canadian bishops optimistic about synod

I was away from writing during the recent Synod on the Family, but I tried to stay on top of the news coming from the Vatican. Pope Francis promised a more open synodal format, encouraging dialogue and debate rather than the usual litany of speeches towing the party line. By all accounts, there was dialogue and debate. And disagreement. And grumbling. And dire predictions of divisions and schisms.

The open negativity of some conservative bishops during and after the synod was astonishing. Their fear of any movement from doctrinal certainty to pastoral compassion was not surprising. Most were outspoken cultural warriors whose names have graced media headlines in the past. What was surprising was their open criticism of the pope.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, was “very disturbed” by the synod’s open discussions of current church practices towards gay people and divorced and remarried person. The discussions, he believed, sent a confusing message and “confusion is of the devil.”

“Pope Francis is fond of ‘creating a mess,’ ” said Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I. “Mission accomplished.”

The loudest voice of discontent came from Cardinal Raymond Burke, he of Vatican high fashion fame, who said “At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder,”

Sadly, these were the voices that garnered most headlines. Meanwhile, here in Canada the bishops are much more optimistic.

Michael Swan , of the Catholic Register, writes,

From Newfoundland to British Columbia, bishops said there’s nothing to fear in open debate and even disagreement.

“Within that definition of Catholic is a broad range of opinion, which when you throw it all together and sift it all out you get the wisest way of proceeding,” said Regina Archbishop Daniel Bohan. “I’m delighted that we have lay people invited to continue their participation. I have no fears about that. There will be no floodgates let loose that are going to drown us all.”

Swan also quotes PEI, Charlottetown Bishop Richard Grecco who wants an ever-widening discussion among all Catholics while remaining true to core beliefs.

“You can’t walk down the road just barking truth and barking judgments. You have to walk down that road of life and love giving hope, accompanying everybody. Because the holy church is a church of sinners — we’re all sinners. You have to walk down that road in hope. Don’t compromise the church’s teaching,” (Read more…)

Francis’s greatest achievement with this synod was one of process. Yes, there were opposing voices. There always are. But, this time all voices were heard without threat of censure or silencing. I share the optimism of our Canadian bishops and others around the world who see this as a golden opportunity to reignite the spirit of renewal begun at Vatican II.

I hope that these and all voices speaking out for greater pastoral compassion and understanding do not remain too polite and quiet. It’s time to drown out the naysayers and doomsday predictors in our church.

4 thoughts on “canadian bishops optimistic about synod

  1. So glad to hear from you, Isabella. Have missed your wonderful communications. I’m hopeful that some change will happen with Pope Francis as our guide. And I am also surprised at how some of the conservative bishops have spoken out about the pope. Isn’t obedience to the pope without question what they have taught in the past???

    • Thanks for the kind words, Kathy! Yes, there is more than a little irony in the fact that those who are now criticizing preached unquestioning obedience before. Do you think they will finally “get it” that we all have the right to doubt and question our leaders??? 😉

  2. It is encouraging that the Canadian Bishops are optimistic following the first phase of the Synod. I wish we would hear more from them. I check their web site from time to time and it just seems “blah”. Whether this is just in comparison to the spectrum – verging to the uber-authoritarian – of the USCCB and membership or for real is a question for me. It seems to me, and I would welcome enlightenment – that “a bishop is a bishop is a bishop. Whether the tone of one or many is pastoral and non-dogmatic, the oath they have taken and the “intrinsic” and “ontological” fullness lines them all within a system of absolutism. Whether obvious or thinly veiled, patriarchal absolutism and the absolute priority of institution with all that stands for is the iron fist within the velvet glove. As typical Canadians we lay people as well might just give the hierarchy too much of a break or, maybe we are all genuinely and positively – at least a bit – different?

    • Hi Dennis. I’m always eager to hear your views as both a Canadian and follower of the happenings in the American church and beyond. When I found the quoted article about the Canadian bishops’ response in the Prairie Messenger, it was a breath of fresh air. My mind was filled, as it often is, with the heated debates and head-lines that followed the American bishops during the recent synod and even more recent USCCB assembly. The negativity was depressing. I had heard little from our own bishops, and Swan’s article gave the positive tone that I was so needing.
      I think we need to study further the differences between the church in Canada and that in the USA. Are we different from our American sisters and brothers? Or, are we Canadians just more indifferent to the church politics?

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