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The Fabulous Synod and Silenced Women

30 September 2023

Fabio Colagrande, author of Le favolose avventure di Sinodino [The Fabulous Adventures of Sinodino] (Ancora ed.) warns on the cover, here follows the “fantacronache of the ambushes of an impertinent man who wants to wake up the Synod”. In twenty theatrical sketches, he recounts the incursions of a short baptized man who could be defined as impertinent, shameless, a serial troublemaker, a malicious provocateur, malicious saboteur, a nuisance, a petulant harasser, a shameless minor, a meddler (I could go on) of the synodal path who wants to verify its “good progress”.

In the guise of a “shameless little troublemaker”, Sinodino also intrudes onto the round table on women, which is “an unmissable moment of discussion on one of the hottest and most debated topics in contemporary ecclesiology: the role of women in the synodal path and in the Church to come”.

Serious stuff. As the book is, “always funny, in the end even touching” but “always very very serious, I would say dramatically serious”, writes the director of the Osservatore Romano, Andrea Monda, in the preface. After all, Monda continues quoting G.K. Chesterton, “the opposite of funny is not serious, but not funny, boring”.

So off Sinodino goes to the debate on the women’s issue in the Church and immediately runs into a long-standing problem. When it comes to discussing women in the Church, they are  not even called upon to speak.

“On the large posters hung everywhere, at the entrance to the university and in the convention hall, the faces of women, both religious and lay, who have made the history of the Church recent and past, stand out. In scrutinizing their faces marked by suffering for the discrimination they have suffered, but at the same time imbued with the determination and courage needed to oppose, at first weakly, then more and more decisively, the macho clerical overbearance, one senses that it is now time for the definitive affirmation of women in the roles of responsibility that count at the top of ecclesial structures”.

Sinodino’s entrance is hilarious (and serious). The moderator is “with particular pleasure” about to introduce “the eminent lecturers who have agreed to take the floor tonight on a subject as urgent as it is arduous, as much discussed as it is in need of further analysis, as heartfelt as it is opposed, as fascinating as it is complex”; but at this moment, Sinodino stops him, “But they are all men!”

There is a frosty atmosphere in the hall, italicizes Colagrande, but “alas, it is indeed so. At the table sit, menacingly, Cardinal Pierre Masculin, rector emeritus of the university, the distinguished ecclesiologist Professor Angusto Omaccioni and the biblical scholar Father Gilberto Virali. Defiladed, almost at the edge of the table, squatting on a stool, is family pastoral lecturer Sister Lina Donnini”.

This is followed by protests from the women (not all of them, the lady at the back: “It’s all the fault of that meddlesome child”), shushing from the men (not all of them, for one bishop says, “I told you not to invite women’, another retorts: ‘But the child is telling the truth!’”).

Sister Lina Donnini (overcoming her shyness, grabs the microphone), but the child has a point. Here at the table there are almost only men; I didn’t want to say it, but I find it a bit embarrassing”.

However, at ths moment she is reprimanded by the lady at the back. “But embarrassing of what? You will be embarrassing yourself with these comments”.

Then follows a series of scrambled comments by men: “Shut up, nun! Go and wash the dishes in the kitchen!”, the seminarian standing by the door tells her. Here reader you can, if you wish, reflect on what is sometimes demanded of nuns.

The themes, spaces, places, and characters recounted in Colagrande’s delightful book - who has worked at Vatican Radio - Vatican news since 1994 as a vaticanist, speaker and now also podcaster - are topical and debated, and the protagonists if not real, are verisimilar. Fantastic, but also, newsworthy.  Sinodino, so called by its “Council fanatic” parents, deals with clericalism, parishes, movements, empty churches, the distracted faithful, charity and mercy, with everything the Synod presupposes, i.e. to listen, to dialogue, to confront. Moreover, he goes as far as Casa Santa Marta, as far as the papal flat. He does not meet the Pope, but finds a note that reads, “Even the flock has its nose for new paths. Thank you, Synod. Keep up the good work! Yours, Francis”. (Pin)