The Vatican’s Secretary of State said this week that there is no reason why a woman could not occupy his post in the future—the equivalent of Prime Minister—since “the office is not bound to the sacraments and to the priesthood.”
Speaking with journalists at the rollout of a revamped women’s insert section in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Pietro Parolin (pictured) was asked whether women would ever reach top positions in the church. “And what are the top positions,” joked the Cardinal, “becoming Pope? Or Secretary of State?”
Then he proceeded to elaborate that in principle there was nothing holding women back from the latter.
“In theory, a woman could hold the office of secretary of state since the office is not bound to the sacraments and to the priesthood,” Parolin said.
At the same time, the cardinal hastened to remind his hearers that the Church “has already reached a final position” regarding a male-only priesthood.
Employing solemn language, Pope John Paul II invoked his full papal authority in 1994 to put the matter of women priests to rest.
“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance,” he wrote, “a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren, I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”
In his declaration, John Paul cited his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, noting that the reasons behind the Church’s judgment included the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of “Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men,” the “constant practice of the Church,” which has imitated Christ in choosing only men, and “her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.”
While upholding this teaching, Pope Francis has continued insisting that woman need to play a larger and more visible role in the Church.
“It is necessary to broaden the spaces for a stronger presence of women in the Church,” Francis said in a 2013 interview. “Women in the Church are essential. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse function with dignity.”
The Pope also called for a greater effort to develop “a profound theology of women,” adding that the “feminine genius is needed in places where important decisions are made.”
“The challenge today is this: to reflect on women’s specific role even in the very places where authority is exercised in the various spheres of the Church.”
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