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Synod Watch: Packing the Pink

For the past several weeks I have spent a lot of time in a hospital room helping a beloved family member recover from a very serious illness.  He is home now and on a steady path to regaining his health.  Thus, as I have over the past 10 years, I will pack my bag and head to Rome to cover the synod. Since this is a historical year for women, I will pack lots of pink – the “dismantle patriarchy” color (you have to see the Barbie movie to understand).  And each day, I’ll be spending a lot of time listening to women – 54 of them. For the first time in our history, they will be discerners, deciders, and voters regarding the future of the Church.

As I recall our history, I am sure Loretto Sister Mary Luke Tobin, one of the first women to attend the Second Vatican Council, will be smiling down.

Still, as I sat in the hospital, in between the beeping of infusion pumps, antibiotic drips, and the movements of nurses taking vitals, I read articles and blog posts that focused on the synod.  Some of the writing made me smile – either overly romantic or tragically removed from reality, as if the Holy Spirit acts independently of the actual physical people who will be in the room.

But it was the chiding that really blew me away.

Michael Sean Winters appropriately condemned the unhinged tirades and tactics of Bishop Strickland.  But he runs off the rails when he equates Strickland to Miriam Duignan of Women’s Ordination Worldwide.

Miriam Duignan, a member of the leadership team at Women’s Ordination Worldwide, recently told NCR, “the synodal dialogue will be painfully incomplete and dishonest if it does not adequately address the widespread
calls to open all ordained ministries to women.” Dishonest? 
 

How is that any less undermining of the principal need of the synod —
to surrender and listen to the Holy Spirit — than the rantings of
Bishop Strickland? Clinging to a particular understanding of how
the Catholic Church should organize itself to fulfill the mission entrusted
to it by its head and founder, Jesus Christ, and insisting all other
understanding are wrong or counterfeit, betrays a lack of humility that
will kill the synod before it starts. 

Reading this, I nearly spit out my hospital coffee.

I tried to understand how he could make such a grotesquely unfair comparison. I may not know his motives, but I do recognize the tone and pattern.  It is familiar to Catholic women, and especially those who have spent their lives at the prophetic edge, working for Gospel justice and Spirit led reform in our Church.

In defending his harsh take, Winters also cites Thomas Reese, SJ who is more certainly more nuanced, yet seems to agree there are troubling voices that are getting an inordinate amount of media attention.

According to the media, the most important issues facing the Synod on
S
ynodality are the possibility of married priests, women deacons and
the blessing of gay couples. … For the instrumentum laboris and Pope
Francis, the priority issues are communion, participation and mission.

Given these kind of remarks and criticisms, here are my rather practical questions.

How would participants and the faithful even talk about communion, participation, and mission in any meaningful way without getting into particular issues?  And aren’t these three ways of “walking together” intimately and inextricably bound up with Gospel justice including gender and LGBTQ justice?

The listening session documents up to and including the final Continental Assembly reports are chock-full of very particular concerns, sorrows, and hopes that Catholics share over seven regions. Catholics across the world agree that we need to discern new roles for women and ordination for women.  Many Catholics from around the world also agree that now is the time for LGBTQ justice.  The Instrumentum Laboris states it was drafted “on the basis of all the material gathered during the listening phase, and in particular the final documents of the Continental Assemblies (3).”

The questions that will be posed in October will require ongoing and honest discussions about women’s ministry and authority, including ordination, LBGTQ rights, and yes, as the Amazon bishops signaled in 2019, married priests.

While some may cast a stern gaze on  those of us who have spent our lives working for justice within the Church, since 2021, we have been invited to share our concerns and keep the dream of a more just Church alive as we walk together.  Be reminded that the Vatican continues to encourage us inviting us to, “Enlarge the Space of Your Tent.” That means making room for those whose voices have been ignored, disparaged, silenced, or excluded.

Scroll down their webpage and you will see in big letters, “The Church is Listening.”  I hope those who are troubled by women’s words will take to heart the word “listen.”

Finally, follow Pope Francis on this one. He has asked all to speak with “parrhesia.” That means speaking boldly and with freedom.  That goes for Miriam Duignan.  That goes for the rest of us.

May our synodal journey this October and beyond continue to be blessed, authentic, bold, and fruitful.

Deborah Rose
Co-Director
FutureChurch