Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner October 28, 2021
On every issue, except the full human rights of women and topics related to sexuality, this Pope Francis is admirably progressive. He is now 84 years of age and has been in office for eight years.
Looking at the decaying state of the Church and his own advanced years, he no doubt hopes to set a new course, and bring the clergy along with it. So he has resurrected an ancient church tradition of wide consultations called synods, which means “travelling together,” both to educate those in authority and to free the people to express their feelings, both positive and negative, about their experience of church, and their hopes for reform.
The process of two years’ duration culminates in a report for the meeting of the world’s Catholic bishops in October 2023.
A lot is at stake. The Pope has declared that the themes for the discussion and recommendations should be under three headings; community, participation and mission. The world, and the church, have been riven into polarized camps: democracy versus authoritarianism, rich versus poor; educated versus illiterate; with deep racial and national rivalries.
The Pope, an Argentinian who has spent little time in North America, nonetheless has a profound critique of rampant capitalism. He calls for everyone to have “land, lodging and labour.” These goals do not come from the “left,” he has said, but from the church’s social teaching.
Yet the synod will turn its results over to the hierarchy. It is most surely not a parliament.
Just as the other famous Catholic in the world, U.S. President Joe Biden, has seemingly irreconcilable rifts in his political party, Pope Francis has a gargantuan task to bring Catholics into some sort of harmony. There are 12 million self-declared Catholics in Canada, and 70 million in the U.S.
They are organized into 76 dioceses in Canada, and 176 in the southern neighbour. At last inquiry, half the American dioceses had appointed an organizer for their synod and half had not. It is well-known that several arch-conservative American bishops seek to undermine the Pope.
One Peterborough skeptic said to me this week: “The only responses that this process will get are from those who still occupy the pews, and as I see it, that’s not the majority anymore.”
My own unscientific polling indicates she is right. More Canadian Catholics have left during this sad period of revelations of church complicity and cruelty in the residential schools system than at any other time in memory. They are particularly distressed that the church has not paid the compensation to survivors that it pledged to do. Some disaffected Quebecers have taken formal steps to renounce their baptism in the church.
The process of synod has begun in Peterborough. Bishop Daniel Miehm has selected a committee of 19 people, of whom eight are women, to lead it. Eight priests are on the committee, and some Catholic educators. Contact person Deirdre Thomas is sending out information.
But I lean to co-operation, and I will take some time to name and expand on my seven basic challenges to the church of my birth, coming from my life experience: good in the developing world, with enlightened Jesuits and many others; not so good here in the north.
From now until Nov. 26, at the website www.peterboroughdiocese.org, interested people can anonymously answer a “thought exchange.” One can see what others have posted. Then, it is planned that three conversation sessions be held in each parish before Christmas. Last time I checked, there were 76 submissions. I plan, with good will and polite language, to marshal my thoughts and submit them. Least I can do for this Latin American Jesuit who started it all.
One hiccup is that it asks the participants to identify his or her parish. Many have none. But they claim Catholic roots. Some claim identity. Many are organizing liturgies, meditation and justice works outside the parish structure. Maybe that is a form of resistance. Or maybe of liberation.
"Gleanings" is Rosemary Ganley's new book. You can purchase directly from the author at email@example.com or from >Amazon<