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Pope Francis has presented us with an extraordinary opportunity to speak out about the kind of Church we'd like to see today. It is our belief that his invitation to us to gather in small groups and share our stories offers far more hope for Church reform than even Vatican II back in the 60s. Pope Francis wants to hear from practicing Catholics, of course. But even more, he wants to hear from those who’ve walked away from the institutional Church, from other denominations, from men and women young and old. He wants to hear stories of how people have been hurt and what drove some away along with suggestions for how the situation(s) could have been better handled by the Church. We encourage you to join a synod offered by your bishop, pastor, or Small Christian Community. If none are being offered in your community, then consider starting your own.
If you share Mary Hunt’s concerns about the outcome of this synodal process still being left in the hands of the bishops, let us address this in our own synodal gatherings. Let us use this opportunity to share with one another what is within our power to make this synodal process relevant in the final analysis with the people genuinely having a deliberative voice and becoming mature followers of Christ.
Mary Hunt shares her concerns in this article about the Synod on Synodality:
The “Synod on Synodality” which Pope Francis launched with minimal fanfare this month is the Vatican’s latest effort to square a circle. It’s meant to engage the whole church, all billion plus, in a process of “walking together” though no one seems to know quite where or how.
Read entire article at Religion Dispatches
Pope Francis is listening and eager to hear from all the people - not only those who are regular Mass attendees but even those who've walked away from the institutional Church valuing their personal faith over "Church laws" and prescripts. He has called on every diocese throughout the world urging the bishops to engage in dialogue with the people.
Francis has begun a two-year process for the purpose of creating a radical structural change to the Church that will shift decision making to the people with the bishops carrying out their duties as servant leaders. Countless people have been hurt by the impact of Church laws. Francis is calling these synodal gatherings inviting us to walk together, to share our lived experiences and struggles with the intention of exploring ways that the Church could better respond to the needs and hurts of the people. These gatherings are not meant to be debates but prayerful Spirit-guided sharing of our lived experiences that will lead to our offering solutions to the many issues facing the Church today. These are meant to be deep listening sessions where we are journeying together, walking the path that God is calling the Church to undertake for the third millennium.
Francis has a dream of creating an upside-down pyramid thereby changing the way the Church is structured and governed. But many bishops, fearful of losing their power, are resisting this effort. The change we are seeking is not to change them; the change we are seeking is within us. But if our walking together does, indeed, have the Spirit at its center, then it is possible that the process will drag the existing institution and its hierarchy along with it in a transformation that fulfills the dreams of Vatican II.
If change in the Church is to occur, it is up to all of us, the People of God, to make it happen. The old model of a monarchy has been severely compromised by clericalism and the sex abuse crisis. The “synodal way” is not itself a new model but a method reflective of the days of the early Christians. Francis is inviting us to share our dreams for the Christian community in today’s world. He is asking us to generate a process through which governance gravitates away from the hierarchy and toward the whole People of God. It is not the politics of democracy; it is not a parliamentary process. It is governance guided by the Spirit speaking through us.
To quote from the Handbook for this synod: The objective of this Synodal Process is not to provide a temporary or one-time experience of Synodality, but rather to provide an opportunity for the entire People of God to discern together how to move forward on the path towards being a more synodal Church in the long-term.
We have always paid lip service to the “sensus fidelium” – a nice concept which has had little or no supporting process. If Church reform is to come, it will not be through the leadership of the bishops but through the people behaving as mature adults and assuming responsibility for our Church – recognizing that the Church is us.
We welcome the opportunity to share our lived experiences and seek solutions for better ways to address the hurts we have suffered from the impact of the clerical abuse scandal and many Church laws. But we cannot be satisfied to make our voices heard only through phase one of the synodal process. We cannot stop there and entrust our views to the bishops to carry on into the national conferences of bishops in phase two and onto the universal phase in Rome in phase three. If Francis has invited us to "walk together," then we must walk together with him and with the bishops all the way through the Synodal process. Our listening sessions and sharing of views must not stop in April 2022 at the end of phase one. We must continue sharing our Spirit-guided insights long-term. The impact of the clerical sexual abuse on the Church is a clear sign that something must change. And if change is to occur, it is up to us, the people to make it happen. If you agree, what can you do? Some suggestions include:
If you are unable to join a synod or start one of your own either online or in your community, we invite you to join CCRI in a series of online gatherings. Let us know if this would interest you: https://catholicchurchreformintl.org/index.php/news/news/337-ccri-synod-registration.
This is our opportunity to respond to the call of Pope Francis, as he says:
“The Spirit continues to guide us in our translating the Good News into different contexts, so that the words of Jesus continue to resound in the hearts of men and women in every age. That is why I like to quote Gustav Mahler, that "tradition is not the repository of ashes but the preservation of fire."
Regardless of where we are in our standing in the Church - members or non-members - let us all find a way to respond to Pope Francis’s call to “Let us Dream” and be a part of making those dreams a reality.
Supported by Catholic Church Reform International
Please read and share this article with your bishop or pastor: Pope to Begin Synodal Process With Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica | Catholic New York (cny.org).
Nine days from now, Pope Francis will officially open a synodal process. As my colleague Brian Fraga reported on Wednesday, you wouldn't know much about it if you relied on the U.S. bishops' conference. They have sent no directives to the nation's bishops, no historical or theological reflections, no guidance, nada, niente. They have not amended their strategic priorities to reflect the start of this synodal process. And their last meeting was dedicated to figuring out how to justify a document on eucharistic coherence that no one needs and that Rome has indicated it does not want.