SynodWatch RoundUP for Oct. 28: Here Is the Final Report; Women Deacons Forward; A Crushing Blow on LGBTQ Justice
Today the synod members had the opportunity to read the final document, heard it read in the assembly, and vote on it paragraph by paragraph.
The document is forty pages long and while a consensus was achieved, the document was tragically lacking. It should have been much bolder given the input received from around the world during the past two years. One can’t help but feel that in this winnowing down process where the voices and wisdom of the laity and women fall away and bishops become the great majority of decision makers, we are forever being held back from our full potential by those who like things just the way they are. Our efforts to evolve toward a more synodal church have just begun, but if we keep the same players and structures in place, can we actually do what the Spirit is calling us to do? And if Paolo Ruffini is correct, it looks like the same players will be back next year. That makes sense in many ways, but it would be a more authentically synodal process if they increased the number and percentage of women who participate and vote. We certainly need them.
The Final Synthesis
You can read the official Vatican Synthesis report which was in Italian along with the voting results. I have also uploaded an unofficial translated version in English. An official version the English will come out, but sometimes that takes a while.
Women Deacons Forward but Not a Word About Women Priests
Here is what was discerned about women:
b) In Christ women and men are clothed with the same baptismal dignity and receive equally the variety of gifts of the Spirit (cf. Gal 3:28). Men and women are called to a communion characterized by non-competitive co-responsibility, to be embodied at every level of the Church’s life. As Pope Francis has told us, together we are “People summoned and called by the power of the Beatitudes.”
c) During the Assembly we experienced the beauty of reciprocity between women and men. Together we revive the call of the previous stages of the synod process, and ask the Church to grow in its commitment to understand and accompany women, pastorally and sacramentally. Women desire to share the spiritual experience of walking toward holiness in the different stages of life: as young people, as mothers, in friendship relationships, in family life at all ages, in the world of work and in consecrated life. They claim justice in societies still deeply marked by sexual violence and economic inequality, and the tendency to treat them as objects. They bear the scars of human trafficking, forced migration and wars. Accompaniment and determined advocacy for women go hand in hand.
d) Women constitute the majority of those who attend churches and are often the first missionaries of the faith in the family. Consecrated women, in contemplative and apostolic life, constitute a gift, sign and witness of fundamental importance in our midst. The long history of women missionaries, saints, theologians and mystics is a powerful source of inspiration and nourishment for the women and men of our time.
e) Mary of Nazareth, a woman of faith and mother of God, remains for all an extraordinary source of meaning theologically, ecclesially and spiritually. Mary reminds us of the universal call to listen attentively to God and to remain open to the Holy Spirit. She has known the joy of giving birth and making grow and has endured pain and suffering. She gave birth in precarious conditions, experienced being a refugee, and experienced the heartbreak of the brutal killing of her Son. But she has also known the splendor of the resurrection and the glory of Pentecost.
f) Many women expressed deep gratitude for the work of priests and bishops, but they also spoke of a Church that wounds. Clericalism, machismo and inappropriate use of authority continue to scar the face of the Church and damage communion. A deep spiritual conversion is needed as the basis for any structural change. Sexual, power and economic abuses continue to demand justice, healing and reconciliation. We ask how the Church can become a space capable of protecting all.
g) When dignity and justice in relationships between men and women are harmed in the Church, the credibility of the proclamation we address to the world is weakened. The synod process shows that there is a need for a renewal of relationships and structural changes. In this way we will be better able to welcome the participation and contribution of all – lay men and women, consecrated men and women, deacons, priests and bishops – as co-responsible disciples of the mission.
h) The Assembly asks that we avoid repeating the mistake of talking about women as an issue or problem. Instead, we wish to promote a Church in which men and women dialogue for the purpose of better understanding the depth of God’s plan, in which they appear together as protagonists, without subordination, exclusion, or competition.
Issues to be addressed
i) Churches around the world have clearly formulated the call for greater recognition and enhancement of women’s contributions and growth in the pastoral responsibilities entrusted to them in all areas of the Church’s life and mission. In order to give better expression to everyone’s charisms and better respond to pastoral needs, how can the Church include more women in existing roles and ministries? If new ministries are needed, whose responsibility is it to discern, at what level and in what ways?
j) Different positions have been expressed regarding women’s access to diaconal ministry. Some consider that this step would be unacceptable as it would be in discontinuity with Tradition. For others, however, granting women access to the diaconate would restore a practice of the early Church. Still others discern in this step an appropriate and necessary response to the signs of the times, faithful to Tradition and capable of finding an echo in the hearts of many who seek renewed vitality and energy in the Church. Some express fear that this request is an expression of a dangerous anthropological confusion, embracing which the Church would align itself with the spirit of the times.
k) The discussion in this regard is also connected to the broader reflection on the theology of the diaconate (see infra ch. 11, h – i).
l) Local churches in particular are encouraged to broaden their service of listening, accompanying and caring for women who are most marginalized in different social contexts.
m) There is an urgent need to ensure that women can participate in decision-making processes and assume roles o f responsibility in pastoral care and ministry. The Holy Father has significantly increased the number of women in positions of responsibility in the Roman Curia. The same should happen at other levels of Church life. Canon law should be adapted accordingly.
n) Theological and pastoral research on women’s access to the diaconate should be continued, taking advantage of the results of the commissions specially established by the Holy Father and the theological, historical and exegetical research already carried out. If possible, the results should be presented at the next Session of the Assembly.
o) Cases of employment discrimination and unequal remuneration within the Church be addressed and resolved, particularly with regard to consecrated women who are too often considered cheap labor.
p) There is a need to expand women’s access to training programs and theological studies. Let women be included in seminary teaching and training programs to foster better formation for ordained ministry.
q) Let liturgical texts and Church documents be more attentive not only to the use of language that holds men and women equally, but also to the inclusion of a range of words, images and narratives that draw with greater vitality on women’s experience.
r) We propose that properly trained women can be judges in all canonical trials.
There are a lot of ways that we can foster the issues that are on the table including advocacy and education on the women who are missing or misrepresented in the Lectionary and a vocabulary that uses inclusive language, promoting women preaching, educating Catholics in the parish about women deacons, educating and advocating for women’s ordination to the priesthood, and advocating for women’s authority and inclusion at every level, but especially at the parish and diocesan levels.
A Crushing Blow on LGBTQ Justice
After some very heartwarming meetings between LGBTQ+ advocates at DignityUSA/Rainbow Catholics Coalition and New Ways Ministry and Pope Francis, the discernment of the synod’s participants fell flat. And that felt crushing…again.
It was with tears in my eyes that I read Frank DeBernardo’s words:
With no positive statement on LGBTQ+ issues in the document, and with only two references which simply state what was known when the Synod began, Catholics globally will be greatly disappointed. After two years of calling on the church to have a more positive approach to LGBTQ+ people, repeated over and over around the globe and in every phase of the Synod consultations, it is clear that Catholics want a more inclusive church.
Stating LGBTQ+ issues are controversial in the church does not raise new questions, as the report suggests, for this fact was known well before the Synod even began. Church leaders have had decades to learn about scientific and theological developments about gender and sexuality. Likewise, acknowledging people excluded by the church because of identity or sexuality seek to be heard is well-known. The questions the report claims are now are not, in fact, new.
The only acknowledgment that the church needs to grow is a single sentence which admits that current Catholic anthropological categories do not sufficiently respond to new information which is being discovered from experience or scientific knowledge. Yet the vagueness with which this acknowledgement is described does not provide sufficient confidence that change can be envisioned.
While LGBTQ+ Catholics and their supporters will be disappointed, we pray that they will not also become discouraged. When New Ways Ministry’s co-founder and staff met with Pope Francis this month during the Synod assembly, he counseled us never to give up hope, quoting St. Paul: “Hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5).
The Catholic LGBTQ+ community must take Pope Francis’ message to heart. The report’s shortcomings are an invitation to speak anew about their joys, their sorrows, and their faith during the remaining year of this synodal journey.
When will the bishops of this church learn to love our LGBTQ+ family? I pray for their redemption.
Other important articles:
FutureChurch will offer an overview of the final synthesis along with a time for reflection and discussion of the synod process thus far. Join us as we talk about the ways we can use this next 11 months to advance the issues that are important to us and important for the life of the church.