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SynodWatch RoundUP for Oct. 25: The Draft Synthesis is Distributed; A Synodal Church Must be Willing to Sit at the Feet of Women; Tears of Joy for Marianne

This has been a big day filled with lots of news.  Much of it is exciting and joyful, and some of it will stick in your throat.  Yet, it is such a gift to be a part of history in the making in this monolith of an institution.  And, in the end, women will find justice and equality.

October 25 press panel/vatican media

At the press briefing today Dr. Paolo Ruffini and Sheila Pires were joined by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D. (I am not a fan), President of the USCCB, Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, C.S.Sp., Archbishop of Bangui, the first Central African Republic cardinal, Cardinal Robert Francis Prevost, O.S.A.  who previously served as Bishop of Chiclayo and is currently prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops  and observer, Professor and theologian Nora K Nonterah Lecturer at

Today, the Letter to the People of God” was released.  It was intended to be a summary of participants’ experience detailing the work of the past few weeks, and expressing the hope that in the coming months, everyone will be able to “concretely participate in the dynamism of missionary communion indicated by the word ‘synod'”.  The full text of the letter is below.

The Synod Secretary Must Have Gotten the Message about Applause Voting

Today, the Letter to the People of God” was released.  It was intended to be a summary of participants’ experience detailing the work of the past few weeks, and expressing the hope that in the coming months, everyone will be able to “concretely participate in the dynamism of missionary communion indicated by the word ‘synod'”.  The full text of the letter is below.

Sheila Pires explained the process for the final approval vote for the Letter to the People of God.  Yesterday, Colleen Dulle had asked some important questions about how the final votes were going to be conducted indicating that at least one participant was opposed to the vote by clapping method.  But Sheila explained today that, because there were amendments, it was voted on.

This morning (October 25) the letter to the people of God was distributed. It was amended based on the suggestions made by the assembly through verbal or written interventions. The letter was translated into several languages, and it’s going to be voted this afternoon. The letter is a very simple text whose aim consists in sharing the positive experience we are making in during these days. At first, we thought we could approve it by acclamation to leave more time for discussion on the synthesis report. And as we said during the last briefing on Monday, this letter was received with a general round of applause. But because some changes were requested in the different languages, the Synod Secretariat decided that the letter would be voted on this afternoon (Tuesday).  Proposals made during the general congregation up until 6pm (on Monday) were included. So the letter was read this morning (Tuesday morning). It’s going to be voted in the afternoon (Tuesday afternoon), and only the members of the Synod are authorized to vote. The vote is going to be electronic and secret so as to ensure the personal freedom of everyone.

So, the person(s) who was rightly dissatisfied with an applause based vote was heard and the voting process was corrected to make sure every vote counted.  It is good to know that those who dissent from a process are getting a say.

The Draft Synthesis Report Distributed for Discussion

Paolo Ruffini told journalists that the 40 page synthesis report was distributed to synod participants today for further discussion.
The synthesis report was disseminated. It is a 40 page document. It was distributed in Italian and English with working translations in the other languages. We also explained how the document is going to be discussed and voted and to reassert the authority of this assembly which is made up of non bishop members as well. It’s a consultative body, and the participation of bishops is established by ‘Episcopalis Communio.’

Ruffini spends time defending the clout of the synod with its non-bishop members.

This is a discernment phase which has been set out in Episcopalis Communio. And the episcopal character of this assembly is not compromised by the presence of members who are not bishops. Their presence has not changed the nature of this assembly, which is still episcopal. 

It is clear there are some pesky challenges to the authority of this synod that Francis is trying to counter.

The Plan for the Next Few Days

Ruffini laid out the plan for the next few days until the synod ends on Saturday.


After the vote on the letter, we shall start discussing the text with interventions in the whole and discussions in the small groups.  Only members will be able to intervene. In other words, those with voting rights.


The discussion of the draft synthesis document is going to continue tomorrow morning in the small groups and tomorrow afternoon during the general congregation.  It will be devoted to collecting proposals on methods and steps for the next stage of the synodal process, which begins this October through next year.


The general congregation of Friday morning is going to be devoted to the topic that we should have addressed yesterday afternoon — proposals for the next step in the synodal process.  It will be devoted to collecting proposals on methods and steps for the next stage of the synodal process, which begins this October through next year.


The Final Synthesis report will be read out on Saturday morning and voted on Saturday afternoon.

How the Amendment Process Works

Every group and every single member may present proposals for eliminating, adding something or replacing some passages in the report through amendments. The amendments of every small group will have to be approved one by one in the small groups with an absolute majority of those who are present and with voting, right. In addition to collective amendments, every member can send in a personal amendment not presented in the small group or not approved by the small group.

Guests at the Press Briefing Speak

Cardinal Robert Francis Prevost, Prefect for the Dicastery of Bishops offered a witness first.

I want to thank all of you for your work and the important service that you provide,  in communicating the content, the message, and, above all the Spirit of what this synod is about.  I’d like to make mention of what was said in the introduction about me being a member of the order of St. Augustine because I believe that St. Augustine himself has already had and will continue to have great contribution to the synodal Spirit in the church.

Personally, being an Augustinian, a member of religious life, it has been mentioned in the Synod that consecrated life has a great deal to contribute to the church in mission, in witness of what consecration is about, what service is about, especially from the perspective of community life and promoting communion in the church.

St. Augustine is also very well known for his teaching about theological issues — about the balance and need to understand both faith and reason as a part of the human experience of searching for God.  Of uniting mind and heart and not separating them.  Teaching us all the importance of listening to God’s word and in many other areas as well, in terms of promoting unity in the church.  I say all of that because it’s part of what has formed my own experience before I came to the synod,  As a member of the synod, it was also mentioned that I was bishop in Peru for nine years before being called by Pope Francis to return to Rome.In the diocese where I worked, we had diocesan assemblies very much in a synodal style for seven of the nine years that I was there.

My first year there, we began a new pastoral program. During the course of every year, we would organize what today we might call synodal assemblies — assemblies of representatives from all the different movements and all the different parishes of the diocese …to find ways to work together and to search together for the kind of church that we are looking for today — reaching out to the poor, to the neediest, to those on the margins, to those who do not frequently come to church, if you will.

The synodal style of promoting church life is something that Latin America has been very familiar to many of us who are in this synod. Speaking about the synod itself, I would underline some of those aspects.

    • The importance of learning to listen to everyone.
    • Learning to dialogue with trust. 

This style of the synod is one you’re all very familiar now  — having groups sit around at tables, 10 to 12 people at each table to talk about the different issues in what has been called, Conversations in the Spirit.’ 

These have done a great deal to enable all of us to understand — to think on a much deeper level to what it is that we’re being called to — and how important it is to continue to move forward as church with this dimension of communion, common life, trust, dialogue with one another, but always looking for truth. Not putting forth my agenda, but rather looking for what God is asking of us today in the church. So all of this, I think, has been, uh, a very positive experience. Difficulties arise as they do in any human experience. And yet there’s been a very good climate,.  We’ve come through now into the final days of this part of the Synod, because as you know, this will continue again through this coming year and for this next session of the Synod next year. But all of this, I think, is something that is teaching us to learn to trust more in God and to walk together listening to one another and looking for ways to respond to the reality and the needs in the world today. 

Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, explained that his country is stricken by war.  He told of efforts of both Catholics and Protestants to speak with the rebels and ask them to stop for the good of the people.  Pope Francis also tried to help in this effort.

Synodality, the effort of listening deeply to others, takes on a new meaning in a a world where there is “war, suffering,  and migration.”

Agreeing to Disagree that Someone is Created in the Image of God?

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D. (I’ve not been a fan) followed in the lineup waxing on rather poetically about the methodology of the synod.  But the pleasantness of his voice made his words even more jarring.

I think listening, as his eminence said very well, if we do more listening, we might have a world that’s a little more open to the other, a little more respectful of the dignity of the human person. Certainly so much of our world is filled with shouting and with the inability to listen to the other, even if we disagree to recognize that a person represents someone created in the image and likeness of Almighty God.
Wow!  That was a stunner.  And those harsh words bespoke his hard heart rather than the softening encounter that comes with authentic synodality.  That is too bad.  I had hoped for more.

A Synodal church must be willing to sit at the feet of women, especially lay women who are from the global south

Nora K Nonterah was a breath of fresh air after Broglio.  I loved her sure presence on the panel and her wise and insightful words.  She would make a great Pope.
I found it as a space of encounter of diversity and relationality with individuals, with traditions, with cultures, and any methodological consciousness and encounter with the Holy Spirit. Within this context of encounter, what I found very inspiring is that you can have deep conversations with people of different backgrounds. You have cardinals, you have bishops, you have priests. You have religious men and women. You have lay people from different professions, sharing a table to discuss and have deep conversations on issues that are important to all of us.
I felt listened to as a lay person, as a woman, as an African.

I come to this with some unique existential experiences. I am one of the two African women who are lay to be here in this synod. I am one of the few female theologians from the continent.

This is my first time to participate in a Synod. I was however fortunate to be part, and involve myself so much in the African synodal initiative, and that was very helpful. But as I come to the synod, I come to the synod with the hopes, the joys, the dreams, the anxieties, and lamentations, but also the resilience of the African women, lay people from the continent, and in fact, the entire church that might not always get to sit at the center of the table of discourse.

I have become convinced in these days that a Synodal church must be willing to sit at the feet of women, especially lay women who are from the global south, to learn how to renew the church’s imagination oriented to the Holy Spirit who mediates abundance of life for all.

Inspired by the significance of the maternal role of our lady Mother Mary. I tend to believe that African women can’t teach the church how to be a mother for all — how to be a visionary mother for all her children. My conviction is that synodality is the best way to live as a church that can give true witness to the Gospel. However,  for us to emerge as a synodal church, in my opinion, can only be possible if we have true, authentic, and deep formation that is rooted in conversation in the Spirit. And the Spirit always invites us to celebrate our differences, not to hide them, but to recognize and celebrate them.

We need to give a preferential option for the laity

She continued.

Also important to this same issue is my conviction, that we need to give a preferential option for the laity in the educational fields of the church, like theology, canon law, social teachings of the church, ministry of leadership. This should become the norm and practice of a synodal church — to turn to the fruits of baptism as the starting point, the starting place for imagining how to be a relevant church for our world today.

Why do we have to turn to baptism as a starting point? Because we need to create the awareness of core responsibility. We need to foster a culture of co-responsibility, which is at the basis of synodality, and which in fact is how to be a church — how to be a missionary church.

Again, being aware of the experiences of women in most parts of Africa as those who build.  In fact, they are the strength, the strength in the mission of the church through various activities — through their participation in small Christian communities, their participation in parish council councils and many other activities that they organize.

I wish to state from this experience that when women become the major participants in the decision making process of the church at all levels, the church will be enriched. And Pope Francis has led away.

But what is my hope? I have some hopes, but what is that hope? It is that synodality would help us to discover the need for the role of women in governance and decision making structures of the church at all levels.

It is also my hope that synodality would help us to discover the need to prioritize education of women, education of youth, especially in the African continent.

It is also my hope that synodality would help us to discover that as a church, we need to allow ourselves as a church to be students at the table of wisdom where African women are sharers of the spiritual, cultural and ecclesial wisdom.

It is a woman who gave birth to that hero. How then can the woman be left behind? 

Professor Nonterah extolls the wisdom found in an African song (which I could not understand).  She boils down what we have often heard about Mary.

It is a woman who gave birth to that hero. How then can the woman be left behind? 

As a theologian friend of mine recently reminded me, Fr. Tissa Ballasuriya, OMI, who was clobbered by Ratzinger at the time, had a similar observation, “How can the womb which enabled the incarnation be viewed as an obstacle to ordination?”

Q & A

Carol Glatz of Catholic News Service asked two questions.
The first was about the Pope’s commission on safeguarding that asked that the Synod dedicate substantial discussion to addressing sexual abuse that would include listening to survivors. She asked, “How would any of you gauge this level of discussion so far, and how do you see safeguarding might benefit from a more synodal approach in the church?”
She addressed the other question to Cardinal Provest. “Does the synodal model or approach being used here open up any pathways for involving more laypeople in consultations for the appointments of bishops?
On devoting time to the victims of abusers, how do you evaluate the level of the discussion on these topics within the assembly?
Unfortunately, Cardinal Provest gave the pat answer, “This is a synod on synodality” and downplayed any talk about clergy sex abuse.  “I think it’s important also that be kept in a proper perspective because the whole life of the church does not revolve around that specific issue as important as it is.”
Now that was a sad response.
But, both Sheila Pires and Nora Nonterah responded with heart.  Sheila explained how her country is working to create structures of accountability to confront sex abuse, and Nora Nonterah was quick to point out that synodality is a vital step to confronting clergy sex abuse in a church that has been corrupted by power.
There were many more questions from journalists, but I want to focus on two that were really important.

Are U.S. Bishops Responsible?

Christopher Lamb of The Tablet took aim at Archbishop Borglio.  Borglio had stated that one of the things he would want to see change about the synod was a better response from Catholics.  He stated that only about 1% of Catholics had engaged in the synodal process.
Lamb asked,
You mentioned that less than 1% participate in the synodal process and that we need to encourage greater participation, but to what extent do the bishops, bishops in particular, have in ensuring greater participation.  As has been noted synodality was not featured in meetings.  For example, at the June, 2023 meetings, synodality was not on the agenda for the bishops. I mean, to what extent, do you have have some responsibility for that lack of participation?
Exposed, Broglio made a small, half hearted concession that the U.S. bishops could have done more.  But he was more than defensive, “The bishops met in executive session on the topic.”  And he seemed to say it was a problem with the priests.  That may be true.  But who has authority over the priests?
I was embarrassed for him.

How did you three hear Prof. Nora’s call?

The next marvelous question came from Joshua McElwee at the National Catholic Reporter.  I was practically cheering!  He took Professor Nora’s witness and asked the 3 prelates how they would respond to her.
At the beginning of the briefing, we heard a, a moving testimony from Dr. Nora calling for the church to consider women in more levels of governance at the church. I’m wondering, how did the three of you hear that call and how do you think we make that concrete? Is that something that would result in women as deacons, women as priests, women leading Vatican, dicastries? How do we answer that call?
And then down the patriarchal rabbit hole they went.
Cardinal Prevost, in true form as the Prefect of Bishops, responded:
Yeah, the short answer is it’s a work in progress. We’re all familiar with the very significant and long tradition of the church that the apostolic tradition is something that has been spelled out very clearly, especially if you want to talk about the question of women’s ordination to the priesthood.
There have been two commissions established to study the possibility of women deacons.  Conclusions to my knowledge, have not been published. But, because the commissions were established, it means there certainly is openness to giving it consideration.
However, something that needs to be said also is that ordaining women, and there have been some women that have said this, interestingly enough.  Clericalizing women doesn’t necessarily solve a problem. It might make a new problem. And perhaps we need to look at a new understanding or different understanding of both leadership, power, authority, and service.  Above all service in the church from the different perspectives that can brought to the life in the church by women and men.
So, there are conversations going on. There is an officialstudy going on, but I think that one of the things that has come become clear during even this month.  In society, women are recognized.  Women can be president or a woman can have many different kinds of roles of leadership in the world. It’s not like there’s an immediate parallel in the church…I think the life of the church, is different and needs to be different. And so some of those questions will continue to be there to be reflected upon. But it isn’t as simple as saying that at this stage we’re going to change the tradition of the church after 2000 years on any one of those points. Meantime, as I’ve already said, women are continually taking on new roles of leadership. It’s a slow process, including in the Holy Sea. A woman was just appointed as the number two, officer in the Dicastery for Consecrated Life.  And, I think there’s will be a continuing recognition of the fact that women can add a great deal to the life of the church on many different levels.
I always feel like I am in the Twilight Zone when I hear churchmen blatantly profiting from false equivalencies.  Of course, we should all be fighting against clericalism. But that is not a legitimate argument for continuing to keep women out,  Excluding women is a function of clericalism, not a cause. I am very weary of churchmen, including the Pope, who have used the mess they made and the unchecked power they enabled, as a reason for keeping women from a particular ordained ministry.  That not only makes little sense, it is logic in pursuit of an unjust goal.
But, not to be outdone, Archbishop Borglio added his comments.
Women have not had an influence in the church? (he laughs) When I think of the Catholic school system in the United States and the role that the sisters who taught in those schools had…I’m the only diocesan priest on this panel, but I think if you talk to most diocesan priests, they will trace their first inklings of a vocation to the work of the Sisters in the schools. They were a tremendous source of influence. So I think the assumption that because all roles aren’t occupied at all levels by women, that therefore they have no influence is false.
Yep, I give the two Americans a low score on their performance today when it comes to issues dear to my heart – women and LGBTQ+ people. May they learn authentic synodality.

Here is the Letter to the People of God

Read it, share your thoughts

Here is the letter that was approved this afternoon.  Read it for yourself.  I’d be curious to hear what you think.  If you want to share your thoughts, write me at  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Letter of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to the People of God

Dear sisters, dear brothers,

As the proceedings of the first session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops draw to a close, we want to thank God with all of you for the beautiful and enriching experience we have lived. We lived this blessed time in profound communion with all of you. We were supported by your prayers, bearing with you your expectations, your questions, as well as your fears. As Pope Francis requested two years ago, a long process of listening and discernment was initiated, open to all the People of God, no one being excluded, to “journey together” under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, missionary disciples engaged in the following of Jesus Christ.

The session in which we have been gathered in Rome since 30 September is an important phase of this process. In many ways it has been an unprecedented experience. For the first time, at Pope Francis’ invitation, men and women have been invited, in virtue of their baptism, to sit at the same table to take part, not only in the discussions, but also in the voting process of this Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Together, in the complementarity of our vocations, our charisms and our ministries, we have listened intensely to the Word of God and the experience of others. Using the conversation in the Spirit method, we have humbly shared the wealth and poverty of our communities from every continent, seeking to discern what the Holy Spirit wants to say to the Church today. We have thus also experienced the importance of fostering mutual exchanges between the Latin tradition and the traditions of Eastern Christianity. The participation of fraternal delegates from other Churches and Ecclesial Communities deeply enriched our discussions.

Our assembly took place in the context of a world in crisis, whose wounds and scandalous inequalities resonated painfully in our hearts, infusing our work with a particular gravity, especially since some of us come from countries where war rages. We prayed for the victims of deadly violence, without forgetting all those who have been forced by misery and corruption to take the dangerous road of migration. We assured our solidarity and commitment alongside the women and men all over the world who are working to build justice and peace.

At the invitation of the Holy Father, we made significant room for silence to foster mutual listening and a desire for communion in the Spirit among us. During the opening ecumenical vigil, we experienced how the thirst for unity increases in the silent contemplation of the crucified Christ. In fact, the cross is the only cathedra of the One who, having given himself for the salvation of the world, entrusted His disciples to His Father, so that “they may all be one” (John 17:21). Firmly united in the hope brought by His Resurrection, we entrusted to Him our common home where the cries of the earth and the poor are becoming increasingly urgent: “Laudate Deum!” (“Praise God!”), as Pope Francis reminded us at the beginning of our work.

Day by day, we felt the pressing call to pastoral and missionary conversion. For the Church’s vocation is to proclaim the Gospel not by focusing on itself, but by placing itself at the service of the infinite love with which God loved the world (cf. John 3:16). When homeless people near St. Peter’s Square were asked about their expectations regarding the Church on the occasion of this synod, they replied: “Love!”. This love must always remain the ardent heart of the Church, a Trinitarian and Eucharistic love, as the Pope recalled on October 15, midway through our assembly, invoking the message of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. It is “trust” that gives us the audacity and inner freedom that we experienced, not hesitating to freely and humbly express our convergences, differences, desires and questions.

And now? We hope that the months leading to the second session in October 2024 will allow everyone to concretely participate in the dynamism of missionary communion indicated by the word “synod”. This is not about ideology, but about an experience rooted in the apostolic tradition. As the Pope reminded us at the beginning of this process, “communion and mission can risk remaining somewhat abstract, unless we cultivate an ecclesial praxis that expresses the concreteness of synodality (…) encouraging real involvement on the part of each and all” (October 9, 2021). There are multiple challenges and numerous questions: the synthesis report of the first session will specify the points of agreement we have reached, highlight the open questions, and indicate how our work will proceed.

To progress in its discernment, the Church absolutely needs to listen to everyone, starting with the poorest. This requires a path of conversion on its part, which is also a path of praise: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Luke 10:21)! It means listening to those who have been denied the right to speak in society or who feel excluded, even by the Church; listening to people who are victims of racism in all its forms – in particular in some regions to indigenous peoples whose cultures have been scorned. Above all, the Church of our time has the duty to listen, in a spirit of conversion, to those who have been victims of abuse committed by members of the ecclesial body, and to commit herself concretely and structurally to ensuring that this does not happen again.

The Church also needs to listen to the laity, women and men, all called to holiness by virtue of their baptismal vocation: to the testimony of catechists, who in many situations are the first proclaimers of the Gospel; to the simplicity and vivacity of children, the enthusiasm of youth, to their questions, and their pleas; to the dreams, the wisdom and the memory of elderly people. The Church needs to listen to families, to their educational concerns, to the Christian witness they offer in today’s world. She needs to welcome the voice of those who want to be involved in lay ministries and to participate in discernment and decision-making structures.

To progress further in synodal discernment, the Church particularly needs to gather even more the words and experience of the ordained ministers: priests, the primary collaborators of the bishops, whose sacramental ministry is indispensable for the life of the whole body; deacons, who, through their ministry, signify the care of the entire Church for the most vulnerable. She also needs to let herself be questioned by the prophetic voice of consecrated life, the watchful sentinel of the Spirit’s call. She also needs to be attentive to all those who do not share her faith but are seeking the truth, and in whom the Spirit, who “offers everyone the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (Gaudium et Spes 22), is also present and operative.

“The world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, demands that the Church strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission. It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium” (Pope Francis, October 17, 2015). We do not need to be afraid to respond to this call. Mary, Mother of the Church, the first on the journey, accompanies our pilgrimage. In joy and in sorrow, she shows us her Son and invites us to trust. And He, Jesus, is our only hope!

Vatican City, October 25, 2023

A Cohort of Nuns Want Women’s Ordination

Last evening Heidi Schlumpf of National Catholic Reporter tweeted that there is a group of women religious from Latin America and Europe who are supporting of women’s ordination.

A “cohort” of nuns favoring female ordination, and especially women deacons, has formed at the synod, said participants. The women, mainly from Latin America and some from Europe, are said to have initially bonded because they could all speak Spanish.

This was exciting and I wanted to know more.  Turns out, Claire Giangrave of Religion News Service has an inside scoop.  In the Washington Post today came the story. Giangrave wrote:

Participants were encouraged to maintain the confidentiality of discussions in small working groups taking place at the synod. But attendants told Religion News that the question of the ordination of women remains fairly evenly split, with some bishops leaning against and religious sisters leading the charge in favor.

In many ways, this synod has seen many firsts for women. For the first time, a woman, Sister Nathalie Becquart, is undersecretary of the synod office at the Vatican. Sister Maria de los Dolores Valencia Gomez, a sister of St. Joseph of Lyon, is the first woman to preside over a synod. In the months leading up to the summit, the resources of the Women’s Ordination Worldwide advocacy group were made available for the first time on the synod website.

A record 54 women are participating, including by voting, during the synod. In the past, synod events were exclusively attended by bishops and a few priests who acted as secretaries and writers.

Synod discussions so far have addressed the topics of women’s ordination to the priesthood, a female diaconate and the creation of alternative ministries that would allow women to have an equal representation in the traditionally male-dominated institution.

Whereas the pope has shut the door to the female priesthood in the past, Francis recently opened an unprecedented opportunity for debate on the topic. Answering a series of questions, or dubia, sent by conservative prelates regarding the synodal discussions, Francis said there is no “clear and authoritative doctrine” on the question of ordination, and it can be “a subject of study.”

For some synod participants, the solution is already there: allowing women to become priests or deacons. A significant push toward this solution came from the religious sisters within the synod. A “cohort” of nuns favoring female ordination, and especially female deacons, has formed at the synod, said participants. The women, mainly from Latin America and some from Europe, are said to have initially bonded because they all spoke Spanish.

Nuns from Italy to India have come forward in recent years to denounce unfair treatment by male clergy who, they claim, often regard them as nothing more than free labor. Cases of nuns being sexually abused by priests or bishops also have emerged in recent books and reports.

Liberal-minded nuns at the synod have enthusiastically embraced the cause of a female diaconate, participants said, with some pushing the envelope further by asking for the elimination of titles reserved for clergy, such as “your eminence” or “your excellency,” which they see as promoting clericalism.

But to some, the idea of women being allowed to become priests remains beyond the pale. One synod participant said he felt “violated” by the idea of female priests, while another, Eastern Orthodox, attendant voiced surprise at the Western “obsession” with female clergy. The argument that the ordination of women would fill the emptying seminaries of Europe was challenged by representatives from Africa and Asia who take pride in their growing number of priests.

At the tail end of the synod, the question of whether female ordination will make it into the final document remains uncertain, participants said. The goal of this synod is not to come up with solutions, after all, but to pose questions and foster a feeling of communion. Attendants are likely to vote on an amorphous or scaled-down version of the vibrant debates on women’s ordination that have filled the Vatican halls this month.

It would be very sad to find that women’s ordination is not in the final document.  Let’s hope that advocates already see how this injustice has corrupted the unity in the church.

Tears of Joy

This report by Joshua McElwee from National Catholic Reporter is center stage today because it is so full of Good News about Pope Francis’ healing presence in a church that has too long disdained our LGBTQ+ family.

Pope Francis greeted the leaders of an international association for LGBTQ Catholics at the end of his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 25.

The pontiff spoke with the co-chairs of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, a coalition that draws together LGBTQ Catholic organizations from across six continents. Among U.S.-based members are DignityUSANew Ways Ministry and Fortunate Families.

In an interview with National Catholic Reporter shortly after the encounter, co-chair Marianne Duddy-Burke said Francis was “incredibly gracious” and spent several minutes speaking with the group, which included co-chair Christopher Vella and two others.

Marianne Duddy Burke expresses tears of joy as she meets with Pope Francis

Duddy-Burke, who is also the longtime leader of DignityUSA, said the four together thanked the pope for his comments earlier this year condemning countries that continue to criminalize homosexuality. She called the meeting “a big day for LGBTQ Catholics.”

“I was in tears,” she said. “We have great hope for what he is trying to do to make the church more inclusive.”

Duddy-Burke spoke at a conference over the summer about how she had not been invited to speak inside a Catholic Church in more than three decades because of her LGBTQ Catholic advocacy.

Upon seeing the pope on Oct. 25, she handed him a gift: a T-shirt with the Spanish words “todos, todos, todos” printed on it — from the pope’s now often-cited mantra that the Catholic Church is open to “everyone, everyone, everyone.” 

Duddy-Burke said the pontiff immediately laughed at receiving the shirt.

Francis has focused on LGBTQ Catholics in an uncommon way over the past few

Sr. Jeannine with Gifts from Pope Francis/photo by Joshua McElwee/NCR


On Oct. 17, the pope held an historic, 50-minute meeting with Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a lifelong advocate for LGBTQ ministry who had previously been reprimanded by the Vatican and several U.S. bishops for her work.

Francis also met on Sept. 29 with Jesuit Fr. James Martin, editor of the LGBTQ Catholic publication Outreach, and indicated in a letter released on Oct. 2 that he is open to allowing Catholic blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.

The Pope’s Message to Fortunate Families

The pope also recently wrote a note to the executive director of Fortunate Families, a Lexington, Kentucky-based Catholic ministry for the LGBTQ community that is part of the Rainbow Catholics coalition.

“Thank you for your ministry,” Francis told Stan “JR” Zerkowski. “I pray for you, please continue to do so for me.”

DignityUSA put out it owns release about the meeting.

What joy! My heart is full!  I am so touched and happy for my brilliant friend, Marianne Duddy Burke.  She is a sister in the work of inclusion and a fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ people.  She is beloved by all who know her and her work is finally being recognized by the Pope.  The whole community rejoices!