Recent statements from Vatican officials, including Pope Francis, that women and lay people should be more fully represented in Church structure are undercut by the announcement of who will have voting authority at the upcoming Synod on Youth, say leaders of We Are Church International, a group in the forefront of global church reform. The list of those with the right to vote includes cardinals, bishops, ordained Vatican officials, priests, and even a few brothers. Women and the young adult lay representatives who are the focus of the Synod are described as “collaborators” and “observers,” and they are specifically banned from voting.
“Once again, the Vatican is demonstrating its total unwillingness to share power and authority with those of us who make up the vast majority of the Catholic church,” said Colm Holmes of Dublin, Ireland, Chair of We Are Church International. “It is a shame that those with the real expertise on the experience, gifts, hopes, and needs of young people are sidelined as observers as decisions that will shape their futures are made. And, of course, women, whom Pope Francis has repeatedly said should have more authority in the church, are excluded from the vote, as well. How long can this institution continue being so deaf to the cries for equality that are coming from every part of the church?”
Holmes said that We Are Church International has supported efforts for young people to raise the issues of importance to them, and has heard their frustrations. “The official questionnaires did not provide a chance for youth and young adult to address many issues of deep concern to them. They want to build a church that is welcoming to all people, that provides equality for women, that is accountable, and that takes real action on the many injustices faced by God’s people all around the world. These young people are deeply spiritual and long for opportunities to live the Gospel. But if the church continues to be a place that does not address their need, they will be quick to walk away. We fear the Synod on Youth will further, rather than effectively address, this alienation.”
We Are Church International calls for all who participate in the Synod on Youth to be able to vote. “There should not be two classes of participants at this Synod,” said Holmes. “Everyone at the table should have voice and vote.”
We Are Church International (WAC-I) founded in Rome in 1996, is a global coalition of national church reform groups.It is committed to the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church based on the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the theological spirit developed from it.