ROME – Though the week-long Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America offered a long string of bold proposals, the proposal of ordaining women either as deacons or as priests was rarely brought up. And the one time it was, a top-Vatican cardinal dismissed it.
“We still need much synodality,” said Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, during a press conference held Friday, as the Nov. 21-28 assembly was wrapping up.
Asked point blank if the lack of vocations to the priesthood could lead to the ordination of women, even if only to the diaconate, the prelate said that from a “doctrinal point of view” there are “no conclusions that open this door.”
The matter, he said, was studied by a commission set up by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at Pope Francis’s request, to look into the historical figure of female deacons. Formed in 2016, the pontiff told reporters in May 2019 that the 12-member body had been unable to produce a “definitive response” to the matter, due to a lack of consensus regarding the role of deaconesses in early Christianity.
“Personally, I believe that we have to potentiate the particular charisms women have,” Ouellet said during the press conference. “The path is not to completely equate at a ministerial level men and women, because there’s a symbolic importance in the sacramental roles.”
“It’s important to remember that God made an alliance with humanity, and that the nuptial symbol is the privileged symbol in the Church and in the Bible,” he said, speaking in Spanish. “To express God’s relationship with his people, of Christ with the Church. Christ is male, the Church is feminine. The priest who must represent Christ must have a semantic coherence, and this is the reason why the representation of Christ as a husband is reserved to men.”
“It’s a bit evident,” he added.
According to Ouellet, what the Church needs to do is further develop the charisms women have, give them more room, listen to them more and grant them more responsibilities.
“The woman is an excellent catechist,” he said. “She can be the chancellor of a diocese, a [canon] lawyer, work in communication and administration, having very important roles both at a diocese and a parish.”
The Canadian prelate insisted on highlighting the charism of women, saying that they must be granted concrete recognition, without pretending that, simply by being ordained, women would be granted access to all the spaces of the Church. “It’s a wrong path, one that doesn’t respect the peculiarity of the woman.”
What is needed, Ouellet said, is a much deeper synodal reform, that is “more fundamental than imposing the same roles to women and men. The change the Church needs is much greater than giving [women] access to ordained ministry. The revolution must be more profound.”