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Gatineau archbishop believes in bridge-building

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — Gatineau Archbishop Paul-André Durocher said he has accepted an award from FutureChurch to build bridges, and not because he agrees with all of the group’s stands on church issues.

Durocher, the past president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he had been questioned for receiving an award from an organization that promotes the ordination of women to the priesthood, promotion of women to leadership at all levels of the Catholic Church, and married priests, including priests who left the Catholic priesthood to marry.

In a speech delivered via the Internet to FutureChurch’s awards ceremony Sept. 22, Durocher said he was approached by people who had asked him if he knew “who FutureChurch is.”

“They have pointed to a number of positions you have taken or initiatives you have undertaken that run counter to the church’s teaching, particularly on the issue of the access of women to the priesthood,” he said. “I honestly replied that I don’t know your organization very well, and that I would not agree with everything they told me you are about.”

“Nevertheless, like Pope Francis, I believe in building bridges,” he said. “I believe in dialogue. I might not agree with everything you espouse, and you might not agree with everything I do, yet it is important that in the church we never stop reaching out to each other and working together for the greater good whenever we can.”

FutureChurch gave the award to Durocher for suggesting the church reexamine whether to ordain women to the permanent diaconate during his three-minute address to last year’s synod on the family in Rome. Since then, Pope Francis has set up a commission to study the issue.

In his speech, posted on his blog (, the archbishop said he was disappointed the main point of his synod intervention — which dealt with violence against women and their “ongoing victimization” even within marriages — had been ignored.

In order to make the church’s concern credible regarding violence, he had suggested listening to women’s voices in scriptural reflection and in governance, including “studying the possibility of ordaining women to the permanent diaconate.”

“I believe we can do this without touching on the doctrinal issue of access to the priesthood which, in my opinion, is another question,” he told FutureChurch. “The media pounced on the last sentence of my three-minute intervention and basically ignored the rest. And I have to admit I feel some sadness because of this.”

Some have argued ordaining women to the diaconate leads to a slippery slope to ordaining women to the priesthood. Durocher disagrees.

“The same argument was made about ordaining married men to the diaconate 50 years ago: it would lead to married priests,” the archbishop said in an email interview. “This has not happened. And if we ever have married priests as a rule in the Roman Catholic (as opposed to Eastern Catholic) churches, it will not be because we happen to have married deacons.”

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