Door still open on married priests, women deacons

The door is still open on married priests and women deacons.

Although Pope Francis’s exhortation on the Amazon bypasses making decisions about women deacons and married priests, there is still room to move, say number of the pope’s close advisors.

In the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon), Pope Francis released last week , Francis appears to leave the question of married priests open-ended. He didn’t give a clear yes or no on the issue.

Instead, he suggests there be a better distribution of priests in the Amazon.

He wants to encourage missionary priests to work in the region and to go to more rural areas.

At the same time, he says there is a need for a priestly formation which better understands and appreciates local cultural traditions.

Francis’s exhortation on the Amazon also avoided making decisions about women deacons.

Rather, it warned against the temptation to “clericalise” women rather than empowering them through leading community roles which better “reflects their womanhood.”

Cardinal Michael Czerny said the best way of looking at the pope’s approach to married priests in the document is that it is “part of a journey.”

“We are at a very important point in the synodal process.”

“There are long roads ahead, as well as roads already traveled,” he said

He also pointed out that on the question of married priests, Francis “has not resolved them in any way beyond what he has said in the exhortation.”

Czerny stressed that the exhortation “is a magisterial document”.

This means it is binding, whereas the final synod document, which includes supportive proposals for married priests and women deacons which the pope must approve, does not bear the same weight.

Czerny said without a firm ‘no’ from the pope on these issues, they will continue “to be debated, discussed, discerned, prayed over and, when mature, presented to the appropriate authority for a decision.”

These decisions, he said, can be made at a diocesan, national and universal level.

Czerny said the proposal for ordaining women deacons is still “being studied”. He said this is probably awaiting a conclusion on the topic from a commission Francis formed in 2016 to study it.


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