Women’s ordination advocates have blasted the Pope’s new Amazon Synod exhortation, labelling it “outdated”, “institutional sexism”, and a show of the “degradation” of and “discrimination” against women in the Church.

“Denies women their fullness in Christ”

Querida Amazonia… outlines four ‘dreams’ for the Church and the environment, leaving women and their dreams to the footnotes of the document and his papacy”, the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) deplored in a statement Wednesday after the release of the new papal document.

Denouncing the “outdated spousal metaphors” and “complementarian theology” the Pope uses in the document “to deny women their fullness in Christ”, the WOC decried that Francis once again “asserts [that] priestly identity remains in ‘the figure of a man'”.

“The Pope seemingly ignores the synod’s request for more study on the possibility of women deacons, and instead, in the face of sacramental scarcity, calls for prayer for male vocations to priesthood”, the WOC lamented.

“This shows, yet again, that a synod without the equal voice and votes of women will never produce fruit that satisfies the urgent needs of the people of God.

“Recognizing women’s work with diaconal ordination would be the first, most basic step towards righting the wrong of institutional sexism that hobbles our Church as it attempts to respond to the moral crises of our time”, the women’s ordination advocates argued.

“While the Women’s Ordination Conference applauds the Pope’s sincere concern for the global climate catastrophe and its particular threats within the Amazonian region, we find it problematic that the Pope fails to connect the degradation of the earth with the degradation of women in his own Church, and the similar power structures at play”.

“Perpetuates gender discrimination”

Also hitting out at the Pope’s apparent bypassing of the ordination of women called for by the participants in the Amazon Synod was the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

In its own statement, the Institute denounced that “the Pope’s refusal to consider the ordination of women rejects the explicit recommendation of the synod on the Amazon, where about 185 bishops recognised the reality on the ground that ‘the majority of Catholic communities are led by women’ and that ‘in a large number of these consultations, the permanent diaconate for women was requested'”.

The Wijngaards Institute called on the Pope to establish a new commission on the women’s diaconate “that is comprised of truly independent scholars recommended by international Catholic theological associations”, cautioning also “against allowing the Curia to handpick a group of academics known for their traditional views and hostility to women to decide on a new, restricted role for women that ensures they remain second class citizens”.

“The post-synodal document means that thousands of women, among them many women religious, will now continue to do the work to sustain the Church behind the scenes, still lacking official recognition, still denied the authority to act without the supervision of men”, the Institute lamented.

“Pope Francis’ decision perpetuates gender discrimination that denies women the dignity and respect to live out their vocations and be recognised as critical to the equal leadership of Church communities as the peers of, not servants of men”.

“Profoundly shocked and disappointed”

Other Catholic women criticising Pope Francis for the post-Amazon Synod exhortation included Catherine Pepinster, the English historian and former editor of Catholic newspaper The Tablet, who called it “grim” that the Pope had reaffirmed that “clericalism is automatically part of the priesthood”.

Linda Pinto, co-chair of CORPUS, a US-based Church reform group that also calls for the ordination of women, added that her group was “profoundly shocked and disappointed” at the Pope’s new document.

“We were hopeful that this process would begin a Vatican II approach to governance and that leadership would listen to the needs of the people,” Pinto told the National Catholic Reporter.

“One of our deep regrets is that this, like our culture, has devolved into an either/or, black or white, conservative or progressive fight, which loses the focus that this is about the needs of the people of God”.

“Extremely paternalistic”

Women’s ordination supporters in Germany, meanwhile, were also extremely disappointed with Querida Amazonia, with Catholic women’s rights group ‘Maria 2.0’ lamenting that the document showed the Church is incapable of reform.

Those who had hoped for new beginnings and renewal “must turn their backs on this Church disappointed” wrote the Church gender equality protest movement on Facebook.

Though it welcomed the Pope’s strong statements on the need for the care of the environment and the Church’s imperative to fully and authentically inculturate itself in the Amazon region, for example, the Catholic German Women’s Association (KDFB) expressed its disbelief in Francis’ assertions about women in the Church.

“The Pope’s statements in this regard are extremely paternalistic and disappointing”, denounced KDFB President Maria Flachsbarth.

Next on Novena:

Let us vote in Synods! Catholic women already fighting back in wake of Amazon exhortation disappointment

‘Querida Amazonía’: 7 of the Pope’s most powerful political statements, beyond the Church debates

Amazon Synod exhortation: Vatican cardinal insists Pope “has not resolved” questions of married priesthood, women’s diaconate

Amazon Synod exhortation: Vatican editorial director explains ‘no’ (for now?) to married priests, female deacons

In Amazon Synod exhortation, Pope puts need for greater Church “inculturation” above married priests, female deacons


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.