CWS member Katie Lacz responds to a recent  piece by Pia de Solenni in America magazine about women deacons and women in Church leadership.

24th June 2019

A recent article about what the conversation about women in the diaconate “gets wrong” about Catholic women in leadership, while it rightfully lifts up and celebrates lay women, dodges the central question of women’s role in the Church.

As a theologically trained woman called to ordained ministry in the church, I think we are having the wrong conversation when we insist that the lay leadership of women in the Church as it is, is enough, and that women should be grateful for the opportunities the hierarchy parses out for them slowly and begrudgingly.

This insistence relies on the presumption that God only calls women to serve the Church via lay ministry or consecrated religious life. There are good, capable women in abundance in those roles, and thank God – our Church would be bereft without them.

But our Church IS, in fact, bereft due to the lack of women in ordained sacramental ministry – baptizing, preaching, marrying, anointing, consecrating the Eucharist. It is bereft of imagination; it is bereft of an astonishing variety of gifts that these women would bring to their ministry. It denies the foundational theological and spiritual truth that we are ALL made in the image and likeness of God. And it is disingenuous to suggest that even the best lay women in leadership will ever have the same decision-making authority as men as long as they are barred from ordained ministry. The most talented female chancellor in the largest diocese will still, always, be under the authority of a male bishop.

This is a matter of justice; it is a matter of access to opportunity. God calls women to be priests. The Church denies the validity of those calls. What a gift that a female lay minister can fulfill her vocation as a chancellor, a director of religious education, a theology professor. What a gift that a woman can pursue her call to religious life. And what a shame that a woman with a sincere, carefully discerned call to the diaconate or priesthood is denied, silenced, and delegitimized.

I am trained as a lay ecclesial minister – the closest I can get within our current structures to the ordained ministry to which I am called. I agree that the theology of the laity developed during Vatican II still needs to be enfleshed and lived out fully. I stand firm in the belief that ordained and lay ministers must both work together and fulfill their unique vocations as God calls and the Church – and world – needs. But I stand equally firm that the body parts of said ministers are irrelevant to their ability to be ordained.

And until the day we overhaul Church leadership so that lay and ordained ministers share not just in dedicated service to the church, but in decision-making and leadership, we are silencing the voice of more than half the church in that process. And it is disingenuous to suggest that women are equally valued if they are not equally represented and empowered.