Heartbreaking stories, an Archbishop admits growing pains and the sweet sound of women deacons

October 8, 2015
Report from Rome
by Deb Rose-Milavec
Heartbreaking stories
Today, tears fell as Patriarch Ignace Youssif Younan

(second from left) poured out the stories of families fleeing violence in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East and the desperation he feels as he watches their suffering.

“In Middle East we have a decrease of families and I would say we are concerned and alarmed for our communities due to these terrible problems happening to our divided and torn families, especially in Iraq and Syria…We deplore that our families cannot remain in their country where Christianity developed.”
When asked how the problems of migration are playing out he further clarified, “What is happening is a forced migration due to the situation. Obviously, these people would like to get out of this hell.  They are persecuted.  We have hundreds of people who are taken hostage by terrorists in the Islamic state…This situation has been dragging on for so much time.”
Another reporter asked about the videos of beheadings and if there were efforts underway on the synod floor to express solidarity with the families. Patriarch Younan responded with such sadness.
It is true that the tragedy that the Christians live in the Middle East 
is hard to describe.  We cannot just dismiss it as current affairs.  We 
try to do our best to have the voices of the people be heard but, 
truly, we feel that we have been forgotten or betrayed by the western countries, the United States and the European states which only 
follow policies of economic expediency.
Please don’t forget what happened in Iraq. These are tragedies 
that are experienced by our people.  We are really shaken by 
what happens in these communities.  We are trying to make the 
voices of these people be heard — a cry — an alarm.
A Courageous Question and an Archbishop Admits Growing Pains
Much has been written today about Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckley’s (Ghana) response to the suggestion that the African bishops are blocking discussions at the synod. He denied it.

But a more sharply focused, life-or-death question came from Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry when he asked, “Many African bishops have spoken vocally against marriage for lesbian and gay couples.  Many fewer have spoken as vocally against criminalization laws against gay and lesbian people, though many Catholic leaders see this type of criminalization as a violation of Church teaching on human rights and destructive of family relationships.  Do you think that the African bishops, or indeed any bishops, would support a statement from the synod condemning the criminalization of lesbian and gay people?”

The air went out of the room.
But the Archbishop gave a very promising answer making it clear that the Pope’s words make a big difference in African countries who struggle with the question of homosexuality and still criminalize people who are homosexuals.
“When the Pope said, ‘Who am I to condemn,’ it had huge repercussions in our country,” admitted Archbishop Palmer-Buckley.
He went on, “I agree with the Holy Father that people who are different from us are sons and daughters of God and we have to open the doors to them.  In Ghana we do this. Yes, they are human and they have human rights.  We know, all sons and daughters of God have dignity.”
He also pointed a finger at governments who are sanctioning them for their unjust practices against LGBT people saying, “We know that some governments in Europe said we would not get their money if we did not change our culture . . . we found it sad that some governments try to violate our sovereignty.”
And then he pointed the finger back at Africa saying, “We are doing what we can.  It takes time for individual voices to be heard.  We are dealing with something that is culturally different and difficult to understand.  They have been living with this [our culture] for a millennia and we can’t change it overnight.  Give the countries time to deal with the issues from their own cultural perspectives.  The rights of all the sons and daughters as children of God should be respected.  We have not attained it.  Be patient with Africa.  We are growing.”
It was a heartening response that will hopefully spread across those areas where prejudice and persecution of another sort reigns.
There were also questions about the under-representation of African countries at the synod. Archbishop Palmer-Buckley suggested it was the fault of the African bishops themselves and that they need to push for more equitable representation in synod bodies.
The sweet sound of women deacons
When asked if the synod was discussing the roles of women in the Church,

Cardinal Edoardo Menichelli of Italy admitted the discussion of women’s roles in the Church came up.  He said, “This issue was raised.  You may know the synod are the place where decisions are taken and the possibility of having women deacons was raised.  But we must also consider theological aspects.”

Here is Rome, I am also sending synod participants letters with hand written notes asking them to make interventions on the synod floor to support Archbishop Durocher’s proposal for women deacons.
Please do your part and sign our petition!
The numbers are climbing and we want to deliver thousands of signatures to the synod bishops asking them to take up Archbishop Durocher’s proposal!

A Little Sugar, a Lot of Doubt and Spinning Straw into Gold

October 7, 2015

Report from Rome

by Deb Rose-Milavec

Archbishop Charles Chaput (U.S.A), Archbishop Laurent Ulrich (France), and Archbishop Salvador José Miguel Piñeiro García Calderón (Peru) treated us to a love-fest today at the 1pm briefing.  Possibly a reasonable defense against a hungry press, we were plied with tales of good will and harmony among the small language groups (circuli minori) despite the differences across cultures and philosophies. 

Everything is going along swimmingly.

Like the stunning silence from the seven person panel yesterday on the news that Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher took his allotted three minutes to talk about the need for women in decision-making and women deacons, there was a sense today that the wagons were circling, that conflicts and strong-arming tactics in small groups didn’t exist, and that even a penetrating question by seasoned journalist could be deflected with little effort.  

A little sugar, a lot of doubt

After all the sugar and the assurances, a few important take aways emerged that may prove to be defense strategies against Francis-inspired change.  

1.  Reporting on the responses of his small group, which has members from Pakistan, England, Kenya, Uganda, the U.S., etc., Archbishop Chaput questioned the diversity represented in the Instrumentum Laboris suggesting that it did not speak to the concerns of all Catholics, but was heavily skewed toward Western concerns.  

Not a new charge by any means, this laudatory effort to expose cultural biases, especially in a document that purports to address the universal Church, would be equally problematic if it exploits the concerns of participants from Africa or other regions in order to deflect thorny cultural issues at home such as the treatment and pastoral care of divorced and remarried or LGBT Catholics.  

2.  When asked if there was a concern that changes in language reflecting renewed pastoral practices could be used by politicians in ways not intended, Archbishop Chaput responded saying that because the synod documents were in Italian and that the translations were sometimes quite poor, his group would be going through the documents “word by word” to make sure the language “will not reflect words that can be misused.”  He also suggested that some may not even know what they are voting for in the final document because of the language barrier and poor translations. Archbishop Ulrich followed suit saying, “We think there are some false friends in translations.”

3.  When asked about Pope Francis’s comments regarding the “hermeneutics of conspiracy,” a phrase used to call out prelates who are accusing him of conspiring to get his way, Archbishop Chaput admitted that there are lobby groups in the synod hall, that they shouldn’t work against each other, but that it was natural and human, especially since they were there to “arrive at the truth.”

Small Language Group Moderators and Relators  

The small language groups chose their moderators and relators.  Here is the list.  A list of the people who are in each group has been promised.


French Group “A”: Card. Gérald Cyprien LACROIX

French Group “B”: Card. Robert SARAH

French Group “C”: S.E. Msgr. PIAT, C.S.Sp. Maurice

English Group “A”: Card. George PELL

English Group “B”: Card. NICHOLS Vincent Gerard

English Group “C”: S.E. Msgr. Martin Eamon

English Group “D”: Card. Thomas Christopher COLLINS

Italian Group “A”: Card. Francis MONTENEGRO

Italian Group “B”: Card. Edward MENICHELLI

Italian Group “C”: Card. Angelo Bagnasco

Spanish Group “A”: Card. Rodriguez Maradiaga, SDB Óscar Andrés

Spanish Group “B”: Card. ROBLES ORTEGA Francisco

German Group: Card. SCHÖNBORN, O.P. Christoph


French Group “A”: S.E. Msgr. Laurent ULRICH

French Group “B”: Rev.do P. DUMORTIER, SI François-Xavier

French Group “C”: S.E. Msgr. Paul-André DUROCHER

English Group “A”: S.E. Msgr. Joseph Edward KURTZ

English Group “B”: S.E. Mgr. Diarmuid MARTIN

English Group “C”: S.E. Msgr. Mark Benedict Coleridge

English Group “D”: S.E. Msgr. CHAPUT, O.F.M. Capt. Charles Joseph

Italian Group “A”: P. Rev.do ARROBA CONDE, CMF Manuel Jesús

Italian Group “B”: Card. Mauro Piacenza

Italian Group “C”: S.E. Msgr. Franco Giulio Brambilla

Spanish Group “A”: Card. LACUNZA Maestrojuan, OAR José Luis

Spanish Group “B”: S.E. Msgr. PORRAS CARDOZO Baltazar Enrique

German Group: S.E. Msgr. Heiner KOCH

Witnessing to some truths

Gudrun Sailer’s report on the German press meeting of Tuesday is out and even though the truths expressed are self-evident, they too rarely addressed by those who have the power to change them. 

Cardinal Marx and Bishop Bode believe we need an amended synod process.

Cardinal Marx believes the laity should be much more involved with Bishop Bode remarking, “If I want to perceive reality, I need to hear the voices of women.”  He also noted that although 17 couples have been invited, “The ratio of men and women in such a meeting is certainly not something that corresponds to reality.” 

Abbott Jeremias Schroder said that having a brother (who is not ordained) Superior General gain the right to vote at the synod was a “ray of light” but that the Superior Generals felt women religious who were Superior Generals should also have a vote. They discussed giving up half their voting seats to women religious Superior Generals, but then decided against it. 

Their sense of justice came through and we can only wonder what might have been if they had let their intended witness play out.   

Spinning straw into gold:  Kate McElwee and Uta Stievers deliver the goods

A group of more than 50 women have been spinning straw into gold.  They have worked diligently to turn the invisible stories of diverse women, their experiences and theological analyses, into a golden opportunity for prelates to learn from women and to take advantage of their valuable insights as they shape the synod document on the family.

Kate McElwee and Uta Stievers delivered “Catholic Women Speak” to the synod hall today.  Tina Beattie, editors like Sr. Diana Culbertson from the FutureChurch board and many others who contributed essays or helped edit the book are thrilled that the book has finally been “birthed” and put in the hands of the bishops at the synod.  

Join our efforts to petition synod participants to support Archbishop Durocher’s proposal to discuss restoring women deacons in the Church

To read and sign the petition go to: http://action.groundswell-mvmt.org/petitions/ask-the


Read FutureChurch’s press release.