Members of Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) Canada gathered for two intensive sessions. The following is a synthesis around the themes that were discussed.

Theme 1: Companions on the Journey

Our experience has been that it is impossible to journey together with the current leadership of the Church when not all baptized persons in the Roman Catholic Church are considered equal. In fact, we fear that any ideas that run counter to current Church teaching will be ignored or redacted out of this presentation. Consequently, we wish to remind those who receive this message that Church doctrine does evolve (e.g. slavery, paying interest, etc.). We, in RCWP Canada, are profoundly aware of being marginalized, criminalized even (see CIC 83, c. 1379) because we advocate for access of all members of the People of God to the ministries of the Church including ordained ministries.

Theme 2: Listening

We have taken time to listen to the pain and woundedness of many Catholics. We have heard stories of exploitation, harassment, spiritual and sexual abuse by clergy. We have listened to people tell of losing their faith in the Church and even in God because of the way they have been treated. The synodal process calls us to speak with courage, freedom, truth and charity. However, we fear that once again our voices will not be heard by others in the church including, importantly, the current Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.

Theme 3: Speaking Out

We believe in a Church where all voices should be heard, where the Spirit can speak to the whole Church through the humblest to the most erudite, from young to old. We believe that by and through our Baptism, we are called to be prophets and therefore must share our God-given gifts. And, we are all called to stand and name what is wrong and what must change.

Led by the Spirit, we are using inclusive language for naming God, a change we believe is crucial. One person in our group put it this way, “God is not a boy’s name”. Because we truly want to be the presence of God to/for/with each other, we make it a priority to see the incarnate Christ in others, as people with stories to share. Community members who identify as 2SLGBTQI, or have friends and family members who do, experience exclusion from the Roman Catholic Church. Our communities report that this has led many to reject the church on that basis.

We in RCWP Canada increasingly adopt the indigenous people’s use of ‘Creator’ or ‘Source of All Being’ rather than ‘Father’. We remember that the Divine is Mystery and therefore should not be circumscribed by any one word and that word always being represented by male pronouns – as it is in the current Roman Missal.

Theme 4: Celebration

We have heard the voices of so many who have left the Church because the Gospel has not been preached accurately nor effectively. Texts have been selected to manipulate belief and behaviour. The word “weaponized” has been used in reference to the current process of selection. We, in RCWP Canada, choose to use a variety of translations to better communicate the Word of God to the People of God. We have reviewed the documents of Vatican II as they lay the foundation for changes that were considered heretical even ten years before the Council. We rejoice that our liturgies are in the people’s language and made more participatory – including shared homilies. Our celebrations, particularly the Eucharist, express an evolving theology which moves away from sacrifice and atonement toward thanksgiving – celebrations which nurture hope and instill joy. We have sacramental celebrations that are life-giving, not guilt inducing. We have sacramental celebrations that allow the Spirit to flow in all and through all. We have sacramental celebrations which empower us to proclaim the goodness of God through Gospel-inspired lives.

Theme 5: Sharing Responsibility for Our Common Mission

Just as our celebrations must be life-giving, so too must they serve the mission of the Church, in our own lives, here and now. Our model of priesthood is one of servant leadership, where the practice of accountability and collegiality enables us to call forth the gifts of community members, empowering them to experience God, and leave our gatherings determined to make a difference in the world.

Theme 6: Dialogue in Church and Society

We are being asked to be persistent and patient; we are invited to dialogue to promote mutual understanding. Our experience has taught us that there can be no dialogue without transparency and accountability. This makes sense only if our leaders engage in active listening – real, respectful conversational dialogue – and go on to accept changes and make them happen.

Everyone when engaging in a synod is called upon to move out of one’s own comfort zone. This means stepping away from patriarchal platforms and respecting the fundamental human rights of all. Otherwise, the moral authority of the Church will remain as it is – all but lost today.

If we the Church are to survive, we must reach the younger populations who are disaffected, disinterested and ‘church averse’, in large part because Church moral teaching is focused on an antiquated and obsolete Augustinian understanding of sexuality as inherently sinful rather than honoring sexuality as a gift of God and a natural part of the human existence.

Theme 7: Ecumenism

Some participants feel that dialogue – whether between and among Roman Catholics, Christians of other denominations, believers of non-Christian religious traditions, or those who hold no religious beliefs – has little place in this synodal process, other than to express respect for the human dignity and freedom of conscience for all. They suggest the Synod begin with actively listening to those who have left the Roman Catholic fold because they found a more life-giving spiritual home elsewhere.

Theme 8: Authority and Participation

Our dream for a synodal church is one that is participatory and co-responsible, truly inclusive, non-judgmental, and collegial. We feel this will not happen until all our voices are heard by way of a vote. In other words, the church must be rid of not only patriarchy but clericalism. We have noted the words of Pope Francis on the subject of clericalism, which is a perversion of the priesthood, and that rigidity is one of its manifestations.

We have considered the futility and, indeed, the hazards of imposed celibacy for priests, as well as the harm it has done to both individuals and communities.

We do not understand the postponement of women to the diaconate and the refusal to admit women to the priesthood. What’s more, even discussion on the latter topic is not allowed to happen. We consider this an abuse of authority. The Church is not calling out our gifts to be used to proclaim and establish the Reign of God. We feel strongly that Church leadership is not listening to the Spirit speaking through current biblical and theological scholarship.

Theme 9: Discerning and Deciding

Our hope is that the Roman hierarchy will openly eschew clericalism and break away from patriarchy, to move toward a truly synodal church. We dare to dream that decisions will be made after discerning what the Holy Spirit is communicating through the whole community. Participants repeatedly express the wish that our Church leadership will adopt a manner of listening that is attentive, respectful, and open to the voices of all. Many feel that a synodal church needs also to repent for the spiritual abuse caused by preventing the majority of the baptized to live into the Truth.

Theme 10: Forming Ourselves in Synodality

Synodality will come in stages which require receptivity to change, formation, and ongoing learning. This means making room for renewal in what we believe, how we pray, and how we do justice. It means opening our hearts and minds to the Spirit and her Wisdom, trusting that all things can be made new for the greater glory of God.

Respectfully submitted for RCWP Canada

+Jane Kryzanowski, Bishop


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