Questions About Church Oppression Against LGBT and Women Are Raised at Synod Briefing

The connection between LGBT issues and women’s issues, which Bondings 2.0, has highlighted before, was on display at the Vatican’s Synod on Youth over the past few days.  The oppression of one group is often intimately linked to the other.  And neither LGBT people or women will have full equality in the church until both groups have it.

Silvia Retamales Morales of Chile. (Photo by Francis DeBernardo)

At the synod’s daily press briefing in Rome today, Silvia Retamales Morales, a synod youth auditor from Chile, gave a summary of some of the opinions she has been expressing.  [The youth auditors are young people from around the globe who are allowed to give a talk to the whole synod, and to participate in the various working groups, based on language.  They do not have the ability to vote on the final document.] Ms. Retamales made it a point to say at today’s briefing:

“The Church should not discriminate on any basis, including sexual orientation.”

But she also quickly added:

“Women’s empowerment is important in  society and  also inside the church.”

During the briefing’s question and answer period, I had the opportunity to ask Ms. Retamales what types of discrimination based on sexual orientation she has witnessed, and did she think that the bishops in the synod were aware of these realities.  Her response:

“Homosexuals are people who have same rights as we have.  They too  live their faith within the church.  They should be seen as children of God, not as problems.  I see discrimination happening.  I see people not welcoming them, holding their arms close to their chests in church instead of welcoming them with open arms.  The Church whose mandate is love must first recognize these people and accompany them. The Church must be more inclusive, and this issue has come up in the synod hall.”

Yadira Vieyra

Luke Hansen, SJ, an associate editor at America magazine interviewed Yadira Vieyra, one of the U.S. youth auditors.  As a person who was born in Mexico and now lives in the U.S.,  immigration is Ms. Vieyra’s primary issue.  But she also touched on the importance of other issues.   Hansen quoted her:

“Ms. Vieyra, who studied theology and psychology at Georgetown University, said that issues of gender and sexuality are being ‘discussed extensively’ within her small group. ‘It was controversial, it was heated.’

“ ‘A lot of people in the room agree that we need to minister to our youth today,’ she said, whether they identify with the L.G.B.T. community or they are being raised in a household where it is two fathers or two mothers. I feel very passionate about that because if Jesus were here right now, he would walk away in shame knowing that we are pushing away our brothers and sisters.’ “

Ms. Vieyra also talked specifically about gender discrimination in the Church:

” ‘The role of women in the church can be overlooked,’ she said. ‘When a church leader tries to undermine the spiritual power that sisters in the church bring, it is discouraging.’ “

“She described a sister in Chicago who is the epitome of what a sister should be: ‘She exudes so much peace and so much joy for the community and for God. I tell my husband: I want to be more like her. I really do. So to hear that some members of the synod feel that only priests can bring spiritual guidance to our youth robs our sisters’ of what they can do.”

You can read the entire interview with Ms. Vieyra by clicking here.

The issue granting voting rights to the women religious who are participating in the synod was raised again today by journalists at the daily press briefing.  Since it is a synod of bishops, presumably only bishops would have the right to vote. However two non-ordained, vowed men who are superiors of their communities have been granted votes.  The two women who are superiors of their communities have not been granted voting privileges.  There is no canonical difference between women superiors and men superiors. The only possible reason why women have been excluded is gender bias.  No theological reason exists.

When a journalist at today’s press briefing asked why this was the case, she expressed women’s negative reactions to this omission by asking “Is this malaise and discomfort necessary?”

Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, SJ, the provost general of the Jesuits, responded candidly:

“Changes might be forthcoming.  I hope this malaise and discomfort is helpful because it triggers action.  It’s sign that something is  not right.”

Later in the briefing, the Jesuit added:

“Personally I believe that Vatican II introduced an ecclesiological model that is not real yet.  That model of church with the People of God at the center is still looking for a way to be embodied.”

Perhaps the lasting effect of this synod can be not a positive statement on LGBT issues, women’s issues, or any youth issues, but a recognition that the Church still needs to move past its clericalist culture and end discrimination of all forms within its governing structures and communities of faith.

(For good, detailed analysis of women’s issues at the synod, check out the daily news reports from FutureChurch’s Deb Rose-Milavec by clicking here. If you want women to be able to vote at the synod, click here to sign a petition that FutureChurch has organized and which New Ways Ministry is co-sponsoring.)

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 16, 2018

Related article:

Vatican News: Synod of Bishops: ‘How difficult it is to find dawn in twilight’

2 replies
  1. Ken Saunders
    Ken Saunders says:

    I applaud Ms. Retamales outspokenness. The Church as an institution needs to be displaying acceptance of all people as Children of God regardless of their perceived moral condition. Brava for speaking Truth to Power on this issue.


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  1. […] Frank DeBernardo also asked her about the experience of LBGT Catholics in Chile and if this issue was being discussed in the synod. […]

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