Revisiting ministries in the Church

ministries in the church

Anne-Marie Pelletier has been a papally appointed observer at the Synod of Bishops (2001), was the first woman to win the Ratzinger Prize for theology (2014) and authored the meditations used at the papal-led “Via Crucis” on Good Friday (2017) at Rome’s Colosseum.

Pope Francis, just this past April, appointed the 74-year-old Paris native and mother of three to be a member of his new “Study Commission on the Female Diaconate”.

In an exclusive interview with La Croix’s Céline Hoyeau, Pelletier said the Church needs to creatively revisit ministries in the Church, beyond presbyteral and diaconal ordination.

La Croix: What does the response to Anne Soupa’s press release announcing her candidacy to be Archbishop of Lyon reveal to you?

Anne-Marie Pelletier: This declaration of candidacy raises some objections.

First, because she ignores the fact that in the Church’s tradition one is called to a position of responsibility; one does not apply for it.

What happens to clergymen has been left out.

Then, because it is not certain that the best way to renew the institution of the Church is to contend for taking over existing roles.

Women must occupy institutional places, certainly, but not necessarily by conquering existing forms of power.

Moreover, the extremism of her announcement offers a good excuse not to take it seriously.

The fact remains that the widespread media attention it’s gained shows that the situation is deadlocked. It is as though provocation is the only way forward.

Is it so outrageous that women aspire to be clerics like others? What can be done so that they can play their role to a greater extent in decision-making? Are priesthood and governance inseparable?

That woman could be clerics like others, is it really so outlandish?

If one day they were to accede to the ministerial priesthood – a hypothesis that’s currently excluded – it would have to be in order to live and practice it a little differently.

Otherwise, it’s all about power and competition.

There are many places where women need to be active today in exercising authority and inspiring new governance, such as parish authorities, episcopal councils and the pope’s council. Why not?

Similarly, why not include women in the college of cardinals?

The truth that needs to be heard is that ministerial priesthood cannot be the sole authority to decide on the life and governance of the Church.

If women were already teaching ecclesiology in seminaries, the Church could have another face.

Would the ordination of women deacons allow women to find a better place in the Church?

It would undoubtedly have a strong symbolic value.

But the question is more complex than it seems.

It all depends on the profile of this diaconate, its attributes, its mode of institution.

A lesser version of the male diaconate would only confirm the inequality between men and women.

This is not an illusory risk since some have a great fear that women are getting too close to the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Moreover, to focus too much on this issue risks obscuring the true extent of the problem.

It is the overall question of ministries in the Church that needs to be reopened, as they affect both sexes and the different states of life.

Women write to me to tell me of their expectations of a real conversion of outlook and mentality, a prerequisite for esteem and equality.

They question their legitimacy to proclaim the Word of God, they ask that credit be given to their experience, that their voice is included in the word of the Magisterium.

Where exactly are we on the question of the diaconate?

In fact, it has consistently been raised – by women, as well as by bishops – since Vatican II and the re-establishment of the permanent diaconate.

The historical work has increased.

In 1997, the International Theological Commission was asked to formulate an opinion.

The general tendency was in favour of women’s diaconate, but it dodged this conclusion. Continue reading

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