A move by Pope Francis to amend Canon law allowing women to formally become lectors and acolytes in the Catholic Church (CN, January 24) is being welcomed as a step in the right direction by former Jamaican lawmaker, Deacon Ronald Thwaites.
Carrying out their roles as lectors, women read scriptures during Mass while acolytes assist a priest as altar servers.
“Any step, however small, that is taken to correct the historical misogynistic position in many Christian churches and certainly the Catholic Church, is to be welcomed,” Rev Thwaites told The Gleaner in a January 12 article.
He said that Pope Francis’ decision has now formalised a practice that has been taking place in the Catholic Church for some time now.
“If you went to any Catholic Church in Jamaica, you would see female acolytes, you would see females administering communion, certainly females acting as lectors.”
Rev Thwaites said his personal view was that the “grace of the Holy Spirit is not gender-based or gender-specific”.
He argued that there was nothing in scripture that precluded women from being ordained as deacons. Further, he said that strong historical evidence, which is persuasive, if not probative, highlighted that there were ordained women deacons in the early church.
On the question of women being elevated to the positions of deacon and priest, Thwaites said that a distinction should be made between admitting women to the diaconate and giving females the green-light to the priesthood.
“There are some in the Church, including Pope John Paul and Pope John Francis, who see very grave issues of doctrines connected with the priesthood. Those same positions do not apply to the diaconate, and I look forward to the eventual progression of women to diaconal, which is a service within the Church,” he said.