US sister speaks of condescension in synod small group

A US religious sister at the synod on the family has spoken of her difficulties within one of the small group discussions.

Sacred Heart of Mary Sister Maureen Kelleher told the National Catholic Reporter that the ordained men at the synod have a distinct culture and a common background.

Sr Kelleher is an auditor at the synod; she is one of 32 women serving at the synod in non-voting roles.

Speaking of the atmosphere at the synod, she said: “These men have all pretty much studied together through formation and onward – [and] are very steeped in the magisterium and the canons and the different papal documents that have come out and have formed them.”

The synod small group of which Sr Kelleher is a member is being co-led by Canadian Cardinal Thomas Collins.

US prelates Archbishop Charles Chaput, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Archbishop Jose Gomez are also members of the group.

Sr Kelleher said she has faced some difficulty in the group.

While she said she feels free to talk to any of the members in a friendly manner during coffee breaks, there are also “times that I have felt the condescension so heavy, you could cut it with a knife”.

“I see a high level of non-acceptance of us as holding up half the sky,” she said, referring to some bishops’ difficulty in working with women.

“It’s very clear that I’m not speaking with one iota of formation on some of the teachings that have formed these men in the seminary,” said Sr Kelleher.

“Some of it is, ‘Oh, here comes the bleeding heart. Well, she’s a woman what else would you expect?’, kind of thing.”

Sr Kelleher said she has seen prelates struggling to be as pastorally sensitive as possible while being faithful to what they believe.

Sr Kelleher said she has been watching a faith community in a “knot” at the synod.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen when the Pope gets this product,” she said, referring to the final document the synod is expected to write and then give to Pope Francis.


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