Jesuit Cardinal: Reform is on the march. “The reform program is growth, the life of the Church itself”.

Cardinal Michael Czerny is convinced that the Synod will encourage participation in the Church. 

Cathcon:  How does a meeting of 400 people in closed session in Rome coming to pre-ordained conclusions encourage participation?

According to him, “new ways” are needed so that women can better get involved. Change is underway, assures the prefect of the dicastery for the Integral Human Development Service.

What meaning do you give to the Synodal process?

Cardinal Czerny: The Synod is a wonderful challenge for us as a Church. It is not an easy exercise, but it is worth learning together how we can function better as a Church to fulfill the mission that Jesus Christ has given us.

What are your hopes?

I hope that we will learn the art of listening, of dialogue and of finding consensus in prayer and fraternity. I also hope that we will move forward together in the face of many questions and differences.

Do you think this could change the structure of the Catholic Church in the long term?

We will see what changes the Synod will bring. But these changes will be the fruit of this synodal approach. We need time. Results will not be visible immediately.

On the eve of the Synod of Rome, many countries called for equal rights for women. What do you think?

This shows that the issue of women is a concern across the world. It is also an example of the synodal process at work. The Synod is not called to answer these questions. He is called to learn how he himself works. It is a form of experience.

“It is our tradition that women cannot become priests. But tradition is dynamic”

Do you think the Synod will strengthen the role of women in the Church?

The synodal process has already done this. Because women and men participated on an equal footing. Furthermore, women and men are on equal footing in the Catholic Church.

Why then are women not given the opportunity to be ordained?

Gender equality in the Church does not come from access to the priesthood, but from baptism. Baptism makes us equal members of the Church, equal in all aspects of participation.

However, women who feel the vocation cannot become priests.

I believe there is still an old-fashioned idea that one priest or bishop is superior to others. Your question is a sociological question to which the Church can only give a limited answer which will probably not satisfy you. We are sorry. But I hope that you will increasingly appreciate real life, the true Church, in which men and women have the same dignity and collaborate on an equal footing.

“The word ‘Catholic’ implies that everyone is included. It’s not about uniformity”

But while a man's vocation for the priesthood is examined by the Church, a woman's is not. This is structural discrimination.

No, it is not structural discrimination, it is our tradition that women cannot become priests. But tradition is dynamic. It is continuous. It is not static.

A book will soon be published in the Spanish-speaking region, in which many women recount their priestly vocation. Have you ever met a woman who felt a calling to become a priest?

Without a doubt. I have met women who are thinking about it or who are participating in such a debate.

“It is important that women feel at home in the Church”

Will the Synod allow for decentralized solutions?

Yes, I think some local differences will be highlighted. We already have great differences within the universal Church. For example, the African faithful celebrate the Eucharist differently from those in Europe. The word “Catholic” implies that everyone is included. This is not uniformity. It’s about including everyone.

How is it possible?

We are already experiencing the “Catholic” dimension, which is diversity in unity. Some differences may become more pronounced in the future and others may diminish. The Synod can make proposals or take decisions on this subject.

You are prefect of the dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development. Half of your team is made up of women. Why is this important to you?

The most suitable people for the role should be recruited, regardless of gender.

Your Dicastery deals with human rights. How to improve the role of women in the Church?

First of all, it is important that women feel at home in the Church. We need to find new and better ways to involve them in the institution.

“The reform program is growth, the life of the Church itself”

Cathcon:  Is the Cardinal not aware that Christ is the life of the Church?

In the New Testament, there is the apostle Junia, transformed in the Middle Ages into a man, Junas. Mary Magdalene was called "the apostle of the apostles" in the early Church, and Pope Francis has recognised her as such and valued her liturgically. At the same time, the Vatican says that there were no female apostles. What does this mean for women today?

When we say that Mary Magdalene was "the apostle of the apostles", it's a whole change of perspective that is reflected in the liturgy. So the change is underway.

The Second Vatican Council described the Church as semper reformanda. Is this principle still valid today?

Yes, the Church is still in the process of reform. The reform programme is not a moment when someone decides to change a rule. The reform programme is the growth, the life of the Church itself, and this is reflected in its teaching. Reform has not stopped, it is ongoing. There will be new results. But when you're at the beginning of a process, like the Synod on synodality, you can't say what will come out at the end.

The Cross you wear around your neck is original. What is its history?

The wood for the cross came from a shattered refugee ship that ran aground on a beach in Lampedusa. It always reminds me to put the emphasis on people crying out for help - as Jesus did.



Under Canon Law, a synod has no authority or power, it cannot “resolve” anything, it can issue no “decree,” i.e. re: what matters it can’t do jack squat:

‘Can. 343 It is for the synod of bishops to discuss the questions for consideration and express its wishes but not to resolve them or issue decrees about them unless in certain cases the Roman Pontiff has endowed it with deliberative power, in which case he ratifies the decisions of the synod.’

Guy McClung, Texas

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