After extensive discussion about Querida Amazonia, the strategy team and advisors of Catholic Church Reform Int’l have moved from passionate disappointment in Pope Francis to a realization that it not his style to make a papal decree about such critical matters as married priesthood and the role of women. The church he is advocating is a synodal church, i.e. one that walks together.
“I think the pope is looking for a deeper change,” said Fr. Joe Healey, our associate in Nigeria. “He wants us to move away from that monarchical model and engage the whole church in the process of discernment on issues like bringing back the female diaconate. You can’t achieve synodality if you continually look to the pope to make the tough calls.
Meneldil Palantir Talmayar, a CCRI advisor and president of Tol Ardor in France, added: “François does not decide, but leaves the possibility to his successors and to the people to rely on this ambiguity…. François is here faithful to his method: no flash, no thunder, no revolution, nothing that can immediately trigger a big schism, but the gradual establishment of small discrete crossing points that can be widened later…. Sooner or later the ordinary faithful will have to take strong measures.”
The bishops need to get out of the habit of clearing everything through the Vatican. In his quiet but shrewd manner by not even mentioning married priests, he is freeing the bishops and people to go evaluate it, test it, and do it. . . and then notify the Vatican. Francis said that those who would be priests need formation. “Actually, that makes some sense,” said Clyde Christofferson, a team member of CCRI and long-time member of the NOVA small Christian community in Virginia. “How can a community leader be named a priest by virtue simply of his position? Perhaps it won’t take much, but surely the Amazon bishops could come up with a suitable “formation” process. Take some responsibility, for God’s sake!”
“All of us need to be aware that there are approximately 20 other rites in the Catholic Church that have had and continue to have married priests,” said Margaret Mary Moore, a CCRI Advisor. “Our Roman rite is the largest rite in the church but the only rite that mandates celibacy for the priests. In fact, we have a married priest with his family serving at St. Raymond’s Maronite Church here in St. Louis.”
Christina Reymer of New Zealand, another team member said. “It would be contradictory of everything Francis is advocating by means of the synodal process if he were to issue edicts of how things should proceed. We the people, alongside our local church leaders, male and female, need to just get on with it, as we already are.”
Reformers in New Zealand are in process of joining together with reform organizations in Australia to meet via Zoom on a regular basis. The Renewal/Reform movement in Australia at present is very pre-occupied with the upcoming Plenary Council. The Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform is holding a critical Gathering in Canberra on Friday 3 April 2020 to seek the best from the Australian Plenary Council which commences this October. “‘Seeking an Inspired Council,’” and a wide range of progressive input, , Peter Johnston, on behalf of the Coalition, invited New Zealander Christina to attend. “More of this kind lay leadership joining together needs to happen,” said Rene Reid, director of CCRI. “This is in keeping with the synodal way of being church.”
“Yes, added Clyde. “The way Francis has framed Querida Amazonia as an “accompaniment” to the Synod’s final document, as part of a continuing dialogue, he is inviting the bishops to do just that.”
Our members first had to overcome the initial expectation of Francis giving his blessing to the requests made in the final document. “Jesus commanded us to do the Eucharist in memory of him–a commandment of God,” said Charlie Gibson, a former U.S. Jesuit and now CCRI team member. “He clearly never said ‘only if you have a celibate can you have the Eucharist.’ This is a tradition of men; you can be sure no women were involved in this decision.” The leadership of the Roman Catholic Church would be thwarting a commandment of God if they led the People of God in this direction.”
“Let us hope the Synodal way that will go forward,” added Virginia Saldanha, former secretary for the Federation of Asian Bishops in India and a CCRI team member. “They must continue giving women a recognition of their ministry and great contribution to the Amazonian Church, by granting them authority and autonomy in their ministry.” Querida Amazonia itself acknowledges how extensive the Amazonian ecclesia’s reliance is upon women.
As members processed the encyclical, Colm Holms, chairperson of We Are Church Int’l and a regular CCRI team participant, came to this conclusion: “This means the end of the papacy as commander-in-chief. Pope Francis is saying ‘Go ahead and follow the lead of the Spirit.’” Valerie Stroud, CCRI’s webmaster and team member added: “Pope Francis explains why he did not cite the Final Document in paragraph 3 of Querida Amazonia:
At the same time, I would like to officially present the Final Document, which sets forth the conclusions of the Synod, which profited from the participation of many people who know better than myself or the Roman Curia the problems and issues of the Amazon region, since they live there, they experience its suffering and they love it passionately. I have preferred not to cite the Final Document in this Exhortation, because I would encourage everyone to read it in full.”
The members of CCRI urge the continuation of this dialogical process, giving due acknowledgment for the Amazonian region to the issues of the environment, indigenous peoples, diversity and inculturation. We stand in solidarity with the Amazonian people and bishops regarding their own synodal recommendations the critical importance for the people to have access to the Eucharist and the significant role that women serve. CCRI encourages the people of the Amazon to go forward to implement their own final recommendations of the Amazon Synod. And other regions should do likewise! It is time for the People of God to assume responsibility for our Church. Let us move forward listening to the Spirit, leading our Church wherever she will take us.