Will Pope Francis Ordain Women Deacons?

I believe that, in 2015, Pope Francis will teach that women can be ordained to the diaconate. There are theological reasons as well as eschatological reasons for my opinion.

Some would argue that Pope Francis already ruled out women’s ordination. Here is a quote from a press conference; the text is from the Vatican website.

“And, as far as women’s ordination is concerned, the Church has spoken and said: ‘No’. John Paul II said it, but with a definitive formulation. That door is closed, but on this issue I want to tell you something. I have said it, but I repeat it. Our Lady, Mary, was more important than the Apostles, than bishops and deacons and priests. Women, in the Church, are more important than bishops and priests; how, this is something we have to try to explain better, because I believe that we lack a theological explanation of this.”

Notice, first of all, that he says “the Church has spoken”. So he gives the example of accepting what the Church teaches. This is unlike many conservatives and traditionalists who decide what they wish to be true, and then speak as if it is dogma, apart from what the Magisterium has actually taught.

But Pope Francis refers specifically to the “definitive formulation” of Pope Saint John Paul II. And that teaching is that the Church has not been given the authority from Christ to ordain women to the priesthood. The document specifies “priestly ordination”. The title of the document, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, means “priestly ordination”. When John Paul was asked why this document specified ordination to the priesthood, instead of simply “ordination”, he replied that ordination to the diaconate is an “open theological question”.

So now consider another comment from Pope Francis, in the same press interview in July of 2013. The holy Pontiff was asked about “the diaconate for women”.

“A Church without women is like the college of the Apostles without Mary. The role of women in the Church is not simply that of maternity, being mothers, but much greater: it is precisely to be the icon of the Virgin, of Our Lady; what helps make the Church grow! But think about it, Our Lady is more important than the Apostles! She is more important! The Church is feminine. She is Church, she is bride, she is mother. But women, in the Church, must not only… I don’t know how to say this in Italian… the role of women in the Church must not be limited to being mothers, workers, a limited role… No! It is something else! But the Popes.. Paul VI wrote beautifully of women, but I believe that we have much more to do in making explicit this role and charism of women. We can’t imagine a Church without women, but women active in the Church, with the distinctive role that they play…. This needs to be better explained. I believe that we have not yet come up with a profound theology of womanhood, in the Church. All we say is: they can do this, they can do that, now they are altar servers, now they do the readings, they are in charge of Caritas (Catholic charities). But there is more! We need to develop a profound theology of womanhood. That is what I think.”

Pope Francis does not have a traditionalist or conservative point of view. He has not accepted the conservative opinion that women can never be ordained at all. He only accepts the current teaching of the Magisterium, that the Church was not given the authority to ordain women to the priesthood.

Given his view of the role of women in the Church, and the lack of a magisterial teaching to the contrary, I believe that Pope Francis will teach, in 2015, that women can be ordained to the diaconate, and that he will schedule the start of widespread ordination of women deaconesses for January of 2016. (This timing is based on my work in eschatology.)

My opinion is that the start of the first part of the tribulation is near. And the tribulation certainly includes an event called the great apostasy (2 Thess 2:3). Many traditionalists and conservatives already are in a state of near-schism. They speak as if their subculture within the Church defines dogma and judges all things, even Popes and Councils. Many have openly proclaimed that a Pope can fall into heresy and can teach heresy; they speak as if they are the judges over whether any papal teaching is heresy. (Saint Bellarmine taught that the Pope cannot teach heresy at all.) All that remains for them to formally depart from the Church is for Pope Francis to teach a truth from Divine Revelation that is contrary to their assumptions and false conclusions. In this way, the great apostasy begins.

Then the next Pope after Francis will be very conservative. But he will not reverse his predecessor’s teachings. So the traditionalists and conservatives who left the Church under Pope Francis will remain outside the Church. Then this next conservative Pope will teach truths from Divine Revelation which offend liberals, and they too will depart from the Church. Most Catholics will leave the Church under these two Popes. In this way, the great apostasy unfolds.

Which doctrines, taught by Pope Francis, will cause traditionalists and conservatives to leave the Church? My opinion is that Pope Francis will teach the following theological ideas as doctrine:

1. that the Church has the authority to ordain women as deacons.
2. that non-Catholic Christians can be saved without converting to Catholicism.
3. that non-Christian believers can be saved without converting to Christianity.
4. that unbelievers, such as atheists and agnostics, can be saved without converting to belief in God

Pope Francis might also makes some changes to discipline that offend traditionalists, such as broadening the circumstances under which the divorced and remarried may receive Communion, or permitting the priest who says Mass to make changes to the form, or restricting the use of the Latin Mass.

Each Pope has the full authority of Saint Peter, over doctrine and discipline. No group of persons within the Church has the authority to overrule the Pope on doctrine or discipline. The Pope can never fall into heresy personally, nor can he ever teach heresy at all. The body of Bishops in communion with the pope can never commit heresy as a body, nor teach heresy as a body, although individual Bishops and small groups can fall away through heresy or schism.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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