More on who’s who in the small groups; Zilch on women’s full participation in English speaking small group reports; Cardinal cites Francis — no cosmetic changes for women

Finally, we have a list of the moderators.  Apparently the list of secretaries of each small language group has also come out and I will add those names on Wednesday.

I have been told by those who have a lot more pull than I that the list of all the members of the small groups “is not available.”   It is not clear why since those lists were available at the 2015 Family synod, but I wonder if there is an impulse to protect younger Catholics from undue media exposure. It is impossible to know right now, and my conjecture could well be the protective mom in me bubbling up.

Joshua McElwee of NCR was able to ascertain the names of some of the small group members.  And I also understand that Archbishop Charles Chaput, who has gone back to the states for a few days for the funeral of retired auxiliary bishop Louis DeSimone, is in Cardinal Blase Cupich’s group — and intereting dynamic.

Where ever I have found information about each group’s composition, I have included it below.

  • English Group A:  Cardinal Oswald Gracias
    • Secretary: Irish Archbishop Eamon Martin.
    • British Cardinal Vincent Nichols
    • Australian Archbishop Anthony Fisher
    • USA Bishop Frank Caggiano
  • English Group B:  Cardinal Blase Cupich
    • Secretary:  Australian Auxiliary Bishop Mark Edwards
    • Australian Archbishop Peter Comensoli
    • USA Archbishop Charles Chaput
  • English Group C:  Cardinal Joseph Coutts
    • Brother Alois of Taize
  • English Group D:  Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo
    • Secretary: USA Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron.
    • South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier
    • Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna
    • Philippines Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle
    • Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez
  • French Group A:  Archbishop David Macaire, OP
  • French Group B: Archbishop Bertrand Lacoombe
  • French Group C:  Cardinal Dieudonne NZapalainga, C.S.Sp.
  • Italian Group A:  Cardinal Angelo De Donatis
  • Italian Group B:  Cardinal Fernando Filoni
  • Italian Group C:  Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi
  • Spanish Group A:  Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodrigues Maradiaga
  • Spanish Group B:  Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer
  • German Group:  Archbishop Felix Genn
  • Portuguese Group:  Cardinal Joao Braz De Aviz
Zilch from English speaking groups on women’s roles in the Church

Small group reports today arrived today with a summary of the discussions in the first week. You can read them for yourselves here (along with the Pre-synod document and the Instrumentum Laboris or working document), but I have added some observations and bulleted highlights below.

It is interesting to see the variety of emphases coming from each group.

Still, I want to know if the groups are talking specifically about women’s participation, women’s rights, etc. in the Church.  In the summaries by the four English groups, it was not explicitly mentioned.  Still, Thomas Leoncini, an auditor from Italy who spoke at the press briefing on Monday, said women’s rights and participation are coming up in his group.

English Group A:  Cardinal Oswald Gracias

I find it really interesting to see the emphasis on “right and wrong” that came out on in this group’s report, although there is also language that suggests the Church should avoid a “moralistic or polemical approach” in offering young people reasons for hope. It also singles out Texas-based auditor Briana Santiago’s witness on the first day for praise.

  • The faith dimension of our reflections should be clearer illustrating that relationship is at the heart of all encounters with youth.
  • Language of the IL, paragraph 3, needs to be more decisive — not only recognizing and discerning spirits,” but also “– “choosing movements of the spirit of good and rejecting those of the spirit of evil” (EG 51).
  • The section on sexuality (IL 52-53) is “muddled” and should include “a proclamation of chastity, as achievable and good for our young people.”
  • Young people want to be active, part of the synodality of the church at all levels.
  • Child sexual abuse and the “shattered trust” cannot be “skimmed over.”

This report suggests the clergy sex abuse crisis can only healed by “walking more humbly,” and that, “holiness and fragility” are closely linked.

The report also offers one of the most memorable quotes to date for a Church crippled by clergy sex abuse  coverup.  “Trust arrives slowly, on foot, but Trust leaves on horseback!  Trust must be rebuilt, one person at a time.”

English Group B:  Cardinal Blase Cupich

This group offered an outreach plan for getting the synod messages out to young people.  It also offered a Francis-inspired take on content with a strong “don’t judge” emphasis.

  • Short weekly texts, videos, etc. on the messages coming out of the synod in order to reach youth prepared by two Synod fathers and two youth.
  • Honest, inspirational messages that say:
    • We want to listen to you
    • We are sorry for our failures
    • We love you and have faith in you
    • We want to walk with you in hope
  • Developing a study guide

In terms of content, they want the final document to:

  • Recognize the way young people are already agents of the Gospel
  • Uphold the many other forms of family in the world besides the nuclear and extended family.  Clerics should not deny these families.
  • Emphasize that young people are hungry and thirsty for true faith.
  • Include the need for friendship and community for young people.  It is missing from the IL and should be included in the final document.

English Group C:  Cardinal Joseph Coutts

Cardinal Joseph Coutts is from Pakistan, and to his surprise, was made a cardinal this past June.  Brother Alois of Taize is part of this group.

The report critiques Western cultural influences, focuses on traditional families, and lays out the concerns families face in terms of working outside the home, divorce, out migration in regions where employment opportunities are limited.  The report singles out the “emancipation” of Ukraine, where “half of families fail,…where fathers left for jobs…where young people have money, but are “social orphans”, and where people have “churches and parish priests, but not parishes.”

Here are some report highlights:

  • The fastest growing ecclesial movements referred to as “new movements” of traditional family-centered groups.
  • The problems in counties where children are often parents, or put into parental roles.
  • The need to define terms such as traditional family, nuclear family, extended family, non-traditional families, etc.  They suggest additions about the transmission of faith through families in IL 12.
  • There is a need for additions regarding intergenerational relationships.  The report critiques of “old age homes” as solutions for dealing with older generations.
  • The need for Catholic schools need to be affordable.  Also, education has become a tool of globalization.
  • The Holy Spirit is not mentioned at all but should be included.
  • There needs to be a prescriptive text saying the church is a school of discipleship.
  • Many youth don’t have access to internet.
  • Many people want the church to listen, not just young people.

English Group D:  Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo

Cardinal DiNardo’s group summarized their report with 7 points.

  1. The final document should begin with a Biblical icon, not sociological analysis.
  2. The opening of the IL is too negative.
  3. The IL is too Western.
  4. The final document should emphasis the desire of young people for mentors.
  5. The final document should bring all discussion about the digital culture under one heading.
  6. The final document should be more expansive in its treatment of the effects of clergy sex abuse.
  7. The final document should not downplay the authentic teaching mission of the Church.

I will explore some of the other language group summaries, and especially where there has been discussion of women’s participation and rights, in my reports in the next few days.

Cardinal quotes Pope Francis insistence  —  no cosmetic changes for women in the Church

Today, Cardinal Desire Tsarahazana of Madagascar, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of India, Cardinal Gerald Cypriaen Lacroix, I.S.P.X., of Quebec, and Sr. Nathalie Becquart of France summarized their experiences of the synod and answered questions.

One of the most interesting responses of the panelists was that of Cardinal Gracias who confessed that he was surprised by the number of young people who want better liturgies.

In 2015 and today, I have been surprised by how little sustained interest there is from the press corp regarding women’s full participation in the church.  So far this year, only Sheila Pires of Radio Veritas in South Africa and I have approached these questions.

So today, I posed my question to the panel asking how young women at the synod are addressing women’s participation in the Church and the lack of opportunities there given the growing opportunities for them in society.

I received three responses.

Sr. Nathalie Becquart 

At the Pre-synod meeting of the 300 young people, half were women. It was quite natural to be together.

Young women have expressed very strongly that nowadays in society they do not yet feel it is easy to have equal place. And also in the church I think that many young women express that it is difficult for them to imagine what could be their place. We discussed this topic in our small group. It is a question for discernment. It is not a question of the organization of power. Yes, young men and young women would like to be protagonists in decision-making, leadership, but it is more complex for young women because they do not have role models in their local church.

Now I hear and understand that it is a question for young men too.

Cardinal Lacroix

Among the young women at the synod, many are holding important responsibilities for episcopal conferences and in dioceses as youth ministers and in other important posts. There is a lot of joy to see that. They speak with authority. Two in our small group are from Africa. They are not just spectators but part of the parade and they have influence in their episcopal conferences.

Cardinal Gracias

It has come out very clearly that this is a concern. I know that Pope Francis has been insisting that there would not only be cosmetic changes but that women would be in roles of decision making.

In our bishops’ conference, when we worked for the protection of women in the workplace, we worked together with the women’s group. I felt that they were happy and satisfied, but we have not come to the end point. We must search for more possibilities about the involvement of women in the church, especially in positions of responsibility.

I appreciated Sr Nathalie’s observation that while both women and men want to be in decision-making roles, it is more difficult for women.  They face greater barriers.  And it is important that women like Sr. Nathalie help young women understand how our foremothers in faith shaped our tradition, and how women today should be confident in their baptismal claim to fully participate in all areas of church life, ministry, and governance.

Cardinal LaCroix’s response points to the general lack of imagination that surrounds the issue of women’s full and equal participation by those in governance.  While youth ministers have important influence, the issue of full participation in decision making and governance is not on the radar screen.  There is still an unquestioned assumption that ordination is the path to authority in the institution and that women will be assigned roles of influence but not decision making.

Cardinal Gracias’ animated response was hopeful.  He cited Pope Francis saying that we don’t want cosmetic changes, but changes in governance that include women in decision making roles.  The cardinal’s response also shows he is listening to women and wants to satisfy their call for progress in this arena.

Whether women in India are satisfied with the progress of the church is certainly another topic.  My colleagues there are undoubtably calling for more.

But at least the cardinal seems to be tuned in.  Let’s hope that is contagious here.

Deborah Rose-Milavec

Reporting from Rome