Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, a Benedict XVI appointee but also a member of Pope Francis’ advisory body of cardinals, was also tapped by the pope to take part in the synod. Archbishop Robert Prevost, the American-born recent appointment to head the Dicastery for Bishops, will take part given his curial position. And Archbishop William Skurla of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, the metropolitan of all Ruthenian Catholics in the U.S. and Canada, will also participate in the synod.
In Canada, bishops’ conference picks include Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver, Bishop William McGrattan of Calgary, Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jérôme-Mont Laurier, and Auxiliary Bishop March Pelchat of Québec. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect emeritus of the Dicastery for Bishops, Cardinal Michael Czerny of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Cardinal Gérald LaCroix of Quebec, an ordinary member of the Synod of Bishops, will also participate.
The most controversial choice?
Many of the pope’s American cardinal nominees were expected; he’s done something similar in recent synods in 2018 and 2015 after these figures likewise failed to earn a nomination from their peers.
This makes Father Martin Pope Francis’ most controversial North American nominee — though also not a completely surprising pick.
Martin is famous for his advocacy to make the Catholic Church more welcoming to people with LGBTQ experiences. The popular media figure wrote “Building a Bridge” in 2017, was the subject of a Martin Scorsese-produced documentary last year, and recently launched Outreach, a website that publishes articles critical of the Church’s teaching and pastoral approach related to same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria.
Martin has repeatedly claimed he holds orthodox beliefs. Critics contend, however, that the Jesuit cleric’s approach isn’t simply welcoming because it downplays or even undermines the Church’s teaching on sexuality. Whatever his actual intentions, according to these critics, the effect of Martin’s advocacy has been to sow confusion in the life of the Church and to also usher people back into the Church under a false pretense — that it will change its unchangeable teaching on the nature of sexual acts and sacramental marriage.
Those calling for changes to the Church’s approach to LGBTQ issues have long viewed synods as an opportunity to exert pressure, even resorting to political-style lobbying in the lead-up to the 2018 Synod on Young People. With Martin among those inside the synod room and voting this time around, it seems like such tactics will be less necessary.
Youth and women, but representative?
A guiding principle in expanding synod voting to non-bishops was to include more women and young people. In fact, half of the non-bishop participants — who amount to 21% of all voting members — were intended to be women, and half were intended to be young adults.
This comes through in the North American non-bishop delegation, which includes 10 people who were picked by the pope from a larger list of participants in the continental phase of the synod.
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Three of the 10, all from the U.S., appear to be young adults. Father Ivan Montelongo is a priest of the Diocese of El Paso who was ordained only three years ago. The young priest, who was the point person for the synodal process in his diocese, is active on Twitter, where he frequently likes and retweets from figures such as Chris Lamb and Austen Ivereigh, and publications such as the National Catholic Reporter and America magazine.
Julia Osęka, a Polish national, is an undergraduate student at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where she participated in synodal proceedings as a part of the local archdiocese. A physics major with a theology and religious studies minor, Osęka has described herself as an “active feminist in the Church” who aspires to be a physics teacher one day.
And Wyatt Olivas is an undergraduate at the University of Wyoming and a member of the Diocese of Cheyenne, where he’s served as a catechist and music minister.
In addition to Osęka, North American women participating in the synod include Cynthia Bailey Manns, an Africa American who serves as the director of adult education at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Community in Minneapolis, a parish that has run into problems before due to its illicit liturgies and controversial “pre-Mass” lay sermons from the pulpit, including one instance in which a same-sex couple talked about their partnership and having a child through IVF and surrogacy.
Catherine Clifford, a theologian at St. Paul University in Ottawa, will also be a voting member. Clifford recently co-edited the “Oxford Handbook on Vatican II” with Massimo Faggioli and focuses on ecclesiology, Christian unity, and synodality. She previously said that in order for issues of doctrine and discipline like “expanding the roles for women” and having married priests, “the style of the Church’s governance has to change.”
Other women include Sister Chantal Desmarais, a habited Canadian religious who does karate and plays hockey; Sister Leticia Salazar, the chancellor for the Diocese of San Bernadino in California; and Linda Staudt, a retired Catholic schools administrator in Canada. Canadian Sister Elizabeth Davis will be participating in the synod not as a non-bishop selectee but as the head of the Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland.