Vatican dismisses issue of women deacons

Vatican dismisses issue of women deacons

On Tuesday, July 9, the Vatican published its working document for the next work of the synod on synodality, in October 2024. It affirms the importance of the role of women in the Church but rejects the possibility of the female diaconate.

The synod on the future of the Church promises major reforms, but it already risks disappointing some. On Tuesday, July 9, the Vatican published its Instrumentum laboristhe working document that will serve as a roadmap for the bishops for the second session of the synod on synodality. It will allow the Assembly to debate and vote, from October 2 to 27, 2024, to decide on the profound changes to be made in the Church. The controversial question of the female diaconate is excluded from the debates. The bishops’ working document indicates that it “will not be the subject of the work of the second session” because “it is good that theological reflection continues, with appropriate times and modalities.” A study group on the female diaconate will provide food for thought, taking up the work of two commissions that had been created by Pope Francis, without giving any developments.

The importance of the role of women and laity

The document is therefore not revolutionary, but it insists on the importance of the role of women in the Church. It indicates that bishops must consider including women more in “decision-making processes” and “positions of responsibility in dioceses and ecclesiastical institutions”. It also suggests “offering bishops, priests and lay people specific training on the missions that women can already accomplish”. In addition, the Vatican recalls the desire to increase the number of women judges in ecclesiastical tribunals. In this debate on synodality, the document obviously addresses the means of moving towards a more horizontal Church and of integrating the laity more. The bishops will consider creating a “lay ministry” to officially give responsibility to people outside the clergy. The Assembly will also consider the creation of a ministry of “listening and support” to get rid of “bureaucracy” and allow an “open door” to the community.

Limiting the power of bishops

The Vatican document questions the power of the bishops, whose “monarchic” tendency it does not hesitate to point out. It proposes that bishops systematically take into account the opinion of their episcopal council before making a decision. Until now, this opinion was only consultative. TheInstrumentum laboris also calls for more transparency in the Church, pointing out the risk for the bishop to govern alone, without dialogue. The prelate will therefore have to “report on his ministry to the community” to limit “clericalism”. Finally, the document recommends decentralizing ecclesiastical power by allowing episcopal councils to have “doctrinal authority” and to organize regional or continental assemblies. In the process of synodality initiated by Pope Francis, the members of the Church must feel “co-responsible” for their community. The second Assembly of Bishops will therefore tackle these projects. Following the synod, Pope Francis will publish an apostolic exhortation to give the conclusions of this vast collective reflection, launched in 2021.

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