It's not exactly a secret that the Catholic church is led almost entirely by men — even in 2016. When Pope Francis became the head of the church three years ago, some believed that the supposedly progressive leader would institute a much needed change to the Catholic doctrine on women, and finally, it appears that the Pope is doing so. On Thursday, at a meeting with 900 members of the of Catholic Women Religious group, Pope Francis announced he would launch a commission to look into allowing women to become Catholic deacons. Essentially, Pope Francis might (finally) end the all-male clergy rule within the Catholic church.
Undoubtedly, this would be a monumental change for Catholicism, but it's 2016, and just considering allowing Catholic women to become deacons — a far cry from priests as far as power and prestige goes since deacons cannot lead mass — doesn't really feel all that progressive.
To begin with, according to The Wall Street Journal, Pope Francis has decided to consider allowing women to be deacons because some theologians believe that women might have served as deacons during the first few centuries of the Catholic church. Yep, this decision could be based on events that took place more than 1,000 years ago.
However, according to the National Catholic Reporter, the theologians the Pope has referenced as a reason to reconsider women's role in the Catholic church also said that women were only allowed to be deacons because it wasn't proper for men to oversee the naked baptism of women — it's unclear if the women deacons were allowed any other work within the church.
The Wall Street Journal reported that it is typically agreed upon (by the men who lead the Catholic church, and therefore interpret the doctrine) that women cannot be priests, or hold leadership positions in the church, because Jesus only chose men to be his apostles. This is just another example of the Catholic church relying on events that took place thousands of years ago to make (or not make) decisions today.
The Pope's statement on the possibility of women deacons felt equally as outdated as the rest of the discourse on the matter of gender in the church. According to USA Today, Pope Francis responded to the Catholic Women Religious group's question as to whether or not women could join the clergy as deacons saying: "It would do good for the church to clarify this point... It seems useful to me to have a commission that would clarify this well."
As if there were not already enough reasons to be underwhelmed by the Pope's decision to consider women deacons, the Pope's own words highlight the fact that this is only a consideration; he needs a commission (presumably of men) to help him decide if women can hold any power in the church. It's difficult to see Pope Francis as the progressive leader he claims to be if he cannot figure out for himself that people should have equal opportunities within the Catholic church no matter their gender.
Few strides have been made to improve women's position within the Catholic church, ever. Therefore, it's understandable why Pope Francis' consideration of women deacons is being treated as such a big deal. However, it's 2016, and while women certainly do not have equal rights globally, or in the United States, even for the Catholic church, it seems outdated to have to consider whether or not to allow women to hold a leadership position within the church.