The opening day of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican Synod Hall on Oct. 3, 2018. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
A website overseen by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican has linked to a group campaigning for women’s ordination.
In a post dated Jan. 15, the Synodresources.org website shared information about the Women’s Ordination Conference organization, based in Washington, D.C.
Thierry Bonaventura, communication manager of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, told CNA on Jan. 19 that the website was not promoting the group.
“I would rather speak of ‘sharing,’ as the title of the website,” he said.
Bonaventura pointed out that the “About” section of Synodresources.org emphasizes that the website is “a tool for listening and a platform for sharing that does not replace the official website of Synod 2021-2023 (synod.va).”
“Rather than vertical, top-down communication, it aims to be horizontal communication,” it says.
The website was previously at the centre of controversy after it linked to an LGBT outreach ministry.
Officials at the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops removed the link to New Ways Ministry after they became aware that the U.S. bishops’ conference expressed its disapproval of the organization in 2010.
But following an outcry, they restored the link and issued an apology.
Synodresources.org also links to the Latin-American Rainbow Catholic community, part of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, which says that it “brings together groups and their members who work for pastoral care and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and their families.”
The Women’s Ordination Conference, founded in 1975, describes itself as “the oldest and largest organization working to ordain women as deacons, priests, and bishops.”
In his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II wrote that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”
During an in-flight press conference in 2016, Pope Francis was asked whether there were likely to be women priests in the Catholic Church in the next few decades.
“As for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last clear word was given by St. John Paul II, and this holds,” he replied.
The pope has asked two commissions to study the question of a female diaconate in the Catholic Church.
The first, established in 2016, examined the historic issue of the role of deaconesses in the early Church but did not reach a consensus.
He instituted a second commission in 2020, following discussion of the female diaconate during the 2019 Amazon synod.
Pope Francis changed Church law in January 2021 so that women can be formally instituted to the lay ministries of lector and acolyte.
The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, a permanent institution based at the Vatican and dedicated to serving the Synod, is currently overseeing what has been called one of the largest consultation exercises in human history, ahead of the 2023 Synod on Synodality.
A vademecum, or handbook, released in September 2021 urged dioceses to include “all the baptised” in the process, including those on the margins of Church life.
It said: “Special care should be taken to involve those persons who may risk being excluded: women, the handicapped, refugees, migrants, the elderly, people who live in poverty, Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith, etc.”
A disclaimer on the homepage of Synodresources.org says: “The publication of any contribution should not be understood as an endorsement of its content; nor should anyone interpret such a publication as an act of formal recognition by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops of the group or community submitting the contribution.”
A pop-up window explains that anyone can send material to the site, but not all contributions will be accepted.
It says: “The current synodal process is addressed to the entire People of God, to all the baptised. In chapter 2.1 of the Vademecum, we urged dioceses to involve people at risk of exclusion (women, migrants, the elderly or Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith).”
“At the same time, in order to participate fully in the act of discernment, it is important for the baptised to listen to the voices of other people in their local context, including those who have abandoned the practice of the faith, people from other faith traditions, people who have no religious beliefs at all.”
“Therefore, anyone is entitled to send material. At the same time, because we firmly believe that the experience of faith is and must be communitarian, we will only accept contributions that express the views of a group clearly identified. We regret that individual submissions will not be considered.”
The Vatican announced in May 2021 that the Synod on Synodality would open with a diocesan phase starting in October that year.
A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.
The third, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.