by Rene Reid Reproduced with permission from OMG journal
In an address to the Synod bishops in October 2015, Pope Francis contrasted the hierarchy to that of the powerful of this world and concluded that it must be understood as an “upside-down pyramid,” with the vertex at the bottom rather than the top. Francis stressed that those who exercise authority are called “ministers” because, according to the original meaning of the word, they are miniscule, “the smallest of all,” he said. Similarly, in the religious community of which I was a member for several years, the head person was called the “Sister Servant.”
Thomas P. Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C.
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In the original presentation I followed the basic format suggested for speakers at Alcoholics Anonymous and other Twelve Step meetings: What is was like before. What Happened. What it is like now. I have revised the original and expanded it to article length and have retained to this format.
WHAT IT WAS LIKE BEFORE
The present era of awareness of sexual violation by Catholic clerics began in 1983 in two Catholic dioceses: the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana. This was not the start date of the problem of sexual violation but the beginning of widespread public awareness.
The reality of sexually dysfunctional clerics preying on minors and adults goes back through the centuries. In our lifetime it had been covered with a thick blanket of secrecy. It was unknown to the vast majority of lay persons and clerics as well. Many bishops knew about it but when they had to confront real cases they did so in secret with only a very small number of their closest advisors, all clerics, involved. Although they knew about sexual violation of minors in general, they were incapable of comprehending both its deeply pathological nature and its disastrous effects on victims.
Few knew about such abuse in the Church and even fewer believed it existed and this was due to the nature of the Catholic Church at the time. Back in the forties and fifties there was only one Catholic Church and it was the visible monarchical structure, a stratified society with a clerical aristocracy that was made up of celibate men and the vast ocean of lay commoners. The wall between the clerical caste and the “faithful” as the commoners are known, was steep and almost totally impenetrable.
Urges inclusion of women with diaconal calls alongside recognized experts.
FutureChurch commends Pope Francis for his plan to create a commission to study the feasibility of restoring women to the permanent diaconate.
" This is an historic breakthrough, but we know that historically, women have served as deacons and continue to do so today in the East,” said Deborah Rose-Milavec, Executive Director of FutureChurch, who pointed to a new advocacy website CatholicWomenDeacons.org sponsored by the organization.
FutureChurch specifically urges Pope Francis to include women who experience a call to the permanent diaconate, as well as other experts such as Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D, Gary Macy, Ph.D., and Sr. Carolyn Osiek, Ph.D. on the commission itself.
“Experts like Zagano, Macy and others have mined the historical evidence and shown that from the beginning of Christianity women like Phoebe (Romans 16) have served as deacons ,” said Rose-Milavec.
Pope Francis’ open and friendly communication style has stirred interest globally, especially among communication-study specialists. Much attention has been focused on his personal style in communications, but he is also developing and implementing a new style of communications within the church itself. When the pope urged candid discussions at the recent assemblies of the Synod of Bishops on the family, it was interesting to see how this worked and where it proved challenging among church leaders.