Synod: In Europe, several national summaries criticize clericalism and the position of women

Synod: In Europe, several national summaries criticize clericalism and the position of women

“Let dreams germinate in the Church” by collecting the opinions of lay people, that was the aim of the consultation within the framework of the Synod on the Future of the Church, according to the introductory text published last September. A year later, on August 15, the Bishops’ Conferences of many countries presented their summary of this “giant consultation”. Back to the core points of the Swiss, German, Belgian and Irish relationships that share the desire for a more socially open church.

► A church that is disconnected and losing influence

The Swiss report summarizes the crisis in three keywords: “Loss of relevance of the church’s faith tradition, loss of trust in the church and growing distance from the church”, in a context marked by the scandal of sexual abuse. A finding shared in other countries, where reports point to the “detachment” of the Church, which “is seen as unworldly,” according to the Belgian Catholics interviewed. “Many feel that the message of the church does not correspond to the lives of people in our society today. »

“The absence of young people from the church communities” is one of the consequences, the report of the Irish Bishops’ Conference regrets. But also a Eucharist that “loses importance for a significant part of the German believers”. They therefore claim to feel a “distinct separation between their daily life and the Sunday liturgy”.

► Give women more space

One of the solutions proposed by the laity to respond to this crisis of confidence would be to give more responsibility to women within the Church. On the one hand through the admission to participate in the synod of bishops and through the right to vote proposed by the German faithful.

On the other hand, by advocating the ordination of women. Thus, the Belgian and Swiss reports in their consultation mention “the exclusion of women from the priestly ministry” from “open criticism”. And “the arguments are many,” recalls the Belgian document: “the lack of ministers, the quality of pastoral care, the division of responsibilities, the satisfaction of pastors and the fundamental credibility of the institution”. The same observation for married men’s access to the priesthood, which was “called out from all quarters” in Belgium and touched upon in Switzerland and Ireland.

► Welcome the “marginalized” and “excluded”.

The Swiss faithful call for a church “that does not reject, prejudice or despise anyone because of their gender, sexuality, way of life, age, social status or personal attitude at any time”. A central demand of the Swiss, German and Irish reports is the improvement of the reception of marginalized people. LGBT+ in the first place, even if it means revising the church’s view of sexuality, as voices in Ireland and Switzerland are calling for.

Divorced people, people with a migration background, people with disabilities and, in German, “population groups that do not belong to the educated middle class” are also mentioned. However, the Belgians are less talkative about numerous criticisms of “the ambivalence of a church that speaks of a loving God, proclaims the gospel and on the other hand ‘excludes’ people because of it.

► Towards more responsibility for the laity

The Irish open their synthesis about the “open wound” of sexual and emotional abuse committed and covered up in the Church, linking it specifically to clericalism. The four reports criticize the exaggerated hierarchy of the church and call for greater laity participation in decision-making processes.

While the Swiss suggest involving “God’s people” in the appointment of bishops with limited powers, German dioceses report successful experiences of “participatory leadership,” where priests and laity have shared leadership responsibilities at different levels of the diocese according to theirs vocation and skills.

The sending of the national syntheses to the Vatican marks the end of the diocesan phase of the synod on synodality. The General Secretariat of the Synod will now draw on these reports from around the world to create a first Instrumentum Laboris. After a phase of dialogue at continental level, the synod will end in October 2023 in the Vatican with the plenary assembly of the synod of bishops.