Pope Francis has opened a door—just a crack—that the Vatican previously slammed shut. In 1994 Pope John Paul II indicated that even if the church wanted to ordain women, the sacrament of Holy Orders would not “take” on female bodies, so the church has no authority to even discuss the issue. Yet last month Francis said he is willing to form a commission to study the possibility of women deacons in the Roman church. Such a commission would surely at least discuss ordaining women, since contemporary male deacons are ordained.

But Pope Francis has also repeatedly affirmed predecessors’ limiting ordination to males. A commission on women deacons would likely stop short of ordaining them. It might instead create a separate-but-unequal category of deaconesses true to “feminine genius,” as Francis likes to say. In any case, the process will drag on for years, if not decades.

How long will Catholics wait for church leadership to embrace the basic idea that women can serve in persona Christi—represent Christ to the people of God in ordained ministry—just as fully as men?

Some Catholics stopped waiting a long time ago.

Quiet as it’s kept, many Catholic churches already ordain women as deacons—and as priests and bishops.  CONTINUE READING