SYNOD 12:  RIGHT OF REPLY

Views vary. On our Synodal Journey we have been encouraged to voice our comments and concerns about the Church and to be heard with tolerance as we do so. Likewise, those who take different views are welcome to express them enjoying the same respect, particularly when they are diametrically opposed to our own. Certainly, parishioners have not been reticent to state point and counterpoint. In this final stage of our consultative process here are some selected replies to earlier views demonstrating how as a parish we have been prepared to listen to a variety of opinions other than our own.   Sean Dunne

ON REFLECTION

The first contributor writes:

Following our recent Parish Synod Meeting I believe we all want the Church to demonstrate that it really believes that God made us all and that Jesus is there for all. We have become timid and fearful of saying what we believe. Have the rules overtaken the message?

It seems to me that the clergy are put in a position where they are expected to be doorkeepers to the sacraments. We heard how a divorcee was told to wait 5 years before he could be readmitted to communion. Who decides what is sin? Why not 6 years? Or 2?

Do we want the priest to publicly decide that someone is a sinner and so cannot receive the Eucharist? If a pharmacist is known to prescribe the “morning after pill” should he/she be barred? Should the homosexual be denied? Are they more sinful than the “woman taken in adultery”?

The other message was that we would like the Church to be more visible in society. Catholic Social Teaching should be a great force for good but who, apart from us, knows? Where is the Hierarchy when the great issues of the day are debated and decided? Where are we in Wales?

For instance: Everybody knows where the Church stands on abortion but not that Pope Francis has expressly spoken out against the evil of nuclear weapons. It should not be left to Bruce Kent, who left the priesthood some years ago, to stand up and say so. Where were Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop George Stack when Parliament decided to double the number of nuclear warheads which this country holds?

There is a 2-child cap on benefits received by recipients of Universal Credit. Where were they to protest about this law against the family?  The state will not support its families but will pay for abortion if the mother feels she cannot afford the third child. (Introduced by Ian Duncan Smith, a Catholic, “in the interests of fairness”). Private protests may have been made but that is not enough. The policy reminds me of China….

The functioning at parish level was touched on: there was much more to see in the composite view sent round by Anne May (Synod 8: Calls for Change). It is very heartening to see that so many people have wanted to contribute with so many points of emphasis.

Finally: Climate Change. What now?

Second contributor says:

1) I strongly resist reverting back to the apparently superior sanctity of kneeling at the altar rail and taking communion by the mouth. It’s clearly not applicable to our church where reverence is deep and apparent.

2) I’m also against the idea of parishioners suggesting/telling/ Father Nick what topic to explore in his sermons. As they stand, they are outstanding, thoughtful and lucidly expressed. More importantly they’re 100% his creation. They come from his heart and I don’t want that to change or leave with the uneasy feeling I’ve been listening to a hybrid.

3) On a positive note, I’m very much in favour of married priests both male and female. (I’ve got the feeling Pope Francis has already decided this and will use the Synod as expressing the Holy Spirit in this respect.)

4) In the culture we live in, image, nudge factors, behavioural units are commonly understood buzzwords and the related psychology could be effectively be used by the Church – not in terms of watering down the message – but by making it more urgently attractive, more subtly attractive. In other words it should use the media more effectively employing lucid and charismatic and thoughtful spokespeople – not necessarily priests, inserting them in discussion programmes of various levels – but avoiding superficiality or talking down which is detected immediately.

 

This is a third contributor responding to “Synod 8: Calls for Change”:

Does anyone know what Vatican II was about because we weren’t really involved? The only thing we understood was there would be no more Latin but Pope John XXIII was trying to bring Catholics and other faiths together closer by stressing what we had in common and not what divides us.

Bidding prayers by Parishioners should not be encouraged since everyone would use them to compete for their favourite causes. Better leave well enough alone.

Chairs that can be moved for entertainment for the young won’t bring them to church – into the building perhaps – since they are absorbed by their mobile phones. Even in Jesus’ days business was conducted outside the Temple.

I have asked a few people who no longer come to church what stopped them. It is nothing to do with Faith as such or abuse but they just felt that there wasn’t much point in going because prayers were never answered. With so many mixed marriages it is not so easy to stick with it.

In the past priests used to visit parishioners at home, whether invited or not, and that is where they spoke to the kids, as well as finding out what people were doing and thinking. With changing demands and distractions in the home that practice has largely disappeared.

The young who are going in ever increasing numbers belong to the Extraordinary Right because they say it gives them an anchor to their faith. Perhaps we need more old-fashioned Catholicism to bring them back. If the Holy Ghost is watching please don’t let us go down the wrong road.

Our final parishioner comments of Synod Steps 7 & 8 as follows:

Synod 7: FAITH AND DOUBT

MOTIVATION: The word “catholic” means “universal” or “including a wide variety of things”. It would therefore seem that having become a “broad church” the Anglican churches are now more catholic in the real sense of the word than the Catholic Church.

Re the primary mission of the Church, no-one seems to have mentioned anything about love. The first two Commandments are to love God and love our neighbour, and St. Paul says the greatest spiritual gift (greater even than faith) is love. Love is also the recurring theme in Christ’s teachings in the Gospels. Should we take love as our primary mission and allow it to inform our actions and decisions, both in the Church and in our own lives? We might be less likely to go wrong, and we could all then be missionaries in our own lives through leading by example.

Re proclaiming Christianity or Catholicism – Christianity could survive without Catholicism, but where would Catholicism be without Christ? The teachings of Christ in the Gospel would therefore seem to take precedence over Catholic traditions.

OBSERVATIONS: We cannot put the clock back to the 50s and 60s. The Catholic religion was only taught in Catholic schools, and did not guarantee that their pupils would remain in the Church. In some Catholic schools pupils were abused, and the victims and other pupils who witnessed it would have lost all trust in a Church which did not practise what it preached. On the other hand we have parishioners who did not go to Catholic schools and yet have attended Mass regularly for many years, including “cradle” Catholics, converts and non-Catholic partners who come to church and play an active role in their parish.

Synod 8: PARISHIONERS’ VIEWS

PARTICIPATION: The prayers and readings for each Sunday Mass are already printed in the Mass books, and I think the hymns and homily are supposed to reflect and expand on the readings – this therefore precludes much participation by the laity as far as subject matter is concerned. However, some more variation in the prayers we say at Mass might be a good idea – when prayers become too familiar, they can be said automatically and rapidly without any conscious thought on our part. Mass can then seem repetitive and boring, particularly to young people. This may also be a challenge for anyone thinking of entering the priesthood.

HOLY COMMUNION:  Many parishioners are elderly, so struggling to kneel down at the altar rail and get up again is unlikely to make their reception of Holy Communion more reverent or increase their belief in the Real Presence. If the priest feels anyone is irreverent, he can say so, as he is best placed to see what everyone is doing.

At the Last Supper all the apostles were present, including Judas, even though Jesus was well aware that Judas was about to betray Him. There can hardly be a more serious sin than causing the Son of God to be put to death, and yet Jesus does not seem to have excluded Judas when He offered the apostles His Body and Blood. Can the Church therefore justify excluding people from Holy Communion when they have done something less serious?

PARISH AND CHURCH: One positive thing which has already come out of this consultation is the way it has made us all think about, discuss and examine our religion in a way that hasn’t happened before. It has also been a good exercise in participation and getting to know other parishioners.

ANIMAL WELFARE / THE ENVIRONMENT: Pope Francis has spoken out about the need for us to live more simply and sustainably and care for the planet – our common home – and everything on it. In his encyclical Laudato Si’ he reminds us that as consumers we hold considerable power in our hands, and he suggests various ways in which we can take action, including boycotting shops and businesses which are unethical.

Animal welfare is vitally important for both the animals’ health and the health of humans and the environment. It is the way animals are reared that is the cause of environmental problems, not the animals themselves. For instance, improving the nutritional quality of cattle feed has been shown to reduce methane emissions by over 80%. We also need to inform ourselves about the real meanings of food labels – for instance “free range” does not always mean “running around in the fresh air”, as many people think.

We must also be aware of inaccurate slogans such as “Eat plants to save the planet”. One of the largest sources of methane globally is rice, a plant which forms the basis of many vegetarian and vegan meals, not to mention breakfast cereals etc. Even Chris Packham (a vegan himself) has admitted that the planet could not support us if we all became vegan. The end result of veganism would therefore seem to be the mass extinction of farm animals and ultimately of the human race too. This can hardly be called caring for God’s creation.

ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS

Latin Mass – many people are prepared to travel considerable distances to attend a Latin Mass, and this can cause problems if the Mass is held in a small parish. As the demand seems to be there, could some more Latin Masses be held in larger parishes? This would prevent any one location from being overwhelmed. NB. The Mass would have to be said properly – at the last one I attended (the first in many years), the priest was on a side altar, all we could hear was a muttered gabble, and we were completely unable to join in with the responses. I didn’t go again.

Hymns – one of the things parishioners missed most during the pandemic was singing hymns. Would people be interested in some additional hymn-singing sessions sometimes? It would be another way to increase participation, and would not require the presence of a priest unless he wished to be there. Some options might be:  Songs of Praise, with parishioners choosing the theme and hymns, possibly followed by light refreshments; a Rosary Hour, with the Rosary plus some hymns to Our Lady; Care for Creation / Harvest, a celebration of creation in September.

Young people – some non-Catholic churches have found that by holding services on YouTube they have attracted more young people, including those who don’t go to church. Would it be worth trying some YouTube services in the Archdiocese, perhaps inviting students from Catholic secondary schools to choose the format of the service, including prayers, readings and music?