SYNOD 6-2: CHALLENGES FACING THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH

Context

In earlier steps on our Synodal Journey we concentrated on our parish as well as the 10 Questions mentioned by the Archbishop in his letter and the Synod handbook Vade Mecum.

First, we looked at our Parish as a Community with its strengths and weaknesses.

Then, we considered our Parish in the Community identifying how parishioners are, or were, able to live out their Christian calling as members of both local and larger communities, while acknowledging the current COVID pandemic has been restrictive in recent times.

These two steps illustrate the ways and extent to which we journey together as a parish as well as in our prayers together and participation in the sacraments.

Now we turn to the worldwide Church. Altjough it is a force for much good in the world, our purpose here is to describe some of the major challenges facing the Catholic Church today.

Caveat

Given the nature of considering challenges confronting any institution it is evident that views will vary and some will think them unfair or unfounded particularly when they concern a person or charity that we value. It can be an intellectual and emotional experience for us. The Holy Father asks that we LISTEN to each other with tolerance so we are aware of different views from our own. It is a prelude to discerning the wish of the Holy Spirit for the Church.

As responsible people it behoves us to lift up our heads to see the big picture and recognise the major challenges confronting us just as the early Christians were obliged to do in the interest of spreading the Gospel to all nations and ensuring their own survival at times.

Source

All comments and questions raised have come directly from parishioners. The hope is that your particular contribution, if relevant here, is still recognisable at least in part after being presented in synopsis form and merged with other similar contributions for general consumption. Your original comments have been recorded in full and anonymised.

Purpose

Accordingly, this is to identify the principal challenges for the Catholic Church in England & Wales and, indeed, worldwide. It is also to invite parishioners to comment from their own perspective and, if minded, to state their own views and preferred remedies.

Please send your comments to Sean Dunne by email on monmouthsynod@gmail.com or place them in the basket marked “Synod” at the back of the church.

Thank You.                                                                               Sean Dunne, 28/1/2022

 

CHALLENGES

Here are some of the major challenges you have identified confronting the Catholic Church:

Vocations

50% of the priests in the Cardiff diocese will retire in the next 10 years. Cardiff is not any different to other dioceses in the UK, Europe and most of the developed world.

Vocations are much in decline and seminaries have closed at home and abroad.

If we do not address the lack of priests, we will face a Church in sad decline.

We do not want to link the continuing sex abuse scandals with the celibacy of the clergy but the scandals have done great damage to the Church and the two are linked by many people both inside and outside the Church. Independent public investigations and hard-hitting reports of clerical sexual abuse of minors worldwide, but most recently in England, France and Germany, have brought shame on the Church. Some dioceses may be bankrupted by legal actions, particularly in America. Could the Vatican or the Church be successfully sued?

Some say changes such as married clergy and female priests are long overdue in an age of equality but we should not expect them to revive the Church on their own. CofE and CinW are in continued and near catastrophic decline despite married and female clergy.

Church Attendance

Where is the Catholic Church going in Europe? It thrives in Africa, South America and parts of Asia. The younger generations are not practising Catholics or followers of any religion so if not reversed in Wales, UK and Europe then the outlook is bleak.

Catholic schools are popular with the general public but they are not producing the next generation of church-going Catholics.

The “fundamentalist”/ Pentecostal / Evangelical Christian churches are expanding fast in many communities and countries. Why not the Catholic Church?

Falling church attendances are compounded by the change of habits during and, probably, following the COVID pandemic.

Environment & Agriculture

The changing climate is the overarching problem of our times. Pope Francis in Laudate si is leading but are we following? Where is there a Catholic voice on certain immoral agricultural practices such as raising cattle fed only in barns and battery chickens?

Morality

Some challenge the stance of the Church on certain moral issues like acceptance of gays, those divorced and remarried or partners cohabiting, contraception and abortion.

At the same time a goodly proportion of the laity chooses to be guided by conscience and not by the Church’s teaching. This is evidenced by differing opinions about the following:

  1. Communion for divorced couples and those cohabiting.
  2. Contraception: it is clear that most members of the Church do not pay any attention to official teaching.
  3. Blessing or marriage for homosexual couples and remarriage of divorced couples.

Some would argue that as the moral authority of the Church declines so conscience prevails.

Bishops

Where is their leadership evident?

There is no high-profile spokesperson for the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

At times the Bishops are contributing to the problems by their own mis-management of issues like clerical sexual abuse of minors apparently valuing the reputation of the Church above the safety of children. They have brought shame on good priests, the laity, the Church and themselves.

They have no apparent accountability for their actions / inactions within the Church, in fact some Archbishops have remained in office after independent public censure for treatment of historic cases of sexual abuse.

The laity have no regular or reliable representation in the Diocese or when the Hierarchy meets at national level.

Not for the first time there are financial irregularities within the Vatican with a Cardinal and others now being prosecuted.

Collectively they have contributed hugely to the Church’s decline as a moral authority given their evident failure to practice what they preach.

What are they doing to recognise and address these major challenges? Is it significant that the Pope has had to reach out to the laity and not just to the Bishops?

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As so often in the history of the Church it is time to assess and address our major challenges. The Synod of Bishops is an excellent opportunity for Bishops worldwide to start.

In the words of Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General to the Synod of Bishops:

“Let the pastors not be afraid to listen to the flock entrusted to them”.