Perhaps you have seen reports from the Youth Synod (XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment) currently being held in Rome. Three Australian bishops are present, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP of Sydney, Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne, Bishop Mark Edwards of Melbourne and one youth representative, Sebastian Duhau from the Parramatta Diocese. In total there are 339 participants in the Synod on Youth, including 34 young people aged 18 to 29 from every continent of the world. There are 267 Synod Fathers—including cardinals, archbishops, bishops and auxiliary bishops—as well as 23 experts and 49 auditors.

Among the “collaborators”, “observers” and “auditors” are 32 women, who will make up around 10 percent of the total gathering. They include religious sisters from places such as China, Kenya, Korea and France; lay women serving their local churches and two sociologists, Professor Cecilia Costa of Roma Tre University and Chiara Giaccardi, from the Catholic University of Milan. 

Ten synod voting members are chosen by the Union of Superiors General, a body of male leaders of religious orders who have put forward eight priests and two religious brothers to attend. Despite the non-ordained religious brothers being able to vote, the synod rules do not allow voting membership for women, including religious sisters.

If male religious superiors who are not ordained can vote, then women religious superiors who are also not ordained should vote. With no ontological/doctrinal barrier, the only barrier is the biological sex of the religious superior.

In St. John Paul II’s Letter to Women (1995), he made clear the “urgent need to achieve real equality in every area…” He also stated, “This is a matter of justice but also of necessity. Women will increasingly play a part in the solution of the serious problems of the future…” 

While there are only a few days remaining in the Youth Synod you can sign a petition if you believe that women religious should also be able to vote.