Pope Francis and women’s ordination
When Pope Francis recently responded quite conservatively to a question about the role of women in the Catholic Church he made headlines around the world. Many on the liberal side felt he was undercutting his own synodal process based on openness and consultation. (The collated documents for the first stages of this process revealed that the equal treatment of women in the church had emerged as a universal concern.) Irish Jesuit theologian Gerry O’Hanlon has his own, quite different, take on the Pope’s response, which he explains in this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications.
He also outlines the theology underpinning Pope Francis’ position on the non-possibility of women’s ordination and the pontiff’s reliance on the theology of Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. Dr O’Hanlon’s PhD thesis was on the work of von Balthasar. He says that the ‘theological intuition’ that von Balthasar had regarding men and women represents a peripheral minority opinion that is not generally acceptable in the theological community per se. He believes it was not a good theological mast for Francis to nail his colours to, especially given his desire to insert women into significant leadership roles in the church.
Nonetheless, Dr O’Hanlon believes it is refreshing that a pope would be so forthright and candid about the theology that he is operating from, and crucially, he says, it allows for the upcoming Synod to process and debate the Pope’s thinking openly and critically.
Also in this interview (part one of a two-part series) Dr O’Hanlon outlines the protocols the church has in place for changing its own teaching and cites examples (recent and old) of when it did just that. This, he believes, sets a good precedent for the upcoming Synod to respond to, positively and decisively, regarding the treatment of women within the church, thereby according them the equality and dignity they deserve but which many feel they do not have.