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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

565 - Part 2: seeing each other as equals in the faith, does not exist in the clerical climate

Day 565 Friday October 1, 2021

"There is no blueprint either on the clerical side or on the lay side of how to do something as collaborative as a synod,

If we don’t see each other as equals in the faith, then there's very little chance that [the clergy] are going to take anything that laypeople say seriously.

That fundamental trust, seeing each other as equals in the faith, does not exist in the clerical climate in this country."

However, some dioceses have been working through the synod process for a few weeks now. In Chicago, Cardinal Blase Cupich intends to use the archdiocesan structures he already uses for consultation, such as the presbyteral council, the lay-led pastoral council and the women's committee.

"The cardinal will also include the ways we normally consult with religious communities that serve the archdiocese. He's trying to be as comprehensive as possible with the already-existing consultative groups," said Msgr. Patrick Pollard, who is managing the synod process for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The listening and consulting will rely heavily on parishes, with members of the archdiocesan pastoral council and women's committee seeking feedback and reflections from people in their own parishes.

"He's listening to people in the pews, You'll have those who are more conservative in their style and then you'll have those who are very progressive. He's trying to listen to find the truth of what each group is saying, and how he moves forward given that information. I think the Holy Father is trying to do that worldwide."

Eiffe, the synodal planner in the Syracuse Diocese, said Bishop Douglas Lucia will appoint a steering committee for the process and that listening sessions will be held throughout the diocese.

The goal of the Holy Father is that this time the consultation with the people of God should be very wide, so that is our hope too," she said. "The invitation will certainly go out to many people; certainly to people in the parishes, but also as the Holy Father has put it, to the people on the margins, to other Christian communities, even other faith communities. We’re trying to follow that model, if you will."

Patrick Schmadeke, the director of evangelization for the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, told NCR that the diocese is looking to leverage technology, such as Zoom for online listening sessions, and to advertise in secular media like daily newspapers and radio stations.

"We want to spread the news far and wide that the Catholic Church is listening and we want to hear your voice," Schmadeke said. "That's the goal. How that exactly looks like is still being worked out."

Schmadeke added that the diocese is hoping to equip parishes to put them in "a good position" to live out the synodal process in their given context, whether they are in the suburbs, the inner city or a rural setting.

"We're hoping to provide some suggestions for parish-level discernment," Schmadeke said.

"What kinds of demographics and populations might they want to reach out to? What kinds of locations might they want to do listening sessions in? If an event is hosted in a parish hall, that will probably attract people who belong to the parish and are active, but that's not getting outside the four walls of the parish. We want to be as creative as possible in considering things like geographically what spaces are we using."

In addition to parish-level listening events, Schmadeke said the diocese is looking to organize three town hall-type settings as well as small-group sessions. "We want to focus on people's experiences, make sure people are heard and listened to, and feel known," he said.

Regarding the importance of bishops listening to and consulting the laity, Bishopp Coyne in Burlington pointed the finger at himself and other bishops, referencing the controversy over the U.S. bishops' plan to draft a document on "eucharistic coherence" that may address pro-choice politicians like President Joe Biden.

"We're the only ones in the room who are talking about this, about the document and about the implications of the document," Coyne said. "To me, if we're going to talk about the understanding of ourselves as communion, and all the aspects of what that means, then there needs to be consultation with everybody who's part of the church, and that includes the laity."

- Reflection by Brian Frage from NCR

How do we prepare ourselves to participate in the Synod? Michael Sean Winters has some ideas:

It is frankly shocking that the U.S. bishops' conference has done so little to help the bishops and people of the church in this country prepare for this synodal process. But their inertia needn't be ours. This weekend, pick one of the dogmatic constitutions of Vatican II, and read it. Pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire you to discern its teachings in ways that challenge you. That is how the process begins, and there is no reason that all of us can't begin that.

I plan to reread Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. You might prefer to start with Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. Or start where Vatican II did with Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Divine Liturgy. They are all beautiful and all of them share in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that we believe is present in such a council.

There have been plenty of proposals for reform and renewal over the years. The only renewal we can achieve at this moment in our history is one rooted in the documents and the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. Where else would we start?

You might start with this excellent article by Pope Francis in Commonweal Magazine

‘Always Together’ The unfinished work of Vatican II

By Pope Francis, September 28, 2021

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