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Gerard O’ConnellJune 17, 2019
Augustinian Father Miguel Angel Cadenas baptizes a young man June 12, in a village along the Urituyacu River in Peru.Augustinian Father Miguel Angel Cadenas baptizes a young man June 12, in a village along the Urituyacu River in Peru. Latin American church leaders apologized for historical complicity with colonial atrocities in the Amazon and called for a church with an "Amazonian face" in a pastoral letter issued as negotiators from around the world met for a climate summit here. (CNS photo/Barbara Fraser)

The possibility of ordaining married men as priests for the Pan-Amazonian region is presented in the working document for the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region that will take place in the Vatican Oct. 6 to Oct. 27. But while this proposal may draw most media attention, it should not be allowed to eclipse other significant aspects in the document, including the church’s strong commitment to work for justice for the region’s peoples and the protection of its environment against the devastating onslaught of major economic forces.

The document introduces the ordination of married men when it notes that in the Pan-Amazonian region “communities have difficulty in celebrating frequently the Eucharist for lack of priests.” It then adds that “since the church lives from the Eucharist and the Eucharist builds the church,” rather than “leaving the community without the Eucharist, change is requested in the criteria for selecting and preparing ministers authorized to celebrate the Eucharist.”

“The church lives from the Eucharist and the Eucharist builds the church.” 

Speaking about the need to promote native vocations and “affirming that celibacy is a gift for the church,” the working document says “it is requested that, for the most remote areas of the region, the possibility of the priestly ordination should be studied for older people, preferably indigenous, [who are] respected and accepted by their communities, even if they have an existing and stable family, in order to ensure the availability of the sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life.”

The text also calls for the synod to “identify the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women, taking into account the central role they play today in the church in Amazonia.” But in presenting the text, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary general of the synod, made clear that this did not include the women’s diaconate since, as the pope told the plenary assembly of the Union of Superiors Generals, there is no agreement on this question.

The document also requested that women’s voices “be heard, that they be consulted and participate in decision-making, and thus be able to contribute with their sensitivity to ecclesial synodality.”

The Rev. Miguel Yanez, the Argentinean-born professor of moral theology at the Gregorian University, presented the document alongside Cardinal Baldisseri. Speaking to journalists after the press conference, he said that the question of ordaining married men and giving a greater role to women should be seen within the context of “inculturation,” the tradition of rooting the Gospel and the church’s teaching within local culture.

He called inculturation “the great novelty of this document” and the ordination of married men “a suggestion” to be discussed by the synod. He explained that regarding the ordination of older married men, the text refers to people “with a journey of committed Christian life and who have a leadership role in the community.”

The synod should “identify the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women, taking into account the central role they play today in the church in Amazonia.”

At the synod, he said, “the bishops could dismiss this idea, or they could propose it to the pope who could, in his turn, also dismiss it. We’re in a phase of the process, and it is a sacramental question.”

Asked why the document does not use the term “viri probati,” a term that popularly is understood to refer to married men of proven virtue who are suitable for ordination, Cardinal Baldisseri said it was a term that is “much abused” But Father Yanez explained that the document contains what has come from “listening” to the people and since the indigenous peoples do not speak Latin, that term did not arise. Father Yanez also said it is the first time that the suggestion to ordain married men has come out of a synodal process of listening to the people. He pointed out that there are already ordained married men in the Catholic Church from the Eastern Rite and Greek Catholic church too, so the pope could make another exception without abolishing the rule of celibacy in the Latin-rite church.

The 64-page synod document was originally written in Spanish but has been translated into other languages, including English, and is divided into three main parts.

Part I, titled “The Voice of the Amazon” looks at the region as a whole: its life, the territory, the time which is seen as a “kairos” or a God-given moment and the way of dialogue.

Part II, called “Integral Ecology: The Cry of the Earth and of the Poor” is rooted within the vision of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si,’” but applied to the Amazon region. It provides a searing focus on the terrible damage being done in the region by economic interests linked to petroleum, gas, lumber, gold and agricultural industries whose main goal is to “maximum profit” irrespective of the damage to peoples and the environment. It emphasizes the urgent need for ecological conversion. It is divided into nine chapters that deal with topics such as urbanization, family and community, corruption, the question of integral health (intimately linked to clean air and water), integral education and ecological conversion.

Part III bears the significant title: “A prophetic church in the Amazon: challenges and hopes.” It reminds us that the Amazon is not just forests but also cities in which the indigenous peoples are forced to seek education or employment. While uprooted from their natural habitats, they are often reached by Pentecostal groups that are very active in the periphery, and the document emphasizes the need for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue here.

This third part of the text is divided into eight chapters, which look at the challenges of inculturation and interculturality, the celebration of faith with an enculturated liturgy, the organization of the communities, evangelization in the cities, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, mission of the media and communications and the prophetic role of the church and integral human promotion.

The Amazon region, which is the focus of the document and the forthcoming synod, is spread over nine countries—Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Surinam, Guyana and French Guyana—and involves seven episcopal conferences. More than 100 participants at the synod will come from these conferences, but representatives of the continental conferences of bishops will also be invited from, together with members of the Panamazon Ecclesial Network and some 32 men and women auditors, including 20 representatives of the indigenous peoples of the region.

Correction, June 17, 2019; 2:25 p.m. EDT: Missing text added.

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Robin Smith
5 years 1 month ago

"...he said that the question of ordaining married men and giving a greater role to women should be seen within the context of “inculturation,” the tradition of rooting the Gospel and the church’s teaching within local culture."
In other words, what's for lunch?

Tondalaya Gillespie
5 years 1 month ago

Once again women are out of the loop in fulfilling this role, based on the fact that Jesus invited no women to participate in the last supper! I think one of the biggest surprises is going to be Jesus's anger with us at making him seem the ultimate misogynist and bigot.

Nora Bolcon
5 years 1 month ago

Actually, women did more likely than not participate in the last supper and no gospel excludes their being there. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Christ could not have made it home for the mandatory Passover meal before Good Friday and have been able to be at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. Passover or Seder meals are family meals by law in Exodus so his, Jesus', family and friends, male and female would have been there and not as servants but as participants. Those who wrote the Gospels assumed people knew Christ to be a Jew and therefore would understand this fact without it being written down. Also, in the Gospel of John it says that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples not just the apostles on the night of the Last Supper. Disciples is any male or female group of followers. There is no reason in the Gospels to keep women from ordination and none of the Apostles nor Christ ever ordained anyone, or claimed they were ordained to priesthood in any way. Women and men in the early church ran churches in their homes as priests run parishes now and neither was ordained.

Crystal Watson
5 years 1 month ago

I'll believe it when it actually happens. But I can see why it might - Catholicism is losing parishioners to Protestant denominations in South America ... "As of 2010, only 65 percent of Brazilians practice Roman Catholicism compared 92 percent in 1970, with 22 percent now practicing a Protestant denomination, up from 5 percent in 1970 (Pew Research Center, 2013). In addition, Pew Research Center found that 54 percent of Brazilians who were raised Catholic now identify as Protestant (2014)." (https://www.panoramas.pitt.edu/art-and-culture/growing-protestant-presence-latin-america).

Vincent Gaglione
5 years 1 month ago

Today’s NY Times had an article about the proposal to ordain married “viri probati” , language not used in the original document. The story as well ignored the rest of the material described in this article. It does tell one both the biases and the ignorance of the secular press about Catholic issues.

To think that anyplace in the world exists without the Eucharist, the central act of worship and sacrament of the Church, for extended periods of time is tremendously disturbing. Unfortunately, there are those among us those who see celibacy as a more important issue than a community without the Eucharist. And that just makes me incredulous about the quality of instruction that we have given to the faithful!

Patr Edmisten
5 years 1 month ago

Although I have long believed that the Church would either invite already married priests to return to an active role, or ordain other married men before deigning to even talk about ordaining women, —forgive me, Lord—I choked on my coffee when I read about the possibility of ordaining married men in the Amazon. Of course., I am in favor, but come on, all you holy men. How long before you stop using Christ’s gender to continue the blatant injustice against women? All because of a roll of flesh? In the meantime, we lose good people of faith, if not beliefs meant to exclude, and we continue to rob eligible men from poor countries, give them educational opportunities and training, and place them in American parishes that would otherwise close or merge because of priest shortages here. Is any one in the Vatican listening to Wisdom? She is addressed as being female in Scripture. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is tired of not being heard.

Nora Bolcon
5 years 1 month ago

No there are people who see turning and abusing a sacrament into a weapon to demean half our people, and as a way to create gender segregation, no matter your excuse, as intolerable and a fully hate-filled act. There is no need to ordain married men until we have ordained all the women called to priesthood first, or at the same time. But to only ordain married men is a dramatic and further abuse of all women, in our church, and their humanity, and none of us who consider ourselves Christian should support this anywhere.

Craig B. Mckee
5 years 1 month ago

Full text here in original Spanish version:
Of particular note, cf. III.126:
b) Los sacramentos deben ser fuente de vida y remedio accesible a todos (cf. EG 47), especialmente a los pobres (cf. EG 200). Se pide superar la rigidez de una disciplina que excluye y aleja, por una sensibilidad pastoral que acompaña e integra (cf. AL 297, 312).
The AMAZON is not the only region to which this guiding principle should be applied and all sacraments and ministries must be contextualized.!

Margaret Lanning
5 years 1 month ago

I believe that married laicized priests who wish to continue their ministry should be evaluated on a case by case basis and permitted to serve as priests. There is such a shortage of priests everywhere. I was taught that those ordained as priests were "Priests for Life".

Nora Bolcon
5 years 1 month ago

Women should fight against this being done anywhere in the world - women should be ordained priests and bishops before men are given more privileges and if women do not stand against this then they deserve the misogynistic church they helped to create, and most young women will leave it. We have had enough abuse and this is gender segregation and there is no need in our church to install it anywhere. Don't buy the hate filled lie ladies! Fight back and make all such men miserable where ever they are in the world. There is no reason women in the U.S. church can't picket abuse furthered by our hierarchy in the Amazon - don't let the distance fool you into inaction. Our church is trying to leak in hatred over the globe and is hoping women are asleep. If women are not ordained they have no input, and they have no vote and that means they have no voice. We already know these auditors are not going to have a vote at the synod. I wonder how many lay men will be given a vote again this time? Women do not prove yourselves the idiots that the hierarchy is hoping you actually are - fight this! It is time we followed the German example and picket at our churches, during mass, and outside its doors. Also hold back funds - no more willed money to the church until women are equally ordained priests and bishops!

Pedro Henrique Quitete Barreto
5 years 1 month ago

Wow, the priest is actually baptizing someone! Here in Brazil we know that there are some "sisters" that are proud of themselves because, during their long time in the Amazon forests, they never baptized someone!

Bill Mazzella
5 years 1 month ago

Priests as such is a patriarchal invention. The true theology of the Mass/Last Supper is that God's People make the event. Such absurdity that the faithful should ever be denied participation in the celebration of the Life Death and Resurrection of Jesus. In its worse form they once ordained priests so that they would do nothing else but say Mass. Finally after Vatican II they stopped that fallacy. Read my lips: "You don't need a priest to celebrate Mass. You need believers and it takes place ipso facto as we relive the Life, death and resurrection. Spare us from the "hands" or "Year" of the Priest. It is a construct. We need leaders and all who are willing to be crucified with Jesus. Not to be called "Father" Or your grace, excellency, or holiness." As Paul said I want nothing but Jesus Crucified. Then bishops would be witnesses again not fawns of whoever is in power.

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