NEWS TIME. There has a been a high key protest outside the Vatican, with protestors shouting "Knock, knock. Who's there? More than half the Church!" and holding signs that say #VotesForCatholicWomen. Now, I hear you saying to yourself, "What is going on here? Since when is there voting in the Catholic Church? What is she talking about?" I hear you, friends. Let me explain. 

From October 3rd through 28th, the Catholic Church is holding a synod, which is basically a bunch of Church leaders getting together and talking about Church things. These happen every few years. This would not be interesting except for the fact that a synod is about as democratic as the Catholic Church gets--Bishops and other religious folk from around the world come together and talk about a specific area of Church teaching, and then they write up a document that could theoretically amend that teaching. Then the official synod members (known as "synod fathers") vote on if they agree with the proposed amendments. Then, that document gets submitted to the Pope, and he can decide whether or not that teaching actually gets changed. Pretty cool. Also, this year's synod is focused on "Youth, Faith, and Vocational Discernment." 

Great, so now that we have that covered, what's up with the protesting? See, for most of history, only ordained priests (mostly Bishops) could vote on synod documents. But the last synod in 2015 actually allowed a brother--brothers are members of a religious order, but are not ordained--to vote. Since brothers (and other religious life) are not ordained, they basically have the same authority as a lay person--aka any Catholic person. Flash forward three years to this synod, and now the Vatican is letting TWO brothers vote. But since a brother is allowed to vote, then technically there is no catechetical (fancy word for Official Church Teaching) reason that other laity can't vote too. 

So theoretically, if a religious brother can vote, then so could a religious sister, or a lay man, or a lay woman...but this synod did not give the vote to any of those people. Thus, the protest. The protestors (mostly women), are asking why their voices aren't being valued in the way that they should be. In fact, laity are allowed to attend and join in on the discussions that all the synod members have about the teaching, they just cannot vote on it like the synod members can. 

Most religious sisters are part of a group called the Women's Ordination Conference, and this group has been doing most of the heavy-lifting with this protest. They have also organized a petition (https://action.groundswell-mvmt.org/petitions/catholic-women-religious-s...) asking for women religious superiors (think like a high-ranking nun) to be given a vote at the synod. Although we can't know yet whether or not this will happen, many of the protestors have hope that even if women cannot vote at this synod, maybe their actions have done enough to get women into the next synod. 

In the meantime, and in the spirit of the synod itself, the Catholic Church should really try to listen to women and the laity. With all the mess and scandal that the Church is experiencing right now, it is crucial that the clergy take a backseat and let the people of the Church be heard. For example, did you know that some Catholic Churches let lay people low key do the homily? After the Gospel reading, the priest does a real short mini-homily, and then lets a lay person give a reflection on the readings. And this is allowed!! Technically speaking, there is no Church teaching that forbids this from happening, and it is a GREAT way to let people (say, even the Youth People??) to feel like they really are part of the Mass and feel involved in the Church. Plus, this is the only way that a woman would ever be able to preach at all! If you ask me, the Vatican should really encourage this type of thing. 

In any case, time will tell how the synod fathers end up voting and what sort of documents come out of this synod, but even if women do not get to vote this time, maybe because of these protests and the brave efforts of these women, future synods will feature religious women and lay people. Maybe someday we will even give the vote to some young people, who could provide an insight on, say, youth or faith or vocational discernment.