In a recent program on Tout le monde en parle (TLMEP), Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of Gatineau, Canada, pleaded for a more serious consideration of the role of women in the church, and spoke in favor of women deacons.
Archbishop Durocher was one of the first bishops in recent years to publically advocate for women deacons, which he did in an intervention at the Synod on the Family in Rome, in 2015. This gesture earned him an award for his “visionary proposal” and support for women in leadership, from the organization FutureChurch.
In his recent remarks at TLMEP, he noted that:
If women were deacons, for example, they would have the power to marry, to baptize. They would be part of the management teams. It’s a first step, I think.
«Si les femmes étaient des diacres, par exemple, elles auraient le pouvoir de marier, de baptiser. Elles feraient partie des équipes de gestion. C’est une première étape, je pense.»
As reported at Métro, by Henri Ouellette-Vézina, “Archbishop Durocher believes that we must ‘work now on what we are capable of doing,’ especially in local churches, in order to make clerical institutions more egalitarian.”
I looked up some statistics for the place where Archbishop Durocher serves. The Gatineau Archdiocese includes about 283,000 Catholics (it has grown during his tenure there), and has 64 priests, total. That’s 4,564 Catholics for every priest.
Of course, if the presence of “more clergy” was his sole concern, he could ordain lots of male deacons — something that has not happened. The status of women in the church is the deeper question he is setting out to address.
It may indeed be a brilliant idea to welcome women into the diaconate now, as one component in an overall program to include women more equitably in the life of the church.
Women are integral to any plan to revitalize the church — not just among the francophone Canadians, but let us say pretty definitely it would be helpful there. After all, consider the history. Women built modern Canada; women missionaries and the foundresses of religious orders brought education and healthcare, tamed the wilderness, and held together communities. They reached out in service; they overcame obstacles; they built up communities from within.
French Canada was once deeply religious and the Catholic church wielded great power there. Not anymore. Alienation and secularization have seriously set in. If this situation is going to turn around, I think it is safe to say that it will only do so with the support and energy of women.