter of whether women can, and should, be ordained as deacons. I say it’s more “interesting” largely because Francis’s answer is less predictable, and therefore the outcome is more up for grabs.
I don’t know how to handicap where the pope will come down on the issue, but I do know where to begin in trying to describe how he’s likely to approach it: What he sees as the “disease” of clericalism, and the danger of clericalism setting the tone for discussions of women in the Church.
Despite the fact that he stands today at the apex of the clerical pecking order, there’s a sense in which Pope Francis is the most anti-clerical pontiff in Catholic history. His jeremiads against clerical power and privilege have become the stuff of legend, and one has the sense when he uses the word “clericalism” that he’s virtually talking about the sin against the Holy Spirit.
When Francis traveled to South Korea in August 2014 and discovered that the faith had arrived there not through priest-missionaries but lay scholars visiting China, and that small Catholic communities flourished for more than a century before the first resident priest arrived, he lit up, and has never stopped extolling Korea ever since as a model for lay leadership and enterprise. [More]