Synod’s putting ‘too much emphasis’ on women priests

women priests

The “niche issue” issue of women priests and deacons distracts the Church from addressing what women really need, a theologian participating in the Synod on Synodality says.

“As a woman, I’m not focused at all on the fact that I’m not a priest,” says Professor Renée Köhler-Ryan (pictured).

Köhler-Ryan is the National Head of School Philosophy and Theology at Australia’s University of Notre Dame and is one of 54 women delegates to the Synod.

“I think that there’s too much emphasis placed on this question.

“And what happens when we put too much emphasis on this question is that we forget about what women, for the most part throughout the world, need.”

Focus on women

Paolo Ruffini, president of the synod’s information commission, said on Monday that synod discussions had focused a lot on the role of women in the Church.

Whether women should be able to preach the homily at Mass and the “reinstatement of the female diaconate” were among the topics discussed.

Another topic looked at “how to overcome clerical models that impede communion or that can impede the communion of all the baptised.”

Diverse needs

Köhler-Ryan commented that “some people think only if women become ordained will they have any kind of equality .”

Equality is “not a one for one thing” in the Church, she said.

Rather, she noted the current synod has focused a lot on the idea of unity in diversity.

“Well part of that diversity is that there are realities of motherhood and fatherhood that are both spiritual and biological and that are really important for understanding what is going on across the whole Church.”

She said the issue of ordaining women priests “distracts” the Church from what it could be doing to help women in other ways.

Offering greater support to families and working mothers would be a better use of time, she suggests.

“I think that’s a far more interesting conversation for most women than … a kind of niche issue.”

Change predicted

Another delegate, Sister Maria de los Dolores Palencia Gomez, described women’s participation in the Synod – in which they can vote for the first time – as “setting the stage for future changes.”

Gomez led the Synod on Synodality assembly last Friday as one of Pope Francis’s 10 president-delegates.

Sitting with the pope was “a symbol of this opening, this wish that the Church has … for something that places all of us at the same level,” she said afterwards.

Another synod participant, Australia’s Bishop Shane Mackinlay, said last week that he would be open to a female diaconate.

He is one of 13 people putting together a summary document of the Synod, which runs from 4 to 29 October.

“The question of the ordination of women is clearly something that needs to be addressed universally” he maintains.

“… and if it were to be that the outcome was for ordination to the diaconate to be open to women, I’d certainly welcome that.”



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