From women to LGBTQ members, Catholic Church ponders inclusionTue, 20 Jun 2023 16:25:19 GMT

From welcoming LGBTQ Catholics to better representation of women, the Vatican published on Tuesday a reflection on the top social issues facing the Catholic Church as part of a global study on its future.The 50-page document is intended as food for thought for the “Synod on Synodality”, a gathering of bishops and lay people from around the world to be held in October 2023, before a second phase in October 2024. Launched by Pope Francis, who has sought to make the Church more welcoming towards marginalised people, the gathering is part of a wide-ranging consultation of 1.3 billion Catholics on every continent, who have for the past two years been invited to express their views on the Church and social issues.  “What concrete steps are needed to welcome those who feel excluded from the Church because of their status or sexuality (for example, remarried divorcees, people in polygamous marriages, LGBTQ+ people, etc.)?”, is one example of questions posed about including marginalised groups. Similar questions were put on migrants and refugees, minorities and indigenous communities.  In October, the assembly of bishops and lay people “will be asked to listen deeply to the situations in which the Church lives and carries out its mission,” said the document. The document also underlines the “unanimous” concern of Catholics for the role of women within the Church, a subject close to the heart of the 86-year-old Argentine pope, who in April, for the first time, allowed women and non-consecrated lay people to vote in the Synod. The pontiff has also increased the number of women appointed to positions of responsibility within the Curia, the “government” of the Holy See. The document asks how women can be “better represented in the Church’s governance and decision-making processes, better protected from abuse in all ecclesial contexts, and, where relevant, more fairly remunerated for their work?”Particular attention is paid to the sensitive issue of allowing women to serve as deacons.Currently, only men can serve as deacons, who carry out functions such as baptisms, weddings and funerals, but do not celebrate Mass. Another topic addressed in the document was the possibility of married men becoming priests in certain regions of the world. In 2019, the bishops of nine countries — the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region — proposed that the Pope open up the priesthood to certain married indigenous men, and called for a re-launch of the debate on women deacons, explosive issues dividing traditionalists and progressives. Neither suggestion was adopted by the Pope. The document also highlights what it called the “open wounds” of the “abuse crisis”: “sexual abuse, abuse of power and conscience, economic and institutional abuse”, and calls for “concrete measures” to be taken. A Synod is usually followed by the Pope’s publication of an “apostolic exhortation”, an official document in which he makes recommendations to the faithful based on these meetings.