By Charles Igwe
In a statement at the Synod on Synodality, Cardinal Robert Francis Prevost highlighted the complexities surrounding calls for women’s involvement and governance within the Catholic Church, underlining that “clericalizing women” wouldn’t be a solution to the Church’s issues.
When questioned about the inclusion of women in the governance of the Catholic Church during a synod press conference on October 25, Cardinal Prevost, an American delegate at the synod, pointed out the well-established nature of the apostolic tradition, particularly regarding women’s ordination to the priesthood. He expressed a need to explore alternative understandings of leadership, power, authority, and service within the Church, considering the unique perspectives that both women and men can bring.
Cardinal Prevost, who has previously served as the prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Bishops, stressed that the Church is not a mirror image of society and must maintain its distinct identity. He cautioned against drawing direct parallels between the roles of women in the Church and those in secular society, emphasizing that tradition and history should be carefully considered.
He noted that women are assuming increasing leadership roles within the Vatican and across different parts of the Church. He cited the recent appointment of Sister Simona Brambilla as the secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life as an example of this trend.
Cardinal Prevost’s comments followed reports that a group of nuns at the synod, mainly from Latin America and Europe, advocate for female ordination, particularly to the role of women deacons.
Pope Francis, in an interview for an Italian book published that week, reaffirmed the Church’s stance that women cannot become priests or deacons. He emphasized the significance of women’s roles and contributions within the Church, stating, “The fact that the woman does not access ministerial life is not a deprivation because her place is much more important.”
Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also spoke about the role of women in the Church at the synod press conference. He recognized the substantial influence of religious sisters, particularly in the field of education, and disputed the assumption that women lack influence due to not holding all roles at every level.
Nora Kofognotera Nonterah, a theology professor from Ghana, shared her experience at the Synod on Synodality, noting that she felt heard as a layperson, a woman, and an African, in a Church that has not yet fully incorporated the voices and wisdom of women, laypeople, and Africans. Nonterah is one of 54 women participating as voting delegates in the synod assembly this month.