UK bishop questions family synod celibate dominance

An English bishop has admitted that he struggles with the notion of hundreds of celibate men discussing family issues at a synod.

Speaking ahead of the synod on the family in Rome, Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton said “there is a bit of an issue”.

“I thought I understood marriage and family life because I come from a family, because I’ve ministered for 37 years in a parish,” Bishop Doyle said.

“When I got involved in marriage and family life, I suddenly realised that there was a whole world there that I didn’t know.”

Bishop Doyle was responding to a media question about concerns that a meeting focused on family is largely being conducted only by men.

Some 279 male priests and prelates have been appointed by Francis as the voting members of the synod.

While there is a small group of women taking part in the discussions as collaborators and auditors, they are not allowed to vote on any final documents or issues.

At the same media conference, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said the synod “ is not an exchange of opinion among male celibates”.

“This is a period of prayer and reflection among the shepherds of the people.”

The cardinal noted that there will be 17 married couples presenting testimonies to the synod, which has more time for small group discussions than in previous synods.

“There will be in every small group married people and women,” Cardinal Nichols said.

Before the synod, former Irish president Mary McAleese said if she wanted expertise on the family, she wouldn’t be calling hundreds of celibate prelates together.

“Let me repeat a question I asked last year when I saw the Vatican’s lengthy pre-synod questionnaire, namely how many of these men have ever changed a child’s nappy?” she said.


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