New pope likely wouldn't change role of women in church

 |  NCR Today

NCR columnist Phyllis Zagano, a senior research associate at Hofstra University and author of books on women in the Catholic church, answered a couple of questions on Pope Benedict XVI's resignation.

What does the pope's resignation mean for the church at large?

Well, it's been 600 years since a pope resigned, so that in and of itself is very big news. But the intriguing part of the event is how modern it is. The pope cited his health. Did he receive a terminal diagnosis of an existing or new ailment? Or does he simply believe that while he has the competence to do so, it is time to go? If news reports are to be believed, he has held the reigns of the Vatican quite loosely in recent months. He has also "promoted" many of his closest aides and allies. So it seems he has been planning this for some time.

Will anything change?

Do you mean with a new pope? Probably not. Benedict XVI, and John Paul II before him, had ample time to put their personal and very conservative stamp on the Curia (the staff advisory body for the pope) and on the College of Cardinals, which now has 118 voting members under the age of 80.

Subscribe button.jpg
Now, more than ever, we need to inspire action and a belief in the common good. But we need you. Subscribe today!

So who will be elected?

I doubt it will be an American. The United States is already too powerful in the eyes of many in the church. More likely it will be another European -- surely the Italians would want an Italian pope -- but we'll just have to see.

Will the new pope change things regarding women?

I doubt right away, if ever. There are certain traditions he could return -- such as the ordination of women as deacons -- that fell away almost 800 years ago in the Western church, even as it is retained to this day in pockets of orthodoxy. If he does take that step, it would make a big difference in his "new evangelization" efforts because the church would be saying that women, like men, are made in the image and likeness of God (Christ is God -- women can image Christ) and he can do this without troubling the longstanding ban on women as priests.

The church has a huge problem regarding women -- remember, half of its 1.1 billion members are female -- and women do not see themselves as well-regarded, no matter what the official church says. That means Catholic mothers do not insist their children remain Catholic or that their husbands go to church. Nor do they encourage their sons to become part of what many regard as an oppressive system (to women). I truly believe that by restoring the ancient tradition of ordaining women as deacons, it would go a long way to arguing that all persons -- male and female -- are made in the image and likeness of God. And that is the basis for all Catholic teachings -- on birth control and on abortion, certainly, but on many other teachings as well.


NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.



NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

April 21-May 4, 2017