Thursday, November 1, 2018

Final thoughts The phoenix rises; Paragraph 3 and LGBT; Women movers and shakers by

48. A Church that seeks to live a synodal style cannot but reflect on the condition and role of women within it, and consequently also in society. Young men and young women ask for it with great force. The reflections developed require to be implemented through a work of courageous cultural conversion and change in daily pastoral practice. An area of particular importance in this regard is that of the presence of women in the ecclesial bodies at all levels, also in functions of responsibility, and of female participation in ecclesial decision-making processes while respecting the role of the ordained ministry. It is a duty of justice, which finds inspiration both in the way in which Jesus was related to men and women of his time, and in the importance of the role of some female figures in the Bible, in the history of salvation and in the life of the Church.
My response: Until women are equals in every area of Church life including a renewed priesthood, the Roman Catholic Church will continue to fail to live the vision of Gospel equality in the 21st century. Actions speak louder than words. Women could not vote at this Synod. On the long road ahead to gender justice, the international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement is leading the way. Wake up, Vatican prelates, the future is now!
Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP,

Deborah's Report:
My grandson is pretty good at math. 

He told me the day after I returned home, "Grandma, you slept 15 hours straight."

It was true.

I was exhausted from my flight home and 30 days of exciting, but endless engagement with the forces at the Vatican.

So after a wonderful gathering with my family with the best potato soup I've ever tasted thanks to my daughter Karla; a game of ball tag with seven screaming, scheming smallish people; two games of Scrabble (won one, lost one); and, being baptized in the drool of the happiest, most beautiful baby on earth, I slept, contentedly.

Just the facts

This is my third synod and, in that short time, I have seen dramatic shifts taking place.

Synods under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, were more or less an exercise in rubber stamping what was pre-ordained by the pope. It was quite striking when they did make some progress such as in 2008 when they became aware, thanks to Chris Schenk, CSJ and others, that the current catalogue of lectionary readings excised women's experience or history. Proposal 17 sought to change that. 

Still, in general, synods had become a large floor exercise with prelates reading their interventions (proposals) one after another. Participants drifted in place, read, or nodded off.

In 2015, Pope Francis radically changed the synod process by introducing small language group discussions that included not only prelates, but also auditors, experts and fraternal delegates. Many conservative bishops opposed this change because it opened the synod process up to new influences including those from Catholics who were not ordained.

The small groups discussed the issues in the Instrumentum Laboris and offered modi (changes) that would be captured in the final document. The talks were often contentious but in the end, an opening for divorced and remarried catholics to receive communion became a reality.

The nascent process was markedly strengthened in 2018. The final synod document was the product of a long process involving young adults, experts, religious women and men, and ordained men and is clearly not the "final document" according to Francis, but a marker along the synodal path.

Pope Francis exhibits genius -- a man on a mission from God. He chose young adults as the topic and the primary voices in piloting this new form of governance. It would be hard, if not impossible, to corral and ostracize their voices as bishops have handily done to other Catholic populations. In the end, young adults spoke boldly about what the church needed while capturing and enlivening the hearts of bishops who had long ago grown distant.

Daily, we heard from prelates that this was "the best" synod they had ever experienced. Young adults served as the voice of the Holy Spirit, penetrating hearts -- engendering joy. And along the way, with Francis and his allies, young adults helped create more space for women, LGBT Catholics, victims of clergy sex abuse, while making the idea of a synodal church more appealing (at least harder to say "no" to) to those who had reservations.

Key moments include:

  • Pope's announcement of the synod

  • His choicesfor the permanent council overseeing the synod,

  • questionnairethat was completed by young people,
  • More than 220,000 people accessed the online questionnaire, just over 100,000 people ages 16-29 - 58,000 young women and 42,500 young men - completed the survey. Just over 50 percent of the respondents were 16-19 years old, he said. Uganda had the highest response rate with more than 16,000 completing questionnaires.

  • letter from Francis to young people

  • Cardinal Baldisseri's explanation of the synod process

  • Reports from 14 small circle language groups (English (n4), French (n3), German (n1), Italian (n3), Portuguese(n1), Spanish (n2) on Part IPart II, and Part III of the Instrumentum Laboris

  • A draft of the final document where there were heated exchanges at times about the language

  • Pope's Francis' closing remarks and final homily at the closing Mass

The final document

  • The final document consisted of 3 parts, 12 chapters, 167 paragraphs and 60 pages. During the process 364 modifications were proposed. In the last few days, between the final draft and the final document there were sometimes heated exchanges over language about LGBT Catholics, clergy sex abuse, and synodality.

  • The entire document as well as each paragraph passed with the requisite 2/3rds majority vote.

  • The pope will determine how to go forward, but it possible that he could allow the document to become part of the ordinary magisterial teachings of the Church.

Who influenced, who voted

One Canadian bishop humorously observed that there always seemed to be at least one vote against a paragraph, no matter how benign, and he wondered if someone didn't understand the equipment and just kept pushing the wrong button.

It's a lovely little thought.

  • 267 took part in the Assembly

  • 249 voted. If you weren't in the hall, you could not vote. The members included 51 Cardinals, 6 Patriarchs, 46 Archbishops, 102 Bishops, 37 Auxiliary bishops, 6 Apostolic Vicars, 1 Bishop Prelate, 10 Religious (8 ordained, 2 non-ordained) representing the Union of Superiors General (USG) and 10 members of the episcopal order, both diocesan and religious. (These numbers are reported with slight variations in different places, so don't bet your house on this particular breakout).

  • 6 U.S. prelates joined. Galveston-Houston's Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chicago's Cardinal Blase Cupich, Los Angeles' Archbishop José Gomez, Philadelphia's Archbishop Charles Chaput, Bridgeport's Bishop Frank Caggiano, and Los Angeles' Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron. Cardinal Joseph Tobin and Cardinal Sean O'Malley were invited but turned down the offer to attend to crises related to clergy sex abuse at home.

  • 8 Fraternal Delegates (representatives of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities)

  • 23 experts

  • 49 auditors (23 women, 26 men)

  • 34 young adult auditors
  • 15 other auditors

Synodality: the phoenix rises

Some of our conservative brothers and sisters complained when they learned that Pope Francis had a hand in writing the final draft. Their suspicion of his Vatican II agenda, his strategy for decentralizing governance that will be formalized in a new apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium, along with his determination to allow other Catholic and ecumenical voices to deeply influence pastoral policy as formalized in Episcopalis Commuio was illuminated in its particularities in the final document under the section on synodality.

Overall, this section had the most consistent number of "no" votes for each paragraph and reflected the ongoing and sometimes heated controversy between bishops over Francis' push for a synodal church.

The missionary synodality of the Church: A constitutive dynamism  

119.The young people ask us to walk together 206:34
120.The synodal process continues 203:39
121.The synodal form of the Church 191:51
122.The synodal form of the Church (additional) 199:43
123.A participatory and co-responsible Church 202:38
124.Community discernment processes 208:33

Paragraph 121, which received the second greatest number of "no" votes in the entire document reads:

121. The experience of the Synod made the participants aware of the importance of a synodal form of the Church for the proclamation and transmission of the faith. The participation of young people has contributed to “awakening” synodality, which is a “constitutive dimension of the Church. [...] As Saint John Chrysostom says, ‘Church and Synod are synonyms’ - because the Church is none other than the ‘walking together’ of God’s flock on the paths of history meeting Christ the Lord” (FRANCESCO, Address for the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Synod of Bishops, 17 October 2015). 

Synodality characterizes both the life and mission of the Church, which is the People of God formed by young and old, men and women of every culture and horizon, and the Body of Christ, in which we are members of one another, starting with those who are marginalized and trampled underfoot. In the course of the exchanges and through the testimonies, the Synod has brought out some fundamental traits of a synodal style, towards which we are called to convert.

The call to convert to a new, Vatican II way of being church is suspect, if not the beginning of the end, in the eyes of those who felt more secure under the strong arm of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict who had a wistful relationship with the pre-Vatican II model of church. 

These prelates embraced the power of a papacy and curia who were quite content with a "smaller, purer" version of Catholicism and whose leaders vigorously punished dissent by theologians and others who questioned their teachings and their use of papal power to enforce Vatican agendas by silencing dialogue and loyal dissent.

I can only thank God that we have emerged from that period into a church that values the messiness of a people engaged in dialogue and isn't, at every turn, prosecuting dissenters.

I have also felt that Spirit more fully myself, a more generous inner space and love for those I sat next to for 30 days who disagree, even vehemently, with Pope Francis and organizations like FutureChurch who work without apology for Vatican II reforms. 

Francis' model of authentic dialogue and synodal decision making is moving from a concept to an institutionalized way of being church. And that is Good News!

Paragraph 122 gets at relationality and mutuality where everyone learns. It received 43 "no" votes.

122. It is in relationships - with Christ, with others, in the community - that faith is transmitted. Also in view of the mission, the Church is called to assume a relational face that focuses on listening, welcoming, dialogue, common discernment in a process that transforms the lives of those who participate in it. "A Synodal Church is a Church of listening, in the awareness that listening" is more than feeling ". It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. Faithful people, Episcopal College, Bishop of Rome: one listening to others; and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the "Spirit of truth" ( Jn 14,17), to know what he "says to the Churches" ( Revelation 2,7) "(F RANCESCO , Speech for the 50th anniversary Memorial of the institution of the Synod of Bishops , 17 October 2015). In this way the Church presents itself as the "tent of the conference" in which the Ark of the Covenant is preserved (see Ex 25): a dynamic and moving Church, which accompanies walking, strengthened by many charisms and ministries. Thus God makes himself present in this world.  

The synodal way is a more humble way that overcomes the kind of rampant clericalism that engendered clergy sex abuse coverup. The synodal way helps overcome the over reliance on one decision making body within the church. The synodal way that Pope Francis is unleashing is nothing less than the phoenix of Vatican II rising up again from the ashes of two papacies that endeavored to put a choke hold on that wisdom -- on that living breathing Spirit.

What Francis is doing is dramatic!

He is opening the windows and doors to the breath of the Holy Spirit embodied in the entire People of God.

Paragraph 3 and LGBT 

Here are the top 9 paragraphs reflecting the greatest divide among bishops. It helps us to understand the degree to which the bishops went forward and the degree to which they were reticent about some critical issues.

150.Sexuality: a clear, free, authentic word (additional) 178:65
121.The Synodal Form of the Church 191:51
3.The Final Document of the Synodal Assembly 191:43
39.Questions from young people 195:43
122.The Synodal Form of the Church (additional) 199:43
120. The Synodal Process continues 203:39
123.A participatory and co-responsible Church 202:38
148.Women in the Synodal Church 201:38
108. Formation of conscience 205:36

Who decides on LGBT?

The paragraph that engendered the most heat was No. 150. 

Even though the moniker LGBT had been removed, the notion that we would delve deeper into the theology of sexuality as a church is a risk some bishops do not want to take. What is "pre-ordained" in natural law is settled and every energy must be spent in circling the wagons, not exploring new questions.

150. There are questions relating to the body, affectivity and sexuality which require a deeper anthropological, theological and pastoral elaboration, to be carried out in the most appropriate ways and at the most appropriate levels, from the local to the universal. Among these, emerge those relating in particular to the difference and harmony between male and female identity and sexual inclinations. In this regard, the Synod reaffirms that God loves every person and so does the Church, renewing her commitment against all discrimination and violence on a sexual basis. She also reaffirms the decisive anthropological relevance of the difference and reciprocity between man and woman and considers it reductive to define the identity of people starting only from their “sexual orientation” (CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, October 1, 1986, no. 16). 

In many Christian communities there are already paths of accompaniment in the faith of homosexual people: the Synod recommends encouraging such paths. These paths help people to understand their own [personal] history; to recognize freely and responsibly their own baptismal call; to recognize the desire to belong to and contribute to the life of the community; to discern the best ways to achieve it. In this way, we help every young person, excluding no one, to integrate the sexual dimension more and more into their personality, growing in the quality of relationships and walking towards the gift of self.

So when it comes to the church's approach on sexuality and the use of language such as LGBT, maybe the most emblematic, most hopeful of all the paragraphs is No. 3 for it creates a brand new space and possibility for the voices of the People of God to be incorporated into church teaching.

Paragraph 3 received a large number of "no" votes (n43) because it sets out a new interpretive framework in the synodal process that strongly links the Instrumentum Laboris (where the LGBT language was incorporated) to the final document.

3. It is important to clarify the relationship between the 'Instrumentum laboris' and the Final Document. The former is the unitary and synthetic reference framework that emerged from the two years of listening; the second is the fruit of the discernment carried out and brings together the generative thematic nuclei on which the Synod Fathers concentrated with particular intensity and passion. We therefore recognize the diversity and complementarity of these two texts.

The present document is offered to the Holy Father (cf. FRANCESCO, Episcopalis communio, n. 18; Instruction, art. 35 §5) and also to the whole Church as the fruit of this Synod. Since the synodal journey has not yet been completed and foresees an implementation phase (cf. Episcopalis Communio, n. 19-21). The final document will be a map to guide the next steps that the Church is called to take.

My earlier grief about the excising of the language of LGBT has been replaced by hope knowing that the voices at the pre-synod meeting and in the synod hall will not be written out by the bishops. And while Pope Francis respects the voices of his brother bishops, he does not want their voices to blot out the voices of the young adults who called the church to new forms of justice and respect. 

The LGBT language came to life through difficult conversations in the struggle toward justice at the pre-synod meeting and found its way into the pre-synod document. That language became part of the Instrumentum Laboris, another sign of respect by those who drafted it. And, even though the bishops left it out of the final document, it will remain an important part of the synod's ongoing dialogue and process.

Pope Francis is truly stretching the church toward authentic synodality.

It will be important to see how Pope Francis pays tribute to the particular language of the Instrumentum Laboris in his own writing.

Women movers and shakers

I want to talk about two aspects of women's participation in the synod.

  1.  What was in the final document.
  2. The promise of women's participation in the future.

Some of the new information I learned was offered in a post-synod press conferenceoffered by the International Union of Superiors General while other information came from my interview with Sr. Sally Hodgdon.

What was in the final document

Overall, the final document reflected significant progress on the role of women in the church. Courageous young adults spoke clearly and convincingly about the need to incorporate women as equals. For young adults, its about justice, and that was reflected squarely in the document.

Paragraph 13 seems to start with the usual suspicion about the erasure of "Catholic" assigned qualities particular to women and men. But it goes on to name discrimination and domination as offensive to God (and women).

13. We cannot forget the difference between men and women with their peculiar gifts, the specific sensibilities and experiences of the world. This difference can be an area in which forms of domination, exclusion and discrimination arise from which all societies and the Church itself need to free themselves.

The Bible presents man and woman as equal partners before God (see Gn 5:2): all domination and discrimination based on sex offends human dignity. It also presents the difference between the sexes as a mystery so constitutive of the human being as irreducible to stereotypes. The relationship between man and woman is then understood in terms of a vocation to live together in reciprocity and in dialogue, in communion and in fruitfulness (see Gn 1,27-29; 2,21-25) in all areas of human experience: the life of couples, work, education and more. God has entrusted the earth to their covenant.

Reciprocity can be equated to a strict complementarity, but it can also allow for more movement between role assignments that are typically based on biological sex. Cultural norms are changing rapidly and offering more freedom for expression by women and men. It will be in the ongoing synodal work of the church to help free gender equality from restrictions based on outmoded norms that restrict both women and men.

55. There is also a demand among young people for a greater recognition and valuing of women in society and in the Church. Many women play an irreplaceable role in Christian communities, but in many places it is hard to give them room in decision-making processes, even when they do not require specific ministerial responsibilities. The absence of the female voice and gaze impoverishes the Church’s debate and the path, subtracting from the discernment a precious contribution. The Synod recommends making everyone more aware of the urgency of an unavoidable change, also starting from an anthropological and theological reflection on the reciprocity between men and women.

This paragraph makes clear the urgency to the work of bringing more women into governance, ministry, and leadership. As young adults made clear, there is no braking on this issue. The only way forward is with women.

148. A Church that seeks to live a synodal style cannot but reflect on the condition and role of women within it, and consequently also in society. Young men and young women ask for it with great force. The reflections developed require to be implemented through a work of courageous cultural conversion and change in daily pastoral practice. An area of particular importance in this regard is that of the presence of women in the ecclesial bodies at all levels, also in functions of responsibility, and of female participation in ecclesial decision-making processes while respecting the role of the ordained ministry. It is a duty of justice, which finds inspiration both in the way in which Jesus was related to men and women of his time, and in the importance of the role of some female figures in the Bible, in the history of salvation and in the life of the Church.

This final paragraph is the most exciting. It acknowledges women’s participation as disciples of Jesus; the critical work of our foremothers in faith; and the notion that there is an aspect of justice that has been missing within the church.

And it gets straight at the need for more women in the church.

An area of particular importance in this regard is that of the presence of women in the ecclesial bodies at all levels, also in functions of responsibility, and of female participation in ecclesial decision-making processes while respecting the role of the ordained ministry. 

I especially love the line, "Young men and young women ask for it with great force."

I will forever be grateful for all those young women and men and those allied bishops who spoke up with such courage at the synod. 

It is because of their faith and integrity that we are moving toward a greater sense of justice in the church.

Women's full participation in the future

The process of the creation of small groups in 2015, created greater space for women's voices to be captured in a teaching document. Sr. Sally Hodgdon confirmed that. In my interview with her, she said that there were very free to discuss any topic and whenever there was patriarchal language, she and others drew attention to it and tried to correct it.

But the small group process is not a guarantee that women's voices will be heard.
I will never forget what Sr. Maureen Kelleher said about her experience of being in a group with Archbishop Charles Chaput at the 2015 Synod on the Family. She faced what too many women in this church face - mansplaining and arrogance. 

While she felt free to talk to any of the members in a friendly manner during coffee breaks, the interaction in her small group was unsatisfying. She noted that there were "times that I have felt the condescension so heavy, you could cut it with a knife."

"I see a high level of non-acceptance of us as holding up half the sky," she said, referring to some bishops' difficulty in working with women.

"It's very clear that I'm not speaking with one iota of formation on some of the teachings that have formed these men in the seminary," said Kelleher. "Some of it is, 'Oh, here comes the bleeding heart. Well, she's a woman what else would you expect?', kind of thing."


But let's face it, the obstinacy of a few men never stopped women religious!

In 2015, the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) lobbied hard to get women to the synod. After many meetings, three women including Sr. Carmen Sammut (who famously asked Pope Francis to open the discussion on women deacons) and Sr. Maureen Kelleher were invited as auditors. And even though their ecclesial status was the same as a brother (non-ordained) superior general who was given permission to vote, they could not vote.

The Union of Superiors General (USG - the male branch) made a mighty effort to negotiate voting rights for their co-equals. They wanted to give 5 of their 10 votes to members of the UISG -- an effort that was refused by Cardinal Baldisseri at the synod office.

The question of whether the next synod (2018) would close the door to non-ordained men or open it further was answered when the USG chose two brothers to be a part of the Synod and it was accepted by Pope Francis.

§2. According to the theme and the circumstances, certain others who are not Bishops may be summoned to the Synod Assembly; their role is determined in each case by the Roman Pontiff.

This year, there were eight women religious at the synod according to the official roster. 

But only three were from the UISG, and only one was a Religious Superior, Sr. Sally Hodgdon, CSJ.

Sr. Sally Hodgdon is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery. She is the Vice-president of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG).

When I interviewed her, the first thing that struck me was her presence. She is a tall woman with a no nonsense, “tell it like it is” personality. Her honesty creates an immediate sense that you can trust her to speak her truth.

Sr. Sally is respectful of titles and roles within the institution, but she isn’t impressed by them. She is not the swooning type in the presence of bright pink and red hats. It is clear that what matters to her is the content of the person’s character, prelates included. So, when she stated that her first response to being called to the synod was, "What am I going to do with all these men?”, we all relaxed a little. No one was going to pull any red silk sash over her eyes.

I think Sally's response at the press conference sums up what she and the UISG hopes to accomplish at future synods.

She began by addressing the issue of voting at the synod, calling it the "elephant in the room."

She asked, "Why are the three sisters from UISG not voting?"

She stated that the Union of Superior Generals (USG) brought ten representatives of their choice to the synod, including two non-ordained brothers who were able to vote.

But the UISG had only three representatives. And they were chosen by synod organizers and not elected by the UISG body as is the case with the USG.

Sally said that given that 80% of consecrated religious are women, inequality was on full display at the synod.

Sally confirmed that the USG and the UISG had met and would meet again to develop a proposal that will be given to Pope Francis. Though, it has not yet been written, she said she knows what she wants.

It is pretty simple. "Women religious should have the same number of members at the synod as men. If there is a vote, we should be allowed to vote."

My heart swelled with joy and hope as she promised,
"We need to be the dangerous memory of this synod and the spirit of what happened at this synod."
"We will not let this issue just die."
I had a chance to ask two questions during the UISG press conference (via the miracle of Zoom).
I wanted to know a) how they felt about the LGBT language being left out of the final document, and b) if there was anything that disappointed them, that they felt was left out of the final document.
On the LBGT question, Sr. Maria Luisa Berzosa Gonzalez, who works with LGBT Catholics in Madrid, said the goal should be "to put that person in touch with God."“It’s a really sensitive topic, but we cannot abandon people."

“We must continue the synodal path toward a Church that accepts more widely,” she said, “not to exclude, not to throw away.”

Psychologist and educator, Sr. Lucy Muthoni Nderi from Kenya said that, “This synod did not have ready-made answers," but stated the importance of research. She was clear that, "We as a Church cannot discriminate [against] or incriminate anyone who finds themselves in these situations."

"What would Jesus do? He starts with the person."

Sister Nathalie Becquart of France said that some participants told her that if they went back to their countries using the language of LGBT, they might be killed.

I always listen deeply to women of compassion. And these women reminded me that finding a response to these questions of sexuality are complicated by not only cultural norms, but what a culture may tolerate in terms of violence in order to maintain sexual norms.

At the very least, the church must stand against violence of any type against our LGBTQI sisters and brothers, a stand they took at this synod. But they also need to formulate a response that would be create more safety for those who are excluded (there are far too many suicides and other forms of self-destruction), as well as those who might be in harm's way as Catholics who stand for justice for all their sisters and brothers.

On the question of what disappointed, Sr. Mina Kwon of South Korea responded, "I expected more specifics on overcoming clericalism in the final document. Clericalism is that feeling that priests are superior. It is against what Jesus taught. We have to overcome clericalism before it is too late."

Anytime I saw Sr. Gonzalez at press briefings, I had to smile. She struck me as a woman who has been around the block a few times, and along the way has developed a good sense of humor in the midst of a church that is sometimes oppressive.

Regarding misgivings about participating in the synod, she said that given the numbers of  cardinals and bishops at the synod, she wondered if it could be a place for a woman.

“I am a baptized and mature woman, so why do I have to feel like second rate participant?” she asked.

Sr. Sally noted that the need for further inclusion of women at every level of the Church became a recurring topic not just for young participants and women religious but also could be heard from the lips of cardinals and bishops.

And I believe they felt supported in their efforts by both our protest at the beginning of the synod and the petition we sent out which garnered nearly 9,500 signatures in a very short period. 

Together, we are opening the doors and windows in the church to women's full participation. 

Finally I will not soon forget the words of Sr. Alessandra Smerilli of Italy. She was firm.

“This synod is a point of no return for the journey of women."

Now that is music to my ears.

Deborah Rose-Milavec
Reporting from home

Other interesting reading

The Amazon Synod will be held in October 2019. Here is the preparatory document.

For a fun read from a bishop on the events of the synods, read Bishop Tom Dowd's blog.

Here are a series of interviews with prelates by Deborah Castellano Lubov for Zenit.
Below you can find the vote count for each paragraph in the final document.

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