Deacons, millennials part of bishops’ conversation at women’s conference

Deacons, millennials part of bishops’ conversation at women’s conference

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Dr. Kimberly Baker of St. Meinrad Seminary moderates the conversation with [Cardinal-designate] Archbishop Joseph Tobin, CSsrR, of Indianpolis (center) and Bishop Charles Thompson of Evansville, Indiana (right).

Heidi Schlumpf | Oct. 8, 2016 | National un-Catholic Reporter

All the major speakers at “Women of the Church: A Catholic Leadership Conference” this weekend were women–except for two. Archbishop Joseph Tobin, CSsR, of Indianapolis and Bishop Charles Thompson of Evansville, Indiana, were part of a moderated conversation during the three-day conference in southern Indiana.

Answering questions from attendees that had been collected in advance, the bishops expressed support for women deacons, the possibility for women preaching and a desire to dialogue with younger “millennial” women.

“I’m hopeful,” said Archbishop Tobin about the possibility of women deacons. As co-chair of the North American Orthodox Catholic Theological Consultation, Tobin said he was encouraged by the fact that the Orthodox recognize the tradition of women deacons.

Thompson, a canon lawyer, noted that the Canon Law Society of America released a document supporting women deacons in 1995.

Responding to an earlier question about making women’s leadership more visible, Thompson also drew on his expertise in canon law to point out that while church law reserves the homily to priests and deacons, exceptions could be made when another speaker can talk to the “particular needs of that group.”

Another question asked for their opinions about data that show that younger “millennial” women disagree with church teaching more and attend Mass less than their male counterparts. In response, both bishops said they would be open to dialogue with younger women. “I need wisdom from that group,” said Thompson.

Tobin noted that addressing younger women’s concerns is “not simply up to the bishops.” Women should share their stories of why they stay in the church with younger women, he said, and should avoid turning off younger women with “unmitigated anger.”

“I’m praying Pope Francis can make good on his promise to find more incisive and visible roles for women in the church,” Tobin said. “But I also think it’s important for that women help young women understand why this is home for them, despite the spots and wrinkles and, yes, injustice. That’s a message that will not be as credible if it comes from me.”

At least one younger Catholic woman attendee was encouraged both by the bishops’ comments and the conference in general.

Admitting that “there’s a huge distance” between younger women and the hierarchy, Laura Taylor, a 26-year-old doctoral student at the University of Notre Dame, said she would welcome any attempts by clergy and bishops to dialogue with young Catholic women.

The conference, by bringing together diverse voices from the academy and parish ministry, was already giving her hope, Taylor said. “It’s bringing issues to the fore,” she said. “The conversation is happening.”

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3 comments on “Deacons, millennials part of bishops’ conversation at women’s conference

  1. Pope sends greetings to women’s gathering in Indiana

    Heidi Schlumpf | Oct. 7, 2016 | National un-Catholic Reporter

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    Carolyn Woo of Catholic Relief Services gives the opening keynote at the “Women of the Church” conference.

    Pope Francis, who inspired the convening of this weekend’s conference on “Women of the Church” in southern Indiana, sent his greetings to the 260 attendees via a letter to [his Cardinal-designate] Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis.

    The pope said he hoped the conference, “by exploring the multifaceted contribution of women to the life of the Church in America, past and present, will open new horizons for their greater and more inclusive presence and activity in the future,” according to a copy of the letter distributed during the opening prayer service.

    The three-day conference, hosted by the Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana, in partnership with St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, was planned in response to Pope Francis’ call for “a more incisive female presence” in his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”).

    “To all of you I express my gratitude and encouragement, together with my prayers that the Conference will contribute to a balanced discernment of how women’s manifold gifts can be used most fruitfully to advance the Church’s mission, for the greater glory of God and the growth of his People in faith, hope and love,” the pope wrote in his letter to the conference.

    Quoting his own words to religious women during his visit to New York last year, the pope wrote, “What would the Church be like without you? Women of strength, fighters, with that spirit of courage which puts you in the front lines in the proclamation of the Gospel!”

    Opening keynote speaker Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, also thanked women for doing the “heavy lifting” for the church.

    Woo, who announced last month that she would end her five-year term at CRS at the end of 2016, shared lessons she has learned while at the helm of the international relief and development agency.

    Although she has witnessed the effects of evil and sin, especially among so many “sorrowful mothers” around the world, she still believes in resurrection and goodness. “I believe it’s possible within each one of us, but we have to make a choice for it,” she said.

  2. I guess it would be regarded as inopportune of me to draw attention to the First Epistle of St Paul to Timothy. In this letter, which St Paul writes as a senior bishop of the Church, an Apostle, to a young new bishop, Timothy, St Paul gives Timothy some clear instructions and guidance on many topics. In Chapter 2, verses 11 and 12, St Paul gives explicit rules about what women may and may not do in Church.
    I will let you read the relevant section for yourself. These verses would be regarded, in today’s society, as utterly offensive! I might add that elsewhere in Scripture St Peter has similar rules about the role of women, the modernists only ever attack St Paul.
    There are three points to note about these verses from St Paul.
    Firstly, St Paul is at pains to point out that there are theological reasons for his ruling. He does this in the following three verses. In other words, it is nonsense to argue, as almost all modern theologians do, that these rulings in Scripture are culturally based and can be ignored by the modern Church.
    Secondly, for most of the Church’s 2000 year history these verses in Scripture were regarded as the infallible, inerrant word of God and totally binding on us.
    Thirdly, these same words from Scripture, are now universally ignored by almost every Protestant denomination and more shockingly by the Holy Catholic Church.
    So I will let the women’s conferences led by emasculated, heretical bishops, come up with their modernist propositions; for me, I will stick by God’s rules.

  3. Now, more than ever, we need another St. Paul to be raised up, who will preach the truth with the fire and conviction of the Holy Ghost! Deus vult!

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