Vie de l'église

Spain’s bishops apologize for sex abuses but dispute the estimated number of victims in report

Spain’s Catholic bishops on Oct. 30 apologized again for sex abuses committed by church members following a report by Spain’s Ombudsman that accused the church of widespread negligence.

But the bishops dismissed as « a lie » media interpretations of the official report that put the number of victims involving the church in the hundreds of thousands. They said this was misrepresentative given that many more people had been abused outside of the church.

« I reiterate the petition for pardon to the victims for this pain, » the president of the Bishops Conference, Cardinal Juan José Omella, told a press briefing.

He added that the church would continue working « together on the comprehensive reparation of the victims, on supporting them and deepening the path to their protection and, above all, the prevention of abuse. »

The bishops said the church would contribute to any economic reparation program once it included all victims of child sexual abuse, not just those abused within the church itself.

The briefing was called to evaluate the ombudsman’s report released Oct. 27 that said the church’s response had often been to minimize if not deny the problem.

The report acknowledged that the church had taken steps to address both abuse by priests and efforts to cover up the scandal, but said they were not enough.

Included in the report was a survey based on 8,000 valid phone and online responses. The poll found that 1.13% of the Spanish adults questioned said they were abused as children either by priests or lay members of the church, including teachers at religious schools. The poll said 0.6% identified their abusers as clergy members.

Ombudsman Ángel Gabilondo did not extrapolate from the survey but given that Spain’s adult population stands close to 39 million, 1.13% would mean some 440,000 minors could have been sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests, members of a religious order or lay members of the church in recent decades.

Omella said the media’s extrapolation of the survey results « does not correspond to the truth. » The church maintained that going by the survey’s figures, some 4 million Spaniards, or 11.7 % of the adult population, may have been abused as minors in all, a figure it considered to be « barbaric, » suggesting it was not credible.

The survey conducted by GAD3, a well-known opinion pollster in Spain, had a margin of sampling error for all respondents of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.

The ombudsman’s investigation represents Spain’s first official probe of the child sex abuse problem that has undermined the Catholic Church around the world. The estimate from the survey is the first time such a high number of possible victims was identified in the country.

A Madrid-based law firm is conducting a parallel inquiry ordered by the bishops’ conference. Its findings are expected to be released later this year.

Earlier this year, the bishops’ conference said it found evidence of 728 sexual abusers within the church since 1945, through the testimony of 927 victims, in its first public report on the issue.

Up until very recently, the Spanish church had been reluctant to carry out investigations or release information on sexual abuse cases. Spain’s state prosecutor earlier this year complained that the bishops were withholding information. The bishops denied this.

Only a handful of countries have had government-initiated or parliamentary inquiries into clergy sex abuse, although some independent groups have carried out their own investigations.

Vie de l'église

Spain’s report on Catholic Church sex abuse estimates victims could number in hundreds of thousands

Spain’s first official probe of sex abuse by clergy members or other people connected to the Catholic Church in the country included a survey that indicated that the number of victims could run into hundreds of thousands.

The survey was part of a damning report by the office of Spain’s ombudsman, or « defensor del pueblo, » following an 18-month independent investigation of 487 cases involving alleged victims who spoke with the ombudsman’s team.

Ombudsman Ángel Gabilondo criticized the church’s response to sex abuse scandals, saying it had often been to minimize if not deny the problem. He presented the nearly 800-page report to the speaker of the Spanish parliament’s lower house Oct. 27 and then to reporters.

« This is a necessary report to respond to a situation of suffering and loneliness that for years has remained, in one way or another, covered by an unfair silence, » Gabilondo said in a statement.

He acknowledged that the church had taken steps to address both abuse by priests and efforts to cover up the scandal, but said they were not enough.

Included in the report were findings from a survey based on 8,000 valid phone and online responses. The poll said 1.13% of the Spanish adults questioned said they were abused as children by either priests or lay members of the church, including teachers at religious schools. Of those, 0.6% identified their abusers as clergy members.

Given that Spain’s adult population stands close to 39 million, that would mean some 440,000 minors could have been sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests, members of a religious order and lay members of the church in recent decades.

The survey conducted by GAD3, a well-known opinion pollster in Spain, had a margin of sampling error for all respondents of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.

The ombudsman’s investigation represents Spain’s first official probe of the child sex abuse problem that has undermined the Catholic Church around the world, and the estimate from the survey is the first time such a high number of possible victims was identified in the country.

Gabilondo did not extrapolate the survey findings into a count of possible victims but said the percentages were in line with similar reports in other European countries.

An investigative commission in France, which has a population of nearly 68 million compared to Spain’s 47.6 million, estimated based on surveys two years ago that some 330,000 minors had been abused by church personnel over 70 years.

The report calls for a public event to recognize victims, the creation of a state fund to pay compensation and for the Catholic Church to provide a way to help victims in the recovery process and introduce reforms to prevent abuse and compensate victims.

Spain’s parliament voted in March 2022 to open the country’s first official investigation by the ombudsman into the extent of sexual abuse committed by priests and church authorities.

The government was forced to act after Spanish newspaper El Pais published abuse allegations involving more than 1,200 victims, provoking public outrage.

Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez described the report as a « milestone » for Spain’s democracy.

« Today we are a little better as a country, » Sánchez said Oct. 27 from Brussels. « Because a reality has been made known that everyone has known for many years, but which no one spoke of. »

He said the report and its recommendations would be studied and acted upon.

Spain’s Stolen Childhood abuse survivors’ group collaborated with the ombudsman’s office on the report. Juan Cuatrecasas, a co-founder of the group, said the final document was « positive » but it remained to be seen how lawmakers respond to the recommendations.

He said the report covered a time period from the 1960s up until recent years.

Miguel Hurtado, who was representing an international group called Ending Clergy Abuse, called the report « disappointing » and inferior in its scope and conclusions to ones produced in Australia or Ireland.

Hurtado said the only effective model would be a truth commission with coercive investigative powers.

The Spanish Bishops’ Conference is scheduled to meet Oct. 30 to consider the ombudsman’s report.

A Madrid-based law firm is conducting a parallel inquiry ordered by the bishops’ conference. Its findings are expected to be released later this year.

Only a handful of countries have had government-initiated or parliamentary inquiries into clergy sex abuse.


Dependence on God

(Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year A; This homily was given on October 28 & 29, 2023 at Saint Augustine Church in Providence, Rhode Island; See Matthew 22:34-40)

Vie de l'église

Pope Francis closes synod with ‘dream’ of a church with open doors

To reform the church is to put God first and adore him, and to love and serve others, Pope Francis said at Mass marking the conclusion of the first session of the Synod of Bishops on synodality.

« This is the church we are called to ‘dream’: a church that is the servant of all, the servant of the least of our brothers and sisters; a church that never demands an attestation of ‘good behavior,’ but welcomes, serves, loves, forgives; a church with open doors that is a haven of mercy, » he said.

« We may have plenty of good ideas on how to reform the church, but let’s remember: to adore God and to love our brothers and sisters with his love, that is the great and perennial reform, » the pope said in his homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Oct. 29.

Thousands of faithful stood at the start of Mass as synod members and participants processed into the basilica. The procession was led by non-ordained members followed by bishops and then cardinals. The synod on synodality marked the first time laypeople and women religious could take part as voting members. Of the total 364 members, close to 25% were « non-bishop members » and 54 of them were women.

« Dear friends, the general assembly of the synod has now concluded, » the pope said in his homily. « Today we do not see the full fruit of this process, but with farsightedness we look to the horizon opening up before us. »

« The Lord will guide us and help us to be a more synodal and missionary church, a church that adores God and serves the women and men of our time, going forth to bring to everyone the consoling joy of the Gospel, » he said.

As the church concludes this stage of its journey, he said, « it is important to look at the ‘principle and foundation’ from which everything begins ever anew: love.

« Loving God with our whole life and loving our neighbors as ourselves, » he said, is « the heart of everything. »

The way to channel this love is to adore God and serve one another, he said.

« We have lost the habit of adoration, » the pope said, calling on all priests, dioceses, parishes and communities to « return to worship » and adore the Lord. « Only in his presence will we be purified, transformed and renewed by the fire of his Spirit. »

To adore God means « to acknowledge in faith that he alone is Lord and that our individual lives, the church’s pilgrim way and the ultimate outcome of history all depend on the tenderness of his love. He gives meaning to our lives, » he said.

« We are always at risk of thinking that we can ‘control God,’ that we can confine his love to our own agenda. Instead, the way he acts is always unpredictable and consequently demands amazement and adoration, » Pope Francis said. The path of idolatry is « wanting the Lord to act according to the image we have of him. »

He said the church needs to be « a worshiping church and a church of service, washing the feet of wounded humanity, accompanying those who are frail, weak and cast aside, going out lovingly to encounter the poor, » as God commanded.

« It is a grave sin to exploit the vulnerable, a grave sin that corrodes fraternity and devastates society, » he said, and, « as disciples of Jesus, we desire to bring to the world a different type of leaven, that of the Gospel. »

Quoting St. John Chrysostom, he said that those who are merciful are like a safe harbor to those in need, so « when you see a man suffering shipwreck on land through poverty, do not sit in judgment on him, nor require explanations, but relieve his distress. »

Later in the day, before praying the midday Angelus, the pope again reflected on the Lord’s command to love God and neighbor.

He held up the example of St. Teresa of Kolkata as someone « who was so little, » but was still able « to do so much good — by reflecting God’s love like a drop » of clear water.

« If at times, looking at her and other saints, we might be moved to think that they are heroes that cannot be imitated, let us think again about that small drop, » which reflects love and « can change many things, » he said.

« How? » the pope asked. By taking the first step to love and serve those in need without waiting for others to act, even though this is not easy to do.

Vie de l'église

Pope’s major Vatican summit ends without action on women deacons, mention of LGBTQ Catholics

Pope Francis’ high-stakes summit on the future of the Catholic Church concluded on Oct. 28 by postponing action on the possibility of ordaining women as deacons and failing to acknowledge deep tensions that surfaced in a month of debates over how the global institution should care for its LGBTQ members. 

A 41-page report, approved and published that evening, called for the results of earlier papal and theological commissions on women deacons to be presented for further consideration at the next assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in October 2024. 

The report, titled « A synodal church in mission, » follows an intense month of debates at the Vatican among some 450 participants over a range of big issues, including the role of women in church ministries, clergy sexual abuse and better inclusion of LGBTQ Catholics.

While previous documents leading up to the closely watched meeting were marked by candor and openness, the synthesis report for the Oct. 4-29 assembly takes a much more cautious tone. Although it makes 81 proposals, they are often quite open-ended or general, and the text calls for further theological or canonical study, evaluation or consideration at least 20 times.

Francis officially launched his « synod on synodality, » a multiyear, multi-phase process meant to examine how the church’s ministries and structures might become more inclusive, in 2021. The newly released report outlines areas of convergence, matters for consideration and proposals discussed during this month’s assembly that are expected to set the stage for further debate throughout the year ahead of next year’s assembly. 

Participants voted on the final text paragraph by paragraph through the early evening of Oct. 28. The threshold for passage for each paragraph was a two-thirds majority of the voting members.

The paragraphs that received the most no votes were two of the primary paragraphs addressing the possibility of women deacons. One passed by a vote of 277-69; the other by a vote of 279-67. A paragraph addressing the question of clerical celibacy also received substantial no votes, but passed 291-55.

At a press briefing shortly after the text was published, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, one of the synod’s lead organizers, said he was « full of wonder that so many people have voted in favor » of the paragraphs about women’s leadership in the church. « That means that the resistance is not so great as people have thought, » he said.

On the question of LGBTQ Catholics, Cardinal Mario Grech, who heads the Vatican’s synod office, told the briefing that the assembly felt a need to « respect everyone’s pace. » He added: « It doesn’t mean if your voice is stronger it will prevail. »

Jesuit Fr. James Martin, a popular spiritual author and editor of the LGBTQ Catholic publication Outreach who took part in the synod as a voting member, told NCR he was « disappointed but not surprised » by the result for LGBTQ Catholics.

« There were widely diverging views on the topic, » said Martin. « I wish, however, that some of those discussions, which were frank and open, had been captured in the final synthesis. »

For the first time since the establishment of the church’s Synod of Bishops in 1965, about 50 women were granted voting rights by Francis at this assembly. While the final report they helped approve did not call immediately for the ordination of women as deacons, and did not even mention calls for priestly ordination for women, it did offer some pointed language about the role of women in church leadership.

In one example, the text says women in the assembly « spoke of a Church that wounds » through « clericalism, a chauvinist mentality and inappropriate expressions of authority continue to scar the face of the Church and damage its communion. »

The text also states that there was a « clear request » from the assembly that women’s contributions « would be recognized and valued, and that their pastoral leadership increase in all areas. » It also asks how the church can include more women in existing ministries, and poses an open-ended question: « If new ministries are required, who should discern these, at what levels and in what ways? » 

On the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate — an issue discussed at the 2019 synod on the nine-nation Amazon region, which, in its final text, proposed moving the idea forward — the new report takes a stark tone.

The possibility of ordaining women, it says, was considered « unacceptable » by some assembly members « because they consider it a discontinuity with Tradition. »

« For others, however, opening access for women to the diaconate would restore the practice of the Early Church, » it states. « Others still, discern it as an appropriate and necessary response to the signs of the times, faithful to the Tradition, and one that would find an echo in the hearts of many who seek new energy and vitality in the Church. »

Francis has previously established two special commissions to examine the historical questions surrounding the ordination of women to the diaconate, though neither commissions’ work has been made public. In 2002, the International Theological Commission also concluded a study of the diaconate that considered the question women deacons

« Theological and pastoral research on the access of women to the diaconate should be continued, benefiting from consideration of the results of the commissions specially established by the Holy Father, and from the theological, historical and exegetical research already undertaken, » the report states. « If possible, the results of this research should be presented to the next session of the assembly. »

The report goes on to state the need for the church to address employment injustices and unfair remuneration for women in the church, « especially for women in consecrated life, who are too often treated as cheap labor. » 

Proposals also include a review of liturgical texts and church documents so that language will be considerate to both men and women and to also include « a range of words, images and narratives that draw more widely on women’s experience. »

LGBTQ Catholics, clergy sexual abuse

While emotional debate took place during the synod over the church’s response to LGBTQ Catholics — including the testimonial of a bisexual women who died by suicide after feeling rejected by the church — the report largely glosses over the tensions that emerged over how the church should respond to such persons. 

Issues involving sexuality and identity, the report notes, raise « new questions. » The report says that such individuals or couples must be « heard and accompanied » and that language or « simplistic judgements » that « hurt individuals and the Body of the Church » should be avoided.

« There was a deep sense of love, mercy and compassion felt in the assembly for those who are or feel hurt or neglected by the church, who want a place to call ‘home’ where they can feel safe, be heard and respected, without fear of feeling judged, » it states.  

The final report, however, did not use the acronym « LGBT » or the word « gay, » despite the fact that Vatican documents have regularly used « LGBT » as a common acronym to refer to the gay community for at least five years, and the pope himself has regularly used the term « gay. » 

As NCR reported on Oct. 13, there was active debate during the synod discussions over whether the use of such language was appropriate. 

In confronting the ongoing crisis of clergy sexual abuse, the report proposes the creation of further structures to prevent abuse, including the possibility of establishing a new body to review abuse cases that does not rely on bishops.

« The sensitive issue of handling abuse places many bishops in the difficult situation of having to reconcile the role of father with that of judge, » it states. « The appropriateness of assigning the judicial task to another body, to be specified canonically, should be explored. »

In addition, the report recommends that women receive the necessary formation « to enable them to be judges in all canonical processes. »

« Cases of abuse of various kinds experienced by those in religious life and members of lay associations, especially of women, signal a problem in the exercise of authority and demand decisive and appropriate interventions, » the report states, adding that the « concrete gestures of penitence » are required to adequately respond the decades-long crisis.

Role of lay people, clerical celibacy

On other issues, the report stresses the role of lay people in advising church leaders, makes some pointed recommendations for Vatican officials and briefly discusses the issue of clerical celibacy.

The section on the role of bishops says a bishop’s ministry is synodal only « when governance is accompanied by co-responsibility, preaching by listening to the faithful People of God, and sanctification and celebration of the liturgy by humility and conversion. »

One proposal in that section calls for episcopal councils, lay-led groups that advise bishops in the leadership of their dioceses, to be made mandatory. Bishops currently have the option of creating such groups, but are not required to do so.

That section also calls « for a review of the criteria » for how priests are selected to become bishops, and notes « requests to expand consultation with the faithful People of God, and to involve a greater number of lay people and consecrated persons in the consultation process. »

The document also reflects specifically on the role of the pope and Vatican in governing the global church. It suggests that Vatican offices should « enhance » their consultation with local bishops. It also says the church needs to « carefully evaluate » whether curial officials, who typically are appointed by the pope as cardinals, need even to be bishops.

On social issues, the text mentions the ongoing impacts of climate change and praises Laudate Deum, Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation on environmental issues. The text also highlights the church’s relationships with Indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees, and those who are economically impoverished.

The text also addresses the issue of persistent racism and calls for « continued engagement in dialogue and discernment regarding racial justice. »

« Systems within the Church that create or maintain racial injustice need to be identified and addressed, » it says. « Processes for healing and reconciliation should be created, with the help of those harmed, to eradicate the sin of racism. »

Among other proposals in the synod’s final text:

  • Creation of « new paradigms » in terms of pastoral engagement with Indigenous peoples, « along the lines of a journey together and not an action done to them or for them; »
  • Establishment of a « permanent council » of the leaders of Eastern RIte Catholic Churches to advise the pope on issues facing their communities;
  • Invitation of more delegates from other Christian denominations to the October 2024 assembly;
  • Expression of « a keen desire » by the assembly for the Catholic and other Christian churches to set a common date to celebrate Easter.

On clerical celibacy, the text says that « different opinions » were expressed about the topic.

« Its value is appreciated by all as richly prophetic and a profound witness to Christ; some ask, however, whether its appropriateness, theologically, for priestly ministry should necessarily translate into a disciplinary obligation in the Latin Church, » the text states. « This discussion is not new but requires further consideration. »

Vie de l'église

Pope Francis prays for a world in ‘a dark hour’ and danger from ‘folly’ of war

Amid the latest bloodshed in the Middle East, Pope Francis led special Oct. 27 evening prayers in St. Peter’s Basilica for a world « in a dark hour » and in « great danger » from what he described as the folly of war.

Francis delivered his remarks in the form of a prayer to the Virgin Mary and didn’t mention by name the conflict that exploded when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel retaliated by sealing off the Gaza Strip and battering the Palestinian territory with airstrikes.

He said he was praying for « especially those countries and regions at war, » and he pleaded with Mary to « take the initiative for us, in these times rent by conflicts and laid waste by the fire of arms. »

« This is a dark hour, » Francis said in a subdued voice, in his remarks in the basilica.

Since the Israel-Hamas war started three weeks ago, Francis has appealed for the release of hostages taken by Hamas and for civilians in the Gaza Strip to be spared from warfare. He has also decried the massacre by Hamas of civilians in Israel, at a music concert and in their homes.

The pope has also pressed for humanitarian aid to head off what he said would be a « catastrophe » for civilians after Israel cut off supplies of food, water and fuel into the Gaza Strip following the deadly Hamas incursion.

During Oct. 27’s basilica service, Francis deplored that the human family « has strayed from the path of peace, preferred Cain to Abel, and lost the ability to see each others as brothers and sisters dwelling in a common home. » He was referring to the Biblical account of two brothers, one who fatally turns against the other.

« Intercede for our world, in such turmoil and great danger, » the pope prayed. Francis also prayed that people will learn to care for « each and every human life — and to repudiate the folly of war, which sows death and eliminates the future. »

His prayers included one for hearts « imprisoned by hatred, » as well as an appeal for national leaders to seek paths of peace. He further prayed for a reconciliation for those who are « seduced by evil, blinded by power and hate. »

Francis offered no formula for how to defuse the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict that flared anew this month and has fueled anxiety of a wider, regional war developing in the Middle East.

But in a Oct. 26 phone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Francis expressed hope, according to the Vatican’s readout of the call, for two states and a special statute for the city of Jerusalem, with its several sites sacred to faithful of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Francis has also repeatedly invoked peace for Ukraine since Russia invaded the eastern European country in February 2022.


Set Free

(Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year A; This homily was given on October 21 & 22, 2023 at Saint Augustine Church in Providence, Rhode Island; See Matthew 22:15-21)

PLAY « Set Free »

Vie de l'église

Caritas: Voices from climate change migrants can be ‘blueprint for change’

Too often the voices of people fleeing their homes due to climate change and extreme weather patterns are overshadowed by an abundance of scientific data and statistics, said a Caritas Internationalis official.

« It is crucial that we listen to their stories and experiences and make sure that these are incorporated into the policy-making process, » Alfonso Apicella, global campaigns manager, said at a news conference Oct. 26.

To get those voices and insights into the public arena and effect policy-change, the Vatican-based Caritas Internationalis released its own report drawn from the experiences of individuals and countries most affected by climate change. A confederation of 162 national Caritas organizations in 200 countries and territories, Caritas collected the evidence from its member organizations, which are serving people displaced within and across country borders due to climate change.

Titled « Displaced by a Changing Climate: Caritas Voices on Protecting and Supporting People on the Move, » the report was part of Caritas’ global « Year of Action » campaign called « Together We, » which promotes integral ecology and the need for collective action to address the consequences of environmental degradation.

The action campaign runs from October 2023 to October 2024 and seeks to « elevate the first-hand accounts and demands of people and communities affected by environmental degradation » through a yearlong letter-writing initiative, Apicella said.

« We will do this by providing a platform on, » he said, « so people can share their stories and struggles by writing a message on how we can find solutions together: that is the key message of our new campaign of action. »

« The insights that we aim to gather, as well as those presented in our publication today, are not just stories, they are a blueprint for change, » he said since they will channel the information in a way to influence « leaders, decision makers and policy actors to design and formulate solutions together. »

Cécile Stone, lead author of the research for the report, said, « On average over the past 10 years, 20 million people per year were displaced by sudden-onset weather events, such as storms, floods, wildfires — that’s twice as many as displaced by conflict. »

« Over 3 billion people live in countries that are highly vulnerable to climate change, » she added.

« People are better off if they can move or plan to move early on. So that’s why governments need to facilitate proactive migration rather than just let reactive migration happen when other forms of adaptation are failing, » she said.

Alistair Dutton, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis, said policy decisions must « start to build in the planning and response to what is going to come » as climate change gets worse and more people are forced to migrate.

« Otherwise, our failure to act on our moral responsibility for our poorest and most vulnerable will create a problem on our own doorsteps that we have not the means to respond to, » he said.

Vie de l'église

Listen to, trust the lay faithful, pope tells synod members

Pope Francis told members of the synod on synodality that they should respect and honor the faith of all baptized Catholics, including the women, trusting « the holy, faithful people of God » who continue to believe even when their pastors act like dictators.

« I like to think of the church as the simple and humble people who walk in the presence of the Lord — the faithful people of God, » he told participants at the assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 25.

In a rare intervention as the assembly was nearing its conclusion, Francis told members to trust the fidelity of the people they listened to in preparation for the synod over the past two years.

« One of the characteristics of this faithful people is its infallibility — yes, it is infallible in ‘credendo,’  » in belief, as the Second Vatican Council taught, he said.

« I explain it this way: ‘When you want to know ‘what’ Holy Mother Church believes, go to the magisterium, because it is in charge of teaching it to you, but when you want to know ‘how’ the Church believes, go to the faithful people, » the pope said.

To illustrate his point, Francis shared the « story or legend » of the fifth-century Council of Ephesus when, the story goes, crowds lined the streets shouting to the bishops « Mother of God, » demanding that they declare as dogma « that truth which they already possessed as the people of God. »

« Some say that they had sticks in their hands and showed them to the bishops, » the pope added. « I do not know if it is history or legend, but the image is valid. »

« The faithful people, the holy faithful people of God » have a soul, a conscience and a way of seeing reality, he said.

All of the cardinals and bishops at the synod, he said, come from that people and have received the faith from them — usually from their mothers and grandmothers.

« And here I would like to emphasize that, among God’s holy and faithful people, faith is transmitted in dialect, and generally in a feminine dialect, » he said.

« This is not only because the Church is mother and it is precisely women who best reflect her, » he said, but also because « it is women who know how to hope, know how to discover the resources of the church and of the faithful people, who take risks beyond the limit, perhaps with fear but courageously. »

It was the women disciples, after all, who at dawn « approach a tomb with the intuition — not yet hope — that there may be some life, » he said.

« When ministers overstep in their service and mistreat the people of God, they disfigure the face of the church with chauvanistic and dictatorial attitudes, » the pope said.

He reminded synod members of a speech at the assembly by Sr. Liliana Franco Echeverri, a member of the Company of Mary and president of the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean Religious, who spoke about the ongoing service, commitment and fidelity of Catholic women despite often facing exclusion, rejection and mistreatment.

« Clericalism is a whip, it is a scourge, it is a form of worldliness that defiles and damages the face of the Lord’s bride, » the church, the pope said. « It enslaves God’s holy and faithful people. »

Francis described as « a scandal » the scene of young priests going in to ecclesiastical tailor shops in Rome « trying on cassocks and hats or albs with lace. »

Nevertheless, he said, « the people of God, the holy faithful people of God, go forward with patience and humility enduring the scorn, mistreatment and marginalization on the part of institutionalized clericalism. »

Vie de l'église

Amazon cardinal says consumerist cultures must learn from Indigenous

People coming from cultures that promote consumerism over caring for the planet should look to Indigenous communities as models for developing an ecologically conscious mentality, the first cardinal from the Amazon region said.

« To save the Amazon is to save the whole planet, » Cardinal Leonardo Ulrich Steiner of Manaus, Brazil, told Catholic News Service Oct. 23. « The Amazon really is a symbol, a symbol of the need to change our mentality, to be less consumeristic, to chase after money less. »

Steiner, who was in Rome for the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, highlighted the severe drought currently impacting Indigenous communities in his diocese, which scientists say has been provoked by massive deforestation. He said that Indigenous communities have been cut off from essential supplies such as fuel since the large rivers that connect them have shrunk to trickling streams due to the drought.

« Why is the forest cut down? Because of money, » he said. « This consumerist, mercantilist way of thinking has to change. »

Unlike in other areas threatened by the effects of climate change, Steiner said, the Amazon retains the positive presence of Indigenous peoples, who care for the rainforest they live in.

For Indigenous populations, « home is not the place they sleep, it is the world they live in, »  Steiner said. « But the world needs to wake up to this, and I don’t know if there is much time to wake up. »

The cardinal praised Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum, published Oct. 4, for challenging the consumer mentality and culture that perpetuates the effects of climate change. 

In the document, the pope directly calls out the United States for its disproportionately high level of emissions per individual, but « almost all of us are involved » in advancing a culture focused on consumption, Steiner told CNS.

« We are almost incapable of living without a certain standard of life, » he said, whereas the Amazon’s Indigenous populations « don’t consume extraordinarily, they consume what they need to live and to live together. »

On a societal scale, the cardinal said people are « losing the pleasure of living together. »

« We’re consuming everything today, we’re consuming news, we’re consuming food and drink, but we’re even consuming relationships, in my opinion, » he said. 

While Steiner said he spoke about the drought affecting the Amazon at the synod on synodality, he noted that many other delegates have raised issues about how environmental changes are affecting their communities, especially as related to migration or conflicts.

Speaking about the impact of the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, the cardinal said that the pope’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Querida Amazonia helped people understand that the « social, environmental, cultural and ecclesial realities » of the church need to all be considered in conjunction and not individually, whether in the Amazon or elsewhere.

The pope’s letter showed that those elements of the church « need to walk together, » the cardinal said. « In that sense, synodality was already happening even in the preparations for that synod, just as it is happening now. »