An edict issued and personally signed by Pope Francis will finally see women, ‘recognized for the service already carried out by them for decades.’ Catholic women can now be formally installed as Lectors and Acolytes after being excluded for centuries by Canon Law that only recognised men.
Canon 230 paragraph 1 used to read, “Lay men who possess the age and qualifications established by decree of the conference of bishops can be admitted on a stable basis through the prescribed liturgical rite to the ministries of lector and acolyte.”
The document, issued “motu proprio” (on his own accord) noted that, “A consolidated practice in the Latin church has confirmed, in fact, that such lay ministries, being based on the sacrament of baptism, can be entrusted to all the faithful who are suitable, whether male or female.”
This effectively changes the canon to, “Laity who possess the age and qualifications established by decree of the conference of bishops can be admitted on a stable basis through the prescribed liturgical rite to the ministries of lector and acolyte.”
For clarity to the non-catholic, Lectors and Acolytes are ‘non-ordained (or lay) ministries.’
The exclusion of women from ‘ordained ministries,’ such as deacons, priests and bishops still stand in the Catholic Church.
It is in fact this distinction which reserves the church’s higher offices to men only, that allows the church to be amenable to making non-ordained ministries formally accessible at last to women.
Before now, women in some Catholic churches already serve as readers and altar servers, the church’s canon law had technically only allowed for their service on a temporary basis.
Women could do the job, they have been for decades, what this does is finally allow them the formal recognition for it.
But then again isn’t that the story of every win by women? Still, it is an exciting start to 2021 that if the Pope chooses to maintain could very well make for a year to tell a tale of for years to come.