By Michael P. Riccards
Pope Francis has begun the synod process by insisting that there be a listening exercise from the bottom up so each diocese and probably each mature parish will have focus groups to talk about the church and its challenges.
I took advantage of the opportunity to attend one at my home parish and was surprised at the outcome. First the usual 20 or so were at each session that began with a prayer to the Holy Spirit for guidance. Then we broke out into groups of eight or so to talk about the things we like and what we did not like about the church.
People went to church because of a need for fellowship. Nobody in my group talked about dogma or liturgy — hot button issues to the Roman Curia. They went to church, usually the church of their fathers and mothers, to gain a sense of togetherness. Some did not like the particular priest they encountered. Some have problems with a priesthood that has large numbers of clergy who do not have a command of English and its vernacular,
i reminded my colleagues of a church in Washington, D.C., who had a banner over the entrance that read “Welcome Sinners.” That to me meant that we needed to be less judgmental about divorced Catholics, gays, women who have had abortions, progressives and those to whom the church is still too rule bound.
I said I supported the policies of the Pope, which is more than many bishops in the USA can say. Many of them are allies of Catholic hate media, EWTN, the Fox equivalent of right wing Catholicism. And I must say that we desperately need priests, and it is insane to exclude one half of our population from that vocation. It is a modern version of the battle that St Paul waged when he confronted Peter in Jerusalem about gentile Christian converts being uncircumcised.
There was deep concern that our grandchildren will not adhere to the faith the way we like to believe that we do. For some reasons, Catholicism is not very attractive to most of our young. I reminded the group that when I was a boy 75% of Catholics went to Sunday mass; now it is down to 22% in the Worcester diocese. Any corporation that took that hit would be out of business..
We left having finished answering the questions, but one woman said she was fed up with the pedophilia. Why didn’t the bishops do something about it decades ago. And then she wearily remarked “no matter what we all say, the Church is not going to change.’
Even the Pope is having a tough time.
Michael P. Riccards is the author of Vicars of Christ and Faith and Leadershp
Michael P. Riccards, a former college president, is the author of 30 books, including Faith and Leadership: The Papacy and the Roman Catholic Church.