I arrived in Rome today to begin my time reporting on the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (Oct 3 – 28) officially titled “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” That is probably the last time I’ll actually write it out since it is such a long title.
My plane landed too late to join Tina Beattie of Catholic Women Speak and Chantal Goetz of Voices of Faith and friends, for the book launch of Visions and Vocations, a collection of Catholic women’s voices across geographic, racial, and cultural divides, but here is Jamie Manson’s fine account of the event. I also understand video of the event will be available soon. And Tina will producing an hour long documentary of the event that will available to all.
Women are making herstory, here in Rome and across the world.
And it is clear that women like those who participated in this event should be part of our governing structure at the local, diocesan, regional, and Vatican levels. And certainly, at least half of the Synod body making policy decisions about young people in the Catholic Church should be women such as these.
Still, the twenty plus women who have been invited as auditors will not vote. In 2015, one non-ordained male religious superior was able to vote. This year there are two non-ordained male religious superiors voting. In September, Pope Francis made those voting powers official when he issued Episcopalis Communio. Following the logic, women religious superiors should also vote. But they won’t, at least not yet. That fact becomes harder and harder to justify since it exposes the discriminatory practices so prevalent that keep women at arms’ length when it comes to authority and policy making in the Church. But this too will pass.
The Synod will begin on October 3, 2018 with a papal mass. And the ongoing clergy sex abuse crisis will continue to shape how people view this gathering.
But the sparks are already flying at the press briefings. Today, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri called out Archbishop Charles Chaput for his public criticisms of the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document for the synod. As one reporter in the room said, C. Baldisseri was asked a question by a reporter, but answered with a surprising rebuke of Abp. Chaput. Apparently, there was some steam in the room as the secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops [Baldisseri] censured a member of the Synod council [Chaput] for grandstanding in public rather than working within the synodal process.
According to Joshua McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter, Baldisseri continued to chide Chaput saying that he [Chaput] should have spoken up while the text was being developed. “If he had some objections, he could have demonstrated them; we would have inserted them, calmly,” said Baldisseri. “I do not understand because then, afterwards, he makes a declaration.”
People like Cardinal Baldisseri are getting bolder as they square off against those in the old guard, like Archbishop Chaput, who are largely opposed to Pope Francis’ reforms and who seem to feel a new freedom to get their message out to their loyalists.
If you are interested in learning more about the synod process, here is a pretty good start.