As a Queer Catholic Woman I Had High Hopes Before the 2023 Catholic Synod on Synodality

By

When the summit on the future of the Catholic Church began on October 9, I allowed myself for the first time in many years to feel optimistic. I smiled at pictures of Pope Francis welcoming LGBTQ Catholic advocates Sr Jeannine Gramick and Outreach director Fr James Martin, finally feeling that this could be our moment, my moment to find a home in the Church that had raised me. I felt that little sacristy door slightly creak open as I fumbled to dial the phone to call my mom. Was this it? Sadly, no. My excitement faded as I followed the livestream of the Synod of Bishops, punctuated by anger as I read the summit’s 41-page report.

This past Friday I saw New Ways Ministry’s statement, “Synod Report Greatly Disappoints, But We Must Have Hope,” while walking down a busy DC thoroughfare. In it Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the LGBTQ+-affirming Catholic organization, points out how, despite previous documents discussing the welcoming and inclusion of LGBTQ Catholics, there were no positive statements on LGBTQ issues—not even one use of the term “LGBTQ.” Instead, a single paragraph—approved by vote—stated:

“In different ways, people who feel marginalized or excluded from the Church because of their marriage status, identity or sexuality, also ask to be heard and accompanied.”

Once more the door that’s historically been closed to LGBTQ individuals and women was shut in my face. As I had done many times before, I opened myself up to the possibility that Pope Francis’s acknowledgement and inclusion of LGBTQ Catholics would lead to Church action. I had faith in this Synod, just like I did the Synod on Young People in 2018 whose final report also omitted the term “LGBT.”

Each time this happens, many LGBTQ Catholics dare to hope. For example, when the pope said, in 2022, that God “does not disown any of his children,” or in 2023 that “people with homosexual tendencies are children of God,” a number of LGBTQ Catholics and advocates, myself included, got excited for a day or two—maybe even called our parents (if the Church hasn’t driven a wedge between them and us). But then the news cycle passes and, with each expression of anti-LGBTQ Catholic doctrine on diocesan and global levels,  these small victories are tarnished with sadness and frustration.

This is not to say that these moments of recognition don’t matter to me or to so many other LGBTQ Catholics; it’s just to say that it hurts me so much more when these slight openings have no practical impact on my life as a queer Catholic woman.

Jesuit Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator assured LGBTQ Catholics that “the space is there to continue to have this conversation,” that no issue has been finalized ahead of the next assembly in 2024. “Nothing is closed,” remarked the dean of the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, who added that the document “attempts to pull together all the divergent positions.” But how can we represent all viewpoints if the document won’t even say my name, say our name—LGBTQ Catholics? So the door is unlocked, but we’re not permitted to open it?

I want to be hopeful, but I, as well as many other Catholics, acknowledge that the changes Francis and other LGBTQ Catholics and allies are pushing for will not be achieved this year. They probably won’t be achieved this century. The door is rusted and rooted—it’s probably going to take more substantial remodeling. The Church moves at a slow pace, and I’m hopeful that these small moments will mean something, perhaps in a few decades or centuries. But at this moment, it feels like it doesn’t. The progress that I, and so many other LGBTQ Catholics dream of realizing, is extraordinarily unlikely to come true while I’m alive. In the end we’re working to open a door we will never walk through.

Complete Article HERE!

In the end, Pope Francis’ big summit dodged big issues

— Women’s ordination, priestly marriage, LGBTQ Catholics

By Claire Giangravé

What many will take away about the Synod on Synodality, the monthlong summit on the future of the Catholic Church, is that the 450 clergy and lay faithful called to the meeting skirted the key agenda items of women’s ordination, marriage for priests and acceptance of LGBTQ Catholics.

On Saturday, after the synod released a tepid summary of its work, the Women’s Ordination Conference pronounced itself “dismayed” by the failure of the synod to allow women to become priests.

“A ‘listening church’ that fails to be transformed by the fundamental exclusion of women and LGBTQ+ people,” a statement read, “fails to model the gospel itself.”

The term LGBTQ did not make it into the final document at all, earning the “disappointment” of New Ways Ministries, a network of gay Catholics and their allies, in its statement on Sunday, though it noted that the group drew encouragement from some of Pope Francis’ words of support.

But for the synod’s organizers, the event was never about providing definitive answers on these topics but about promoting dialogue and overcoming division. “Many ask for results. But synodality is a listening exercise: prolonged, respectful and humble,” Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the synod, said Saturday evening.

In the final 42-page document, titled Synthesis Document for a Synodal Church in Mission and approved by 364 voting participants in the meeting, the summit is portrayed as a success, with most of the 20 separate points passing by overwhelming majorities, even if no single paragraph obtained full consensus.

During the event, which opened Oct. 4 with a Mass presided over by Pope Francis, participants talked about the spirit of friendship, respect and dialogue overcoming polarization even in the most divisive debates. Even conservative clergy who were initially critical, including German Cardinal Gerhard Müller and the Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn agreed the synod was a positive experience.

Divisions were, nonetheless, evident: In votes on the individual points in the final document, 69 attendees voted against a paragraph on the possibility of women becoming deacons, who are ordained to preach at Mass but not to celebrate the Eucharist or hear confessions. Mentions of considering the possibility of married priests drew 55 negative votes, or 15% of the voting membership.

Attendants wrote that they are aware that the term synodality awakens “confusion and concern” among many that the teaching of the church will be changed. Since its start, the synod has been accompanied by vocal criticism of conservative prelates who believe the summit is a Trojan horse aimed at forwarding progressive agendas in the church.

Some of those conservatives had bridled at the portrayal of this year’s synod as a completion of the work of Vatican II, the meeting called by Pope John XXIII in the early 1960s seeking to reconcile the church with the demands of changing society. Since then, many progressives have felt that those reforms have been muted or ignored and looked to the synod to make good, increasing conservatives’ fears regarding the dilution of tradition and the power of the hierarchy.

The document’s opening section indeed presents the Synod on Synodality as a “further reception” of Vatican II, but while it recognized the almost familial conflicts posed by the small discussion groups — “We also share that it’s not easy listening to different ideas, without immediately giving into the temptation of answering back,” the document read — participants said that through prayer the effectiveness and primacy of synodality in the church eventually came through.

“A substantial agreement emerged that, with the necessary clarifications, the synodal prospective represents the future of the church,” the document read. The document, drafted with the assistance of theologians, describes synodality as “a journeying of Christians toward Christ and the Kingdom, together with all of humanity.”

In his speech to the synod assembly Wednesday (Oct. 25), Francis further laid out a view of a Catholic Church centered around the “infallibility of faithful people.” The faithful, the pope explained, share an intuition of the beliefs of the church that needs to be interpreted and adopted by the church as a whole.

The closing document proposes that updates to canon law be made to enlarge the participation of people in the church.

Adding to the document’s vision of a more open power structure is its call for the church to be more receptive to individual cultures around the Catholic world, and it urges the church to combat xenophobia and racism.

The document also emphasizes the need to promote relationships with other churches and denominations, suggesting that a council of Roman church patriarchs and archbishops be formed to advise the pope on ecumenism, and even proposing a synod on the Eastern churches. Attendees voiced the hope that Easter 2025, when all Christians will celebrate the paschal feast on the same day, may foster further communion among believers.

The spirit of openness infused the synod participants’ recommendations about the hierarchy, calling on bishops to be “examples of synodality.” Among the proposals were the strengthening of lay and clergy councils at the parish and diocesan levels, allowing lay people to have a voice in selecting bishops and reducing the role of the papal nuncio, the Vatican’s ambassador in a given country.

At the top of the power structure, the document said, the council of cardinals that advises the pope, known as the C9, should take on more responsibilities and suggested reforming canon law to offer “dispositions for a more collegial exercise of the papal ministry.”

But there are limits to how democratic the church hierarchy is willing to become. While the presence of lay people at the synod was welcomed in the document, it also warned that “the criteria allowing nonbishops to participate in the synod will have to be clarified.” When the synod rejoins after a year, it stated, “some suggest that there should be a meeting of exclusively bishops to complete the synodal process.”

And synodality seemed to dictate that where the deepest divisions lie, more discussion is needed. On the question of female deacons, which some say would signify a return to early church practice and others call a break with tradition, the document simply acknowledged that women experience inequality in the church but left any decision to already existing commissions created by Francis, promising theological study in time for the next synod assembly.

Participants also asked for further discussion on the issue of celibacy for priests.

In its final section, the document took up the problem of clergy sex abuse, which Catholics around the world, meeting to air their concerns in listening sessions in their dioceses, had asked the synod to address. But apart from recognizing the need to listen to victims of clergy abuse, it did not offer specific proposals on how to prevent abuse or increase clergy accountability.

The document will now be circulated back to those dioceses for consideration by Catholic leaders and congregants. According to German bishops who attended the synod, “It is now up to the local churches, and thus also up to us, to use these spaces which the synod has opened up in order to continue to work on a synodal church, to advance along the synodal paths, and thus to translate the momentum into concrete reflection and action.”

Despite its multitude of proposals and challenges, the first synod closed with more questions than answers. Regarding those Catholics who might be left still “in a situation of solitude” if they obey the church teachings on “questions of marriage and sexual ethics,” the synod’s participants offered “closeness and support.”

“A profound sense of love, mercy and compassion” was shared by participants for those who “feel wounded or cast aside by the church, who desire a place to return ‘home’ where they can feel safe, feel listened to and respected, without fear of feeling judged.”

But the participants declared themselves often caught between the Christian principle of mercy and the need to defend the doctrinal beliefs of the church.

“If we adopt doctrine harshly and with a judging attitude, we betray the gospel,” the document read, “If we practice cheap mercy, we don’t transmit God’s love.”

Complete Article HERE!

3 Things We Learned From The Vatican’s Synod On Synodality

By Clemente Lisi

The Vatican’s meeting of bishops — the second phase of a multi-year effort that began in 2021 known as the Synod on Synodality — concluded this past weekend amid a growing debate regarding a number of key issues.

The meetings this month centered around the future of the Catholic church and has put progressives and conservatives at odds when it comes to doctrinal issues. Chief among them remains the ordination of women as deacons, outreach to the LGBTQ community, the blessing of same-sex unions and conferring Holy Communion to divorced Catholics.

The process, at least this leg of it, has largely been shrouded in mystery after Pope Francis announced a media blackout — a papal gag order if you will — regarding what was discussed during many of the closed-door sessions.

The assembly will gather again in October 2024, where a final document is expected to be released and presented to Pope Francis for consideration.

“The process starts, really starts, at the end of the [whole] synod,” Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the synod’s relator general, told reporters on Saturday. “So even next year, I hope there will be a document that is a real document, where also some theological questions of synodality get considered and so on.”

The Vatican last Wednesday released a letter saying a “synthesis report” would be released ahead of next year’s final meeting in Rome. At that stage, the synod will present the pope with a series of recommendations.

“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,” the letter said.

That 41-page report, released on Saturday following a vote, noted there were what it called “divergences” on a number of issues.

Here’s what we learned from the month-long synod:

FEMALE deacons

While the ordination of women priests is off the table for the time being, one of the bigger questions the delegates debated was that of women deacons. Many delegates, both male and female, spoke out in favor of allowing women to enter the ministry.

The synthesis report asked for more “theological and pastoral research on the access of women to the diaconate” — including a review of the conclusions of commissions Pope Francis set up in 2016 and 2020.

That paragraph alone was approved by a vote of 279-67, which was more than the two-thirds support needed.

Among members of the synod, the report added, some thought the idea of women deacons would be a break with tradition.

“Others still, discern it as an appropriate and necessary response to the signs of the times, faithful to the tradition, and one that would find an echo in the hearts of many who seek new energy and vitality in the church,” the report said.

This comes as the pope, in remarks to delegates last week, called those in the church hierarchy who had abused their authority as having “macho and dictatorial attitudes.” Ridiculing priests who shop for expensive cassocks in Rome’s ecclesiastical tailor shops, he denounced clericalism, which is the practice of placing priests on a pedestal.

“Clericalism is a whip, it is a scourge, it is a form of worldliness that defiles and damages [the church],” Pope Francis said.

But traditionalist forces within the church don’t appear so convinced. Cardinal Robert Prevost, the head of the Vatican’s bishops office, said women had increasingly been given high-ranking roles within the church under this pontiff.

“I think there 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,” he said.

Reaching out to LGBTQ+ Catholics

While the pope had said on the eve of the synod that he was interested in having the church bless same-sex unions on a case-by-case basis, members spent the past month also discussing pastoral approaches to welcoming Catholics who have felt excluded in the past, including the poor, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ Catholics and Catholics whose marriages are not currently recognized by the church.

While the synthesis report did not use the terms “LGBTQ+” or “homosexuality,” it spoke in general terms about issues related to “matters of identity and sexuality.”

James Martin, a Jesuit priest and synod member involved in outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics, told Catholic News Service: “From what I understand, there was too much pushback to make using the term ‘LGBTQ’ viable, even though it was contained in the “‘Instrumentum Laboris’ or synod working document. This opposition came up often in the plenary sessions, along with others who argued from the other side, that is, for greater inclusion and for seeing LGBTQ people as people and not an ideology.”

The report, meanwhile, said that in order to “develop authentic ecclesial discernment in these and other areas, it is necessary to approach these questions in the light of the Word of God and Church teaching, properly informed and reflected upon.”

The report added: “In different ways, people who feel marginalized or excluded from the church because of their marriage status, identity or sexuality, also ask to be heard and accompanied. There was a deep sense of love, mercy and compassion felt in the assembly for those who are or feel hurt or neglected by the church, who want a place to call ‘home’ where they can feel safe, be heard and respected, without fear of feeling judged.”

Was it even a valid synod?

That’s the question some posed in the final week of meetings. In fact, some participants questioned whether it is a Synod of Bishops given that, for the first time in church history, lay members — including 54 women — will have a vote.

Pope Francis made the decision earlier this year to invite lay men and women to the gathering, conferring them almost a fifth of the vote.

Asked at a press briefing on Oct. 23 about whether the 364-member synod Synod on Synodality should be considered a Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna said he did not see an issue and that it would help establish a “closer connection” between the sides.

The Synod of Bishops, he continued, is “a consultative organ for the exercise of the papal ministry,” adding that lay ballots do not “diminish the weight of votes.”

Eastern rite and Orthodox delegates who participated have insisted that the assembly was not a synod as they understand it. Even the German bishops’ conference-backed news site Katholisch.de, which supports many of the positions championed by progressives, reported that “the legitimacy of the entire assembly” was questioned by some and that the meeting was “in danger of running into an ecclesiastical crisis.”

In an interview with the National Catholic Register with Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, a participant in the meeting and the Vatican’s former top official on church teaching, said the meeting was not a real synod because lay people took “away opportunities” from bishops to speak.

“All is being turned around so that now we must be open to homosexuality and the ordination of women,” he said in the interview, which was published on Saturday. “If you analyze it, all is about converting us to these two themes.”

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican synod ends with divide over women deacons and LGBTQ+

Pope Francis leads a prayer for migrants and refugees, part of the 16th general assembly of the synod of bishops, in front of Timothy Schmalz’s bronze sculptural complex ‘Angels Unawares’ in St. Peter’s Square at The Vatican on Oct. 19.

By and 

Days before the start of the most significant Catholic gathering since the 1960s, Pope Francis dropped a theological bomb. In a reply to conservative bishops concerned about his openness to the LGBTQ+ community, the 86-year-old pope effectively said he could envision priests, on a case-by-case basis, blessing same-sex couples if those benedictions fell short of the sacrament of marriage.

In the subsequent weeks, how and whether to welcome LGBTQ+ Catholics became, according to participants, the most contentious topic at the month-long synod that closed Saturday in Vatican City. Facing opposition from senior clerics from Eastern Europe, Africa, and elsewhere, the wording of a concluding report, with sections approved by at least a two-thirds majority of voting members, fell far short of the inclusive language used earlier by the pope himself.

The document failed to even mention the phrase “LGBTQ+,” as used in preliminary materials. The most it ventured to say was that “people who feel marginalized or excluded from the Church, due to their marital situation, identity and sexuality, also ask to be listened to and accompanied, and that their dignity is defended.”

It also lumps “sexual orientation” under a slew of ethical questions described as “new” and “controversial,” including artificial intelligence.

“We are a family and we must respect everybody’s pace,” Synod General Secretary Cardinal Mario Grech told reporters who questioned the synod’s position on homosexuality and other issues late Saturday. “We must journey together.”

The synod — a gathering of the church’s highest consultative body, which for the first time included lay people and women as voting members — is seen as a landmark moment in the church. Delegates arrived after broad consultations within regions and countries on the issues facing the church. They will now recess, consult with their local churches and reconvene next October before offering what is expected to be a final set of recommendations to the pope.

Delegates described a civil, constructive atmosphere in recent weeks, but also disagreements, including on the role of women in the church and the question of priestly celibacy. But the gulf over LGBTQ+ reception suggested the extent of the ideological rifts dividing a global church of 1.3 billion Catholics, as well as a challenging road ahead for Francis as he seeks to unify the faithful and cement his legacy in the latter stage of his papacy.

Going into the synod, conservative Catholics — particularly in the United States and Eastern Europe — had derided the event as a smokescreen for liberal reform, while progressives in Western Europe and elsewhere dared to hope that it could foster long-awaited changes in official teachings. But the caution indicated a high hurdle for liberals looking for rapid change.

“I’m a bit disillusioned,” said Rosanna Virgili, a theologian at the Rome-based Pontifical Lateran University. “It looks more like a rehash of Catholic doctrine.”

The synod called it “urgent” to ensure that women can participate in “decision-making processes and take on roles of responsibility in pastoral care and ministry.” But delegates were clearly split on how that should happen. There was no mention of women in the priesthood. The document did call for “theological and pastoral research” on women deacons to “continue.” But it noted opposition to even that step, saying dissenters “express the fear that this request is the expression of a dangerous anthropological confusion.”

The two paragraphs on female deacons — which failed to clearly back the idea — passed the synod’s two-thirds threshold with the lowest number of votes. The document also recommended that “adequately trained women” could be judges in canonical trials.

Differences also emerged on maintaining priestly celibacy, an issue of deep importance to Catholics in remote regions where clerics are in short supply. The synod’s conclusion was simply that the topic merited “further consideration.”

The pope has sent mixed signals on both topics. Ahead of the meeting, Francis said there was no “clear and authoritative doctrine” on the question, adding that it could be “a subject of study.” But in an interview published this year by two journalists, Francis, going deeper, appeared to find little rationale for ordaining women, or giving in to calls for married priests. In 2020, Francis ruled against allowing married priests in the Amazon region, which is suffering from a severe clerical shortage.

Vatican synods — held in the past with only bishops and cardinals as voting members — tend to convene two to three times per decade. But the two-year synod called by Francis is the most ambitious church summit since the Second Vatican Council of 1962 that ushered in major reforms including the Catholic Mass being celebrated in vernacular languages, rather than just Latin.

Several participants — speaking on the condition of anonymity due to Vatican requests that delegates keep the synod’s inner workings private — said no issue divided the consultative body more than the question of LGBTQ+ reception.

The same pope who made headlines in 2013 by saying, “who am I to judge?” when asked about gay priests, signaled an even wider door for the LGBTQ+ community ahead of and during the gathering. As the event approached, the pope issued a written response to concerned conservative bishops in which he affirmed that same-sex couples could receive Catholic blessings — but not the sacrament of marriage — on a case-by-case basis as determined by local church officials.

On Oct. 17, as the synod was in full swing, Francis symbolically welcomed Sister Jeannine Gramick to the Vatican. An American nun, Gramick was sanctioned in 1999 by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — the future Pope Benedict XVI — for her LGBTQ+ advocacy.

A week later, Francis met with a delegation from the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, an LGBTQ+ group.

Yet conservative bishops from Poland, Hungary, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Australia and elsewhere ardently rejected same-sex blessings, calling them tantamount to condoning “sin” and a “colonial” imposition from liberal Western Europeans. In public and private comments, they described homosexuality as “disgusting” and “unnatural.” Officially, Catholic teachings state that homosexuality is “intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law.”

One delegate, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish Bishop’s Conference, stood firmly by those teachings. He said in an answer to written questions from The Washington Post that he sometimes felt “the ‘non-Catholic’ voice was more audible than the ‘Catholic’ one” at the synod. He specifically called out the liberal German church — where priests are already blessing same-sex couples — for advocating reforms that “draw profusely from Protestant theology and the language of modern politics.”

He said that for LGBTQ+ people, a truthful “encounter with Christ” meant “a conversion, turning away from sin and adopting a lifestyle in accordance with the Gospel.”<

“Benedictions, or blessings of homosexual unions, would mean that the Church approves of the lifestyle of homosexual partnerships (even if it does not equate them with marriages), which also means sex between same-sex couples,” Gadecki wrote. “What has always been defined as a sin in the Judeo-Christian tradition would now become something positive.”

Liberal delegates sought to strongly counter those arguments. One delegate told a story of a woman who died by suicide after failing to obtain church absolution for being bisexual. Another delegate — the Rev. James Martin, an American priest who ministers to the LGBTQ+ community and was handpicked as a delegate by Francis — told a story of a longtime same-sex couple in which a man had painstakingly nursed his cancer-stricken partner before he died. He asked the synod to consider if that were not a genuine sign of “love.”

In an interview, Martin declined to confirm details of the synod debate, but said, “I’m disappointed not only that LGBTQ [people] were excised, but also that the discussions we had, which were passionate on both sides, were not reflected in the final document.”

“But I’m not surprised,” Martin said. “There was great resistance to the topic among many members.”

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic women speak up as ‘patriarchal’ Church debates its future

Supporters of Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) demonstrate near the Vatican

By Clément MELKI

“Ordain women priests!” Not far from the Vatican, where hundreds of Catholics have gathered to debate the future of the Church, purple-clad activists make their voices heard against the “patriarchy”.

The place of women in the Catholic Church — led for 2,000 years by a man, which outlaws abortion and female priests and does not recognise divorce — is one of the hot topics at the general assembly of the Synod of Bishops taking place over four weeks.

Women campaigning for change have come to Rome to make their case, from Europe and the United States but also South Africa, Australia, Colombia and India.

They have different backgrounds and diverse goals — not all want female priests, with some aiming first for women to become deacons, who can celebrate baptisms, marriages and funerals, although not masses.

But they are united in their frustration at seeing women excluded from key roles in what many view as a “patriarchal and macho” Church.

“The majority of people who support parish life and transmit the faith in families are women, mothers,” said Carmen Chaumet from French campaign group “Comite de la Jupe”, or the Committee of the Skirt.

“It is paradoxical and unfair not to give them their legitimate place.”

“If you go to the Vatican, to a mass, you see hundreds of men priests dressed the same way, and no women,” added Teresa Casillas, a member of Spanish association “Revuelta de Mujeres en la Iglesia”, “The Women’s Revolt in the Church”.

“I feel that men are the owners of God.”

– ‘Voting rights’ –

The Synod assembly, which runs until October 29, nevertheless marks a historic turning point in the Church, with nuns and laywomen allowed to take part for the first time.

Some 54 women — around 15 percent of the total of 365 assembly members — will be able to vote on proposals that will be sent to .

Vatican observers have called it a revolution. “A first step,” say campaigners.

Adeline Fermanian, co-president of the Committee of Skirt, said the pope had given “openings” on the question of ordaining women.

“He recognised that the questions has not been examined sufficiently on a theological level,” she said.

Since his election in 2013, Francis has sought to forge a more open Church, more welcoming to LGBTQ faithful and divorcees, and encouraging inter-faith dialogue.

He has increased the number of women appointed to the Curia, the central government of the Holy See, with some in senior positions.

But some campaigners see the changes as “cosmetic” reforms which hide a biased perception of women.

Cathy Corbitt, an Australian member of the executive board of umbrella group Catholic Women’s Council (CWC), said the inclusion of female voting members in the Synod was a sign of progress.

But she said the wider view of women in the Church was “very frustrating”, much of it taking inspiration from the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.

“The pope still seems to have this blind spot towards women… He seems to regard women in terms of a role, and it’s usually in terms of a mother,” she said.

– Resistance –

The Synod process is slow — the current meeting in Rome followed a two-year global consultation, and a second general assembly is planned for next year.

Regina Franken-Wendelsorf, a German member of CWC executive board, said women were hoping for concrete action.

“All arguments and requests are on the table. It’s now the Vatican and the Church who have to act!” she said.

While the Church debates, “there are collateral victims, frustration, Catholics who leave because they no longer feel welcomed”, added French campaigner Chaumet.

But just as Pope Francis faces resistance in his reform agenda, there is significant resistance to the women’s push for change.

“Some American bishops are afraid to follow the path of the Anglican Church,” which authorised the ordination of women in 1992, notes one Synod participant, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another senior Church member, who also asked not to be named, noted that pressure for reform was not equal from all regions of the Church.

“We must not forget that the Church is global,” he recalled. “There are expectations (among women) in Europe, but in Asia and Africa, much less.”