Catholic women sharply call for Synod to open to women's participation, voices

Pope Francis attends the morning session on the final day of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 18, 2014. At left is Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, and at right Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, relator for the synod. (CNS / Paul Haring)

A diverse global network of Catholic women is set to launch an expansive and compelling collection of writings before the opening of October's Synod of Bishops, pointedly calling on the male prelates to include their half of humanity and its experience in the synod's discussions.

In 40 short essays mixing the sociological, theological, and sometimes deeply personal, the writers raise a number of weighty concerns for the hotly anticipated worldwide meeting of prelates on family life  centered on the fact that extraordinarily few women are invited or involved.

At the heart of many of their concerns, however, is their own exclusion from the Synod process. While Francis has appointed 30 women to attend the Synod as auditors making contributions to the discussions, only the 279 male members of the meetings can vote.

Pressing that point in one of the essays is Italian historian Lucetta Scaraffia, who titles her contribution: "Breathing with Only One Lung: Where Are the Women's Voices in the Synods?" Scaraffia is one of the women appointed as auditors.

"The absence of women’s perspectives at times of reflection on these issues is not only an act of disdain toward women, who make up more than half of religious and believers, it is also an impoverishment of Catholic life," writes Scaraffia, one of 43 women writing for the essay collection, titled Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Gifts to the Table.

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