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A Door For Catholic Women

In response to:

Who Is the Pope? from the February 19, 2015 issue

To the Editors:

In Eamon Duffy’s otherwise very well-informed “Who Is the Pope?” [NYR, February 19], he remarks that “He [Pope Francis] has made clear his belief that Pope John Paul II’s 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacedotalis (Priestly Ordination) has settled ‘definitively’ the question of women’s ordination—‘that door is closed.’” And “so, it was asked, how did Papa Wojtyła know that the ordination of women was impossible…?”

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis deals only with the question of women’s ordination to the priesthood. This is an important distinction because it does NOT deal, in any way, with women’s ordination to the diaconate—female deacons exist in the New Testament (Romans 16:1–2), in the Anglican Church, and, closer to Rome, in the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Orthodox Church of Greece, where these orders are considered valid.

While Saint John Paul may have “definitively” spoken on not ordaining women to the priesthood (Ordinatio ¶4 §2), neither he nor Benedict XVI—nor for that matter Francis—have said that women cannot be ordained to the diaconate: this is very much an open question (cf. Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future by Gary Macy, William Ditewig, and Phyllis Zagano, Paulist Press, 2011), and one worthy of further discussion.

Kevin Di Camillo
Haledon, New Jersey