On married priests and women deacons, “Francis needs to bite this bullet” and “soon”, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in Ireland has warned.

– On the Amazon exhortation ‘no’ to married priests and women deacons: “This wasn’t what was expected”

An article by Brendan Hoban* in his Western People column and posted on the ACP website February 24 suggested that Pope Francis’ post-Amazon Synod apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia was, when it dropped February 12, “a Humanae Vitae moment, in the sense that huge expectations have been shattered and the sound of a door being slammed reverberated through the Catholic Church”.

The “door” that Hoban was referring to was the ordination of married men as priests and of women as deacons, both issues Pope Francis decided to hold off on, at least for the moment, in his exhortation.

“This wasn’t what was expected”, Hoban observed, recalling that Bishop Edwin Kräutler, a retired bishop from the Brazilian Amazon, explained a few years ago to Francis “the big problem facing the Church in the Amazon region”: that “they had so few priests that some Catholics could only attend Mass a few times a year”.

“Francis suggested that Kräutler bring his concerns to him through the Brazilian bishops”, Hoban recalled, and that’s precisely what Kräutler did.

The outcome of Kräutler’s lobbying, along with that of his fellow Amazonian bishops, was the overwhelming vote at the Synod “to recommend to Francis (i) that married men should be ordained and (ii) that the issue of women deacons should be revisited”, Hoban explained.

– “Francis suggested that we should pray more for vocations. That’s not possible”

But precisely because of that great support for married priests and women deacons – not only among the Amazon bishops, but also among the majority of the faithful – “the door Francis seemed to slam… will be opened”, Hoban suggested.

Also because “there is no workable alternative” to married priests and women deacons. “No priests, no Mass, no Church”.

“And even though ‘loyal’ churchmen will trot out the same solutions to the vocations famine over and over again, no one really is pretending that anyone, anymore, can pretend they offer a solution”, Hoban warned.

“Francis suggested that we should pray more for vocations. That’s not possible. We’ve been mithering God with our prayers for more vocations for ages but we’re not listening to the pregnant silence from above”.

– “Important to name the disappointment, the frustration, the sadness, the upset, the anger”

The only possible silver lining to the clouds heavy with the expectation of change “is the suggestion that Francis is still ‘discerning’ and that, in time, he will suddenly announce what everyone was expecting him to announce” in the Amazon exhortation, Hoban said.

“There are, it has to be said, good reasons for this as Francis, a Jesuit, has a particularly Jesuitical way of processing decision-making”.

But “the big question is: can we wait?”, Hoban asked in his article.

“The answer is that for some people, and progressively more, the waiting is over… Our leaders seem to be in denial about the impact such catastrophic delays are having on the confidence and the membership of our Church”.

“Francis has been damaged by this delay. Talk rather than action. PR rather than substance. Is it too much to expect, that old age eventually makes decision-making too difficult? Why bother anymore?”, Hoban recognised.

“It is important for us to name the disappointment, the frustration, the sadness, the upset, the anger that are part of the fall-out” from the Amazon exhortation, Hoban insisted.

“If 80% of the bishops, representing the bishops of the world, agree a position, can it possibly be delayed and delayed, recognising the damage that will do?”

“Is there a limit to the amount of discerning that needs to be done when something so obvious and so necessary are staring us in the face?”, Hoban asked.

“There are other more difficult and more complex issues to be faced, but not this one”, he concluded.

*Corrected 28/2 11:15 CEST: attributes ACP article to its author, Brendan Hoban.

More reactions on Novena to the post-Amazon Synod apostolic exhortation:

‘Querida Amazonia’: Polish Bishops’ President thanks Pope for “loud cry of Church for rights of poor”

Amazon exhortation: Bishops, theologians, observers continue to insist Pope “hasn’t shut door” to optional celibacy

Catholic women raise stakes after Amazon exhortation ordination denial, call for abolition of all Church hierarchies

Irish Primate, on married priests: “I am very much open to the idea, and I think Pope Francis is too”

Despite Amazon exhortation letdown, German bishops, laity pledge to fight on in synodal path for married priests, female deacons

Despite Amazon Synod snub, global Catholic women vow to “take responsibility for our Church into our hands”

Amazon exhortation: lay groups lament Francis’ “lack of courage for real reforms” on married priests, women

‘Querida Amazonía’: Priests, bishops disappointed with Pope for “simply kicking can down road” on celibacy

Women’s ordination advocates blast Amazon exhortation: “Outdated”, “institutional sexism”, “degradation”, “discrimination”

Catholic aid org CIDSE welcomes Amazon exhortation: “A poetic call to undertake radical changes”

‘Querida Amazonía’: 7 of the Pope’s most powerful political statements, beyond the Church debates

Amazon exhortation: Vatican cardinal insists Pope “has not resolved” questions of married priesthood, women’s diaconate

Amazon exhortation: Vatican editorial director explains ‘no’ (for now?) to married priests, female deacons

In Amazon exhortation, Pope puts need for greater Church “inculturation” above married priests, female deacons


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.