Amazon Synod’s architect reveals how Pope Francis could ‘open a door’ to women’s ordination
October 22, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Erwin Kräutler, the bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Xingu, Brazil, revealed in a new book that, in his diocese, women are not only presiding over Liturgies of the Word, but are also giving homilies, a practice contrary to Catholic liturgical rules.
In August of this year, the Austrian bishop published a new book dedicated to the Amazon Synod and its outcome. The title of the book is Renewal Now. Impulses from the Amazon for the Reform of the Church.
In his new publication, Bishop Kräutler repeats his call for married priests and for female deacons, as well as for female priests. It is in this context that he speaks about the large role that women already play in the Church in his own region in Brazil. When claiming that women have too little say in the Catholic Church, he states:
Often I refer to the fact that 'at our end, at the Xingu', things go very differently, that women lead the Liturgies of the Word and that they, in doing so, also give a homily. But this experience in Brazil and perhaps also somewhere else is at the most a tender flash of light, but it is far from being a proof for the sunrise that we have been awaiting for so long.
He is “convinced that the same dignity of the woman with regard to the admission to the ordained offices will come.”
“And I hope,” the bishop continues, “that the Amazon Synod will be breaking open new paths for it, or at least making some steps in the right direction.”
Kräutler recalls his April 4, 2014 meeting with Pope Francis which was to be a crucial event in the history of the current Pan-Amazon Synod, and he shows how all of his points which he had brought up in discussion with Pope Francis have now been included in the Amazon Synod.
When speaking about his private audience with Pope Francis, the Austrian bishop first recalled that it was actually his own theological adviser, Father Paulo Suess, who shortly before the audience had told Pope Francis about the lack of priests in the Amazon. It was then that the Pope said “that he expected the bishops to give him concrete and courageous proposals.” And, with a laugh, Pope Francis then asked Kräutler whether or not he remembers that he himself had already used the same word – “Corajudos” [which Kräutler translates with the words “courageous, bold”] – when speaking at the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro on July 27, 2013.
The Austrian bishop also related how he presented three points to the Pope: “the situation [and rights] of the indigenous people in the Amazon”; “the Amazon and ecology”; and “the parishes without the Eucharist,” i.e., the lack of priests. It was here, concerning the third point, that the Pope asked Kräutler whether he has a specific proposal to make. After Kräutler had simply said that there needs to be a way so that his parishes are not excluded from the Eucharist, the Pope referred to “a bishop in Mexico; it is Bishop Samuel Ruiz of San Cristobal de las Casas, who is now deceased” and whom Kräutler knew. Ruiz had ordained hundreds of indigenous permanent deacons who were married and who were only leading their own parishes. This practice had been stopped by the Vatican in 2001.
Pope Francis then asked Kräutler as to why these deacons could not also celebrate the Holy Eucharist, and the bishop answered: “because they are married.” It was here that Pope Francis himself brought up the ideas of Bishop Fritz Lobinger, who envisions a “Team of Elders” who lead a parish and are ordained and thus are able to celebrate Mass. These “Elders” could be married – and male or female, as well, according to Lobinger's ideas.
It is significant that Pope Francis brought up the ideas of a man who explicitly wished the ordination of women to the priesthood. But also significant is that he had already discussed Lobinger's ideas back in 2014, while in 2019, he stated in an in-flight press conference that “I’m not saying that it should be done, because I have not reflected, I have not prayed sufficiently about it.”
One could perhaps say that this Amazon Synod is Kräutler's Synod.
States Kräutler: “For our indigenous people in Brazil, it is absolutely wonderful that Pope Francis has picked up on all the intentions that I was able to present to him at my private  audience in Rome.”
But Kräutler also has some demeaning words to say about the “Romans” in the pre-synodal council which prepared the Amazon Synod and which had eighteen members, many of them from Latin America, some of them from the Roman Curia. It was a group of Latin American experts who had prepared a draft for the Lineamenta (preparatory document) of the Amazon Synod, but their ideas were met with some resistance. While describing how the pre-synodal team worked through the draft in April of 2018, Bishop Kräutler stated: “Sometimes, there were differences of opinion, especially with the 'Romans'.”
The Austrian bishop later returned to this same theme when describing the May 2019 meeting of the pre-synodal council, which was then to discuss the draft of the synod's Instrumentum Laboris (working document).
“The discussions were not always easy,” the Austrian prelate wrote. “Sometimes, we felt an ice-cold headwind.” He went on to explain his words: “The problem is always the same: opinions which are based upon a year-long pastoral experience and upon direct contact with the People of God, clash with cold norms, canons, and paragraphs, represented by members of the Roman Curia who know Latin America only from the perspective of a tourist and who most probably never have worked directly in the field of pastoral care of a parish.”
Kräutler insisted that his own group “fought bravely” and were thus able to finalize the synod's working document. But then he was even more satisfied when, on November 14-15, 2018, there took place a meeting of the pre-synodal council along with the presidents of all regional conferences of the Brazilian Amazon in Manaus. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the head of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, had also come from Rome. “This meeting,” Kräutler explained, “has given me more hope that there could be some movement, after all, with regard to the matter of the parishes without the Eucharist, and to the conditions for the admission to ordained offices.”
“Because, suddenly,” he continued, “bishops who had not said much about this topic until then suddenly raised their voices. As was to be expected, Cardinal Baldisseri had brought up some objections and referred to statements of different popes. But then two bishops – Dom Edson of São Gabriel da Cachoeira (Amazon) and Dom Filipe of Miracema do Norte (Tocantins) – answered and withstood, just as Peter did it with Paul in Antioch, 'to the face' (Gal 2:11) of His Eminence.”
Don Filipe, according to the Austrian bishop, had prepared himself and written down a text and “declared right away: 'today's conditions for the admission to ordained offices have to be revised!'”
For this prelate, “tradition” has a bad taste. He proposed to get rid of “the ballast that has been accumulated over the centuries, which we in our Church carry with much suffering and which some in the right corner fanatically defend as 'tradition.'”
He confidently proposes now to remove at the Amazon synod everything that is “superfluous.”
In this sense, Bishop Kräutler reveals in his new book that, during the pre-synodal council meetings, “in the presence of the Pope, I insisted upon including the ordination of female deacons in the final document [of the Amazon Synod].” However, Cardinal Baldisseri insisted that it would be “better to let the 'people' in the Amazon first answer the questions that we present to them, instead of pre-empting them.”
For Kräutler, the female diaconate is a must of the Amazon Synod, since, “realistically, we will essentially not advance with regard to the female priesthood. I feel sorry for Pope Francis, because Pope John Paul II had unmistakably stated that the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood.” Now, Pope Francis “stands under this verdict,” the prelate added, “as to what concerns the female priesthood.” But he himself still thinks that this very verdict is “not a dogma.”
As to the question of remaining loyal to Revelation, Bishop Kräutler has his own ideas. This question “really does not mean that all rites and regulations of the Early Church are still for us binding in the meaning of those times.” Here, he explicitly rejects St. Paul's admonition that “women should be silent at assemblies” of the parish (1 Cor 14:33-34). “Would this rule still be valid,” he argued, “how would the situation be in the parishes of the Amazon and in other regions which are led by women in two-thirds of the cases?” This bishop even claims that this passage of St. Paul has been introduced only later, thus questioning its very authenticity.
The Austrian prelate furthermore suggested that there have been many teachings, for example of the 19th century, that the Church in the 20th century abandoned, for example the Church's stance with regard to democracy (Pope St. Pius X), to religious liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), and also to other novelties introduced in the Second Vatican Council “that would have been regarded as being heretical at the time of the First Council.”
In his own boldness, Bishop Kräutler also confirmed the “fears of conservative circles” in the Catholic Church – explicitly some writings of Sandro Magister and of Giuseppe Nardi (Katholisches.info), namely that the “workshop Amazon” is meant to attack the Sacrament of Holy Orders. “What is being presented here as a great fear,” Kräutler writes, “I regard with an attitude of hope. The Amazon Synod can be the cause of an epochal step in the Universal Church.”
Here, he finalizes his own hopes with regard to what Pope Francis will likely do: First, he hopes that the Pope will listen to the Synod participants. “When we present our intentions in a decisive manner, he could, similar to the Synod on Marriage [with regard to the question of Communion for divorced and remarried couples], open a door in saying: 'You bishops now have the possibility to do what you consider to be necessary.'” It would then be “up to the regional bishops' conferences to say 'yes, the situation with us is such that we shall make use of the possibility as given to us by the Pope to ordain viri probati [morally proven, married men] and female deacons.”
Here, Bishop Kräutler draws a link to Pope Francis' post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in which he permitted that regional bishops' conferences – such as the German Bishops' Conference – allow some divorced and remarried couples to receive Holy Communion, in spite of their living objectively in the state of adultery.
In light of the fact that Bishop Kräutler was so successful in getting Pope Francis to organize a synod according to his three points as he presented them to the Pope in 2014, we may well expect to read such a conclusion and proposal as just described here by the bishop in the final report of the Amazon Synod, as well as in the subsequent post-synodal exhortation of Pope Francis that will surely not be long delayed.