October 6, 2018

Who’s Who at the Synod; The Pope Parties; Catholics in THE CLE say “Time’s Up”

I know I can be a geek when it comes to details and process. I love getting underneath the generalities, deep into the particulars. I want to know — who said what — who really cares — who is clueless — who is arrogant — who is hard hearted, etc. You get my drift. I love understanding the particulars of the people chosen because it makes all difference.

In the case of Archbishop Charles Chaput, for instance, it matters that he has so much authority as one of the members of the permanent planning council. You may remember that he was surprisingly rebuked by Cardinal Baldisseri, head of the Synod of Bishops, for criticizing the working document, the Instrumentum Laboris when according to Baldisseri, he had plenty of chances to influence the language.

Beyond that, Abp.Chaput is a blustery voice for cultural conservatives in the U.S. and abroad. He is skilled and sleek in his delivery, but his message is anathema to the message of a radically loving and welcoming Jesus and to the God Jesus knew so well.

New Ways Ministry, always one of the best news sources when parsing and interpreting Vatican-speak or bishop-speak on everything LGBTQI, was clear about the damage done to LGBTQI Catholics by bishops like Archbishop Chaput. And while I certainly could be reading too much into the reporting, these days even sources like Catholic News Service seem to be furrowing their brow at some of his harsh rhetoric, so out of step with the wide-armed, welcoming Francis.

In Abp.Chaput’s intervention at the Synod he made a couple of knuckle busting generalizations:

1.) Youth are in trouble because adults are lazy.

The elders of the faith community have the task of passing the truth of the Gospel from age to age, undamaged by compromise or deformation. Yet too often my generation of leaders, in our families and in the Church, has abdicated that responsibility out of a combination of ignorance, cowardice and laziness in forming young people to carry the faith into the future. Shaping young lives is hard work in the face of a hostile culture. 

2.) The Church has it right when it comes to defining sexuality, individuals, and groups.

. . . what the Church holds to be true about human sexuality is not a stumbling block. It is the only real path to joy and wholeness. There is no such thing as an “LGBTQ Catholic” or a “transgender Catholic” or a “heterosexual Catholic”, as if our sexual appetites defined who we are…

While it could be said that the archbishop is part of the “listening church,” it seems truer that he listens so he can correct, a position taken by too many prelates who imagine that wisdom, teaching, and the heart of the Holy Spirit only flows in one direction — from the top down.

It will be interesting to see who joins the archbishop in his small group. At the 2015 Family Synod, auditor Sr. Maureen Kelleher was part of his small group and described a difficult experience with dismissive prelates who proffered “condescension so heavy, you could cut it with a knife.”

It looks like Catholic youth, adults, and LGBTQI Catholics will be getting more of the same this year from his quarter.

Who’s Who at the Synod

I am grateful to Luke Hansen, SJ, whose appreciation for detail is so helpful for all of us who want to understand who is in the synod hall and who is debating the future of the Church.

Voting Members

Voting Members from the USA (12)

  • Auxiliary Bishop Robert BARRON (Los Angeles)
  • Bishop Frank J. CAGGIANO (Bridgeport)
  • Archbishop Charles Joseph CHAPUT, O.F.M. Cap. (Philadelphia)
  • Cardinal Blase J. CUPICH (Chicago)
  • Cardinal Daniel N. DiNARDO (Galveston-Houston)
  • Cardinal Kevin Joseph FARRELL, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life
  • Archbishop José GÓMEZ (Los Angeles)
  • Brother Robert SCHIELER, F.S.C., Superior General of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (Lasalians, De La Salle Brothers)
  • Father Robert STARK, S.S.S., Director of the Office for Social Ministry (Honolulu)
  • Cardinal Joseph W. TOBIN, C.SS.R. (Newark)
  • Metropolitan Archbishop William Charles SKURLA of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, President of the Council of the Ruthenian Byzantine Church (born in Duluth, based in Pittsburgh)
  • Bishop Abdallah Elias ZAIDAN of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles of the Maronite Church (born in Lebanon, based in St. Louis)

Voting Jesuits (9)

  • (Special Secretary) Father Giacomo COSTA, S.J., Director of the journal Aggiornamenti Sociali, President of the Fondazione Culturale San Fedele, Vice President of the Fondazione Carlo Maria Martini(Italia)
  • (Secretary of the Commission for Information) Father Antonio SPADARO, S.J., Director of the journal La Civiltà Cattolica(Italia)
  • Cardinal Luis LADARIA FERRER, S.J., Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Metropolitan Archbishop Ján BABJAK, S.J. (Prešov, Slovakia) of the Slovak Byzantine Catholic Church
  • Archbishop Joseph ATANGA, S.J. (Bertoua, Cameroon)
  • Archbishop Alojzij CVIKL, S.J. (Maribor, Slovenia)
  • Archbishop Jean-Claude HOLLERICH, S.J. (Luxembourg)
  • Father Arturo SOSA ABASCAL, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus
  • Father Michael CZERNY, S.J., Undersecretary of the Section on Migrants and Refugees in the Dicastery for Integral Human Development (Vatican City)

Voting Brothers (Non-Ordained) (2)

  • Brother Ernesto SÁNCHEZ BARBA, F.M.S., Superior General of the Marist Brothers of Schools (Little Brothers of Mary) (Mexico)
  • Brother Robert Irvin SCHIELER, F.S.C., Superior General of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (Lasalians, De La Salle Brothers) (USA)

Other Notable Voters

  • Cardinal Oswald GRACIAS (Bombay, India), President of the Indian Bishops’ Conference
  • Cardinal Reinhard MARX (Munich und Freising, Germany), President of the German Bishops’ Conference
  • Cardinal Oscar RODRÍGUEZ MARADIAGA, S.D.B. (Tegucigalpa, Honduras), coordinator of the Council of Cardinals (C9)
  • Cardinal Christoph SCHÖNBORN, O.P. (Vienna, Austria), President of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference
  • Cardinal Luis Antonio G. TAGLE (Manila, Philippines)
  • Cardinal Peter TURKSON, Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development (Vatican City)
  • Archbishop Matteo ZUPPI (Bologna, Italia), wrote the forward to the revised and updated Building a Bridgeby James Martin

Non-Voting Participants

Non-Voting Jesuits

(Collaborators of the Special Secretary)

  • Father Carlo CASALONE, S.J., Member of the scientific section of the Pontifical Academy for Life (Italy)
  • Father Juan Pablo HERNÁNDEZ DI TOMASO, S.J., Director of the Association Pietre vive(Spain)


  • Father Juan Jorge BYTTON ARELLANO, S.J., Chaplain of the Catholic University and consultor of the Bishops’ Conference for the young (Peru)

(Members of the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops)

  • Father Raffaele LANZILLI, S.J., assistant for Christian Life Communities (lanzilli.r@gesuiti.it)
  • Father Pablo MORA, S.J., Collaborator in formation and pastoral methods of Red Eclesial Panamazónica (REPAM), lives in Puerto Maldonado (Peruvian Amazon) (pamome2009@hotmail.com)

Non-Voting USA Auditors

  • Sister Sally HODGDON, C.S.J., Superior General of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery (the US Province is located in West Hartford, Connecticut), Vice President of the Executive Committee of the UISG

http://www.internationalunionsuperiorsgeneral.org/uisg-board-2016-2019/ https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/515/article/their-hairdresser-knows

  • Mr. Jonathan LEWIS. The Vatican lists him as the Assistant Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington, but the Archdiocesan website says he is the Executive Director of Evangelization, Young Adult Ministry, and Chaplaincies.


Catholic U alumni spotlight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmm0PSbzY4w

  • Father Robert PANKE, Rector of the St. John Paul II Seminary (Washington, DC), Director of Clergy Formation, Archdiocese of Washington



  • Sister Briana SANTIAGO, a member of the Apostles of the Interior Life and a student at the Pontifical University of St. John Lateran in Rome. She participated in the pre-Synod meeting for young people in March. She was born in San Antonio and graduated from Texas A&M University (2013) with a BA in English Literature and a minor in Italian.



  • Ms. Yadira VIEYRA, immigration research specialist (Early Childhood Projects) in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. She is a graduate of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School (Chicago, 2007) and Georgetown University (2011) where she majored in both Psychology and Theology and minored in Women and Gender Studies.


(Assistant of the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops)

  • Fr. Russell WARD, L.C., a member of the Legion of Christ and (at least according to Facebook) the Dean of Students at the Sacred Heart Apostolic School in Rolling Prairie, Indiana


(Fraternal Delegate of the Ecumenical Patriarch)

  • His Eminence Metropolitan NIKITAS (Lulias) of the Dardanelles(born in Tampa), a member of the faculty of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, an affiliate of the Graduate Theology Union in Berkeley, California



Non-Voting Notables

(Collaborator of the Special Secretary)

  • Dr. Filipe ALVES DOMINGUES, journalist and doctoral student in social science at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (Brazil)

(Collaborator of the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops)

  • Deacon Guido AMARI (Great Britain), the only deacon on the Synod roster

Non-Voting Women (36 total)

23 Sig.a

8 Rev.da Suora (Sisters)

2 Dott.ssa

2 Prof.ssa

1 Rev. (WCC delegate)

(Collaborators of the Special Secretary) (4)

  • Ms. Margherita ANSELMI, Membro dell’Azione Cattolica Italiana, Libero Professionista Progettista sociale (Italia)
  • Sister María Luisa BERZOSA GONZÁLEZ, F.I., Scuola cattolica ed educazione popolare, Direttrice di “Fe y alegría” (Spagna)
  • Professor Cecilia COSTA, Docente di Sociologia presso l’Università Roma Tre (Italia)
  • Professor Chiara GIACCARDI, Docente di Sociologia e processi culturali e comunicativi presso l’Università Cattolica di Milano (Italia)

(Auditors) (25)

  • Ms. Federica ANCONA, Associazione “Nuovi Orizzonti” (Italia)
  • Sister Nathalie BECQUART, Ex-Direttrice del Servizio nazionale per l’Evangelizzazione dei giovani e per le vocazioni della Conferenza Episcopale Francese (Francia)
  • Ms. Emilie CALLAN, Membro della Fondazione cattolica Salt and Light Catholic Television Network(Canada)
  • Ms. Henriette CAMARA, Membro degli Scout cattolici (Guinea)
  • Sister Chaoying (Suor Teresina) CHENG, Studentessa di Teologia, Collegio Missionario “Mater Ecclesiae” di Castel Gandolfo, Suora della Madre del Signore di Daming-Hebei (Cina)
  • Ms. Carina Iris ROSSA, Membro del Consiglio Direttivo della Fondazione Pontificia Scholas Occurrentes (Argentina)
  • Sister Sally Marie HODGDON, Superiora Generale delle Suore di San Giuseppe di Chambéry, Vice Presidente del Comitato Esecutivo della UISG (Stati Uniti d’America)
  • Ms. Anastasia INDRAWAN, Membro della Commissione per i Giovani della Conferenza Episcopale (Indonesia)
  • Ms. Marie Joannie Ornella JEAN-PIERRE, Operatrice di pastorale giovanile, Conferenza Episcopale dell’Oceano Indiano (Maurizio)
  • Ms. Desfortunées KUISSUK FEUPEUSSI, Membro del gruppo di giovani di Douala, Comunità Emmanuel (Camerun)
  • Sister Mina KWON, Congregazione delle Suore di San Paolo di Chartres – Direttrice e counselor presso la Catholic University di Daegu, responsabile delle Juniores della Provincia religiosa di Daegu (Corea)
  • Ms. Marguerite-Marie LE HODEY, Membro dell’Associazione Mondiale delle Imprese Familiari – FBN (Belgio)
  • Ms. Merveille MANTANTU VITA, Operatrice di pastorale giovanile, Conferenza Episcopale (Rep. Democratica del Congo)
  • Ms. Cherylanne MENEZES, Responsabile della Comunità del Movimento dei Focolari a Mumbai (India).
  • Ms. Corina Fiore MORTOLA RODRÍGUEZ, Docente di Canto per Teatro Musicale, Guadalajara (Messico)
  • Sister Lucy Muthoni NDERI, F.M.A., Operatrice pastorale per giovani in difficoltà sociale e bambini di strada, educatrice in casa famiglia (Kenya)
  • Ms. Nicole Anne C. PEREZ, Giovane impegnata nella catechesi (Filippine)
  • Ms. Oksana PIMENOVA, Segretaria del Comitato esecutivo degli Incontri giovanili nell’Arcidiocesi di Madre di Dio a Mosca (Federazione Russa).
  • Ms. Tahiry Malala Marion Sophie RAKOTOROALAHY, Presidente Nazionale degli Studenti Cattolici (Madagascar).
  • Ms. Silvia Teresa RETAMALES MORALES, Membro dell’Osservatorio Socio-Pastorale dei Giovani (Cile).
  • Ms. María José ROJAS TROCELLIS, Direttrice Esecutiva del Dipartimento Adolescenti e Giovani della Conferenza Episcopale (Venezuela)
  • Sister Briana Regina SANTIAGO, Apostole della Vita Interiore (Stati Uniti d’America)
  • Sister Alessandra SMERILLI, Docente di Economia presso la Pontificia Facoltà di Scienze dell’Educazione Auxilium; Membro del Comitato scientifico e organizzatore delle settimane sociali dei cattolici – CEI (Italia).
  • Ms. Yadira VIEYRA, Ricercatrice e Assistente per famiglie immigrate (Stati Uniti d’America)
  • Ms. Viktòria ŽOLNOVÀ, Group leader and volunteer for youth (Slovacchia)

(Members of the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops) (3)

  • Dr. Federica VIVIAN
  • Dr. Cristiane MURRAY

(Collaborators of the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops) (2)

  • Ms. Cristina CELDRÁN ALCOBAS, Conferenza Episcopale Spagnola (Spagna)
  • Ms. Allyson KENNY, Salt and Light Catholic Television Network(Canada)

(Fraternal Delegate of the Lutheran World Federation) (1)

  • Ms. Julia BRABAND, Membro del Comitato dei Giovani della LWF del Comitato nazionale tedesco (Germania)

(Fraternal Delegate of the World Council of Churches) (1)

  • Rev. Martina Viktorie KOPECKÁ, Member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, Chairperson of the ECHOS Commission on Youth for the World Council of Churches, member of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church (Czech Republic)



Other Notes

“Synod Fathers” who are not bishops: 16 priests, 8 superior generals, 8 papal nominees, and 2 brothers (both superior generals). The papal nominees include Fr. Robert Stark (Honolulu) and three Jesuits (Giacomo Costa, Antonio Spadaro, and Michael Czerny). Arturo Sosa is among the superior generals.

Auditors: 25 men (6 priests, 19 lay) and 25 women (7 sisters, 18 others)

Complete list of the Synod members and participants: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2018/09/15/0644/01374.html

I will return to this list and other lists, along the way, especially as we hear particular interventions and contributions. But for now, peruse away!

The Pope Parties

Pope Francis met with young people yesterday for a big party at Paul VI hall. Here is a link to some video from Vatican News.

No matter how short he falls in terms of policy for those excluded from the Church, my heart just bursts with the beauty of witnessing how he is loved and how he enjoys and loves others.

“Time’s Up” in THE CLE

Back at the ranch, associate director Russ Petrus is leading another band of reformers. Catholics from the Cleveland Diocese came out to pray and demonstrate for victims and survivors of clergy sex abuse, and to continue to hold our leaders accountable for covering up that abuse. Here’s his report.


Rain couldn’t keep a small, but passionate, group of some of Cleveland’s bravest Church reformers from turning out at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist to pray for justice for victim-survivors of clergy abuse, transparency from the hierarchy, accountability for abusers and those who covered up abuse, as well as desperately needed reforms to dismantle both clericalism and patriarchy. As the prayer service began with the opening song, Christ Be Our Light, the rain stopped and the clouds scattered, giving way to bright sunshine – a sure reminder that God was with them and listening as they lifted up their prayers and hopes for a more just, healthier and holier Church. A powerful witness, the group raised their hand in blessing over the cathedral – as a sign of the entire Church in Cleveland – and prayed:

O God of compassion, open our ears, to hear and respond with love to the anguished cries of victim-survivors of clergy sex abuse.        

O God of vision, open our eyes, to see clearly the systems and structures that that sustain injustice and envision a bold way forward to becoming your Holy People. 

O God of truth, open our lips, to speak the truth to all and especially to power — plainly and without impediment: the truth about clergy sex abuse, about the cover up, about our experience. 

O God of creation, open our hands, to courageously take up the difficult, prophetic work you set before us and work to build your reign of truth, justice, and love. 

The prayer service in Cleveland is part of a nationwide effort, “Time’s Up: Catholics Demand Truth,” sponsored by several Church reform organizations including FutureChurch. The groups are organizing and supporting similar prayer vigils and protests in cities throughout the country on the first weekend of each month September through February, when the presidents of each of the world’s national conferences of bishops will gather in Rome to meet with Pope Francis.

To learn more about the effort, to find other witnesses, or to download a kit to organize your own witness, visit www.catholictoo.org.  ~ Russ Petrus

That is it for Saturday. Everyday is a gift because of Catholics like you.  Please remember to support this work in whatever way you can.

Reporting from Rome

Deborah Rose-Milavec

October 5, 2018

Clerics Note Seismic Shifts in Nuns’ Protests in Kerala; A Steep Learning Curve as Young Catholics Keep Speaking Up;  Seeking Assurances on Chastity Rules

Along with the usual crowds of tourists, ticket hawkers, and speeding taxis, several important events took place in Rome, today.

At an early event at the Center for Child Protection, some touted a new program meant to curb clergy sex abuse worldwide.

At the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome, the Center for Child Protection, founded in 2012 and headed by Jesuit Hans Zollner, also a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, launched a new master’s program in child protection. With only a diploma program until now, this is an important extension of their work to build a cadre of experts worldwide.

During the launch, Zollner registered the seismic shift occurring around the world as women, even in very traditional regions, have begun to claim their own authority over clergy sex abuse by naming prelates who, historically, have been able to keep such crimes under wraps.

Pointing to the case of the public protest by women religious in Kerala in the face of the alleged rape of one of their sisters by a bishop who has now been arrested, Zollner observed, “Even more surprising somehow, there were women in Kerala, of all places, that were protesting and marching in support of the religious sister. Even two years ago, you could not imagine such a thing.”

Zollner acknowledged male clerics face “a steep learning curve” saying that, in the future, the program will have to address the full complement of prejudices that create the foundation for this rape culture.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, also a panelist, continued in a similar vein observing that women themselves are producing the change by taking a revolutionary stand. Referring what was happening at the Synod, Marx said that the bishops can also see that women are coming together and saying, “What is this here? We don’t accept this any longer.”

Some have suggested that he may have also been thinking about our “Let Women Vote” protest in front of the Synod where police strong armed our colleagues. Maybe so!

Seeking Assurances on Chastity Rules

Yesterday, on the opening day of the Synod, Briana Regina Santiago from Texas told the Synod leaders that young Catholics “should be met where we are – intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, socially and physically.”

Today, eight young Catholic auditors spoke along twenty bishops and the Prior of Taize, Brother Alois.

The theme of listening to young people came through again and again.

Citing some of the speakers, Vatican Radio reported, “Young people want to have an adult who will listen to them, dedicate their time to them, welcome them with empathy and respect, accompany them in their discernment—even with regard to their vocation—and not judge them.”

At the press briefing, Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of Communications, gave the daily report. He was accompanied by Archbishop Manuel Ochogavía Barahona, O.S.A. of Panama; Archbishop Anthony Colin Fisher, O.P. of Australia; and Ms. Tahiry Malala Marion Sophie Rakotoroalahy, auditor, national president of Catholic Students in Madagascar.

Along with the emphasis on becoming a listening church, addressing matters of sexuality and especially focusing on pre-marital sex were discussed. Ruffini pointed out that young people were quite forthright. Young auditors explained that by pressing Catholic rules about pre-marital sex, the Church may indeed pressure people to marry before they are ready. Noting the normalcy of sexual intimacy, especially in long term relationships, young adults cautioned clerics about pressuring young Catholics into chastity or abstinence. The result may well be that these Catholics will walk away from the Church altogether.

In response to Ruffini, during the Q & A, conservative Italian journalist, Sandro Magister, in a booming voice asked, “Does that mean the Catholic Church is going to change the teaching on pre-marital sex?”\

Australian Archbishop Fisher’s response was a short “no”, but a few muffled laughs could be heard in the room as the archbishop smiled him down.

The archbishop from Panama talked about the Preferential Option for the Young noting that the whole church should accompany young people with compassion through their suffering.

The final speaker, Tahiry Malala Marion Sophie Rakotoroalahy, spoke forcefully about the need to include young people in leadership roles. She also spoke about the need to improve liturgies and homilies so that young people are attracted to the church.

During the Q & A, one reporter asked if the role of women was being examined in the synod hall.

Ruffini stated that the topic was certainly being discussed. While qualifying his response and noting the difficulties of discussing women’s roles in a variety of contexts and cultures, he made it clear that those at the synod believe women must be incorporated more fully into decision making roles within the Church.

When another reporter asked if LGBT issues had been discussed, Ruffini said that they had not been discussed yet.

Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service, who always seems to hone in on the question everyone is asking, inquired about Archbishop Fisher’s first person apology to youth that day referring to clergy sex abuse and other failures of the Church.

Fisher replied, “I was very aware that in my context, that there are lot of young people hurting or who were young when they were hurt. Trust has been terribly damaged. The church needs to speak directly to them, how sorry we are, how much we want to help, and how to go forward.”

Fisher went on to share his shame at not making the church “the safest place for young people.”

I have to admit that tears filled my eyes as he spoke. People who are authentic, honest, and who embody real humility have the power to break into our pained hearts and heal a bit of the hurt lodged so deeply there. If all our bishops follow suit, we would have a church that is safe for everyone, including children, women, and LBGTQI people.

It is clear that young people are speaking up. We can only guess if the bishops will listen and act. But it is clear that if they seek a more vibrant church, they have no other real choices.

Report by:

Deborah Rose-Milavec

October 4, 2018

Superimposing Images; A Woman at the Center; Women carry out their own synod

At the first press briefing for the Synod, the optics were impressive — an image that reminds me of group photos that project an image, but hardly communicates the whole story.

The Synod briefing process has historically been informed by prelates, seated on stage in their finery.

But today, it included four lay persons, with one woman seated center stage, and one archbishop seated to the far right.  

An impressive group photo indeed.

Giving their comments on the happenings of the Synod today were Joseph Cao Huu Ming Tri of Saigon, apparently the youngest participant at the Synod; Chiara Giaccardi, a professor of Media Sociology and Anthropology, who has been appointed as a collaborator of the special secretary; Paolo Ruffini, the first lay appointed prefect of a Vatican dicastery, the Dicastery for Communications; and, Archbishop Carlos Jose Tissera of Quilmes, Argentina.  Greg Burke (to the far left), who is the lay director of the Holy See Press Office, was also on stage taking questions and directing traffic.

We learned that there were 27 presentations given with spaces for quiet reflection after every 5 or 6.  There was only one presentation given by a young Catholic, and that looks to be the pattern for the next several weeks.

The press briefing presentations were pretty standard fare with the most passionate response coming from Chiara Giacarrdi, who spoke of the urgent need for reform in the Church and in the synodal process.

Professor Giacarrdi spoke of the “Copernican Revolution” that the church is undergoing.  She noted the significance of a conversion of becoming a listening Church.

This Copernican revolution “starts by listening to real things”, stated Giacarrdi.  She was emphatic in her belief that it is “pointless to talk about ideals, but the real church.”   For Giacarrdi, the only authority is concrete realities.  By talking about them the Church can avoid dualistic thinking that separates us from each other and from ourselves.

On that list of concrete experiences that should serve as the foundation for all synod discussions are

  • The points of views of migrants who “have to accept jobs that are humiliating.”
  • Sexuality – not as an enemy of person – as a dimension of the human life that needs to be cultivated.
  • The training of priests
  • The diversifying of decision making authority within the Church

Giacarrdi finished with a call to let young people be the authors of their lives, to let our language betray the beauty of our love for each other, and to find concrete ways to incorporate the authority of young women and men in church decision making bodies.

For Giacarrdi, only when we infuse the Church with the fresh thinking and fresh faith of our younger adults will the Church be rejuvenated.

The question and answer period, usually the most interesting part of any press briefing, yielded a few really good questions.

Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service asked if clergy sex abuse was a major theme throughout the day.

Paolo Ruffini answered that it was one of the themes, but not the main theme.  He said, the “theme of betrayal” came up, but it included, not only clergy sex abuse, but our failure to support and welcome migrants.  Ruffini suggested that the most moving portraits were those given by migrants who face desperate conditions.

He said that many in leadership admitted that the Church “has not done enough” to overcome its failings in the clergy sex abuse and cover up scandal or in prioritizing the needs of migrants.

He emphasized, “We need for forgiveness for failing to understand.”

He also emphasized that the synod should not be an attempt to “domesticate the young” but to let their voices and experiences inform every aspect of the final document.

Discerning Women:  Voices Outside the Synod

Kate McElwee, Executive Director of Women’s Ordination Conference organized another synod panel — this one with four women — meant to show there is another, better way to “dream the future for Catholics.”

The panelists included Jamie Manson, columnist for the National Catholic Reporter; Zuzanna Radzik, a Catholic theologian and journalist from Warsaw, Poland; Paola Lazzarini, Ph.d., a sociologist and journalist who wrote the “Manifesto for Women for the Church (Donne Per La Chiesa)”; and, Jacqueline Straub, journalist from Germany who spoke about her calling to be a priest.

The panel discussed some of the issues particular to their regions while taking up larger issues such as the inequality that serves as the foundation for the Church’s teaching on complementarity.  A common theme was the alienation of women from the Church and the efforts being made to overcome that alienation by creating new, safe places of refuge and nurture for all those who have been pushed out.

All four women are, “Staying in but speaking out”, a social media campaign that has been gaining strength as women call for equal access to decision making bodies at the synod and elsewhere.

Let’s face it, even if the optics at the press briefings are superimposed to make the synod look more legitimate, what matters is who decides and what is decided.
And if Pope Francis and his allies are serious about the needs of our youth, they will tap into the wisdom of women, young and old, calling them back, even as they turn their backs on an institution that has too often betrayed them.
Just as we have learned from our foremothers in faith, we will continue to shape our tradition with love and wisdom. And yes, we will carry on with with the determination of Mary of Magdala and Catherine of Siena, crying out the Good News that women can and do claim their call to share all their gifts with God’s beloved people.

Report by:

Deborah Rose-Milavec
Executive Director

October 3, 2018

Prelates Come Marching In, Women Sing, Police Strong Arm

This afternoon about 20 women and men met to practice our singing and chanting for a planned protest at the Synod gates.

Organized by the ever creative Kate McElwee of Women’s Ordination Conference, we wanted to send a clear message that women should be voting members of the Synod, part of the “Votes for Catholic Women” campaign.

Women from Voices of Faith, Catholic Women Speak, Womens Ordination Worldwide, a group of Catholic women from Poland and the Czech Republic, We Are Church Ireland, and FutureChurch were there.

After our short practice, we walked over to the synod gates, gathered in prayer, and began our chant.  Zuzanna Radzik began (and we all joined in), “Pope Francis, Let Women Vote.  Cardinal Baldisseri, Let Women Vote…  You get it.  We called each prelate out by name and shouted, “Let women vote.”

We expected to be surrounded by the police immediately, but we were able to chant, shout and sing for over 20 minutes.

Dressed in their finest, most of the cardinals and bishops who passed did not look our way.  A few turned around when they saw and heard us and tried to find another way in.  Although I thought our gathering was the most beautiful sight and sound around, I guess if one is used to interacting with “pray and obey” Catholics, we looked pretty fierce.

Still, to our delight, two Irish prelates, two Irish prelates, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, and Bishop Dónal McKeown of Derry came over to greet one of our group, Ursula Hallagan, well known for her presence on Irish TV, but also for her well founded critiques of the Catholic Church’s stand on LGBTQ people and women.  The two bishops seemed genuinely joy-filled at the sight of our protest and took one of our programs to carry with them.

After they Irish left, just as expected, the police moved in shouting, “Silence!”

Jamie Manson gives a stellar account of the strong arm tactics used by the police.

It was a disproportionate use of force to say the least.

Still, what I saw in Kate McElwee’s face, Zuzanna Radzik’s face, Sheila Peiffer’s face, Pat Brown’s face, Tina Beattie’s face, Petra Dankova’s face and the faces of so many of the women who were being shoved around, was shear strength born out of the conviction that women must claim their full and equal place in this Church, and no one, not even men in bullet proof vests or pink hats and sashes can stop them.


October 2, 2018

We Can’t Keep Quiet, #Stayinginandspeakingup  #VotesforCatholicWomen

Today, I picked up my press credentials and headed over to the Antonianum, a pontifical university where Sr. Mary Melone, the first woman ever to be appointed as a rector to a pontifical university, welcomed Catholic Women Speak and Voices of Faith members. These kind of appointments matter, because where others might bulk at inviting a group of progressive Catholic women to hold a two day conference, Sr. Melone is a gracious host, welcoming everyone gathered to the book launch event and providing a place for women to meet to strategize about our common work for the future.

During the strategy meetings today, we listened intently to the voices of Catholic women from the global South.  They spoke of the hardships women face daily.  Poverty creates its own set of priorities.  But these women also recognized the importance of creating more space for women in the institutional Church.  They understood the intimate connection between the make up of the governing body and the policies they put in place for reaching out to those on the margins.  In other words, a more diverse and inclusive governing body will be more effective in the work of the Gospel.

Zuzanna Radzik, a journalist and writer from Warsaw who contributed to Visions and Vocations and spoke at the book launch, sat addressing postcards to her bishops, inviting them to purchase a copy of her new book, Women’s Leadership Then and Now.  Sweet subversion.

There is a song running through my head that I heard when I went to Washington D.C. for the women’s march in 2017.  “I can’t keep quiet.”   And as the women gather, “We can’t keep quiet.”

October 1, 2018

Arrival, The Women of the Church, and Sparks are Already Flying

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.

Pope Francis approves new constitution


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