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SynodWatch RoundUp from October 19: All About Women; They have gone through things we can hardly imagine; the Church contributes to creating LGBTQ refugees; The Conspiracy Theorists

We are beginning to see the first fruits of all the long labors of Catholic women throughout the decades including people like Sr. Mary Luke Tobin SL and Rosemary Goldie, who were auditors at the Second Vatican Council.  Since that time thousands of women have stood up in the face of patriarchal standards that have kept women out of governing and ministerial offices and off the altar.   There is no way to name all the women on whose shoulders we stand, but we can join together in this moment to thank God for them all.

Since this is a historic year for Catholic women in the church, I wanted to compile as complete a list as possible of every article, interview, or podcast that has been produced thus far (if you know of others and you want me to add them, please let me know at debrose@futurechurch.org).

Some of the articles are from the conservative outlet, National Catholic Register which I wanted to include so that you could see how the synod is being framed from the critic’s side.  Most are from media outlets that support equalizing the roles of women, women’s ordination, and others efforts to bring women’s full equality to our Catholic history of misogyny and patriarchy. I hope you find these articles as rich and informative as much as I did.

All About Women

Sr. Liliana Franco: Women’s path in the church is ‘full of scars’ by Rhina Guidos for Global Sisters’ Report, October 18, 2023.

Lay groups forge solidarity, hold parallel synod in Rome  by Virginia Saldanha for UCA news, October 19, 2023

Sr. Jeannine Grammick during podcast “The Vatican Briefing” with Joshua McElwee, Photo by Joshua McElwee/NCR

Exclusive: Jeannine Gramick, LGBTQ advocate, reveals details of meeting with Pope Francis by Joshua McElwee of National Catholic Reporter, October 18, 2023.

Laywoman’s Speech Opposing Women’s Ordination Draws Big Ovation by Jonathan Liedl of National Catholic Register, October 18, 2023.

Testimony at the Synod of Estela P. Padilla, FABC-OTC, October 18, 2023.

The Vatican Briefing podcast: A key bishop considers women deacons by Joshua McElwee

and Christopher White, October 17, 2023

Synod Diary: Synod Mothers make their voices heard in Rome by Colleen Dulle of America Magazine, October 17, 2023

Bishop on Synod Drafting Committee Expresses Openness to Women Deacons by Joshua

Discerning Deacons witness in Rome – photographed with James Martin SJ Photo by Tracy Kemme SC

McElwee of National Catholic Reporter, October 17, 2023.

There’s Too Much Emphasis on Women’s Ordination by Hannah Brockhaus in the National Catholic Register, October 17, 2023.

At events inside and outside Vatican’s synod hall, focus on women’s equality  by Rhina Guidos of National Catholic Reporter, October 16, 2023.

As the Synod Turns to Women Deacons, It gets Interesting by Colleen Dulle of America Magazine, October 16, 2023.

Women’s voices being heard at Vatican’s big meeting on church’s future, nun says by Nicole Winfield, October 16, 2023.

Delegates at Spirit Unbounded address issues facing the Church by Sarah MacDonald for The Tablet, October 16, 2023.

The Synod, Church reform groups, and the next pope by Robert Mickens at LaCroix, October 14, 2023.

Inequality ‘embedded’ in Catholic Church says McAleese by Sarah MacDonald for The Tablet, October 13, 2023.

Sr. Patricia Murray – Photo by Rhina Guidos/GSR

Synod Looks at Catholics’ Shared Mission, But Also Exclusion of Women by Cindy Wooden in The Tablet, October 13, 2023.

Heidi Schlumpf interviews Kate McElwee on “The Francis Effect” podcast, October 13, 2023.

Testimony dat Synod of Sr. Gloria Liliana Franco Encheverri, ODN,  October 13, 2023.

The lay woman bringing Catholic social teaching to the heart of the Vatican by Ashley McKinless and Zac Davis at Jesuitical.

Spirit Unbounded: Racial power dynamics drive abuse, says US priest by Sarah MacDonald for The Tablet, October 12, 2023.

Meet the lay woman who led the U.S. synod process by Colleen Dulle for “Inside the Vatican” October 12, 2023.

Julia McStravog CNS photo/Jessica S. Zurcher

Synod snapshots: Cardinal Müller is easy to spot; Sr. Barron gets a big promotion by Christopher White of National Catholic Reporter, October 12, 2023.

Two-tier Church undermines laity’s ‘shared dignity’ at Spirit Unbounded Conference by Sarah MacDonald for The Tablet, October 11, 2023

The Vatican Briefing podcast: Women at the pope’s table by Joshua McElwee and Christopher White of National Catholic Reporter.

Will all voices be heard at the Synod on Synodality? by Virginia Saldanha for UCA News, October 10, 2023.

Catholic Church ‘should not be afraid of change’ says Cherie Blair on Spirit Unbounded Conference by Sarah MacDonald for The Tablet, October 10, 2023.

Theological Reflection at Synod by Professor Anna Rowlands, October 9, 2023

Testimony at Synod of Siu Wai Vanessa Cheng, October 9, 2023

Sisters at Vatican synod see ‘dismantling of the hierarchical’ by Rhina Guidos of National Catholic Reporter, October 6, 2023.

Women’s ordination advocates march in Rome on March 6, 2023. Photo from Ordain Women video.

Walk with Women: Procession and Witness for Women’s Ordination in Rome by Ordain Women, October 6, 2023.

Vatican Synod on Synodality signals hope for women’s ordination advocates by Claire Giangravé for Religion News Service, October 6, 2023.

Synod’s focus on listening may signal power shift in Catholic Church, says sister by Rhina Guidos of National Catholic Reporter/Global Sisters Report

Mercy Sister Angela Perez, of Guam Photo: GSR/Rhina Guidos

Pope signals openness to blessings for gay couples, study of women’s ordination by Joshua McElwee and Christopher White of National Catholic Reporter, October 2, 2023.

‘Orthodoxy is spacious’: At retreat, synod members hear about women’s hopes, LGBTQ issues by Joshua McElwee and Christopher White of National Catholic Reporter, October 2, 2023.

The Sisters Involved with the Synod on Synodality by Global Sisters Report.

5 suggestions to make the pope’s big Synod of Bishops actually mean something by Mary Hunt for the National Catholic Reporter, September 27, 2023.

The synod could change whether women can be ordained as deacons or priests. These women are hopeful.  by Heidi Schlumpf of National Catholic Reporter, September 15, 2023.

Catholic Network for Women’s Equality in Canada also journeyed to Rome for the Synod to participate in and lead various witnesses.  You can read their blog here.

Press briefing: They have gone through things we can hardly imagine

At the press briefing today, Paolo, Christiana, and Sheila Pires were joined by Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Bishop Daniel Ernest Flores, President Delegate of the Assembly and a member of the Preparatory Commission, is the bishop of Brownsville, Texas, Archbishop Dabula Anthony Mpako, Archbishop of Pretoria and Vice President of the South African Bishops’ Conference, and, Father Khalil Alwan, a former superior general of the Lebanese Maronite missionaries, is the secretary general of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Orient and a professor at the Lebanese University in Beirut. He is taking part in the General Assembly as a synodal witness for the Eastern Churches and general coordinator for the Middle East.

The focus of the panelists was on immigration and the conditions that migrants throughout the world face due to war, violence, hatred, and poverty.

Dr Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication and President of the Commission for Information, related that the tenth and eleventh sessions of the Small groups took place with a focus on section B3 of the Instrumentum laboris.  The 35 small groups are discussing different aspects of the general theme: “Participation, responsibility, and authority. What processes, structures, and institutions in a missionary synodal Church?”

In addition, the Ruffini recalled that “three working groups of expert theologians and canonists have been set up to reflect on three points of Instrumentum laboris; B3/3 (“What structures can be developed to consolidate a missionary synodal Church?”); B3/4 (“How can instances of synodality and collegiality involving groupings of local Churches be configured?”);  B3/5 (“How can the institution of the Synod be strengthened so that it is an expression of episcopal collegiality within an all-synodal Church?”).

According to Ruffini:

Thirteen small groups are exchanging their views on section B3.1, “How can we renew the service of authority and the exercise of responsibility in a missionary synod or church?”  Seven small groups are focusing on section B3.2 “How can we develop discernment practices and decision making processes in an authentically synodal manner that respects the protagonism of the Spirit?”  Five groups are focusing on the group B3.3, “What structures can be developed to strengthen a missionary synodal church?” and five are focusing on B3.4.

After Dr. Ruffini and Sheila Pires gave their updates, Jesuit Cardinal Michael Czerny began with some inspiring comments about  walking in solidarity with migrants.

Angels Unawares

It is especially a pleasure to have a chance to say something about the Synod in the context of the prayer service. This evening at the monument, “Angels unawares where the assembly, which is learning how to walk together as a church will effectively symbolize walking together with some of the most vulnerable people on our planet, namely the those who are fleeing, those who are forced to be on the move, those whom we call migrants and refugees. And so there’s a spiritual and even an aesthetic, cultural harmony between how we’re spending the day talking about what  can be a bit abstract, in the authority and walking with or accompanying the boat that’s sculpted there — which represents all the people of all ages and all places who in one way or another have been forced to, to flee.  I think the harmony and the goodwill and the deep exchange which we experience within the synod hall is in dramatic, contrast with the anxiety, the insecurity, the vulnerability, the marginalization in fact the terrible silence of the migrants and refugees. By silence, I mean, the silence of our societies are rejecting societies.

Bishop of Brownsville, Texas, Daniel Flores, who has been working all along on the synod process spoke at length about the difficulties migrants face when crossing the southern border in the United States and how he and his diocese have to be creative and flexible as they deal with changing rules by the U.S. government.

One of the things that has impacted me in terms of the Holy Father’s call to synodality as a concrete expression is that each diocese in the world, comes bringing the gifts and sort of the experience of its own local church. And so that’s part of the reality that I carry with me in, in terms of my participation. In the last several years, there’s been, as we all know, a great number of immigrants seeking refuge, seeking asylum in the United States. A great number of them pass through my diocese, which is the very southern tip of Texas, the United States between the very southern tip across the Rio Grande River is the Diocese of Matamoros Mexico.

And so, so it’s been a very challenging experience. But what I carry with me is this expression of great love on the part of the people of my own diocese.  Participation, which is a key theme that the Holy Father has put before us, is something that I have lived in my diocese and just seeing so many people step forward. My diocese does not have great material resource, but the hearts of the people are very generous and they know something of what poverty is, and so they respond very generally. So we’ve had, certainly from the Catholic community, but also from from other communities, other Christian denominations, but also from our Muslim brothers and sisters and also the Jewish community has assisted us in establishing sort of on the ground ways to receive and welcome and assist these families who come across generally with the permission of the United States government, which is another issue.

But that’s the reality in helping them to get oriented and, and really treating them with the human respect and dignity that they deserve. There’s a great, great outpouring of energy that comes in my diocese from people — restaurant owners, doctors, nurses who volunteer to their time just to attend to the mothers and the children and the families. This is an expression of what I call sort of the deepest sense of enculturation of the faith. This sense of the response to the need. So because our diocese doesn’t have a great amount of resources financially, it’s fairly flexible. I mean, you, and we’ve had to be flexible for the last 10 years, if not longer, because circumstances change beyond our control. The church and the diocese and anywhere really doesn’t have the authority to tell governments what to do.

And so when governments change their plans and change the way they’re addressing the immigration situation, we adapt to it. And the principle is we adapt in a way that tries to respect and treat with greatest respect the human dignity of the families who come. Each one has a story.  Each one has an experience.  And some of them have gone through things that hardly any of us can imagine. And they are largely coming at this point from South America and Central America. Very few, as a matter of fact, are coming from Mexico. But this dynamic changes and you have to know the situation on the ground to address it. And my final point is that we have worked very collaboratively with the Diocese of Matamoros and so it’s an example of how the church is kind of a bigger thing than national borders.  Because we work with the Bishop of Matamoros, we speak frequently. He comes to visit, we go visit the migrant camps together. And, and it’s a way of kind of encouraging our people to do what they do so well, which is to respond to the need on the ground.

Father Khalil Alwan, a former superior general of the Lebanese Maronite missionaries told the room that Syrian refugees in Lebanon have faced horrendous treatment and living conditions.

Since 2011, when they arrived here, they have been living in inhuman conditions, crammed in large numbers in camps at the limit of their capacity because the international community is forcing Lebanon to keep them on its territory, preventing them from going to Europe.  

…more than two million people…with many births registered in recent years… With its population of five million, Lebanon is the country with the highest percentage of refugees in the world.

The attitude of the Lebanese people toward the Syrian migrants was front and center and seemed to be shared by Fr. Alwan.

The Lebanese are being penalized “for their humanity”, Father Alwan asserted. All these refugees, in fact, burden the economy of the state, which bears enormous costs that international governmental organizations are not able to cope with, with the result that “Lebanese citizens are getting poorer and poorer. This causes great anger in them: they see the humanitarian issue as a pretext to keep refugees in Lebanon, which is forced to be a country of political asylum.

Many voices have been raised calling for the Syrians to leave for Europe. We are facing a human tragedy and we will pray tonight that the powers of the world will work to put an end to it and that the Syrians may one day return to their country and their culture.

Finally, Archbishop Dabula Anthony Mpako of Pretoria spoke about the immigration crisis in his region.

South Africa hosts the largest number of immigrants on the African continent. Presently, the estimated number of migrants in South Africa stands at 2.9 million.  In reality, this number is less than the real number of migrants who are in South Africa.  The most important cause of this migration is poverty. Thus, most of the migrants who come to South Africa are economic migrants. There are some among them who are genuine refugees escaping situations of war and persecution in their countries. But for the most part, we are dealing with people who are economic refugees and popular destinations in South Africa for the migrants would be the two provinces of routing. That includes Johannesburg and Pretoria. The diocese where I am at the moment, and the Western Cape and Pretoria would seem to be the most popular city where migrants come looking for greener pastures.

Q & A : I’m not worried about that

J.D. Flynn from The Pillar asked, “As you have this conversation about, renewing structures with a sense of synodality there’s a perception in some ways, or there can be a perception that the notion of ality might, um, undermine or militate against the authority and the prerogatives of the diocesan bishop and the sort of emphasis in Christus Dominus on the essential role of the, both the Diocesan Bishop and the College of Bishops. So how, how do you perceive that this notion of sort of revitalizing institutional structures with a spirit of synodality, sort of interplays with the emphasis of Christus Dominus and even the Holy Father on the prerogatives of the diocesan Bishop?

Bishop Flores responded:

Any exercise of any structure or ministry or authority in the church. It must be based on a fundamental conversion of heart, which seems to me is essential for any structure to be really attaining the good which we hope it will attain. And so I would begin you know, knowing that there are many perceptions out there as to what might or not, might not be at the heart of the question structurally elsewhere.  I’m not particularly worried about that.  I’m more worried about how it is that we will sort of inaugurate a deep thirst to become a people baptized and ordained who are focused on serving one another in the heart of Christ. To me, this is everything. Without this, there is nothing. And we can change all the, you know, we can, we can write lots of pretty words about the thing, but if we aren’t doing that, and then we’re not really addressing the call that the Gospel from the very beginning is asking of us all from everyone.  No one is exempt.

Archbishop Dabula Anthony Mpako also reponded.

My sense is that it is commonly accepted by all of us that there are two structures that must coexist in the church. Synodality coexists with the hierarchical structure of the church. And I don’t think that is under any question. However, what we are probably wanting to see is how the two can work in such a way that synodality begins to infuse the way that the hierarchical structure of the church operates. So I’m not at all worried about that because I think we have all accepted that in the Catholic Church Synodality is a unique character. It is a synodality at the center of which there is the chair of Peter, the Pope. At the end of the day, hierarchy goes together with synodality.

Another journalist asked a similar question to the one posed by J.D. Flynn and Cardinal Czerny answered with an even stronger sense of faith in the process.  It really struck me as beautiful.

The hierarchical structures of the church have nothing to fear from a process that begins with listening.  It is impossible that should damage the hierarchical nature of the church. And it’s the act of faith and hope of starting with ample, I would say radical listening, that we believe with help of the Holy Spirit, that the church’s structures or maybe better the functioning of the structures will improve. And I think one of the things that makes everybody happy in the synod hall is that we are not only talking about it, but we are experiencing it. To be at a table where when you first sit down, you say, well, this is certainly a hopeless group, and realize two days later that you’ve produced a remarkably coherent, beautiful, and even creative statement in answer to a series of rather abstract questions. Without the Holy Spirit, this just doesn’t happen.

The Church Contributes to Making LGBTQ Refugees

I loved this question from Bob Shine.  This is really bringing down the curtain.

Robert Shine of New Ways Ministry asked, “We’re hearing a lot about the church’s laudable defense for migrants and refugees. Among those refugees are LGBTQ people who face hostility in their cultures. And in some cases, Catholic bishops have supported laws criminalizing LGBTQ people or failed to challenge cultures where bias against them is very prominent. And in the assembly, we’ve heard there are discussions about pastoral care for LGBTQ people, but are human rights for them — and the churches need to defend them as Pope Francis has said — being discussed, especially in situations where the church contributes to creating LGBTQ refugees?”

The bishop of Pretoria answered in a very thoughtful way acknowledging the hold traditional (I would say out of date) Christian anthropology has on the Chruch.   Though, I would have been more satisfied had he addressed the laws that criminalize LGBTQ persons and cause them to flee for safety or be harmed.

I think the stance of the church is clear on how to approach LBGTQ+ people to, first of all, show compassion and acceptance, not to discriminate, not to make them feel like outsiders in the community of the church. And I think the Holy Father has exemplified that in a very striking and beautiful way. However, what we are also dealing with traditional Christian anthropology, which we are still trying to see how that anthropology relates to this question. And my sense is that is not going to be resolved anytime soon because we are dealing with a tradition that has existed for a long time. So we are doing two things – while holding to that Christian anthropology we are looking for ways of making LGBTQ+ people feel at home in the church.

Bishop Flores added his response:

What I encourage all of our volunteers and so is to see, we look for the face of Christ in the one who suffers. We don’t ask ’em if they’re Catholic. We don’t ask them if they’re Christian. We don’t ask them, you know, how they believe politically. We don’t ask them about their sexual orientation. We a we simply want to serve the Christ who suffers.

I think I loved Tom Reese’s question best of all who asked Bishop Flores about the conspiracy theories that are being circulated in the United States –  that the bishops are being manipulated by a kind of liberal cabal of staff and theologians.  Since Bishop Flores was involved in the synodal process from the beginning, Reese wanted to know what the bishop might say to assure people who believe these conspiracy theories that this is not happening.

Flores responded,”Yes, we live in a very suspicious age. I think we breathe this, the air we breathe is that and affects outside the church. It affects the church. I have no worry about that. I do not see a conspiracy. I have simply heard honest, sincere, faithful charitable conversations under, shall I say, …under the care of Peter.”

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