Catholic bishops are not fully utilizing Church Law to maximize the role of women in decision making capacities, Cardinal Oswald Gracias said on October 23.
While acknowledging that women are unable to hear confession, say Mass, or administer confirmation, “she can do practically everything else,” said Gracias. “Women can even be in charge of a parish according to Church Law.”
The cardinal’s remarks came during a press briefing as the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon nears its final conclusion, where the role of women in the Church has been a repeated theme as the Church considers how to better respond to the pastoral needs of the Amazon region.
“We must use all of this,” Cardinal Gracias added, noting that Pope Francis “very [much] wants decentralization,” and for bishops to enact changes where they can already do so without the permission of the Holy See.
In addition to being the archbishop of Mumbai, Cardinal Gracias serves on Pope Francis’s Council of Cardinal Advisers.
The role of women in the Church dominated much of the press conference with several of the other representatives from the Amazon speaking for the need for concrete and tangible action, while steering clear of addressing the question of women’s ordination to the diaconate, which is anticipated to be addressed in some form in the Synod’s final document.
Bishop Ricardo Ernesto Centellas Guzmán of Potosí, Bolivia, who heads the country’s bishops’ conference, also called for a change in “mind-set” when it comes to women in the Church.
“We all have to change our mentality to make sure participation of women becomes authentic and that is equitable and fair,” he said.
At present, he said the role of women who are involved in decision-making power is “very low,” adding that in some places it is “almost invisible.”
“Things must change by starting with the smaller things,” he said, noting that work in the parish level and local communities is the place to start. He specifically called out pastoral councils that only give women consultation status, without any real decision making abilities. Inculturation, said Cardinal Gracias, “flows from the Incarnation. Our Lord became incarnated.”