Pope Francis admits women to ministries of lector and acolyte in new motu proprio. These ministries are required as stepping stones to the diaconate. A male ordained deacon must be a lector and acolyte prior to being ordained as a deacon. Opening these ministries to women may possibly indicate that Pope Francis has decided to ordain women deacons.
And there are clear hints in this letter to the Prefect of the CDF that Francis will ordain women. He mentions that women cannot be given priestly ministry. He removes the restriction that women cannot have the lay ministries. This leaves open the question of the ordained ministry that is not excluded to women by the decision on priestly ordination.
I have been saying this for years now, many times, that Pope Francis would initiate the final break of the schismatics from the Church by a controversial teaching, either or both: that women can be ordained as deacons, or that non-Christians and non-believers can be saved without converting. I told you so.
I do not believe that allowing women to be lectors and acolytes is a stand-alone decision. Women already serve in these roles, unofficially. We have women who do the readings at Mass and who serve at the altar. (You remember the Mass, right? It’s that thing you view on the internet on Sundays and holy days.) This is the first step in allowing women to be ordained as deacons.
The question as to whether the Church has the authority to ordain women as deacons (not as priests or Bishops) is an open question. It is irrelevant whether women were ordained deacons in the past. (I think they were not.) Since the matter is undecided by the Magisterium, it is possible for Pope Francis to teach that the Church has the authority to ordain women as deacons. This will unfold in one of two ways.
1. Pope Francis issues a document, under papal infallibility, that the Church has the authority to ordain women as deacons (not as priests or Bishops). End of discussion. Disagreement is heresy. If you don’t like it, leave.
2. Pope Francis issues a document teaching non-infallibly that the Church has the authority to ordain women as deacons. Then the schismatics reject this teaching and accuse him of heresy. I think there would be many more Bishops who would object to women deacons than the few who have been accusing Francis of heresy to date. And Francis, in reply, uses Papal Infallibility.
Either way, it will be a dogma, and those who disagree cannot claim to be in communion with the Roman Pontiff, the Holy See, or the body of Bishops in communion with the Pope.
Pope Francis is the valid Pope, as proven by his acceptance as Pope by the body of Bishops for so many years. Once a man becomes Pope, he can only depart from the papacy by death or resignation. Each Pope has the charism of truth and of never failing faith, and so no valid Pope can ever lose the papacy by an act of grave sin against faith, such as heresy, apostasy, or idolatry. Also, this same charism prevents each Pope, when exercising the Magisterium, from erring gravely even under the ordinary non-infallible magisterium. This implies that if a non-infallible teaching is either true or a grave error, that it must be true. Non-infallible teachings cannot err to any extent.
So, get ready for women deacons at Mass. Also, I expect substantial fall-out from this decision — if I am right that it will happen.
Unfortunately, many conservatives have fallen into the error of dogmatizing their own opinions, especially when those opinions find agreement among other conservatives. The majority opinion in the conservative Catholic subculture is being treated as if it were dogma. And if even the Pope disagrees, he is accused of heresy as a result. That is the case with the accusations based on Human Fraternity. The Magisterium has not taught that the plurality of religions is merely the passive will of God, and not in some sense His active will (after the fact of our sinfulness).
So the Pope will teach that women can be ordained as deacons, and this is not an error or a heresy. It is the will of God. And it may be the case that, in an ordered deaconate, men and women deacons might have somewhat different roles. A deacon is not supposed to be a little-priest; his role is not supposed to be merely taking part of the priest’s role at Mass. It is primarily a role of service, as clearly taught in Acts of the Apostles. So it is not unfitting for women to be deacons. For it is not a path to the priesthood or the episcopate.
I really do not see why people object to women deacons. I can’t imagine the Lord Jesus keeping women from such a role.