Pope Francis said a few days ago that he will organize a commission to look into having women serve as deacons in the Catholic Church. Now of course he wasn’t guaranteeing that he would end up taking any action, and deacons aren’t priests, and Catholics aren’t Mormons. But I still wonder if even this signal of people considering a possible change in another church might not bode well for the cause of Ordain Women.
My sister Lynnette pointed out to me once that as long as the Catholics aren’t ordaining women, it’s easy for us to not ordain women either. The Catholics are huge, and whatever they’re doing contributes a lot to what’s perceived as the norm. When the Catholics have an all-male clergy, it’s normal to have an all-male clergy.
General Authorities often make a big deal about how we Mormons are “a peculiar people,” and how we’re different from “the world.” We’re definitely different, but it’s clear that we also make it a point to not be too different. As Elder Maxwell might have put it, we seek a perfect proportion of peculiarity rather than peak peculiarity. Sure, our sexual norms are different from typical norms in a lot of places, and the Word of Wisdom makes us different, and our dress is frequently different, and so forth. But we’re also clearly not going for maximum peculiarity. There are a lot of ways that we’re pretty normal. We’re pretty nationalistic, for example. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are way better than we are at being peculiar in not engaging with secular governments. Our clothing styles are unusual, but not extremely so. We aren’t like the Christian groups that require that women wear dresses. We may not smoke or drink alcohol, coffee, and tea, but the Islamic dietary law of hal?l, for example, is far more restrictive, barring (among other things) the eating of pig meat, as well as the meat of any animal not slaughtered in a prescribed way.
I know Church leaders would have us think that they make decisions with no consideration whatsoever for what’s going on out in the wicked world, but it seems clear to me that they do consider it. That’s why I have high hopes for the outcome of the Pope’s statement. I hope that the Pope’s move might signal a move in the Catholic Church to ordain women, and that such a change there might cascade out to other churches that do not currently ordain women, and that such a broader change might eventually make it untenable for us Mormons to not ordain women without becoming more peculiar than even the most hardline of GAs wants us to be. And then we’ll finally extend the priesthood to women.