They want to vote in major policy meetings. They want Pope Francis to deliver on his promise to put more women in senior positions in the Holy See’s administration. And some of them say they want to be priests.
“Knock knock! Who’s there? More than half the Church!” several dozen Catholic women chanted outside the Vatican on Oct. 3, the first day of this year’s synod of bishops from around the world.
The role of women in the Church has been a recurring theme at the month-long meeting, which brings together some 300 bishops, priests, nuns and lay participants. Only about 35 are women.
The subject has come up in speeches on the floor, in small group discussions and at news conferences by participants in the gathering, officially titled “Young People, Faith and Discernment of Vocation.”Only “synod fathers”, including bishops and specially appointed or elected male representatives, are allowed to vote on the final recommendations to be sent to the pope, who will take them into consideration when he writes his own document. Other participants are non-voting observers, auditors or experts.
Some of the attendees have pointed to what they say is a contradiction in the rules of the synod, which takes place every few years on a different theme.
This year, two “brothers”, lay men who are not ordained, are being allowed to vote in their capacity as superiors general of their religious orders.
But Sister Sally Marie Hodgdon, an American nun who also is not ordained, cannot vote even though she is the superior general of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery.
“I am a superior general. I am a sister. So in theory, logically you would think I would have the right to vote,” Hodgdon, who is also vice president of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), an umbrella group of Catholic nuns, told reporters.
The membership of female religious orders is about three times larger than that of male orders.