VATICAN CITY (Church Militant.com) - The Vatican is in damage control mode after a comment made by a religious sister revealing that women in the Amazon are already acting like priests.
On Monday, the first day of discussions and presentations of the Synod regarding the priesthood crisis in the Amazon, Sr. Alba Teresa Cediel Castillo, a member of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate and of St. Catherine of Siena, an order of sisters from Colombia, revealed that sisters and other women are doing some sacramental duties reserved to priests.
Responding to a question in a Vatican presser regarding the role of women religious in the Amazon, she said, "We focus on education, on healthcare, we carry out projects. We help the indigenous people to develop their own projects promoting development."
"In all of these places, what do we do?" She continued:
Well, everything that a woman can do, starting from baptism, as prophets and priests, as women priests we accompany people during all events when priests cannot be there. If there is need for a baptism we baptize children. If there is a possibility of marrying, if anybody wishes to get married, we can do that, we can celebrate the marriage. And sometimes we also have to listen to confessions. Of course we cannot give absolution, but at the bottom of our hearts we place ourselves in the position of listening with humbleness thinking about the person who comes to us for a word of comfort. Somebody who, perhaps, before death.
Castillo continues, "At the moment we are working at the inter-congregational level in itinerant teams of men and women who travel on canoe and we cross these huge Amazonian rivers and women's role within the Church, in my opinion too, has to become greater."
She added, "We will get there but little by little. We cannot exert too much pressure. I think that through dialogue, through meeting we will be able to respond to the many challenges."
Faithful Catholics are responding strongly on social media, calling it an attempt to co-opt the male priesthood.
Vatican News Agency, however, issued a different rendition of Castillo's comments in an article published on Tuesday, titled "Amazonia: the women religious who 'hear confessions,'" after Catholics expressed alarm.
Rather than using the Vatican's translator, who rendered an almost literal translation of Castillo's words, the article paraphrases.
It adds the gloss, "If someone wants to get married, we are present and we witness to the love of the couple."
The Church does teach the sacrament of baptism can be administered by somebody who is not a priest or deacon in the case of an emergency, namely, if the person is in immediate danger of death.
Synod leaders like Cdl. Lorenzo Baldisseri are claiming the Amazon Synod's outlining document isn't authoritative and represents "the voice of the local church."
In an interview with National Public Radio, Fr. Peter Hughes, an Irish missionary to Latin America, said, "The people of the Amazon, as we all know, have their own vision, their own cosmic vision of reality, where all of life is interconnected," adding, "This mantra of interconnectedness that the pope underlines is the bedrock of his spirituality and of Christian spirituality."
This was made evident on Saturday when the Pope Francis was present for a pagan tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican gardens.
A female shaman led the ceremony with people bowing, including a Franciscan friar, in apparent worship of the earth.
Austin Ivereigh, a British journalist and apologist for Pope Francis, claimed the ceremony was Catholic and that wooden statues representing two naked and pregnant women were not pagan idols but images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Elizabeth.
In a presser follow-up, however, an Amazonian missionary bishop commented that the statues represent "Mother Earth, fertility, woman, life" and not the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Prominent theologians are condemning the agenda of the synod. American Cdl. Raymond Burke called the synod apostasy and "a direct attack on the Lordship of Christ."
"The fundamental concept of a synod was to call together representatives of the clergy and the laypeople to see how the Church could more effectively teach and more effectively apply her discipline," he said.
"Synods never had anything to do with changing doctrine or with changing discipline," Burke went on to say, adding, "It was all meant to be a way of furthering the mission of the Church."