Pope Francis with female participants in the Amazon Synod

Catholic women say timid Amazon Synod opening to female deacons “unacceptable”, more needed

The Amazon Synod’s refusal to move forward immediately with the female diaconate is “unacceptable” and an “affront” to women, an influential Catholic women’s group has lamented.

Driving the news

Voices of Faith, a global group of religious and lay women leaders, experts and theologians, issued a press release on the Synod’s conclusion Sunday.

Although the women of Voices of Faith welcomed the Synod final document as a “promise of concrete renewal for the whole Catholic Church”, they said the text contained “one major exception: involvement of women in the Church ministry”.

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The big picture

In their final document, the Amazon Synod bishops voted to recognise “the ministeriality that Jesus reserved for women”.

They also pledged “to promote the formation of women in studies of biblical theology, systematic theology [and] canon law”, “valuing” the presence of women “in organisations and leadership within and outside the ecclesial environment”.

The bishops also asked that “properly trained and prepared women” be instituted in the official ministries of Lector and Acolyte.

That was “among other ministries to be developed” in the Church, such as, and particularly, a new official ministry of “woman leader of the community” that the bishops also asked for.

But the prelates stopped short of calling for the immediate ordination of women as deacons.

They called instead for the opportunity to share their “experiences and reflections” with the Commission on the female diaconate in the early Church that Pope Francis set up in 2016 and pledged at the weekend to reconvene in response to the Synod vote.

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Go deeper

Voices of Faith lamented that although the Synod final document “calls for new ways of involving women in leadership of local churches, it does not propose any concrete next step”.

“It stops short of any implementation, although history and law have given facts for the female diaconate”, the women denounced.

“No further discussion on it would be needed, just a simple implementation from the very top.

“The question to be asked is: why did the very concrete proposal to implement the female diaconate not make it into the final document if the majority of the bishops were in favor of it?”, Voices of Faith asked.

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Why it matters

Voices of Faith decried that the results of the Amazon Synod “show how difficult it is for the Church leadership to fully grasp the perspective of a woman’s experience”.

Although the Synod bishops voted for the ordination of married men to the priesthood, they didn’t extend those criteria to married men, the women’s organisation denounced.

“This is unacceptable and an affront to the women in the Amazon who are serving as deacons and priests already, and to women everywhere who have continued to serve faithfully, but are not recognized”.

On a practical level, Voices of Faith also bemoaned the fact that women still don’t have a vote at bishops’ synods, although male religious superiors general, who are not necessarily priests, do enjoy that privilege.

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“The exclusion of women from the voting members is putting the whole process of synodal discernment at grave risk”, Voices of Faith warned.

It added that the multiple events and petition it organised for votes for women at synods went ignored by the Vatican hierarchy.

“Our message is clear: how can we expect the inclusion of female experience in Amazonia, if they are not taken seriously in the structure of the synod itself?”, Voices of Faith lamented.

“Today we see how the everyday, courageous and dedicated experience of women who serve the Church and who have been doing the work of deacons for many years, has not been taken seriously”.

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What’s next

On the subject of the women deacons Commission the Pope promised to reactivate, Voices of Faith said more discussion isn’t necessary, and that already “all the historical evidences that are needed for the decision have been collected”.

“Today, Catholics around the world are asking the simple question, why do we need the commission to repeat the work that has already been done?”

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For the record

On the continuing exclusion of women from leadership and decision-making roles in the Church, the women of Voices of Faith pledged “we will not remain silent”.

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“The structures of power in the Church are shaped by the patriarchal mentality and historical forms of power known from feudal European societies”, the organisation said.

“Excluding the voice of women in the decision-making processes is unjust and against the most basic message of the Gospel, where all baptized daughters and sons of God are one and equal.

“Excluding the voice of women disables the Church of taking their experiences and vocations seriously.

“We do not need to think again about the special role of women in the Church, we just need to be finally treated with full dignity of baptized members of our community”.

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