Swiss Synodalist says Synod must talk about abuse and then omits all mention of the Pope and of Rupnik

Swiss Synodalists: Must speak about abuse at synod

One of the Synodalist big hitters commits a sin of omission

The World Synod begins in the Vatican on Wednesday. For the first time, women are also admitted as voting members. In the interview, Synod member Helena Jeppesen-Spuhler describes what could change through the participation of women in the discussions.

She represents the German-speaking area and also wants to introduce its topics: The Swiss Helena Jeppesen-Spuhler from the aid organization “Fastenaktion” is a participant in the world synod – and one of the women with the right to vote. She was already there at the Prague Continental Assembly. She hopes for progress through the synod, because if nothing "striking" comes out of it, the church would have even more problems with its credibility. Before the deliberations began on Wednesday, she spoke to about the role of women at the synod, networking with each other - and about her hopes and concerns.

Question: Ms. Jeppesen-Spuhler, for the first time women are voting members of a synod of the Catholic Church. Will this improve or complicate communication? Church leaders are not necessarily used to having to present arguments to women.

Jeppesen-Spuhler: I think the interaction and communication in the synod will definitely be different. If women are included as voting members, the bishops will think more carefully about how, for example, they justify the exclusion of women from the ordained office. That was very exciting at the continental meeting in Prague: no one dared to speak against strengthening the role of women in the plenary session. That certainly had something to do with the fact that there were women and non-consecrated men there.

Question: You mentioned the Prague Assembly: All continental reports and also the papers of the Synod Secretariat address the marginalization of women in the church. You are one of around 50 women entitled to vote at the World Synod. This is a small number compared to men. How do you manage not to drown?

Jeppesen-Spuhler: The positions do not always follow the non-episcopal-episcopal border. There will also be many bishops who will work for equal rights. This then requires networking and dialogue.

Question: And what about networking with women at the synod?

Jeppesen-Spuhler: I think both are important. But women won't all agree. I think the women will meet separately to see how the discussions are going and what they can add from their perspective. I think this exchange is very important because we are a large minority.

Question: But shouldn't women make an effort to speak with as one voice as possible so that their perspective can be incorporated into the process?

Jeppesen-Spuhler: That won't be possible. But I believe that women with different positions can also make a difference and help compromises come about. An example from Swiss politics: There was a time when there were four women in the seven-member Federal Council, the highest executive authority. That was only a short period of time, but the energy transition came about during this time. And the women also came from different camps.

Question: If you like, you are the only laywoman among those entitled to vote who represents the German-speaking area. What does this do to your understanding of your role at the Synod?

Jeppesen-Spuhler: Of course, it is important to me to bring the positions from the German-speaking area into this synod, especially with a view to the role of women in the church - together with the bishops from Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The pastoral theologian Klara Csiszar from Linz and the Erfurt canon lawyer Myriam Wijlens are also taking part in the synod as experts.

Question: You are well connected in the global church. What concerns were particularly conveyed to you in the last few weeks after you were confirmed as a synod participant?

Jeppesen-Spuhler: That the Catholic Church urgently needs reform in order to be there credibly for the people.

The Swiss Helena Jeppesen-Spuhler works for the Fastenaktion aid organization and represents the German-speaking region as a participant in the World Synod.

Question: One gets the impression that the Vatican is trying to recapture the spirits it summoned. Many statements say that the synod is not about special topics, but rather about how synodal coexistence in the church can fundamentally succeed. Do you also suspect that similar efforts will be made at the Synod?

Jeppesen-Spuhler: If we talk about the three topics of the synodal process, about community, mission and participation, then we immediately get to the topics that are addressed in the reform debate. In the community everyone is children of God - then we quickly come to the difference between the "reverend" and the "simple believers". Then come the issues of people who in many places are still not full members of society, such as queer people. Of course, if we don't discuss this, it makes our mission as a church unbelievable. And so we get into these issues all the time.

Question: The consultations start on Wednesday. What expectations do they go in with?

Jeppesen-Spuhler: None of us know much about how the discussions will go. So I'm just really excited. It is good that this synod is structured differently as a process than previous ones. The broad survey among believers in advance gives the synodal members a completely different level of support. And so we come to the next dilemma: We would also have to communicate how the process in the synod is going. At least at the moment it seems that there are restrictions.

Question: What is your opinion on this?

Jeppesen-Spuhler: That shouldn't actually be the case in such a synodal process. But perhaps it protects the controversial discussions a little at the beginning.

Question: What is your hope for the synod now?

Jeppesen-Spuhler: First of all, I hope that there will now be a good exchange in the universal church. And that we move forward in the direction of giving local churches more decision-making powers. This would open the way to faster solutions to our pressing problems.

Question: What about the topic of inclusion of queer people?

Jeppesen-Spuhler: I would also like to see movement there.

Question: What is your biggest concern?

Jeppesen-Spuhler: I am worried about whether the topic of abuse will be part of the discussions in the synod. This would be urgently necessary. Then I wonder where the youth are in this congregation. That should definitely be there too. But my biggest concern is that the synod will not bring any real progress. Because we have to push forward the reform process. If nothing catchy comes out of it, we as a church will have even more problems with our credibility.


Cathcon:  She is not concerned about truth but with instrumentalising abuse to coerce the church into progressive reform.


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