(Pictured above: Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago at St. Nicholas Parish in 2018.)
On August 26, 2018, (21st Sunday Ordinary Time), Deacon Chris Murphy gave a homily at St. Nicholas Parish in Evanston, Illinois, in which he argued for the female deaconate. In the past, St. Nicholas Parish, located in the Archdiocese of Chicago, has vocally called for the ordination of women deacons; in 2011, the “Women in the Diaconate Steering Committee” from St. Nicholas Church authored a letter to then Cardinal Francis George, stating: “we believe that expanding the permanent diaconate to women is possible within the current teaching of the Church, is consistent with our Tradition and is supported by the historical record and most importantly, our Scripture.” According to a 2016 article in “America,” the Parish even submitted to the Archdiocese the name of a woman for the permanent diaconate. In his homily, Murphy referenced a talk given by Professor Dianne Traflet in which she explored the possible origins of the eventual reinstatement of the permanent deaconate in the Catholic Church to the imprisonment of priests in Nazi Germany. Murphy claimed:
As the survivors of the Nazi Germany called for the restoration of the permanent diaconate as a hope for stopping future political abuse, the time has come for women to enter the diaconate to curtail the abuse of our children, to end the clerical abuse of power. One commentator noted that if women had been in position of authority within the church much of this abuse and cover up would not have happened.
Murphy stated in the same homily that he will “revisit” the Parish’s 2011 document sent to Cardinal George and he will also request a meeting with Cardinal Blase Cupich in order to discuss the matter. Murphy concluded:
The movement to restore the permanent diaconate took many decades and women in the diaconate will take time as well but I need personally to do something. I want to be part of the story that reflects Christ, that reflects a holistic church that cares and protects children, that recognizes the gifts of women.
In a “Letter” from the September 23, 2018 Parish Bulletin, St. Nicholas Pastor Joseph Tito discussed the current crisis in the Church; he stated:
We must keep gathering together in work groups: the deaconate of women, letters to bishops, letters to the Pope, parish listening sessions with results delivered to our new local vicar…
St. Nicholas is also home to an active LGBT ministry – “LGBTQ+Family and Friends.” The dissident group New Ways Ministry profiled the 10th anniversary of the Parish’s ministry on their blog. The contact person for LGBTQ+Family is Cristie Traina. From October 2-4, 2018, Traina, a Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, will speak at “a retreat for gay priests, brothers, and deacons” at Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wisconsin, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In 2013, concerning the legalization of same-sex marriage, she wrote:
Same-sex marriage initiatives do not require Catholic clergy to marry gay and lesbian couples and do not devalue heterosexual marriage or encourage casual sex. If anything, same-sex marriage enshrines stable two-parent households as profoundly valuable, all things being equal, to children’s welfare.
In a separate article, she again argued for an acceptance of same-sex marriage in the Catholic Church:
Pope Benedict acknowledged the integrity of people who want to use condoms to forestall the spread of an often-fatal disease, though the Catholic Church teaches that sex should be confined to marriage and that monogamy and abstinence are better protection than condoms against HIV/AIDS. American bishops could follow suit by acknowledging the integrity of same-sex couples who want to marry, declare their fidelity, and raise children together, though the Catholic Church teaches that marriage should be confined to heterosexual couples.
The implication of the popes’ actions is clear: marriage equality could be an important stepping stone to a holy life and therefore just might be good law.