By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Although bishops should increase the
majority of voting members at a Synod of Bishops, the fact that the body is
only consultative means women should be included as full members just as
priests and religious brothers are, said three priests who are voting members.
The superiors general of the Dominicans, the Jesuits and the
Conventual Franciscans — all priests who are voting members of the synod —
spoke to reporters at a Vatican briefing Oct. 15.
When the men’s Union of Superiors General chose two
religious brothers to be among their 10 voting delegates at the Synod of
Bishops, they consciously made the choice to emphasize that men’s religious
orders include both priests and laymen, the minister general of the Conventual
“Obviously it wasn’t an accident” that two
brothers were elected, Father Marco Tasca, the minister general, told Catholic
News Service after the briefing. “Consecrated life is made up of priests
and laypeople, so it is only right that there also be lay superiors general at
When the superiors elected a brother to the 2015 synod, he
said, “there were some doubts about whether or not the synod office would accept
him, but the pope intervened and said, ‘Let him come.’ Case closed.
“This time we didn’t ask,” Father Tasca said.
Now, he said, that choice “should raise the question of
the presence of the sisters, the women. That is the great challenge.”
The men’s USG and the women’s International Union of
Superiors General are now asking that question together, Father Tasca said.
“We had a meeting last week — a small group of superiors from both — and
we asked, ‘How can we move on this together?'”
The two organizations of superiors, which hold a joint
meeting each November, will get together again, he said, to try to move the
question forward. “I think the correct path is to present this together,
not ‘we men’ or ‘we women’ like children, but together.”
While rules for the Synod of Bishops provide for the men’s
union of superiors to elect 10 voting members for the synod, there is no such
provision for the women’s union of superiors. However, the pope does appoint
women religious as observers or experts to the synods.
Several questions at the synod briefing Oct. 15 regarded the
presence of women and their lack of a vote.
“It’s a Synod of Bishops,” said Father Bruno
Cadore, master of the Dominican order. But, he said, the synod rules allow for
“representatives” of religious life to participate, and they should be
both men and women. “You know,” he said, “that 80 percent of
consecrated people in the church are women?”
Because the synod “is not a deliberative body, so it is
not tied to priestly ordination, I think in the future there will be a Synod of
Bishops that says, ‘We want the participation of those who collaborate with us
in pastoral work and, for this reason, we will invite representatives of consecrated
life,’ knowing that — as I said — 80 percent of them are women. This should
In fact, he said, with this synod focused on “young
people, the faith and vocational discernment,” it would have made sense to
have more women religious participating, given their work in the field of
education, faith formation and vocational promotion.
Father Arturo Sosa, superior general of the Jesuits, said he
agreed with Father Cadore that “it is a Synod of Bishops,” but he also
said he sees an effort by Pope Francis to “deepen the synodality of the
church” and strengthen the vision of the church as “the people of
God” by ensuring that men and women are treated equally and have an equal
“I think this will help us move forward,” Father
The repeated questions about women’s participation and an
international petition calling on the pope to give women a vote at the synod signify
“discomfort, which is a sign that something’s wrong,” he said.
“So one must listen and move forward.”
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