Beloved Amazon

Download and read Francis’ “Beloved Amazon”

Pope Francis has issued his much awaited response following the Synod on the Amazon.

As part of his opening Francis wrote  “I will not go into all of the issues treated at length in the final document. Nor do I claim to replace that text or to duplicate it. I wish merely to propose a brief framework for reflection that can apply concretely to the life of the Amazon region a synthesis of some of the larger concerns that I have expressed in earlier documents, and that can help guide us to a harmonious, creative and fruitful reception of the entire synodal process.”

In the final document of the October synod on the Amazon the majority of bishops asked for the establishment of criteria so that some married men could be ordained as priests. The bishops also called for the Vatican to reopen a study commission on ordaining women as deacons.

In his document ‘Beloved Amazon’ Francis calls for greater lay participation in the church and says the training of priests in the Amazon must be changed so they are better able to minister to indigenous peoples. “Every effort should be made” to give the faithful access to the Eucharist.

He also writes “This urgent need leads me to urge all bishops, especially those in Latin America, not only to promote prayer for priestly vocations, but also to be more generous in encouraging those who display a missionary vocation to opt for the Amazon region”

He does not deal specifically with the issues of the ordination of women as deacons or married men as priests.

Reactions are expected to be swift, and depending on each person’s expectations concerning the future of ministry will be either very disappointed that there doesn’t seem to be any change planned, or reassured that the status quo is being maintained.

There is of course much else in Francis’ Beloved Amazon that will need to be studied. His four great dreams for the Amazon region bear great consideration.

“I dream of an Amazon region that fights for the rights of the poor, the original peoples and the least of our brothers and sisters, where their voices can be heard and their dignity advanced.

I dream of an Amazon region that can preserve its distinctive cultural riches, where the beauty of our humanity shines forth in so many varied ways.

I dream of an Amazon region that can jealously preserve its overwhelming natural beauty and the superabundant life teeming in its rivers and forests.

I dream of Christian communities capable of generous commitment, incarnate in the Amazon region, and giving the Church new faces with Amazonian features.”

Time will judge whether this will be seen as a great challenge or an opportunity missed.

Mattie Long


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  1. Iggy O Donovan says:

    But what did Francis say. Please somebody give us a reasoned summary. My first reading is that he has said virtually nothing that ANYBODY could not agree with. Ecology, environment, indigenous respect in liturgy etc etc. Sure Pio Nono would have agreed to most of that along with Richard Boyd Barrett. What else did he say — De profundis clamavi.

  2. Nessan Vaughan says:

    Very disappointing, although not surprising. While there are excellent passages on the environment, social justice, inculturation, respect for indigenous peoples, etc, ultimately Pope Francis remains a prisoner of Roman Catholic tradition in excluding women from the diaconate and priestly ministry. He fails to see that, effectively, it amounts to a denial of women’s equality which is bestowed on women through baptism. My opinion only!

  3. In their well-written piece in the New York Times, Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo describe the pope’s decision as “a victory for conservative forces who had warned that change there would put the church on a slippery slope.”

    Many ACP members will be rudely disappointed to read a lyrical dream for the Amazon region rather than a courageous policy change about the rule of celibacy as a pre-condition for priestly ordination.

    The NY Times article comments that: “Coming seven years into his papacy, it raises the question of whether Francis’ promotion of discussing once-taboo issues is resulting in a pontificate that is largely talk.”

    There may be a possible ray of hope that the pope’s “presentation” of the results of the Amazonian Synod is not his definitive response. The majority of the Brazilian bishops asked to be allowed to ordain “viri probati”. The pope’s tepid response could be a kind of testing the waters, part of a careful process as he seeks to discern a way forward that will not push his conservative critics into open schism.

    In an article in the Tablet Ruth Gledhill reports how his comments on the role of women and his decision not to countenance women deacons came in for criticism from women’s groups in the Church. So any hope for positive change about the ordination of women seems unlikely to bear fruit during this pontificate.

  4. Frank Graham says:

    Fine, eloquent words. Who could not but be inspired by them or not agree with them! But I’m afraid that they will be like ‘water off a duck’s back’ to those responsible for the degradation of the planet and to those leaders of countries who lend support to these exploiters. Words without action will not have any effect on them. In the final document there were, actually, some concrete proposals put forward by the Amazonian and Latin American Bishops which the Pope ‘declined to answer’. Maybe that’s a polite way of saying he rejected them! One of the proposals was the ordinaton of married men from the region. The rather waffling, abstruse comments made by Cardinal Michael Czerney about the synod and the ordination of married men seems to me just a way of saying that there will be no real or meaningful change or reform. How sad! The Amazonian Bishops and people must be feeling a sense of rejection.

  5. Joe O'Leary says:

    The course of the barque of Peter is firmly set: straight for the iceberg!

  6. Seamus Ahearne says:

    Francis clearly doesn’t like elephants. There definitely was an elephant in the room. Or more likely a stampeding herd of elephants had taken over the Amazon. His dislike of these marvellous animals, was obvious. He gave them the silent treatment. He may have found their presence a distraction to everything else he wanted to say. There is hope. The talking has to continue.

    Eamon Martin is a fine dancer. He danced expertly to the music of Rome. He slipped somewhat in his final words on Morning Ireland. (Thursday 13th February). He spoke in praise of the fine priests throughout Ireland who have given wholly their lives to God. This was a discordant note during the dance. It begs a comment: Might those who would be married not do the same? This discussion which links celibacy and priesthood is non-incarnational. Therein lies the problem.
    Seamus Ahearne osa

  7. Iggy O Donovan says:

    The first chapters of Beloved Amazon are perfect. There is beautiful material on conservation, ecology, environment etc. Attenborough could have written it.
    What confuses me is that Francis in the final section seems to ignore completely the Synods recommendations on the celibacy issue. He appears to have parked the issue rather than clamp down completely as John Paul did with the ordination of women. There is definitely a sense of disappointment but perhaps some of us underestimated how fiendishly difficult it is to reform anything in Rome.

  8. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Seamus, ‘No Tigers in Africa’ John Charles told Radharc’s Joe Dunn as he set off for his first filming venture. Much later Joe got a good book title out of it: ‘No Lions in the Hierarchy’. If there are any surviving Notiomastodons in PanAmazonia, Francis could at least have given them a footnote even if he dodged them in the body of his ‘Beloved Amazon’. Footnotes 329 and 351 of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ were at least an oblique attempt to tackle a couple of elephants from a previous Synod.

    But if +Eamon Martin really wants to send a hunting party of Irish priests to pursue Amazonian elephants or unicorns, he should get his brother bishops to export every young Maynooth or Roman priest under 50 for a five-year period. With luck, they’ll ‘go native’ and return to evangelise all those who’ve held the home fort for so long.

  9. kyril rocha says:

    Cardinal Czerny and Fr. Spadaro sj made it clear: Pope Francis sees the Amazonian Synod as a process; a departure point not an arrival point; a long road is ahead. Questions about viri probati and women deacons are not really closed. Time will tell us.
    And, don’t forget: Francis knows to bid his time…

  10. Chris McDonnell says:

    It is the lack of acknowledgement of the reality of the problem facing us that is so disheartening. When a real difficulty exists, ignoring it is not a solution. It is not as though we didn’t know that a crisis was imminent for it has been hanging around like a sea fret for some time now.

    Francis does not explicitly reject the Synod’s proposal on the matter, approved by a two-thirds majority, he simply does not mention it.

    His reported advice a few years ago to the now-retired Brazilian Bishop Krautler, that the bishops’ conference should come to a decision without always expecting Rome to lead the way seems to have been forgotten.

    At a briefing in Rome just last October, Bishop Krautler said that when it comes to ordaining married men of proven virtue, “there is no other option”.

    We ignore those offering real solutions at our peril. This cannot be the last word. We must continue the conversation.

    Chris McDonnell
    movement for married clergy UK

  11. Mattie Long says:

    I wonder what is at play with this non-decision.
    After all Pope Francis told the bishops to ask for change if that was what they wanted. They asked, but so far are left unanswered.
    Could it merely be a personal characteristic of the current Pope, a desire to avoid conflict? He has already told people to ignore the decisions of the CDF rather than use his own Papal powers to confront and abolish or totally overhaul that discredited body and how it operates.
    Or could it be that he feels this is not a decision for one man, even if he is Pope, to make on his own?
    If that were so, then I would be in total agreement.
    The centralisation of power in one person is not healthy for any organisation or society. Those who gain this power can use it for their own advantage and to push their own agenda and if a leader doesn’t act in such a ruthless way they are seen, and are portrayed by the media, as being weak.
    There is a classic example in how Theresa May tried to persuade and cajole her party members into adopting her line on Brexit. When her own cabinet members defied her she did not confront them or expel them from the party and eventually they, and in particular the current prime minister of the U.K. Mr Johnson, ousted her. In contrast once he was threatened in any way he expelled any who were in open disagreement with him and won the day. (Well, he won it for the moment at least, as news of further sackings of ministers today is surely laying the roots of a healthy internal opposition and resistance.)
    Of course this is not how we would like church to be organised and run, but sadly we have seen how Popes have used their power to expel, alienate and attempt to silence.
    Maybe, just maybe, Francis does not want such a church or such a Papacy!
    I can only hope so and further hope and pray that he is planning to call another Ecumenical Council to deal with such issues and decisions.
    If that is to happen I could make a couple of suggestions. Firstly we don’t need Vatican III, such a Council should be held in South America or Africa, in any city with reasonable conference and communications facilities and plenty for three-star or less accommodation for the bishops. Secondly, that the Council have a strict time limit for its deliberations and that the agenda be strictly confined to the topic of ordained ministry in the church. The issues of the exclusion of women from ordained ministry and the issue of celibacy would have to form part of that discussion I would imagine.
    To refer back to Seamus and Eddie’s comments; if you ignore stampeding elephants you will end up being trampled, likewise with tigers, ignore them and you risk being eaten alive.
    We have ignored them for too long.

  12. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    From my quick look at the document:
    Pope Francis, in Paragraph 2 of the document, titled The Significance of this Exhortation, he simply says: “In this Exhortation, I wish to offer my own response to this process of dialogue and discernment. I will not go into all of the issues treated at length in the final document.”
    It’s important to pay attention to what he writes, not to what we think he should have written.
    In the light of strong division of opinion in the church, it seems clear that he is pointing to a basic principle – paragraph 6 says: “Everything that the Church has to offer must become incarnate in a distinctive way in each part of the world.” What is done in the church in one part of the world is not necessarily appropriate for all other places.
    With so much attention focused on the matter of ordination of priests, he very deliberately and emphatically draws attention back to the wider picture, and the tragedy of the exploitation of the Amazon region, and he wants to unite not just the Church but the world on that crisis.
    Another Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin, saw the world as sacramental in a universal sense. In Chapter 3 of Hymn of the Universe he wrote about the Spiritual Power of Matter. See The sacrament of the Eucharist is of course vital; but to attend to the Eucharist while the earth on which we are founded is being destroyed is not the way. John Chrysostom wrote: “Do you want to honour Christ’s body? Then do not scorn him in his nakedness, nor honour him here in the church with silken garments while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked. For he who said: This is my body, and made it so by his words, also said: You saw me hungry and did not feed me, and inasmuch as you did not do it for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did not do it for me.”
    Yes, I am convinced that the ordination of married men and of women must be addressed – the mission of the Church requires it. If he did so at this juncture, that would absorb the attention, and the wider disastrous situation would be sidelined.
    It seems likely then that, within that context, he will make a later statement on the issue of ordination of married men in the Amazon area.
    As Kyril Rocha (#9) says, Francis knows how to abide his time. Perhaps one of our Jesuit confreres would know if there is something Jesuitical, in the very best sense, about how Francis is addressing this.

  13. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Thanks Pádraig@12 for intervening in our more colonialist treatment of the Amazon region, seeing it as a mere crucible for our home-based problems. The Brits and Romans, too, used test out their more hare-brained schemes in far-flung corners of their empires rather than at the metropolitan centre. Maybe we should all take a week off to thoroughly read the Synod’s Final Document and Francis’s ‘Querida Amazona’ before putting our commenting fingers to keyboards. i.e. take the man’s advice at parag.3 so that we too can profit “from the participation of many people who know BETTER THAN MYSELF OR THE ROMAN CURIA the problems and issues of the Amazon region, since they live there, they experience its suffering and they love it passionately.”

  14. Joe O'Leary says:

    Surely it was a mistake to yoke the ecological and ministerial issues together?

    Now the Pope’s apparent deafness to the needs of the Amazon participants on the ministerial front may lead to people turning a deaf ear to his response to the ecological needs also.

    Church conservatives gave Francis hell over his footnote in Amoris Laetitia. Now the same people were gathered for battle on the viri probati front, and Francis did not even throw them a footnote to feed their rage.

    He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day. Perhaps.

  15. Sean O'Conaill says:

    #12 This is timely, Pádraig. It is more than likely that an Irish shortage of priestly vocations must also have to do with an inability to make any vital connection between the Mass and the future of the planet – as Teilhard surely would have done in present circumstances.

    Given that the Mass is essentially a celebration of selfless sacrifice – a life given so that others may be saved – and that the ‘giving up’ of all wastefulness and excess – and injustice – will be key to the future of the world, is it not likely that Ireland’s ‘vocations crisis’ has also to do with the inability of too many Irish Mass celebrants to notice this and to adapt their liturgies and homilies accordingly?

    How many have noticed that ‘climate anxiety’ is now a growing factor in today’s challenges to youth mental health – as revealed in a Guardian article of Mon 10th Feb, 2020. [‘Overwhelming and terrifying’: the rise of climate anxiety]

    To climate activism Ireland’s young people could also be adding prayer to the Holy Spirit of self-sacrifice that has guided the whole church from the beginning, but how likely are they to hear that said, passionately, at Mass?

  16. John Farrelly says:

    Regarding Archbishop Martins Comments on Morning Ireland:
    I’m sorry but I don’t believe that he is one bit understanding of peoples dissapointment – If he were he would go further than say ‘he himself is open to change’ and actually call for it! Or better still be it! That I believe is what Pope Francis has been asking for. What is he and his fellow bishops in the Irish Episcopal Conference doing to bring about this change, that he says he is open to, in an Irish context? Wasn’t it Czerny who, when asked about the issue of married priests and women deacons being left out of the exortation, said ‘these decisions can be made at diocesan level’? Furthermore to say that ‘the matter has been left open for discussion within the church’ is completely disengenuous when we know that the matter of enforced celibacy and ordination of women deacons/priests is ‘off limits’ for discussion at parish and diocesan level – perhaps its open for discussion within his definition of the church which appears to be at the level of institution. Let him have the courage to call for his fellow bishops to initiate these discussions to take place at parishioner level and take heed of what ‘the church’ is asking for. He suggests that the bigger Amazonian questions are priority! In a few short years the fact that there are no priests left will become a very big question indeed, but perhaps not as big as the one of there being no church body left for them to pastor to.

    And as to Fr. Byrne’s comments. I Thank him sincerely for being supportive of neccessary reforms, I wish many more were like him ………. but frankly if he and and as he suggests a ‘majority’ of Irish priests are of the same view, then where is his and their acton? They need to ‘BE’ the reformists. Where are the women in his suggested ‘majority’ of parishes delivering the homily – even reading the Gospel regularly might be a start? Where are the persistent calls from his ‘majority’ of priests for the admittance of married men, and all women to priesthood? Where are the celebrations of the sacrament of marraige and other sacraments for people from the LGBTQI community in the ‘majority’ of parishes.

    Surely if such a majority exists and they stand together on these matters there is nothing to fear from bishops or from Rome!?

    John Farrelly – A member of the Catholic Church praying for for ‘grassroots clerical’ led reform.
    Thank you for your time

  17. Gerry O'Hanlon says:

    Mainline media (including RTE and the BBC)have reported that Pope Francis has ‘dismissed’, ‘rejected’, ‘ruled out’, ‘done a U-turn on’ the ordination of women, as well as the diaconate for women. Such reports are mis-leading.
    Cardinal Michael Czerny is correct in saying that proposals made by the Final Document of the Bishops in the Amazon Synod and not addressed by Francis in ‘Beloved Amazonia’ ‘remain on the table’. Czerny goes on to say that ‘I think the best way to understand this is as part of a process, and as part of a journey’. Similarly Antonio Spadaro has drawn attention to n. 2 of ‘Querida Amazonia’ and the adoption by Francis of a posture of ‘listening and discernment’, asking us all to read this Final Document and guiding its reception within the synodal journey, which is in progress and certainly cannot be said to have concluded.

    In other words, married priests and female deacons remain under active consideration.
    But why didn’t Francis give a more explicit answer, as he does in the sections of the Final Document on the social/cultural/ecological issues under consideration, and as he did (even in a footnote) to the issue of the admission of divorced and remarried people to full participation in the Eucharist in Amoris Laetitia?

    I suspect it is because he judged that the synodal process (in conjunction with the exercise of primacy and his own role in overseeing the unity and good of the whole church) had not yet reached a point in the discernment where one could speak of the kind of peace and consolation which would be signs of the Spirit’s presence. One reason for this might be – as Austen Ivereigh suggests – that the likely domino effect of a move on these issues means that they must involve, in some way, a discernment involving more than just one region of the Church. I suspect again that this will be helped by the ‘binding synodal process’ in Germany (which covers the same issues), and the Plenary Council coming up in Australia. Once one allows a synodal process and a listening to and discernment of the ‘sensus fidei fidelium’ that goes with it, then, as sociologist of religion Michelle Dillon says, ‘the cat is out of the bag’. There may be delays, disappointments and set-back along the way, but the direction of journey is clear.

    Scripture scholars tell us that the Council of Jerusalem, the original template of synodality and communal discernment,was the culmination of many years of turmoil and debate over the question of the Gentiles. Discernment needs time, even if at this crucial juncture for the church, we often feel that time is running out.

    A final reflection. Francis roots all this in faith, our encounter with Jesus Christ, the discernment of the Spirit, whereas the secular media and world often see it purely in terms of human rights or organizational efficiency. The latter are important (and part of the former) but there remains that core and daring faith claim that we can get to know the will of God, that it is worth trying to discern it with patience but with urgency and boldness, and that it is God’s Spirit who will allow us to change and yet remain substantially united.

  18. Joe O'Leary says:

    ” Wasn’t it Czerny who, when asked about the issue of married priests and women deacons being left out of the exhortation, said ‘these decisions can be made at diocesan level’? ”

    Just try it, and you’ll find yourself excommunicated!

    Pentin reports in National Catholic Register that Sandro Magister asked if, by including the final document as a “kind of magisterial document,” bishops’ conferences could use that document’s support for ordaining married men to allow such a change in their own dioceses.

    Czerny said: “If there are questions which you feel are open or which the Church feels are open thanks to the exhortation, they will continue to be debated, discussed, discerned, prayed over, and when mature presented to the appropriate authority the decision.”

    The cardinal then appeared to answer Magister’s earlier question about whether this matter could end up being resolved at the level of a bishops’ conference:

    “These are decisions that can be made in a diocese, in a conference, and decisions made here,” Cardinal Czerny said, “so if you’re looking for a kind of closure so you can write an article with a punch, I’m afraid there isn’t that kind of closure.”

  19. Joe O'Leary says:

    Found this on Facebook: He did not definitively close off either the ordination of married men nor the women’s diaconate. They are very much both still on the table for discussion and development. Many who follow the pope closely, are personal friends and know him well state that because he saw a lot of contentious discussion starting in the second week of the Synod, especially regarding ordaining married men, as he was discerning his actions in relation to it, he discerned that the Holy Spirit was not clearly indicating that he should move forward on approving it. He is a Jesuit well -versed in discernment, knowing how to read the signs of how God is speaking in a given situation. He’s still open to both but is going to let the Holy Spirit decide if it’s the right time in the church. He knows both issues if approved could cause a major fracture in the church. He respects and values, as the pope should who is the guarantor of it, unity in the church.

  20. Sean O'Conaill says:

    How remarkably like medical consultants do conservative Catholic clergy behave – determined, it seems, to maintain their own scarcity at all costs. It is of course, mere coincidence that they are also financially dependent upon everyone ‘buying in’ to all of this.

    Truly remarkable, this, especially in light of the absence of formal training in theology, philosophy, liturgy, ecclesiology et al in the requirements for the first celebrants of Eucharist – as well as the absence of celibacy as a sine qua non.

    But the ultimate scandal was surely their non-stipendiary status – as exemplified by St Paul’s ostentatious tent-making, to prove he wasn’t in it just for the money!

    Just how could Jesus have dared to set such a low bar! In this year of Our Lord, 2150, we can surely trace all of the divisions of Christianity to that one source. As though Unity At ALL COSTS was not the Greatest Commandment – the sole means by which we six last true Catholics – the sole heirs of the legacy of Cardinals Burke and Sarah – could maintain unto death that we alone are the One True Church!

  21. Colm Holmes says:

    Joe O’Leary #18 So the decision about married priests and women deacons is still on the table. So this can still be decided at diocesan level. Just try and you’ll find yourself excommunicated!

    Gerry O’Hanlon #17 suggests the synodal process is ongoing and the German Synodal Path and Australian Plenary Council may move the process on.

    Yet for the German Synodal Path the German bishops have installed a useful blocking mechanism: Final Resolutions must be approved by 2/3rds of the full Assembly (230) AND by 2/3rds of the German bishops (67).

    So I see little chance that any of our bishops is going to dare put their head over the parapet.

    It is from the grassroots that real change is coming. And women have a key role to play here. Parishes should encourage women to read the gospel and to comment on the gospel and to lead eucharists. One step at a time. The laity and their priests must work together to BE THE CHANGE.

  22. Neil Bray says:

    In the book recently published containing an interview with the Pope on Pope St John Paul II, Pope Francis says he is totally at one with John Paul’s teaching on the ordained priesthood.

    On the question discernment is it possible for a priest to predict the discernment the Holy Spirit wishes to grant another person some time in the future? (#17)

  23. Chris McDonnell says:

    What a fascinating and immediate response to this posting!

    Francis has followed the advice of Seamus Heaney writing in Station Island “whatever you say, say nothing” .

    Poetry’s power of words is highlighted once again.

  24. Frank Graham says:

    The ‘Elephants in the room ‘ concerning the Ecclesial dimension of the Report may still be ‘on the table.’ It all may be ‘part of a process, and a part of a journey’. It all may be ‘ a synodal process, a listening to and a discernment of the sensus fidelium.’ In other words it’s all going to take time. I can understand the need for careful consideration, dialogue etc. and for allowing the Holy Spirit to guide in any decision making. But I hope that what has been said in the report concerning the issue of celibacy and married priests is not just Church language for trying to ‘kick the can down the road or into the long grass!'(yet again!) Sorry for sounding cynical but I hope it turns out that I am indeed being just that!

  25. Joe O'Leary says:

    Married Roman Catholic priests have been a reality thanks to John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Francis seems to be a step back.

    Paul VI put the viri probati idea (the Pope would be allowed to ordain married men in case of dire pastoral need) to the 1971 Synod, and they turned it down. Now the situation is reversed.

    At that Synod, Cardinal Conway declared that we Irish — non nobis, Domine, non nobis — have never had a problem with celibacy. (see Schillebeeckx, Ministry)

  26. Brendan Butler says:

    Just because Francis seems to be our only present hope for change it doesn’t mean we have to defend him when he relinquishes his authority to Sarah ET alii.
    Francis probably had a chapter ready in
    positive response to the Amazonian people and Bishops on married priests but when Sarah and Benedict published their opposition to any change refused to bite the bullet and scrapped it.
    How else can this omission be explained and abandoning his favourite synodality
    Can you imagine JP2 throwing in the towel

  27. Neil Bray says:

    Pope Francis states he is in “total harmony with the thought of St. John Paul II with respect to the priesthood.” Does this reality feed into a discernment on the part of Pope Francis that he should allow married priests only for the same reasons St Pope St John Paul did?

    “Paul VI put the viri probati idea … to the 1971 Synod.” What is the significance of the verb “put” in this instance? Was it a case of St Paul VI trusting the bishops’ judgement and of Pope Francis trusting the synod membership but unable to trust their judgement?

  28. Heartily agree with Joe O’Leary (#25) that the analysis of “Querida Amazonia” by Massimo Faggioli in COMMONWEAL magazine is masterly. For any who may have difficulty in downloading Faggioli’s entire text, his last three, incisive paragraphs deserve special notice:

    The hope that “Querida Amazonia” would open a process similar to that with “Amoris Laetitia” could amount to wishful thinking—not because of the opposition of local episcopates, but, this time, because of pope Francis’s own opposition, not to mention the resistance he continues to face in Rome and elsewhere. Moreover, Francis’s positions on the issues of the 2014-2015 Synods aligned with those of the synodal majorities. This time, they don’t, and perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising: since 2013, pope Francis has repeatedly made clear his thinking on celibacy and married priests, deacons and women deacons, and women in ministry.

    Francis’s one major institutional reform—the Bishops’ Synod and synodality—now shows a systemic weakness: Catholic synodality still revolves institutionally and canonically around the Bishops’ Synod, which was conceived in 1965 as an instrument of papal primacy to co-opt elements of episcopal collegiality. In 2020, fifty-five years after the foundation of the Bishops’ Synod by Paul VI, the proposals of the bishops still depend on papal fiat, even when there is a large consensus as with the Amazon Synod. Secondly, the institutional arm of Catholic synodality still doesn’t know how to receive the participation of the people of God, or in what form: How can “el pueblo fiel de Dios” be represented and heard and contribute to decision-making? But there’s no way back. Papal teaching has acknowledged the need to take the sensus ecclesiae into account.

    “Querida Amazonia” is not like “Humanae Vitae.” Yet somehow the space between Querida Amazonia and the synod’s final document needs to be filled. Francis likes to say that “time is greater than space.” Time is also greater in Rome than in the global Church, where the sense of many Catholics is that this might be the last best chance for institutional reform—and that this also might be the last generation of Catholics willing to believe it’s possible. The moment is a crossroads for the Francis pontificate.

  29. Looking back to see what was said about possible changes to the discipline of celibacy at the 1971 Synod, I found this New York Times article:

    It includes the argument made by Cardinal William Conway of Armagh:

    “In the last week, as the discussions moved into small groups, a conservative reaction has set in. One of the turning points seems to have been a speech by William Cardinal Conway, Primate of all Ireland, who argued that once any change was made in policy toward celibacy “it would be impossible to confine the ordination of married men within the limits suggested.”

    “One could not allow it for one European country and exclude it from the rest of Europe,” he stated. “one could not exclude it from Europe altogether and allow it in some countries elsewhere in the world.”

    This argument appears to have hit home with some bishops because, with one or two exceptions, even those who favored ordaining married men under some circumstances have warned against the more radical change of permitting those who are already priests to marry.”

    Even now, almost fifty years on, the topic seems stuck in stalemate.

  30. Sean O'Conaill says:

    #26 “At that Synod, Cardinal Conway declared that we Irish — non nobis, Domine, non nobis — have never had a problem with celibacy. (see Schillebeeckx, Ministry)”

    Meaning? Supposing, for example, the cardinal had said we Irish have never had a problem with hypocrisy. Two quite contrary ‘readings’ are available there also!

    (I am remembering the puzzlement for some on this site over those of us who had issues with Fr Michael Cleary’s domestic situation.)

  31. Eddie Finnegan says:

    What’s much worse, Pat@30, is that Bill Conway did not have the good grace over six years earlier to respond to my letter of resignation as I left Maynooth on 31st March 1965 after two terms of Theology. Still rankles. A more perspicacious bishop would have seen the writing on the wall for his archdiocese at that early stage. My wife tells me that in my 77th year Big Bill probably isn’t about to call me back.

  32. John A. Waters says:

    Just a few points,
    1. Celibacy is not necessary for a healthy functioning catholic church.
    2.The Vatican, in enforcing the rule of celibacy, has no consideration
    or respect for the challenges of leading a priestly life. The vast
    majority of dogs in the world would have better treatment.
    3.Asking a would be priest to make a promise of celibacy, is on the same
    scale of logic as asking him to promise not to get hungry.
    4.The Pope is unlikely ever to change the rule. Any change will have to
    come from the priests themselves on an organised scale worldwide.

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