Having attained their goal in 2016 of allowing those committing adultery through invalid second “marriages” to receive Holy Communion, “progressive” Catholics have been quick to set out their plans for Pope Francis. Here are their top four goals for 2017.
1. Allowing Protestants to receive Holy Communion.
Buoyed by his success in attaining communion in “special circumstances” for divorced and remarried Catholics Cardinal Kasper has expressed the hope that Pope Francis’s next declaration will allow Protestants “in special circumstances” to recieve Holy Communion. Cardinal Kasper confided his next goal to the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference:
“I hope that the next declaration opens the way for shared Eucharistic communion in special cases. Personally, I hope that we can use an unofficial text, prepared by a commission in the bishops’ conference of the United States, regarding this subject.”
In 2015 Pope Francis responded to a question about Protestants receiving communion from a Lutheran woman married to a Catholic, “There are questions that only if one is sincere with oneself and the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own.” Since the Holy Father’s ambiguous response there have been reports of Lutherans presenting themselves for Holy Communion.
2. Allowing laicised, married priests to return to priestly ministry.
Leonardo Boff, the married, former Franciscan priest, said in an interview published on Christmas Day that Pope Francis may soon fulfil the Brazilian bishops’ request to allow laicised, married priests to resume their priestly ministry. He confided that this would not make much difference to his situation because, even though he is married, he continues to celebrate Mass and administer the sacraments, with the encouragement of his bishop. Boff told the German daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.
“The Brazilian bishops, especially the pope’s close friend Cardinal Claudio Hummes, have expressly requested Pope Francis to enable married priests in Brazil to return to their pastoral ministry,” Boff said. “I have recently heard that the pope wants to fulfil this request — as an experimental, preliminary phase for the moment confined to Brazil.”
It is reported that Pope Francis was keen that the synod in 2018 should examine priestly celibacy and “a possible push to allow married priests”. However, according to Edward Pentin, “That proposal was understood to have been voted down by the majority of members on the XIV Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops.” Since this decision, Pope Francis has made it known that the 2018 will examine the problem of “lack of vocations”, which may provide an opening for the question of relaxing the requirement of celibacy for ordination to the priesthood.
3. The ordination of women to the diaconate.
In 2005 the International Theological Commission published a report that concluded that deaconesses in the early Church did not participate in some form of holy orders and were not equivalent to deacons. However, in 2016 Pope Francis’s appointed a commission to study the question of ordaining women to the diaconate.
Phyllis Zagano, a well-known advocate for women’s ordination to the diaconate, was appointed a member of Pope Francis’s commission. According to Lifesite News “she has spoken at events sponsored by organizations that promote women’s ordination to the priesthood.”
4. Pope Francis acting against Cardinal Burke. Again.
The “progressive” Catholics hope that Pope Francis will act against Cardinal Burke. Cardinal Burke, as the courageous and outspoken defender of the Catholic faith, is much disliked by “progressives”. Christopher Lamb of the radically “progressive” Catholic newspaper The Tablet wrote on the 23rd December 2016:
“Francis made Cardinal Burke patron of the order in 2014 as a way of getting him out of running the Church’s supreme court and blocking the Pope’s reforms to the marriage annulment process.
But with the “dubia” saga and now this latest dispute the cardinal continues to cause headaches for the Pope. And if Burke is found to have overstepped his role and remit as patron of the order of Malta, then Francis may have no choice but to move him once again.”