Same worries in Sweden

Wednesday, January 5, 2022 (08:12)

A friend pointed to an article on Thanks to Google for helping with the translation.

The synodal process: become radical!


Already in the first paragraph of the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium, the church is seen as “a kind of sacrament [in Christ], ie. signs and tools, both for the most intimate union with God and for the mutual unity of the whole human race ”. The pre-Second Vatican Council strongly emphasized the difference between the teaching and the listening church –read clergy and laity– was thereby relativized. The so-called communio ecclesiology became a slogan for the Catholic Church’s newfound self-understanding. Synodality, on the other hand, continued to be understood by the Second Vatican Council primarily as the community of bishops, among whom the pope would now be perceived less as a monarch and more as a primus inter pares.

The Second Vatican Council had strengthened the position of the bishops in the Church, but already during the council there were bishops who felt uncomfortable behaving like sovereign rulers in their dioceses (the “catacomb pact”). In their places, the bishops organized themselves in accordance with the Second Order of the Second Vatican Council in the form of decision-making bishops’ conferences. And in several countries, during the 1970s, there were also national synods with bishops, priests, Catholic organizations, and lay people. A local diocesan synod of this kind was also held in Sweden in 1995. But the Vatican slowed down this development.

Today, the Catholic Church is more than ever a world church. But in the old countries with large Catholic populations, the church is probably in its deepest crisis since the Napoleonic era. Pope Benedict XVI and many others even speak of a “crisis of God.” In the former colonies, on the other hand, there is often a very clerical image of the church, but even here it ferments beneath the surface.

The list of crisis symptoms is long and extensive: modern individualism, the profound process of secularisation, the crisis of vocations to the priesthood and religious life (even in the Nordic countries), and the abuse scandal, the extent of which is almost incomprehensible. In addition, there are so-called spiritual abuses, and clericalism, male bondage. Even several bishops are now talking in the past without reservation that this is a systemic crisis. Bishops and entire bishops’ conferences - as in Chile - make their seats available given the scale of the sexual assaults.

The synodal path in Germany or Ireland was not started after unilateral pressure from the lay people. It is the bishops themselves who are desperately looking for a new awakening. Of course, in the beginning there was concern that the synodal processes would polarize rather than merge, that they would create lines of conflict against the teaching office and undermine the authority of the hierarchy. And of course, a growing number of lay organizations are pursuing a new ecclesiastical view of both the office of consecration and of relationships. What would happen if synodal processes around the world expressed a longing for married priests or even female priests? As is well known, there are good theological reasons for ordaining women deacons, but the issue remains controversial and Rome does not want to set that stone in motion.

And what does Pope Francis do? He calls on Catholic Christianity to the above-mentioned synodal process, establishes for this purpose a well-deserved secretariat in the Vatican and at the same time lays the foundation for a renewed theology of listening, more precisely in the spirit of communio-ecclesiology!

Francis obviously does not feel any touch anxiety. On the contrary, he is betting that the released energy will somehow eventually grow together. Of course, it is a bishop’s synod that will mark the culmination of Rome in October 2023. Finally, the Catholic Church is and will ultimately be an episcopal church, led by the bishops. There is some concern that the result may be similar to that of the Amazon Synod, which at first raised great hopes but then above all produced disappointment. Will the global synodal process perhaps become just a cumbersome chatter, a general palaver under bishopric? Or are we witnessing and participating in an epoch-making, a reorganization of the Catholic Church into a synodal community? One thing is clear: this is not the right time for ecclesiastical exercises in stoic self-control under the motto “just continue as before”. A radical new thinking needs to assert itself in the church, a thinking about the basics of the faith, about the roots - that is, radices in Latin. Let’s be radical!

Heinz Werner Wessler 2021-11-10

This is an opinion piece

My reactions

I am obviously less competent than Wessler, but these are the worries I had before my vision (see my fictive report, item (17)). The Roman Catholic church is a real-life organization and won’t be able change as radically as required. But my vision gave me new hope. I’d love to read Wessler’s reaction to my vision.

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