The Francis strategy for change; a synod process loosed; and Durocher’s stunning proposal for women

October 6, 2015
Report from Rome
by Deb Rose-Milavec

There are days when you are sure God is having her way. Today was one such day at the synod.

The tone of the voices rising from the great marble synod hall could not have been more different from the tones heard yesterday. 

Yesterday, stern warnings fell all around and weighed heavy on hopes for a more generous, just and compassionate Church.  Today, elation and even laughter filled the air as we heard that participants talked about all that the Church could be if it dared to risk being one with the God of surprises; the God that is the living, loving source. 

A Francis stragegy for change:  Small groups will have a critical role in shaping the final document

Seven persons spoke during the daily press briefing about the activities of the morning, but it was Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, Archbishop Claudio M Celli and Fr. Thomas Rosica who really conveyed the sense of hope heard in the synod hall.  

According to Rosica, Pope Francis had made the unusual move of intervening in the morning to stress the importance of small group input for fashioning the final document.  All would begin with the Instrumentum Laboris but, because so many participants are new, the document’s final form was likely to change a great deal, a Francis signal that the process was wide open. He also stressed the synod was not a one-issue forum.  

Interventions for justice and inclusivity 

Seventy two Synod participants gave three-minute interventions today.  Rosica summarized them and below are some of the most promising from his list.

  • Exclusionary language is to be avoided. The Church should not pity gay persons, but recognize them for who they are: our sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, colleagues, friends, etc.
  • The domination of men over women must be eliminated.  For many women and children, home can be a dangerous place, but our Churches can also be dangerous places.
  • We need to welcome the huge numbers of unbaptized and ask, “Are we the masters or the servants of the Eucharistic table?”  We need a Eucharist that “is not a prize for the perfect, but nourishment for the weak.”   
  • The Instrumentum Laboris is too focused on the brokenness and not the joys of the family.  We need a new anthropology where human nature is seen as good and beautiful and not fallen and broken.
  • The family should teach the Church.  
  • On issues like divorce and remarriage, polygamy, and other cultural challenges, there is no universal solution.  Instead there should be discussions and solutions at the regional and continental level. 
  • The Church should use form three of the general absolution as a clear signal for Catholics to “come home.” 

The Synod discussions are not closed

Both Archbishop Celli and Archbishop Durocher stressed the fact that the synod was wide open to input.  Durocher shared his view of the natural tensions between bishops.

       One of the things that strikes me as I listen to the bishops, is their 

awareness of the growing gulf between the culture of marriage 

and the teaching of Jesus.  Some fear we are losing our way so they 

react by emphasizing Church teaching. Others fear we will lose 

touch with people who live in the culture and that we will no longer 

have an impact in the culture. The teaching of Jesus is a gift for the 

world.  So how on the one hand do you hold onto the truth but also 

dialogue with the world to provoke interaction?   

That is why this [synod process] is an important exercise.  We need 

to bring together those who fear losing the teaching and those who 

want to find a way to enter into dialogue with this world.  

The Big Finale:  Women

During a 90 minute press briefing no one on the seven person panel mentioned the proposal that Archbishop Durocher made on the synod floor regarding women deacons and expanding women’s roles, not even Archbishop Durocher himself. Omitting such an important story in a daily press briefing is difficult to understand. 

But thank goodness, Carol Glatz of Catholic News Service broke the story.  Here is the straight scoop.

Speaking to participants at the Synod of Bishops on the family Oct. 6, Archbishop Durocher said he dedicated his three-minute intervention to the role of women in the church — one of the many themes highlighted in the synod’s working document.

… he said the synod should reflect on the possibility of allowing for female 

deacons as it seeks ways to open up more opportunities for women in church life.

Where possible, qualified women should be given higher positions 

and decision-making authority within church structures and new 

opportunities in ministry.

Discussing a number of proposals he offered the synod fathers 

to think about, he said, “I think we should really start looking seriously 

at the possibility of ordaining women deacons because the diaconate 

in the church’s tradition has been defined as not being ordered toward priesthood but toward ministry.”

He reminded the synod fathers that in the apostolic exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” in 1981, St. John Paul II basically told the church that “we 

have to make a concerted and clear effort to make sure that there is no 

more degradation of women in our world, particularly in marriage. And I 

said, ‘ Well, here we are 30 years later and we’re still facing these kinds of numbers.'”

He said he recommended one thing they could do to address this problem was, “as a synod, clearly state that you cannot justify the domination of men over women — certainly not violence — through biblical interpretation,” particularly incorrect interpretations of St. Paul’s call for women to be submissive to their husbands.

Read the whole article by Glatz.  She also also interviewed the Archbishop later in the day.    

This is a stunning event and a stunning proposal.  FutureChurch, always working to expand the roles and ministry of women, is launching a petition to support Archbishop Durocher’s proposal during the synod and to make as many people aware of it as possible.  

To read and sign the petition go to:

Read FutureChurch’s press release.