The Pope's Synod — Both A Bust And Breakthrough For Women And LGBTQ+
The synod had promised to bring forth revolutionary ides for both members of the LGBTQ and women within the Church. But looking at the first session's conclusion reveals that hopes for change may have come too early.
VATICAN CITY — Opinions are split following the month-long Synod called by Pope Francis to confront the future of the Catholic Church, but perhaps the greatest hopes dashed are among the LGBTQ+ community — and it starts with the acronym itself.
The disappointment noted in the LGBTQ+ world for the absence of the acronym in the "Summary Report of the first Session." In its place there is only a vague, more palatable reference to homosexuality. On the other hand, Catholic women were divided in their reaction to the month-long Vatican meeting, with some arguing that the ongoing talks was the first step to increased rights, stating that "a taboo has been broken."
Vladimir Luxuria, an Italian transgender activist, shared her disappointment over the fact that in the final document voted on by the majority at the Bishops' Synod, the acronym has disappeared, replaced with a very general reference to homosexuality.
"Why not mention LGBTQ individuals? The Church has stopped at LGBT," she said. "We use LGBTQ as an acronym to simplify inclusion. Even if they don't want to borrow from our dictionary, where we have a certain experience. I hope they address the important issue that everyone has the right to faith, and no one should feel excluded."
Leaving out the LGBTQ
Beyond the disappointment for not using the acronym, which was removed from the draft in the text voted on, Luxuria observes: "It's good, however, that they're starting to discuss these issues even in the Vatican, on important occasions like a Bishops' Synod. Sometimes there's progress, then steps backward. The Pope said something revolutionary, stating that even trans individuals are children of God, using feminine language and recognizing our gender identity."
Luxuria said it's clear that there's a conflict within the Church, between more open positions, such as the German bishops with their openness to blessing gay couples, and more closed positions. "A journey has begun. Before Pope Francis, no one talked about it; it's very important that it's now being discussed on behalf of many people who have struggled with their faith, feeling excluded and stumbling in the dark, as I did in my life when a priest told me that my gender identity was something satanic. That's when I distanced myself from the Church."
Attendees at the Synod
Opposing viewpoints for women
Theologians remain divided on the role of women.
Sister Elsa Antoniazzi, a nun and passionate scholar of feminist theology, sees the Synod as progress, especially regarding the openness to potentially having female deacons.
Many believe that the topic of women priests could provoke a bonafide schism in the Church.
Yet the historian and theologian Lucetta Scaraffia, called the outcome "shameful." Having long advocated for women to have a real role in the Church, Scaraffia said the issue has effectively stalled, pending a final decision next year: "Regarding female deacons, the second commission had already discussed it, and they produced a document that was never made public. And now, they have essentially said they still need to study the matter. Frankly, this is muddling the issue."
Sister Antoniazzi looks at the voting outcome: "Realistically, I'm not disappointed," she states, "because it's no longer just a discussion for women and a few theologians who believe in it. At this point, bishops and the people of God are thinking about it. It's no longer a taboo. Women are convinced that we could have reached this point earlier and that all of these discussions are too late. But, if we are realistic, it seemed that in this context, the role of women in the Church would not have been a matter of importance. And yet, it was discussed."
And female priests?
There is, however, no mention of women priests in the document.
"It would have been counterproductive," notes Sister Antoniazzi, "So many fears about female deacons today are precisely related to this; strategies are needed for the benefit of all."
Indeed, many believe that this topic could provoke a bonafide schism in the Church. "I've always struggled to understand the minds of schismatics," she says, "But I don't rule out the existence of such factions. Even though the subject is on the agenda in many Protestant churches, it's not a walk in the park for them either. One step at a time."
For Scaraffia, the outcome was a foregone conclusion: "I expected nothing from the Synod."
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