Reflections from a series of gatherings of worldwide representatives from Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa and Australia/Oceania have been compiled by Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI) as a submission to the Synod Office in Rome. The document reflects the extensive knowledge of CCRI member organizations of the Church as they report on the relationship (or lack thereof) of bishops with the people each in their own country. On a diocesan level there are several good working relationships between the people and the bishops, but the vast majority range from unsatisfactory to non-existent. While many reports from bishops’ conferences to the Synod secretariat will reflect a hierarchical viewpoint with filtered views of the faithful, these reflections offer an appraisal of the state of our Church from Catholics committed to their faith and to the renewal of their Church from the grassroots.
Common concerns expressed in these synodal gatherings were (1) the acceleration of Catholics leaving the Church with young people being driven out in droves; (2) the dysfunctional governance of our Church with far too many bishops regarding their roles as autocratic in nature seeking little or no engagement with the people of the Church for whom they are pastorally responsible; (3) the patriarchal dominance in the Church with women excluded from important administrative and ministerial roles; and (4) a number of deeply flawed official teachings currently rejected by the sensus fidelium, especially regarding sexuality and reproduction, failing to reflect authentic natural law.
Participants in this series of global synodal gatherings strongly support Pope Francis’s efforts to implement a synodal church, i.e., where bishops and people “walk together” to make decisions for the whole community. From a representation of twenty plus regions reflecting significant cultural, social and economic diversity, while listening deeply to one another and guided by the promptings of the Spirit, representatives from the Amazon, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, UK, and USA unanimously agreed that the Church we envision is inclusive and welcoming of all as equal, regardless of socio-economic background. It was agreed that the people should replicate the early Christian community by selecting their leaders with the role of ministries filled by men and women alike, both married and single. Full equality for women, including priestly ordination, is seen by the people of the Church as a fundamental issue in ensuring a just and viable Church. We must also implement the teachings of Laudato Si in caring for the earth, ensuring we exercise our responsibility in providing a sustainable environment for future generations.
Our understanding of Christianity is less about time spent in church and more about realizing that our Christian calling is best expressed in how we show our love for God through our love for all those who are in our lives – our family, friends, enemies, and those not so easy to love. We are truly Christians when we stand ecumenically in solidarity with the poor, the marginalized, the immigrants, and the less fortunate who most need us in our society.
Despite our cultural and regional differences throughout the world, we are in full consensus that these reforms are essential for the sustainability and future of our Church.