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Pope Francis with Cdl. Grech at the Synod on Synodality Facebook/

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has appointed to the General Secretariat of the Synod advisers who advocate for female deacons, with the Holy See confirming the anticipated next stage of the Synod on Synodality will be held this October in Rome. 

Issued via a press release February 17, the upcoming dates for the culminating stage of the multi-year Synod on Synodality were announced. The synod meetings will take place October 2 through 27, with participants joining for a two day retreat starting September 30. 

As LifeSiteNews has already detailed, the working document, or Instrumentum laboris, for the October 2024 synod session will be written by late June and based on a fresh round of diocesan reflections on the synthesis report from the 2023 synod meeting. A key theme of the report was the push for a new role for women – the female diaconate or female governance being the most commonly voiced preferences by synodal activist or heterodox prelates.

READ: Synod on Synodality leadership unveils next stages in build-up to critical 2024 event 

Saturday also saw the Pontiff instruct the various bodies of the Roman Curia to collaborate with the synod, and organize study groups based on the 2023 session’s synthesis report. No details on the particular subjects to be studied were given.

Six new consulters for the Synod

While such a diary announcement about the synod’s timing merely confirms what was scheduled, the names of the new consulters to the General Secretariat of the Synod present themselves as of particular interest. On February 17 Pope Francis appointed six consulters to join the current ten. The list includes:

  • Monsignor Alphonse Borras, Episcopal Vicar of the Diocese of Liège. 
  • Gilles Routhier, professor of theology at Canada’s Université Laval. 
  • Ormond Rush, associate professor of theology at Australian Catholic University.
  • Sister Birgit Weiler, M.M.S., professor of theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.
  • Professor Tricia C. Bruce, president-elect of the Association for the Sociology of Religion.
  • Maria Clara Lucchetti Bingemer, professor of theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.

The new consulters are not surprise nominees, due to their current or prior involvement with the Synod on Synodality or research on its key topics. However, a number are notable for their advocacy of topics which have concerned Catholics, including the female diaconate and a focus on the Second Vatican Council as an event which must change the Church.

Maria Clara Lucchetti Bingemer campaigns for more prominent female roles in the Church, including overhauling the Church’s constant teaching on a male-only priesthood, describing the Catholic teaching simply as “the ordained, traditional ministry that has existed up to this point.”

Bingemer is listed as a contributor to the website Catholic Women Preach – a site and group which argues that preaching should be open to all, not just ordained male clerics. The group publishes the female preaching, or homily style articles, with a large number written by advocates of female deacons, and notes that it “uses modern technology to bring the voices of diverse Catholic women to the proclamation of the Gospel through web-based resources.”

Bingemer’s profile on Catholic Women Preach

She has praised the “openness” of Vatican II for bringing the “contribution of women” at varying levels of the Church into the fore, decrying the “discrimination that women have suffered and continue to suffer in the Church.”

READ: Fr. Murray tells Raymond Arroyo ‘women deacons’ would be ‘serious moment of heresy’

Tricia Bruce is a widely-published sociologist, particularly examining national Catholic views on abortion and female deacons. She coordinated a report (published in 2021) on the stance of self-described Catholics in the U.S. on the issue of female deacons, which found chiefly that “Catholic women feel called to the diaconate – or would image and discern such a call if the diaconate were open to them.” 

The report was praised by advocates of the female diaconate such as Phylliss Zagano and Bishop John Stowe. 

Bruce directed those readers interested in joining the “broader conversations” on the female diaconate towards the website Discerning Deacons, which advocates for a form of female diaconal ministry. 

While Bruce chiefly focuses on compiling studies, as noted by LifeSite’s Calvin Freiburger in May 2022 she put her name to a joint article which attempted to make the case that “[a]bortion saves women’s lives,” in the process repeating the dubious claim that “outlawing abortion does not actually reduce it.”

Sister Birgit Weiler already served as a designated “expert” in the compilation of the 2022 document for the continental stage of the Synod on Synodality. Weiler, a member of the 2019 Amazon Synod’s “small circle” discussions, expressed her hope during that synod that female religious should be able to vote at a synod. Such an endeavor was realized when Pope Francis allowed laity to participate and vote in the 2023 Synod on Synodality session. 

Weiler also called for increased female governance in the Church, saying that a “synodal church… means to have more women in positions of leadership, and there’s a wide field where you do not need to be ordained.”

Sr. Birgit Weiler at a 2016 conference on the ‘impact of colonization’.

Monsignor Alphonse Borras is part of the Theological Commission of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and has written to promote the concept of “synodality” as the key force underpinning the Church of modern times. 

He has welcomed the debate and openness to (at least from heterodox quarters of the Church) having married priests. Borras also stated in light of the 2019 Amazon Synod that the “question of the female diaconate still needs to mature, but I hope it won’t take too long.”

The two remaining new consulters have the Second Vatican Council as a particular area of advocacy. Father Ormond Rush, another “expert” who drew up the 2022 continental stage document and a theological adviser to the General Secretariat of the Synod, is an Australian priest who presents himself simply as “Ormond Rush,” even in official Vatican documents. 

READ: Senior Synod theologian claims the Church is now in a ‘deeper phase’ of Vatican II   

He told the 2023 Synod members in October that Vatican II remains “the authority for guiding our reflections on the issues that confront us today.” Rush is best known for his numerous writings promoting the Second Vatican Council as a call for “renewal and reform of the Catholic Church,” and advocating for a further implementation of its new style of engaging with the world and with Catholics.

Fr. Ormond Rush speaking at the Synod on Synodality, October 23, 2023.

Finally, Gilles Routhier, a Canadian academic and researcher on Vatican II, makes the sixth new nominee. Routhier has described Vatican II’s texts as “classics of Christian thought,” and called for them to effect a change on those who read them and on the Church.

With such advisers joining the team behind the Synod on Synodality, the topics of the synod being a continuation of Vatican II, the female diaconate continues to rise to prominence as the lengthy event reaches its purported conclusion later this year.