The Table

This Pope is so infuriating. Do you remember the great video done a few years ago by WOC with really embarrassing Francis quotes about women? (“Vatican: It’s a Man’s World“) Things have not improved significantly in that department, unfortunately.

On the other hand, he’s pastoral. That’s my conclusion in reading about the current kerfuffle involving married priests and women deacons. In contrast to the admission of Anglican and Episcopalian men into the Roman Catholic priesthood, which, in my opinion, was done mostly for the convenience of those men who could not tolerate women priests in their traditions, this is being done to evangelize the people of the Amazon. That’s what I like about this Pope: he really does care about the Church, the Eucharist, the suffering – when he knows how to look for it. He figures out a way to go beyond the rules. See German bishops and divorce.

The announcement of this synod was in mid-October, and focused on the needs of indigenous people in this environmentally-delicate region, who are “often forgotten and without the prospect of a serene future, also because of the crisis of the Amazonian rain forest, a ‘lung’ of primary importance for our planet.” My initial reaction was that this was about the environment, and good for Francis and his leadership in this area.

But there’s more to the story. I feel as if I am wandering into Vatican intrigue! How do we get to married men and women deacons?

The Amazon is so huge and the communities are so remote that the present supply of circuit-riding priests cannot serve them. “Whom shall I send?” We sing that so often – and who is here, God?

Various bishops helped Francis see how to look at the suffering and how to figure out a way to go beyond the rules. Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia-Calderon, president of the Peruvian bishops’ conference, initially proposed the Synod in May. Francis’s close friend, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, heads the Amazon regional bishops’ conference and is especially concerned about the shortage of priests, according to Leonardo Boff, liberation theologian. Retired Bishop Erwin Krautler, secretary of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, made the request for married men and women deacons. While I hate to rely on bishops, I know the difference good ones can make.

Francis has been clear that this Synod is for the Amazon region only, not the universal church. And he is clear that he can respond to evangelization needs of a specific region. Of course, October 2019 is a long time to wait for decisions, except for those used to the slow ways of the church. Let’s stay tuned for developments.

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