The church must listen to what the faithful tell it – and act

Neither a ladder nor a telescope was needed for the Catholic Church in Ireland to appreciate the extent of its decline. Archbishop of Tuam, Dr. Francis Duffy put it dramatically earlier this month when he said: “All trends are going down dramatically and there is no turning point in sight. I suggest you look at your priest, he may be the last in a long line of resident pastors and may not be replaced.”

o, it is no exaggeration to say that the newly published National Synthesis Document represents a defining moment. Its findings, based on consultation with thousands of Irish Catholics, represent a lifeline.

Some will see the downfall as a tragedy, others will see it as pure desert that an institution that promises salvation was brought down by its own weakness. But this document tries to listen to the layman.

It should come as no surprise to anyone – save a secretive, doctrinally bound Vatican elite – that the role of women was a major concern for respondents.

A persistent complaint has been that the church is determined to protect the pulpit as the last bastion of patriarchy, utterly impervious to change.

But if it is to find the new energy and vitality it so desperately needs, it must face the fact that for many, the descent of women is unsustainable and unjust. Pope Francis has attempted to tip the balance, but the steps have been tentative.

In 2020, the first woman was appointed to a senior position in the Vatican’s most important office, the Secretariat of State. That same year, the bishops of the world proposed to Francis that he reconvene a commission he had created to study the ordination of women as permanent deacons. They could perform some priestly duties, but not celebrate Mass or hear confessions.

For many Catholics, the lack of real power given to women within the Church confirms their status as an anachronism.

Dealing with the LGBTQ+ community also topped the list for failure to achieve or envision a more inclusive future.

These welcome talks were initiated by Francis in preparation for a synod in Rome next October.

The submissions also noted how physical, sexual and emotional abuse and its concealment was described as an “open wound” by the church in Ireland.

The treatment of this wound is still a source of pain for too many.

And the time of unconditional obedience is long gone.

The collapse of the Church’s moral authority can only be rebuilt from scratch.

This consultation confirms feelings of alienation and betrayal.

On the positive side, the Vatican has decided to involve its congregation in the reform.

But trust isn’t restored until they show they’ve been listening and responding to the answers, whether they like it or not. The church must listen to what the faithful tell it – and act

Fry Electronics Team

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