Sunday, December 10, 2023

Don't succumb to Synod fatigue! by Miriam Duignan

Janice Sevre- Duszynska ARCWP, Miriam Duignan, Fr. Roy Bourgeois 

In a document published on November 17th, the Bishops of England and Wales issued a plenary resolution arising from their post Synodal discussions . The document is called ‘Steps towards renewal’ but yet the content feels more like a plea to drop the demands for radical reform that were heard loud and clear during the pre-Synodal listening sessions.

30,000 people in England and Wales took part in Synodal discussions during the two years leading up to the meeting in Rome in October. The four signatories of the plenary resolution are three Bishops and one priest who were present as voting participants at the Synod.

These men spent one whole month in Rome listening to delegates discussing the most urgent issues facing the Church. But upon their return from this history making meeting they have declared their main area of focus to be a call to prayer, and decidedly not a call to action:

“We invite every parish to look anew at how the adoration of the Lord, not least through Eucharistic Adoration, and the service of the Lord in people in need, can be better connected and reinvigorated. How can we create and promote space and time for prayer, for spiritual communion, for adoring God, and for listening and responding to God? How can we deepen and broaden opportunities for people to participate in the prayer of adoration, linking this to the service of others? How can our experiences of prayer, of thirsting and longing for God, and of gratitude and wonder, give a missionary witness and invitation that is attractive to others?”

Our bishops seem very eager for us to sit quietly and pray. But it is safe to assume that the thousands of parishioners who contributed to the synodal sessions expected their bishops to do more than prescribe Eucharistic Adoration to address the Church’s ailments. So what is it about the process that has led them to make such an anti-synodal statement?

Policies and practices

Synodality means the community of Catholics should discern together. That includes free and open discussion including questioning Church policies and practises that cause harm and are not based on our true tradition. And so we must guard against Synod fatigue and not give up hope or lose momentum in demanding urgent change from our bishops and keep pushing for justice.

The Synod’s final report acknowledges the wounds inflicted on the Church by “clericalism, a chauvinist mentality and inappropriate expressions of authority”. It calls for “a profound spiritual conversion as the foundation for any effective structural change… the abuse of power and authority continue to cry out for justice, healing and reconciliation”.

When reading the output from the Bishops of England and Wales, this sentiment is one they clearly do not want us to focus on. And yet it is that abuse of authority that must urgently be addressed.

Prayer alone will not provide justice for women still rendered second class citizens by the Church. Silent prayer will not take away the hurt of divorced and remarried Catholics still being told they are living in sin.

Prayer does not change the reality of LGBTQ people whose lives and love are still dismissed as sinful by official teaching. Eucharistic Adoration will certainly not help the thousands of children abused by priests – the single most horrendous example of the utter mishandling of authority in the Church.

We must address and root out the underlying causes of why so many priests were able to commit these crimes and must challenge the ongoing suppression of the victims’ suffering ‘to save the reputation of the Church’.

Our bishops need to know that we will not stand by as they still defend the concept of clerical immunity and deny full accountability.

Mutual listening

Pope Francis said back in 2015 that: A synodal Church is a listening Church, knowing that listening “is more than feeling”. It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn… The synodal process starts by listening to the people, according to a principle dear to the Church of the first millennium: “Quod omnes tangit ab omnibus tractari debet” – what concerns all needs to be debated by all.

And so we must continue to raise our voices in further diocesan listening sessions leading up the second Synodal meeting in October 2024 so that it fulfils its potential to bring about meaningful change that goes beyond the banality of our Bishops’ appeal for passive obedience – the days of pray, pay and obey are over.

Miriam Duignan Executive Director,
Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

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