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Connecticut’s 1st District Congressman John B. Larson, a Catholic Democrat, reflects on Pope Francis’ visit. Miriam Duignon, an organizer of the Women’s Ordination Conference’s recent Philadelphia convention, explores Pope Francis’ “blind spot” when it comes to ordaining women.
Shields, Bridges and Some Pretty Good Questions
October 5, 2015
Report from Rome
by Deb Rose-Milavec
Shields and Bridges
Not unexpectedly, a bridge-builder and a wielder of shields stood next to each other as the synod kicked off today.
Pope Francis launched the day building bridges and confidence among synod participants for undertaking the messy process of dialogue and discernment that lies ahead.
“In the Synod, the Spirit speaks by means of every person’s tongue,
who lets himself be guided by the God who always surprises, the
God who reveals himself to little ones, who hides from the knowing
and intelligent; the God who created the law and the Sabbath for man
and not vice versa; by the God, who leaves the 99 sheep to look for
the one lost sheep; the God who is always greater than our logic and
Urging a wholesome re-examination of pastoral practices, he encouraged the participants to be, “a Church that interrogates herself with regard to her fidelity to the deposit of faith, which does not represent for the Church a museum to view, nor even something merely to safeguard, but is a living source from which the Church shall drink, to satisfy the thirst of, and illuminate, the deposit of life.”
This genuine invitation to exploration and discernment of all things new was dampened shortly thereafter by the Relator General, Cardinal Peter Erdo as he wielded a firm defense of all things traditional in his 7300 word report. Making a strong case for safeguarding current teaching, his delivery sounded more like the close of the discussion rather than an opening — as if all the outcomes had been pre-determined.
During the press briefing later in the day with Cardinal Erdo, Archbishop Bruno Forte and Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, Cardinal Erdo was challenged several times regarding the finality he seemed to imply on the divorce and remarriage question. One journalist noted that section three of his report did not appear to be a summary of the Instrumentum Laboris as Erdo stated, but, “a stance, a clear stance.” Another asked if Erdo believed the Kasper proposal had lost all support. Erdo seemed to imply it was DOA at this point since there had already been much research on the Kasper model and many conferences on the topic since the 2014 Extraordinary Synod.
Listening to Cardinal Erdo, it would seem the deal is done and everyone should go home.
Of course, we still have Pope Francis.
This synod puts the prelates, especially those clinging to dogma, in a bind. All three Cardinals repeated the mantra, “doctrine cannot change,” a kind of lullaby that seems to calm their nerves while admitting they are here to make some sort of change.
Some pretty good questions
The whole premise of a synod with male celibate clerics making decisions about families was raised twice today, once in the synod press briefing and once at an evening gathering of German prelates and press.
At the synod briefing, an Irish journalist cited Mary McAleese’s recent observation, “…If I wanted expertise on the family, I honestly cannot say that the first thing that would come into my mind would be to call together 300 celibate males who, as far we know, have never raised a child….” He asked the for a response.
Clearly, they had some difficulty doing so. One could almost hear the gulping in the air as Cardinal Vingt-Trois offered the rather weak defense, “We are all members of a family. We have been born of a family. We have lived in the social fabric of a family. We do not live in a family life that is true, but that does not mean we don’t know what it means to be in a family. I do not think it makes what we have to say irrelevant. Neither our limits or weaknesses make us refrain from the task.”
Archbishop Forte followed saying, “We are pastors. We all have a previous experience of service for the church. We are close to the people through confession, daily life. These experiences are a proximity of people living in difficult situations.”
It was a kind of “the king has no clothes” moment, and one had to feel a bit sorry for the fellows. Nothing in their repertoire could help them credibly defend the indefensible process that we know as the synod on the family.
But later, the German prelates came clean on this question thanks to Gudrun Sailer from Radio Vatican. She asked if the panel thought the synod process should be modernized since only 2/3rds voted (male celibates) and 1/3, which includes laity and women did not vote.
Both Cardinal Marx and Bishop Franz-Josef Hermann Bode suggested the
process could and should be changed and that women should have greater decision making roles at the synod and in the Church.
Abbot Jeremias Schroder OSB, Archabbot President of the Benedictine Congregation of Sant’Ottilia, who was also on the panel, talked about the obvious lack of balance created when women are not included in the voting. He observed that three women religious, Sr.Sr. Maureen Kelleher, Sr. Carmen Sammut, SMNDA and Sister Berta María Porras Fallas had been invited as auditors, but had no vote when male superior generals like himself and even a religious brother, Hervé Janson, PFJ, Prior General of the Little Brothers of Jesus, would have a vote. At one point the Superior Generals discussed whether they should give over a number of voting seats to the women religious as a sign of solidarity. They ultimately decided against it, but what a witness that would have been!
The Francis strategy for change; a synod process loosed; and Durocher’s stunning proposal for women
October 6, 2015
Report from Rome
by Deb Rose-Milavec
There are days when you are sure God is having her way. Today was one such day at the synod.
The tone of the voices rising from the great marble synod hall could not have been more different from the tones heard yesterday.
Yesterday, stern warnings fell all around and weighed heavy on hopes for a more generous, just and compassionate Church. Today, elation and even laughter filled the air as we heard that participants talked about all that the Church could be if it dared to risk being one with the God of surprises; the God that is the living, loving source.
A Francis stragegy for change: Small groups will have a critical role in shaping the final document
Seven persons spoke during the daily press briefing about the activities of the morning, but it was Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, Archbishop Claudio M Celli and Fr. Thomas Rosica who really conveyed the sense of hope heard in the synod hall.
According to Rosica, Pope Francis had made the unusual move of intervening in the morning to stress the importance of small group input for fashioning the final document. All would begin with the Instrumentum Laboris but, because so many participants are new, the document’s final form was likely to change a great deal, a Francis signal that the process was wide open. He also stressed the synod was not a one-issue forum.
Interventions for justice and inclusivity
Seventy two Synod participants gave three-minute interventions today. Rosica summarized them and below are some of the most promising from his list.
• Exclusionary language is to be avoided. The Church should not pity gay persons, but recognize them for who they are: our sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, colleagues, friends, etc.
• The domination of men over women must be eliminated. For many women and children, home can be a dangerous place, but our Churches can also be dangerous places.
• We need to welcome the huge numbers of unbaptized and ask, “Are we the masters or the servants of the Eucharistic table?” We need a Eucharist that “is not a prize for the perfect, but nourishment for the weak.”
• The Instrumentum Laboris is too focused on the brokenness and not the joys of the family. We need a new anthropology where human nature is seen as good and beautiful and not fallen and broken.
• The family should teach the Church.
• On issues like divorce and remarriage, polygamy, and other cultural challenges, there is no universal solution. Instead there should be discussions and solutions at the regional and continental level.
• The Church should use form three of the general absolution as a clear signal for Catholics to “come home.”
The Synod discussions are not closed
Both Archbishop Celli and Archbishop Durocher stressed the fact that the synod was wide open to input. Durocher shared his view of the natural tensions between bishops.
One of the things that strikes me as I listen to the bishops, is their
awareness of the growing gulf between the culture of marriage
and the teaching of Jesus. Some fear we are losing our way so they
react by emphasizing Church teaching. Others fear we will lose
touch with people who live in the culture and that we will no longer
have an impact in the culture. The teaching of Jesus is a gift for the
world. So how on the one hand do you hold onto the truth but also
dialogue with the world to provoke interaction?
That is why this [synod process] is an important exercise. We need
to bring together those who fear losing the teaching and those who
want to find a way to enter into dialogue with this world.
The Big Finale: Women
During a 90 minute press briefing no one on the seven person panel mentioned the
proposal that Archbishop Durocher made on the synod floor regarding women deacons and expanding women’s roles, not even Archbishop Durocher himself. Omitting such an important story in a daily press briefing is difficult to understand.
But thank goodness, Carol Glatz of Catholic News Service broke the story. Here is the straight scoop.
Speaking to participants at the Synod of Bishops on the family Oct. 6, Archbishop Durocher said he dedicated his three-minute intervention to the role of women in the church — one of the many themes highlighted in the synod’s working document.
… he said the synod should reflect on the possibility of allowing for female
deacons as it seeks ways to open up more opportunities for women in church life.
Where possible, qualified women should be given higher positions
and decision-making authority within church structures and new
opportunities in ministry.
Discussing a number of proposals he offered the synod fathers
to think about, he said, “I think we should really start looking seriously
at the possibility of ordaining women deacons because the diaconate
in the church’s tradition has been defined as not being ordered toward priesthood but toward ministry.”
He reminded the synod fathers that in the apostolic exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” in 1981, St. John Paul II basically told the church that “we
have to make a concerted and clear effort to make sure that there is no
more degradation of women in our world, particularly in marriage. And I
Well, here we are 30 years later and we’re still facing these kinds of numbers.'”
He said he recommended one thing they could do to address this problem was, “as a synod, clearly state that you cannot justify the domination of men over women — certainly not violence — through biblical interpretation,” particularly incorrect interpretations of St. Paul’s call for women to be submissive to their husbands.
Read the whole article by Glatz. She also also interviewed the Archbishop later in the day.
This is a stunning event and a stunning proposal. FutureChurch, always working to expand the roles and ministry of women, is launching a petition to support Archbishop Durocher’s proposal during the synod and to make as many people aware of it as possible.
To read and sign the petition go to: http://action.groundswell-mvmt.org/petitions/ask-the-synod-on-the-family-to-consider-greater-roles-for-women-in-the-church
Finally, from friend Ann Bacon, comes this DailyNewsBin post by Bill Palmer, headline: “Pope Francis expected to fire the Archbishop who tricked him into meeting Kim Davis.” http://www.dailynewsbin.com/news/pope-francis-expected-to-fire-the-archbishop-who-tricked-him-into-kim-davis-meeting/22694/