Amazon synod document calls for married priests and increased role for women

In his remarks in the synod hall on Saturday, Francis said that he hoped to issue an exhortation before the end of the year, time permitting.

Pope Francis is pictured as Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, relator general of the synod, and Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, talk at the start of the final session of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican Oct. 26, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) .

Vatican City, Oct 26, 2019 / 01:17 pm (CNA).- The meeting for the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region has approved a final document which calls for the ordination of married men as priests and for women to be considered for diaconal ordination.

The 33-page document, approved Oct. 26, is the result of a three-week meeting in Rome. The synod’s 181 voting members, together with representatives from indigenous communities, religious orders, lay groups and charities, discussed a range of issues concerning the region, spread across nine countries.

In ordinary sessions of the Synod of Bishops, delegates are elected by the world’s bishops conferences. In the special session for the pan-Amazonian region, all attendees were by special invitation.

The document presents the synodal assembly’s reflections and conclusions on topics ranging from environmentalism, inculturation in the Church, and the human rights of indigenous communities in the face of economic, environmental, and cultural exploitation.

The draft text was presented to the assembly on Friday night, and various amendments were proposed and debated during the approval process. The synodal document does not have magisterial authority; the conclusions are presented to Pope Francis, who will issue his own document later.

One of the document’s most anticipated and likely controversial items is the call by the synod fathers for the ordination of proven married men, so-called viri probati, in the face of an acute shortage of priests in many parts of the region.

“Many of the ecclesial communities of the Amazonian territory have enormous difficulties in accessing the Eucharist,” the document says, while noting that some communities go for months, even years between visits from a priest.

The synod fathers said that they “appreciate celibacy as a gift of God to the extent that this gift enables the missionary disciple, ordained to the priesthood, to dedicate himself fully to the service of the Holy People of God.” But, the bishops concluded, “legitimate diversity does not harm the communion and unity of the Church, but expresses and serves it.”

The document proposes “to establish criteria and dispositions on the part of the competent authority… to ordain as priest suitable and esteemed men of the community, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate and receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, having a legitimately constituted and stable family, to sustain the life of the Christian community.”

These criteria, together with each individual paragraph of the text, was approved by a two-thirds vote of the synod’s voting members.

Speaking after the session ended, Cardinal Peter Turkson said that the voting process had proceeded smoothly and that all the articles of the document had passed by a comfortable margin.

Bishop Erwin Kräutler, the retired head of the Xingu prelature in Amazonian Brazil, told reporters that the proposal for the ordination of married men was not a surprise.

“It is what we expected, of course,” Kräutler said. The article passed by a margin of 128-41.

Kräutler has been an adamant proponent of married clergy, telling an Oct. 9 press conference that there is “no other option” for the region, and said that indigenous people in the Amazon were unable to understand the evangelical witness of celibacy.

While the proposal to allow the ordination of married men garnered a clear majority of synod participants, the issue of married clergy was a focal point of debate during the weeks of the synod.

Shortly before the synod opened, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, published a book entitled “Friends of the Bridegroom: For a Renewed Vision of Priestly Celibacy,” and Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship made several public interventions in favor of celibacy.

The synod’s final document explicitly linked the proposal to ministry in “the most remote areas of the Amazon,” but recognized that several of the synodal participants “were in favor of a more universal approach to the subject.”

Presenting the document at a press conference on Saturday evening, Cardinal Michael Czerny, special secretary of the synod, said some members felt that proposing to change the discipline of clerical celibacy should be reserved to the universal Church.

“Other felt that the existing norms of canon law… allow us to consider this within the context of a specific region,” said Czerny who also serves as under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Cardinal Osward Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and a close advisor of the pope, said in an interview on Saturday that he was in favor of the proposal, in as much as it represented a merely disciplinary change.

“I think that the present canon law…says its an impediment if you have a wife to receive orders, but it is an impediment that can be dispensed by the Holy See – and it has been dispensed. But I think there should be very clear criteria, conditions put [on the proposal],” Gracias said, referencing how the Church had worked to incorporate married former Anglican ministers who had been ordained as Catholic priests.

The synodal document also called for new and enhanced ministerial roles for women in the life of the Church in the region.

Noting that “the Magisterium of the Church since the Second Vatican Council has highlighted the central place that women occupy in the Church,” the document called for the Church to “recognize and promote [the leadership of women] by strengthening their participation in pastoral councils of parishes and dioceses, or even in instances of government.”

The bishops also recognized that in the Amazon “the majority of Catholic communities are led by women,” and asked “for the institution of a ministry for ‘women’s leadership of the community’ to be created and recognized within the service of the changing demands of evangelization and community care.”

The bishops also noted that “in a large number of these consultations, the permanent diaconate for women was requested.”

“For this reason the theme was important during the synod,” the bishops wrote, but noted that Pope Francis had already created a commission to examine the question and so requested that they be given the chance to feed into that process.

In his speech to the closing session of the synod on Saturday, Pope Francis said that he would consider reconstituting the commission, which he established in 2016 under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to examine the historical role of female deacons and expand the commission to include new members.

Earlier this year, the pope addressed the issue directly, noting that “the formulas of female deacons’ ‘ordination’ found until now, according to the commission, are not the same for the ordination of a male deacon and are more similar to what today would be the abbatial blessing of an abbess.”

In its own right, the final synodal document has no teaching or binding authority of its own. Synods are merely consultative assemblies, convened by the pope or a bishop, to advise on some particular topic. Typically after a meeting of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, the pope issues a post synodal apostolic exhortation.

In his remarks in the synod hall on Saturday, Francis said that he hoped to issue an exhortation before the end of the year, time permitting.

During the press conference on Saturday, Paulo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications confirmed that the pope hoped to issue an exhortation “within a relatively short period of time.”

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  1. “The meeting for the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region has approved a final document which calls for the ordination of married men as priests and for women to be considered for diaconal ordination.”

    Golly, I’m just so incredibly startled to learn that a group people carefully selected to have a particular opinion voted in favor of that opinion.

    Why does the phrase “contemptible ticks” keep running through my mind?

    • Ah yes, the old preordained conclusion. Jorge said, tongue in cheek, that he didn’t want a schism either. If the man told you what time it is, you’d be well served to get a second opinion.

  2. Don’t be fooled!

    The Liberals and Modernists of the Pan Amazon Synod, whose ranks now include Religious Syncretists and Neo-Pagan idol worshipers, belong to a long line of subversives running — indeed ruining — the Catholic Church since the ill-fated Second Vatican Council took place and in whose wake the Roman Church in particular has been turned upside down.

    Those subversives, with their own “Rules for Radicals,” have gotten the camel’s nose in the tent.

    An exception for the ordination of “proven married men” (“viri probati”) in the Pan Amazon region will undoubtedly lead to more exceptions in many other ecclesiastical territories where the Apostolic Tradition of priestly celibacy is viewed as an hindrance to priestly vocations.

    The Ordination of “Female Deacons,” if approved, will inevitably lead to the Ordination of “Priestesses.”

    The priestly ordination of women has its roots in ancient pagan religions and has been a long-time goal of liberal heretics.

    In a word, the Catholic Church is moving in the direction of moribund and apostate Anglicanism whose orders were declared “null and void” by Pope Leo XIII.

    St. John Henry Newman, pray for us!

    Christ the King, have mercy on us!

    • I expect it was attempted to be rigged by the same interests as in previous synods.
      The platform changes but the interests and goals remain the same.

  3. As for the role of women in the Church, one of the last thing we need in the Church is an increase of the presence of women in the sanctuaries. A real problem we have in the Church is the fact that the majority of men pass up on the Church. It seems to me that they are going to be ever more convinced that religion is for women and has no place for them. What we get is the feminization of the Church when what we need is to figure out how to bring men back into it.
    This whole “synod” is like a bad dream. Even 10 years ago, no one in his wildest dreams would have imagined that what has happen in it could happen.

    • Speaking as a woman I agree that the altar is overcrowded with women at Mass, either during readings or as Eucharistic ministers. It’s extremely distracting visually. But truthfully, I think that applies to lay men also. They need to get the laypeople off the altar and back in the pews where they belong.

      • I agree with you, Mrscracker.

        (I also agree with Mr. Hennigan that there is a danger that men look on the Church as something for women).

      • Speaking as a woman I agree that the altar is overcrowded with women at Mass, either during readings or as Eucharistic ministers.(sic)

        As Redemptionis Sacramentum unambiguously explains, only a validly ordained Priest may be referred to as a Eucharistic Minister. You mean extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. There’s a world of difference between the two which is lost on the poorly catechized.

  4. A brief but significant video interview of Bishop Erwin Kautler by Editor Pentin is shown NCR. Living picture and sound speak beyond type. Bishop Krautler one of the original Amazonia Synod driving forces visibly exuded an insider’s elation noting perhaps the more important matter of the process itself rather than the results. A “New Epoch” pronounced with exuberance by Krautler is a concept touched on frequently during Pope Francis’ tenure with the underlying principle that “Time is more important than Space”, a reference to radical transition from previous tradition. At this stage married viri probati priests women deacons is not exactly earth quacking in context of expectation, history and present need. What it does portend however are spread to Germany and elsewhere, again the exception will become the rule and far more future radical breaks with “Spatial” [historically situated traditions] to meet the conceptual New Epoch. The Epoch concept seems in the mind of Bishop Krautler as well as others pressing for change more an Age of Aquarius rather than Pisces. Will more eminent voices [inevitably I should think] be heard to balance or even miraculously significantly revise the process?

    • Abandon the ‘spatial’ revelation of God to Man and Man will accompany Man in his journey into the New Epoch. Not God. Who regardless will not abandon the faithful. Unless this embarkation into a new paradigm epoch is reversed God will assuredly intervene.

  5. A cancerous tumour in the brain is indeed a dangerous thing and must be dealt with immediately before the it has a chance to spread and eventually kill the entire body.

    • You bring up a great point. Unfortunately, the “field hospital” of the Catholic Church is top heavy with spiritual quacks instead spiritual doctors. In the new church the person with the brain tumor would be told that God loves you just the way you are. There could be no diagnosis because the quacks would say “Who am I to judge?” After all chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are so rigid and demanding.

  6. Using the results of this Synod as justification, and a wink and a nod from Pope Francis, it won’t be long before renegade bishops all over the world take it upon themselves to ordain married priests and women deacons.

  7. No other option for a priest shortage? The answer is simple Bishop Krautler. Stop sinning so much. The Church receives to number of vocations it deserves. If there is a shortage, it is because we sin too much. If we cut down on our sins, problem solved.

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