SYNOD 10-1:  A VIEW FROM ROSS

Our sister parish of St Frances of Rome in Ross-on-Wye has enriched our own Monmouth parish in many ways such as serving and regularly attending Mass here and by assisting at the annual pilgrimage and other key parish events. Recently, in conjunction with our shared Parish Priest, we conferred with their two Synod Delegates about our common Synodal Journey. It can be instructive for us to listen to a commentary from Ross on our earlier expression of parishioners’ views regarding the main challenges facing the Catholic Church in the modern era. Here is one such view from Ross.   Sean Dunne.

CHALLENGES

Having read the “Challenges” which have been identified, I agree with most of them and would like to add the following comments:

VOCATIONS

Accepting married and women priests might not solve the problem but would at least help. It would also demonstrate that the Church is willing to change and be more inclusive. Most of the apostles were married, and there is archaeological evidence that women held senior roles in the early Church, so there is a precedent for both. The C. of E. may be in decline, but judging by the number of women clergy at various levels it would barely exist at all without them.

Lack of leadership within the Church and falling Mass attendances may be other reasons for the lack of vocations. What does the Church do to encourage people to think about entering the priesthood? Do priests attend careers evenings in schools and colleges, or go into them to talk to the students about the priesthood in a positive way? Advertisements asking people to consider becoming doctors, nurses, teachers, etc. feature regularly in the press and on TV – perhaps the Church ought to be more proactive in seeking vocations?

CHURCH ATTENDANCE

There is still a great interest in spirituality but churches are not connecting with this. Many people say they believe in God but don’t go to church because they don’t find God there – they just find the same boring services each week and numerous rules and regulations. Others never set foot in a church and find the prospect intimidating, because even weddings and funerals are not always held in churches. Religions are also seen by many as the cause of wars and divisions in society.

Has anyone attended or live-streamed the services of the expanding Christian churches to see what they are offering? If their services are lively and joyful and a pleasure to attend, that may explain their popularity.

Has anyone asked the younger generations why they no longer go to church? Young people these days seem to live their lives according to what will look cool on social media, and going to church is unlikely to be seen as cool. They also have instant entertainment at their fingertips 24/7 – how can going to Mass compete with that?

ENVIRONMENT AND AGRICULTURE

Laudato Si’ is so topical and so relevant to the climate crisis that everyone should have read it, but it is so heavy-going that few people have. Even the title means nothing to most people unless they read the sub-title (see Communication below). Instead of restricting priests to the themes of that day’s readings for their homilies, perhaps they should be asked to speak out on current topics such as the climate crisis, animal welfare, and living more simply and sustainably. Most people, particularly in rural areas, live much of their lives according to the seasons and the weather, but the Church’s seasons and liturgy do not reflect that.

MORALITY

Christ openly mixed with people who were regarded as “beyond the pale” and did not condemn or exclude them, but the Church seems to have a very negative view of human nature and regards everyone as sinful and inclined to evil. Perhaps it is time for a more positive and inclusive attitude.

BISHOPS

We rarely see or hear anything of Cardinal Nichols or other senior clergy, or hear them speak out about Government corruption, social injustice, etc. Young people in particular look to “influencers”, but at the moment the only high-profile people who claim to be Catholics are people like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg – are these the role models we want for the Catholic Church?

The Church seems to be either associated with paedophile scandals or seen as a figure of fun and the butt of jokes, so what is there to encourage people to join? Even “cradle” Catholics are asking themselves “why am I still a Catholic?” and some are voting with their feet.

COMMUNICATION

This does not seem to have been mentioned but it is crucial. Most Church documents give the impression that they have been written by theologians for theologians, rather than for the laity or the general public. They are often full of archaic words and phrases – the background information for this consultation is a classic example. In an age of emoticons and abbreviations such as LOL, the response to words such as “synodality”, “vade mecum” and “parrhesia” is likely to be snappy but not very flattering. How can we expect people (particularly young people) to be interested in an organisation which speaks to them in what sounds like (and sometimes is) a foreign language?

Were the people who prepared this consultation really so out of touch with the real world that they did not realise what they were doing? Or was it done deliberately to deter people from taking part, thus retaining the “status quo” while paying lip service to consultation? If the Church wants to get its message across in the modern world, it needs to speak simply, clearly and concisely.

MOVING ON

The Church of today is still largely shaped by the Second Vatican Council, but that took place 60 years ago. The world has changed out of all recognition since then, while the Church seems to have let itself get left behind and often seems remote from everyday life in 2022. If it wants to remain relevant, it needs to find ways of moving on when the world moves on. Perhaps the whole structure and hierarchy of the Church needs to be simplified and streamlined, so that it can be more responsive to changing circumstances and more able to adapt and adjust itself as necessary.