Footnote in Pope’s Amazon exhortation opens door to married priests, female deacons: Jesuit priest
March 9, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The Liberation theologian Father Víctor Codina, S.J., published on March 6 an essay proposing and presenting the “interpretive key” to Pope Francis' February 12 post-synodal exhortation Querida Amazonia, saying that the Pope's mentioning of an Amazonian rite in a footnote has a similar importance as the footnote in Amoris Laetitia which gave an opening toward Communion for “remarried” divorcees. He claims that, with that new Amazonian rite, married priests can be introduced, as well.
Codina's essay was immediately picked up and published by the Amazonian ecclesial network REPAM whose key organizers are also members of the pre-synodal committee, such as Cardinal Claudío Hummes, Bishop Erwin Kräutler, and Mauricio López (its executive secretary). Both Hummes and Kräutler are also members of the Vatican's “special council” that was established after the October 2019 Amazon Synod. Codina was also a participant at the Amazon Synod.
The Spanish retired professor of theology (University of Bolivia) is a liberation theologian who published his new essay on his blog of the website of the Liberation group Amerindia, to which also Leonardo Boff and Paulo Suess belong (with Boff and Codina both having studied under Karl Rahner). Codina was a participant at the secret meeting in Rome that took place ahead of the Amazon Synod and at which also Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, as well as Cardinal Hummes and Cardinal Walter Kasper participated. There are indications that some of Kasper's fundamental ideas about establishing a non-ordained ministry for lay women might very well have found entrance into Querida Amazonia.
Codina explains in his essay that, in his “ecclesial dream, Francis promotes for the Amazon a native and well-formed laity, a plurality of lay ministries, a permanent diaconate for men, base communities, an incarnated and inculturated religious life,” as well as a larger role for women, among others. He then goes on to say that many were “very disappointed” when “the only news that media spread was that the Pope rejected the ordination of married men.” People now feared that “the ecclesiastical springtime that Francis had begun was in danger,” he adds.
Codina then presents us the “interpretative key” that can be found in this new papal document.
As others have done in the recent past, the Jesuit insists that the new document “does not want to substitute the final document of the Synod, but to help a creative reading of the synodal journey.”
Codina concludes that, since the final document “proposes the ordination of married men and works towards the female diaconate (111 and 103 of the final document), this means that these issues remain open and therefore it is false to say that the Pope excludes or forbids them. Francis is silent, he does not close any door.”
Also returning to the theme as stressed by Father Antonio Spadaro, Codina sees here that the Pope, with his writing, wishes to overcome polarities in the Church. At the same time, the theologian explains, the Pope wishes to create something larger than just the presence of the Eucharist in the Amazon region. “Without the Eucharist,” he explains, “there is not Church, but without ecclesial community, the Eucharist becomes a magical or empty rite.”
That means, the Pope wishes to “initiate a Church that is not pyramidal and vertical from the hierarchical center, but rather a Church centered on the People of God,” along with its “broad lay capillary” action, from the bottom up.
In light of establishing a new ecclesial structure in the Amazon region, Codina reminds us the Pope, already in his post-synodal exhortation on marriage and the family, Amoris Laetitia, in paragraph 3, insisted that not all doctrinal, moral and pastoral discussions are to be resolved by the intervention of the Magisterium. That is to say, the Pope wants the local Church to “discuss and discern” the question of “the ecclesial ministries.”
It is here that Father Codina now speaks about “a small, unnoticed pastoral footnote” and then points to the footnote 120 of Querida Amazonia's paragraph 82 where he speaks about inculturation. In that footnote, the Pope mentions that the Amazon Synod had proposed an Amazonian rite (in the Final Document numbers 116-117). After referring to the fact that the Church has 23 different rites which include certain “ecclesial structures” and that in many of the Eastern Churches, “there are married priests,” Codina comes to his key statement:
“This footnote opens up new paths, as was footnote 351 of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia, which opened up the possibility of reconciliation and communion for divorced people who have remarried. Here the possibility of an Amazonian rite is opened up, which not only inculturates liturgies but also ecclesial structures, in dialogue and discernment between the Amazonian churches and the universal Church which is presided over in charity by the Bishop of Rome.” In conclusion, Codina wonders whether “a new Amazonian rite” could not be “one of these novelties of the Spirit that go beyond our ordinary discussions and horizons?”
There are indeed parallels between Amoris Laetitia (AL) and Querida Amazonia (QA). In both cases the synodal discussions had been heated due to the seriousness of the proposals at the synods – in the case of AL Communion for the “remarried” divorcees, in the case of QA the married priesthood and female diaconate. In both cases, Pope Francis was faced with strong opposition from within the Universal Church against these novelties. As Archbishop Bruno Forte, the Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy later revealed in the case of Amoris Laetitia, the Pope had told him during the family synod that “if we speak explicitly about Communion for the divorced and remarried, you do not know what a terrible mess we will make. So we won’t speak plainly, do it in a way that the premises are there, then I will draw out the conclusions.” Forte was then special secretary of the Synod of Bishops.
That is to say, Pope Francis chose a more indirect, if not stealthy, approach, in order to bypass and avoid too strong of a resistance. He said in paragraph 305 of Amoris Laetitia, that, despite an “objective situation of sin,” it is possible that a person “can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.” The included footnote 351 then adds that “In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments,” followed by references to both sacramental Confession and the Eucharist.
It will be seen whether or not footnote 82 of paragraph 120 in Querida Amazonia will prove to be a similar key footnote.
In light of this discussion, it might also be of worth to consider Cardinal Walter Kasper's statements, since he himself had been involved in a preparatory study meeting before the Amazon Synod, as we mentioned above. First of all, when asked during an interview at the end of 2019 whether the Pope will even go beyond what was proposed by the Synod's Final Document, he answered: “I think he will do it. And, in fact, he has promised to publish the Exhortation before the end of this year.” He also called the results of the Amazon Synod “very good.” When asked about the female diaconate, the retired curial cardinal answered: “It is difficult today to explain that, but I think it is an ancient tradition, which we keep with the Eastern Churches. But I think that, with time, the doors will open. In addition, there are already many ministries in the Church for which ordination is not needed.” He added that these women who call for access to ordination “have the right to be heard.”
In 2017, Cardinal Walter Kasper – who had been a key man behind Communion for the “remarried” divorcees as invited by Amoris Laetitia – made some important remarks that now seem to make more sense. At the time, he called the discussion of the married priesthood “urgent,” and then added that “the pope thinks that this discussion is worth it; he sees it positively.” However, explained the cardinal then: “He [the pope] wants to leave the decision up to the bishops’ conferences.” They can “come to him and make a request.” “If this request is a reasonable request, I have the impression that he is willing to respond then positively to it,” concluded Kasper. “It is now up to the bishops’ conferences.”
In 2016, Leonardo Boff said in an interview the following about Kasper: “Only recently, Cardinal Walter Kasper, a close confidant of the pope, told me that soon there will be some great surprises.” When asked by the interviewer what they could be, the liberation theologian answered: “Perhaps a diaconate for women, after all. Or the possibility that married priests may be again engaged in pastoral care. That is an explicit request from the Brazilian bishops to the pope, especially from his friend, the retired Brazilian Curial Cardinal Claudio Hummes. I have heard that the pope wants to meet this request – for now and for a certain experimental period in Brazil.”