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Medical Mission Sister Birgit Weiler speaks at a news conference after a session of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican Oct. 11, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) Medical Mission Sister Birgit Weiler speaks at a news conference after a session of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican Oct. 11, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While the Catholic Church has made strides to include the voice of women, especially in the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, women should be included among synod voting members and in church leadership positions, a German theologian said.

Medical Mission Sister Birgit Weiler, a member of the Peruvian bishops’ pastoral ministry for the care of creation, told journalists at a Vatican news briefing Oct. 11 that such changes would allow the church to become “a community of sisters and brothers, sharing faith, discerning together.”

“When you have participated fully in the whole process of sharing faith, of discerning together,” then the vote is a natural expression of wanting to participate fully in the decision-making phase of the synod, she said.

Sister Birgit Weiler said such changes would allow the church to become “a community of sisters and brothers, sharing faith, discerning together.”

Full participation in the life of the church, Sister Weiler said, also includes giving women more leadership roles within the church.

“There is a wide field [of leadership positions] where you do not need to be ordained,” she said, adding that she hoped, in the future, more women—both lay and religious—“will be invited to assume responsible positions.”

The rules governing the synods of bishops provide for the men’s Union of Superiors General to elect voting members of the synod, but there is no such provision for the women’s International Union of Superiors General. However, the pope does appoint women religious, like Sister Weiler, to attend the synods as observers or experts.

“Of course, as many other religious women, we desire that we come to the point that our superiors general can have a vote” just as their male counterparts do, she said.

During the briefing, Sister Weiler told journalists that she, along with two sisters participating in her small-group discussions at the synod, experienced “a very open atmosphere” and feel “accepted as part of the group.”

The German theologian also said she is grateful to Pope Francis and the steps he has taken to include women’s voices throughout the synod process.

This, she said, “is already a significant step forward, and I want to honor it.”

Women, both lay and religious, have noted that the atmosphere allows for "more critical questions" to be asked "respectfully, but open on the table."

Sister Weiler said that among the bishops and cardinals participating at the synod, there are a good number “who really understand us as women, who share our concern” and who know that there are things that cause the women pain; “they understand why and want things to change.”

“There isn’t a clerical attitude,” she said. “There’s a lot of freedom of speech, and it is a beautiful experience really to discern together.”

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Tim O'Leary
3 years 5 months ago

I am generally in favor of women and lay men getting a greater role in synods, provided that they are fully Catholic.

James Heller
3 years 5 months ago

One never knows where and from whom the best ideas may come. I think it is time to recognize that both partners in the human race have worth

Michael Barberi
3 years 5 months ago

I support a wide cross-section of women, both secular and religious, and lay men including theologians, getting a greater voice and role in Synods. The cross section, as best as possible, should reflect the sensus fidei and sensus fidelium. This is necessary because of the following:

Sensus fidei (sense of the faith), also called sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful) is, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "the supernatural appreciation of faith on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals."

While this may be difficult, a positive and significant first step in this direction would be welcomed.

Tim O'Leary
3 years 5 months ago

Michael - what meaning of secular are your using? Surely, you don't mean the common usage today - those outside the faithful people of God (i.e. non-believers or non-practitioners). That would directly contradict Vatican II, and the definition in the Catechism, which refers to faithful Catholics, and requires unanimity (the whole of the faithful). The Catechism quotes section 12 in Lumen Gentium, so here is a fuller quote from LG 12:
"The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when "from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful" they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. "

Michael Barberi
3 years 5 months ago

Tim - You should know full well by now that the word secular that I used would never mean non-believers. This is my last comment to you on this issue.

Todd Witherell
3 years 5 months ago

The Catholic Church can and does change. Freedom of speech in discernment. Full inclusion of female voices. Equality and justice for women religious, and, ultimately, for all women. Progress. Dialogue. Discussion. Openness to learning and to the new. Mystical unity.

Jim Smith
3 years 5 months ago

Will someone point me to the source of the idea that Almighty God handed over the care of His creation to fallen human beings?
Calling this German woman a theologian gives her no more gravitas than her illustrious brother - priest, monk and theologian Martin Luther.

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