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Pope Francis in the Paul VI Audience Hall for the 2023 Synod on Synodality

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Following the conclusion of the October 2023 session of the Synod on Synodality, the dominant emerging theme is one of implicit papal approbation of heterodox members pushing for a revolution in Church teaching. 

The Synod on Synodality concluded its first month-long session at the end of October, with participants set to return to the Vatican in October 2024. The much anticipated meeting ended with the publication of a synthesis report, described by synod officials with some caveats – it is not a “final document,” nor is it even the instrumentum laboris to be used for next year’s session.

READ: Synod on Synodality report pushes female deacons and lay governance but avoids giving firm answers

While certain hot-button topics were not dealt with in a manner which satisfied their prominent activists – such as making pro-LGBT statements or concrete proposals for female deacons – the synthesis report’s open style and non-restrictive tone has allowed such suggestions to be made by synod members regardless.

With members no longer ordered to stay away from the media – a stipulation made during the synod – more heterodox members of the event have granted a plethora of interviews in which they have repeated their calls for pro-LGBT actions on the part of the Church and the implementation of female deacons. 

As LifeSite has reported, Cardinals Robert McElroy and Blase Cupich have led the way, giving solo and joint interviews to dissident members of the Catholic press. They downplayed the role of the synthesis report, highlighting instead the manner of discussion at the event. This is key, for while the synthesis report may have avoided concrete demands, its main achievement was establishing a “synodal” style of Church life as the norm, thus effectively doing away with the hierarchical structure in favor of majority vote.

Cupich referred to “a real paradigm shift here” regarding the role of women in leadership positions, adding that there should also be recognition of women serving “as pastors”:

I would say, talking to some bishops, they tell me already that they have women serving ‘as pastors,’ who are serving as the head of communities because they don’t have enough priests. They don’t have the title, however. How do we officially recognize that, rather than seeing it as kind of an exception?

But the two cardinals are not alone. Amongst the fast-growing number of post-synodal articles, interviews and memoirs appearing online is an intervention from Peru’s Cardinal Pedro Barreto. He followed the example of his brother cardinals in advocating for the female diaconate against Church teaching.

“In the synthesis document, it talks about the woman in the mission of the Church,” he noted. “However, there are some, not all, who are against the women’s diaconate. Women do not demand that, but they can, in some cases, be given the possibility of that.” For Barreto, the process is not closed, and he argued that “we can continue reflecting, but the role of women in the Church and in society is being evaluated a lot.”

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Joining the prelates is the notoriously pro-LGBT activist Father James Martin SJ. Writing for his own pro-LGBT website Outreach, Martin first expressed his “disappointment” at the synthesis report’s response to LGBT issues. 

But he praised the document for its particular phraseology regarding the question. Indeed, the report suggests the Church’s “anthropological categories…are not sufficient to grasp the complexity of the elements emerging from experience or knowledge in the sciences and require refinement and further study.”

Such a passage was crucial, argued Martin, precisely because it left the door open on the topic – a topic upon which the Church has already issued very clear and precise teaching. 

“To some LGBTQ people and their families, this may seem like weak tea,” Martin added. “And many, like me, wanted a fuller description of the conversations around this issue included in the synthesis. But the text is an open door to further conversation by the Synod in our next session and the church.”

Fr. James Martin greets the Pope during the 2023 Synod on Synodality. Credit: Fr James Martin/X

Taking up this theme of “an open door” was fellow Jesuit Father Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator S.J. in an interview he gave to the National Catholic Reporter. Orobator attested that “no issue is off the table” in light of the recently published synthesis report.

READ: German bishop asks priests to ‘bless’ homosexual unions, citing Pope Francis and Synodal Way

Orobator, one of the non-bishop synod members, was introduced to members of the Vatican press corps during a synod press briefing as a rising star in the Jesuit order, and one of the leading theologians of the Church today. He previously served as provincial superior of the Jesuits of the Eastern Africa Province, before becoming the provincial of the entire Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar.

He praised the synod’s October meeting for the unprecedented manner in which “the process created a space where perhaps for the first time in this level of the Church, we heard the voices, testimonies, experience and desires and expectations of women, articulated by women themselves.”

“The space is there to continue having this conversation because nothing is closed,” he stated.

“I look forward to having a more robust conversation about theses issues and a more articulate expression about what this would look like in real life,” Orobator added.

Shortly after, Pope Francis’ favored pro-LGBT nun, Sister Jeannine Gramick, also spoke out about the way forward for the synod, having had a groundbreaking meeting with Pope Francis while the October session was underway. 

READ: Pope Francis’ favorite pro-LGBT nun says he is ‘laying the groundwork’ for changing teaching on homosexuality

“I think in the long run … Pope Francis is laying the groundwork for change in sexuality,” Gramick said in response to a question about the possibility for “substantial change in church teaching on homosexuality.” 

She also argued that the synod had not been without results for LGBT activists, simply because it was not as radical as some expected. “My hope is that people won’t be disappointed [in the Synod] because there won’t be concrete changes,” she said. “I don’t think that is the purpose of the Synod. The purpose of the Synod is to have conversations with each other: to listen and to speak, to learn how to be a dialogic church. The Holy Spirit will let us know when the time is right.”

Indeed, as LifeSite has already reported, synod member Cardinal Leonardo Steiner attested that Pope Francis has specifically tasked the 2024 session of the synod with looking at LGBT issues.

READ: Pope Francis reportedly tasked next year’s Synod with addressing same-sex ‘blessings’

Such interviews and statements are of greater importance than might initially be understood. 

The synod’s report was notable for the manner in which it called for continued discussion on topics already decided upon by the Catholic Church. But chiefly the text highlights a continuation of the culture of questioning that has characterized the synod during the past two years. While less explicit on certain topics than previous documents, the synthesis report lays the groundwork for essentially codifying the “synodal manner” of prolonged discussion on already decided moral or doctrinal questions, and the concept of majority vote approval in the Church with equality of voting power amongst the laity and the clergy. 

As if to prove such a point, synod member Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo – the president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals – spoke to Vatican News about the new manner of the Church. He claimed that the event “opens up new perspectives for our Church.”

Having a focus on “synodality…means that the Church has realized that something needs to change in its way of being,” he added. 

Summarizing his thoughts, Ambongo attested that the synod was about looking at “how can we seek together to stand hand in hand and walk together, guided by the Holy Spirit, to be a different Church, a Church that leaves no one by the wayside, but that tackles the great pastoral challenges that lie ahead, that listens to one another and to the Holy Spirit.”

With yet another synod document set to emerge even before the October 2024 session of the synod, the intervening interventions made by synod participants are crucial to spotlight the emerging themes and true aims of the meetings taking place behind closed doors at the Vatican.