Vatican meeting endorses women at decision-making table
A monthlong meeting of Catholic bishops marked by demands for women’s rights wrapped up Saturday with delegates saying a place for women at the church’s decision-making table was a “duty of justice” and that the church as a whole must recognize the urgency of “inescapable change.”
Pope Francis had called the summit of church leaders to debate ways to better minister to young people and help them find their vocations in life. But the synod was quickly taken over by debate about issues that are particularly dear to the young in many parts of the world: the clergy sex- abuse scandal, respect for gays and women’s rights.
The issue of women was particularly acute given only seven nuns were invited to participate in the synod alongside 267 cardinals, bishops and priests. None of the women had the right to vote on the final document.
A petition launched on the sidelines of the synod demanding women religious superiors be allowed to vote garnered some 9,000 signatures, but reference in a draft to the gender disparity at future synods was scrapped in the final document.
The language that was kept, however, was strong and included one of the few straight forward recommendations in the entire 60-page document.
“The synod recommends that everyone be made aware of the urgency of an inescapable change,” it said. It called for greater presence of women in church structures at all levels, including positions of responsibility, while respecting that the priesthood remains for men only.
“It’s a duty of justice, that finds its inspiration in the way Jesus related to the men and women of his time, as well as the importance of the role of some female figures in the Bible, in the history of salvation and in the life of the church,” the document read.
Church doctrine reserves the priesthood for men, given Christ’s apostles were male. Women have often complained they have a second-class status in the church. History’s first Latin American pope has vowed to change that, but he has done little and counts no women among his own advisers.
Paragraphs referencing the role of women in the church were among the most contested during the final vote Saturday. But the full text passed with only the paragraph referencing homosexuality and “sexual inclinations” receiving enough no votes as to threaten passage.