SYNOD 7: FAITH AND DOUBT

Across our Parish there are many points of view about what the Church should or should not be doing in the 21st century. Last week we heard from those who advocated change. This week it is equally important we listen to those who advocate stability and consistency. Views can be forthright and need to be considered with tolerance particularly when contrary to our own. This is a selection of comments coming exclusively from our fellow parishioners relating to the Synod and the Universal Church. They are written in the first person, namely “I”, but there is more than one writer. The original comments have been retained in full but anonymised and edited to fit. So here they are:

Motivation

It is somewhat curious that the Pope should launch an initiative urging us to listen to one other, when he must know that it is very difficult or nearly impossible for us to do so. It is one reason for suspecting that this massive exercise is intended as a diversion from problems that face the Vatican.

On reform, the authority of the Catholic Church needs to be restored. My fear is that the Church is being pushed in the opposite direction. Hence my question whether a synodal church is a euphemism for a reformed one.

As you know, reformed churches, such as those in the Anglican Communion (for example the CofE and the CinW), very much listen to the laity. The result is what they proudly describe as a ‘broad church’, accommodating a vast range of positions on both theological and moral issues.

Recent statements by the Pope are not consistent with traditional teachings of the church and this is also true of some of his homilies. That is why one wonders what a synodal church actually means.

I am not alone in being concerned about the real purpose of the Synod on Synodality called by Pope Francis. Below is a summary of my questions and concerns.

Is the real objective to transform the Catholic Church into a Reformed One?

  • The exercise is justified on the grounds that the church is convoked in Synod. This is not true in the sense relied upon here since they were never before intended to listen to 1.3 billion Catholics, other denominations and atheists but were composed of the Apostles or bishops to instruct the faithful. What then is the real motive?
  • Synod has little relevance to the serious problems currently faced by the Vatican and hence by the Pope such as falling vocations and attendances, financial irregularities in the Vatican, clerical sexual abuse of minors, a Catholic American President supporting abortion and communion for divorcees or cohabitees. Is the Synod intended as a diversion?
  • What questions would be put to the laity under a synodal church? Would they relate to the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church based on the Catechism, with the possibility that they might be changed? If not, what sort of issues would be discussed?

Should the exercise not be delayed due to Covid?
The documents lay great emphasis on listening to each other. How can we do this if we cannot meet up? One does have to wonder, however, what is likely to result from consulting such a large and diverse population on a subject which seems to be so vague. The architects of this exercise will have great scope for being selective in the comments that they choose. Bishops should urge the Pope to delay the exercise, although I acknowledge that they are unlikely to be successful. 

What is the primary Mission of the Catholic Church?
Interestingly, some parishes are starting the synodal exercise by asking this question.
The Preparatory Documents are not at all clear about the objective(s) of this synodal exercise. However there appears to be a growing understanding that the main mission of the Catholic Church is to spread the Gospel and that the synod is concerned with this.

However, I think that many would say the main mission is to save souls, starting with the faithful, whose salvation is not guaranteed, and then moving on to others. This significantly affects the emphasis and direction within the Church. The Church shies away from the Catechism, particularly on those moral issues that are unpopular in this modern world.

What is the Gospel that is being preached?
Are the faithful expected to proclaim Christianity or Catholicism? They are not the same. Important differences include belief in the Real Presence, recognition of other sacraments, Reverence to Our Lady, the position of the Pope, ordination of women bishops, priests and deacons, married clergy and co-habitation.
Observations

  1. Much has been done to bring us closer to the Christian faith of non-Catholics but to no effect. I would like to go back to the 50s and 60s when the Catholic religion, not just Christianity, was properly taught in our schools. We had Eucharist Adoration, Rosary and Benediction, SVP, Legion of Mary, youth clubs etc. that kept us together.
  2. We are reducing in numbers like other Christians apart from those who attend the Latin Mass Society, and most of these are young people.
  3. It cannot be said that the Church is not concerned for the poor etc – it always has been there for everyone, rich and poor. We cannot do any more.
  4. As regards issues in society, I think we do speak up. Cardinal Nichols certainly does for us.
  5. We have tried Churches Together in Monmouth but there is no real interchange.
  6. Charitable work in the Church is well established and parish help is always there.
  7. We are not missionaries. We all have homes and jobs so not much time left for missionary work but some of us try our best.
  8. As regards speaking up about things, you have to know your subject and be an extrovert.
  9. Since there are many mixed marriages, it is harder for the Catholic partner to accept all the responsibility so youngsters need support from outside the home to help them understand the faith since attending Mass by itself will not mean much to them.
  10. As for the Synod, all these questions seem political and not to do with the actual faith.
  11. If the Pope wants to know if it is OK for same sex marriage, divorce and remarriage, and still receiving communion I would say it is not.
  12. Finally, it is NO to married priests since if they got divorced, they would have to leave the priesthood.

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As stated at the outset there is a spectrum of views across the parish. We have aired two contrasting views this week and last. It highlights the inherent difficulty drawing up a composite report from the Monmouth parish to the Archdiocese and the wisdom of the Synodal call for prayer, listening and discernment in the way we proceed. In turn, the Bishops will have the greatest need of all for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Thanks for your continuing interest and involvement.