The Vatican considers a greater role for women “urgent”, but is committed to important issues | ET REALITY


A month-long meeting called by Pope Francis to determine the future of the Roman Catholic Church ended Saturday night with a document that said it was “urgent” for women to play a greater role, but postponed discussion of important issues such as the ordination of women as deacons and failed to address outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics.

Instead, Vatican officials sought to emphasize common ground during the meeting, which was characterized by liberals and conservatives alike as a potential culmination of Francis’ 10-year pontificate and the vehicle through which he could make changes.

Rather, it echoed another characteristic of Francis’ mandate: kicking the can down the road on important issues while seeking to build deeper support across the global church.

After the conclusion of the meeting, the Synod on synodality was convened, which Francis attended and had approximately With 450 participants (of whom 365 could vote), Vatican officials said they had decided to cut off the sources of tension: “divergences,” as the meeting called them.

Participants then voted on a document that represented “a church on the move,” said Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, one of the top officials at the meeting. “And that’s the important thing: we move.”

But progressives who had high hopes that the meeting would create real momentum for change said the final document had failed to move the institution at all. Before the meeting, a variety of sensitive topics were on the table, including blessing same-sex unions, reaching out to LGBTQ+ Catholics, and the possibility of allowing married men to become priests. Those basically disappeared.

Instead, the document said it was urgent that women have more responsibilities and a greater voice in the functioning of the church. However, when it came to women deacons, she said more “theological and pastoral” study was needed. He suggested that the work of two commissions created by Francis to study the female diaconate be re-examined and that the results be presented when the assembly reconvenes next year, “if possible.”

Even that mild language generated the most opposition of all the voted paragraphs in the document. A passage on women deacons was approved by 277 votes to 69 and another by 279 to 67.

“I am very surprised that so many people voted for it,” said Cardinal Hollerich, considered a liberal. “It means that the resistance is not as great as people thought before.”

A paragraph addressing clerical celibacy, an issue that requires further study, according to the document, also received substantial negative votes, but was approved by 291 to 55.

But some topics, such as reaching out to LGBTQ+ Catholics, something Francis has spoken about often in his 10 years as pope, were almost entirely removed from the final summary.

“I’m disappointed, but not surprised,” said the Rev. James Martin, an advocate for such outreach activities and a participant in the meeting. “Given the wide divergence of opinions that were expressed, I wish that some of the discussions, which were open, honest and extensive, had been included in the final synthesis.”

According to synod attendees, a church leader refused to sit next to Father Martin after he made positive comments about LGBTQ+ Catholics. The church leader He then grabbed his Synod-branded water bottle and left the room, according to one participant.

Father Martin declined to comment.

The church sees its future in Africa, and many bishops there tend to strongly oppose any opening to LGBTQ+ Catholics. According to some disappointed critics, that was part of the reason why fuller debates on those issues did not take place. The document asks the assembly of African bishops to study further “how to accompany people in polygamous unions that come closer to faith.”

However, Vatican officials who led the meeting tried to present it as a major step forward.

“We gained space,” said Cardinal Mario Grech of Malta, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, who emphasized that the meeting, while “a learning curve for all of us,” had been a first step in becoming a church in which clergy and laity worked more closely together. He said he believed participants would return to their local churches and continue conversations.

The assembly will meet again next October. At the end, participants will vote on another final document that will include recommendations to Pope Francis. He is expected to then release a major papal letter, possibly making concrete changes to church policy.

In recent years, the pope’s allies have heralded the meeting as a major event in Francis’s papacy, allowing for many previously taboo debates and opening many doors to possible changes. But as the meeting approached, Vatican officials attempted to manage expectations, trying to balance the hopes of liberals and the fears of conservatives.

On the day of the document’s publication, the conservative National Catholic Register published an interview with Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, a participant in the meeting and a former top Vatican official for church teaching, whom Francis fired in 2017. He complained that the meeting was not a true Synod of Bishops because lay people “took away opportunities” to the bishops to speak. and it was, instead, an amateur theological hour aimed at dismantling church teaching.

“Everything is changing and now we must be open to homosexuality and the ordination of women,” he said in the interview. “If you look at it, it’s all about converting us to these two issues.”

But on Saturday night, it was advocates for a church more open to LGBTQ+ people who were disappointed.

The Rev. Timothy Radcliffe, whom Francis had asked to provide spiritual reflections during the meeting, told reporters Friday that Catholics in different parts of the world had different priorities. He suggested that looking at the assembly with “huge expectations of change” was “perhaps not always looking for the right thing.”

But others noted that very few Catholics had actually weighed in on the issues to begin with.

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, noted earlier in the week that less than 1 percent of the world’s 1.375 million Catholics had participated in the survey that led to this month’s meeting.

“We have to find ways to attract more people to participate,” he told reporters at the Vatican.

Francis and his allies have argued that the most important part of the meeting was the process of working together, and that senior clerics needed to listen to laypeople on issues arising from the Catholic grassroots.

The Pope closed the meeting by thanking the participants and reminding them that daylight saving time would come into effect overnight. “Don’t forget to turn your clocks back,” he said.

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