Vatican City, Oct 26, 2023 / 11:25 am (CNA).
Synod on Synodality delegate Cardinal Robert Francis Prevost said this week that “clericalizing women” would not solve problems in the Catholic Church.
When asked about calls for women’s governance in the Catholic Church at a synod press conference on Oct. 25, the American cardinal underlined that “the apostolic tradition is something that has been spelled out very clearly, especially if you want to talk about the question of women’s ordination to the priesthood.”
“Something that needs to be said also is that ordaining women — and there’s been some women that have said this interestingly enough — ‘clericalizing women’ doesn’t necessarily solve a problem, it might make a new problem,” Prevost told journalists.
“And perhaps we need to look at a new understanding or different understanding of both leadership, power, authority, and service — above all service — in the Church from the different perspectives that can be, if you will, brought to the life of the Church by women and men.”
The cardinal, who has served as the prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Bishops, noted that the Catholic Church is not a mirror image of society and “needs to be different.”
Prevost explained that just because a woman can be president or have many different kinds of leadership roles in the world, there is not “an immediate parallel to say, ‘In the Church therefore…’”
“It isn’t as simple as saying that, ‘You know, at this stage we’re going to change the tradition of the Church after 2,000 years on any one of those points,’” he said.
At the same time, he added, women are continually taking on new roles of leadership both at the Vatican and in other parts of the Church, noting that Pope Francis recently appointed Sister Simona Brambilla as the secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
“I think there will be a continuing recognition of the fact that women can add a great deal to the life of the Church on many different levels,” he said.
Prevost’s comments come after Religion News Service reported that “a ‘cohort’ of nuns favoring female ordination, and especially women deacons, has formed at the synod … mainly from Latin America and some from Europe.”
Pope Francis reaffirmed the impossibility of women becoming priests, or even modern Church deacons, in an interview for a book published in Italy this week.
The pope said: “The fact that the woman does not access ministerial life is not a deprivation because her place is much more important.”
“Lutherans ordain women, but still few people go to church,” Francis said. “Their priests can marry, but despite that, they can’t grow the number of ministers. The problem is cultural. We should not be naive and think that programmatic changes will bring us the solution.”
Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and archbishop for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, also spoke about women’s role in the Church at the synod press conference.
Reflecting on the “tremendous influence” religious sisters have had on education in the United States and elsewhere, Broglio said: “I think the assumption that because all roles are not occupied at all levels by women [and] that therefore they have no influence is false.”
Nora Kofognotera Nonterah, a professor of theology in Ghana, said that in her experience at the Synod on Synodality she “felt listened to as a layperson, as a woman, and as an African in a Church that … has not had the chance to enrich herself with the voice and wisdom from women, from laypeople, and from Africans.”
Nonterah is one of 54 women participating in the synod assembly this month as voting delegates.
“I have become so convinced in these days that our Church must be willing to sit at the foot of women, especially laywomen who are from the Global South, to learn how to renew the Church’s imagination,” she said.