Catalyst for Renewal has made a submission to the Continental Phase of the Synod on Synodality. We thank those who contributed and in particular Patricia Gemmel who expertly facilitated our discussions and Julie Thorpe, our coordinator and lead author.
Group name: Catalyst for Renewal Inc.
Group description: We are believers who are attempting to promote conversation within the Catholic Church of Australia and in the wider community.
Our small group of 8-10 who met on Zoom represent a wider subscribed group of over 1300 Catalyst patrons, members and friends who are interested in our forums for conversation. They include lay women and men as well as some religious, clergy and bishops. Our website is found at https://catalystforrenewal.org.au/
1. EXPERIENCES OF CHURCH (<200 words)
After having read and prayed with the DCS, what resonates most strongly with the lived experiences and realities of the Church in your continent? Which experiences are new, or illuminating to you?
Hearing the voices of the people of God from all over the world in the DCS brought us renewed hope. We acknowledged the open wound of sexual abuse in our church, many of our people so demoralised they have lost the ability to lead. We are grasping the severity of the crisis
while yearning to go ahead. We see our tent shrinking while accepting that the path to enlargement is gradual. Our parishes are mixed experiences: absent youth, liturgies without life, but also many worthy un-celebrated initiatives. In some parishes, there is a mismatch between the culture of the laity and of the clergy. The role of language resonated strongly: how do we hear one another without becoming Babel? Synodality calls us to a ‘formation of
hearts’ which requires listening and deep conversation. Language that needs explaining is remote from the ordinary concerns of living. Ninety percent who identify in the census as Catholic live their lives outside the church. We need imaginative, shared language to bring
our story to life. We note women, who make up half the church, are yet to see themselves reflected in church language.
2. CHALLENGES TO ADDRESS (<200 words)
After having read and prayed with the DCS, what significant tensions or differences emerge as particularly important in your continent’s perspective? Consequently, what are the questions or issues that should be addressed and considered in the next steps of the process?
First, the single biggest challenge is integrity. The document repeatedly calls for credible witness, but credibility isn’t something we bestow on ourselves. Credibility is bestowed by others and only by acting with integrity at length can we hope that it may be bestowed on us again.
Second, conversation is the only path amid increasing polarisation in society and the church. We need ongoing formation of bishops, other clergy and laity in how to hold meaningful conversation. Formation through conversation is central to addressing persistent clericalism.
Third, we live in an age of indifference and cynicism. Between the
indifference of the ninety percent and the cynicism of many, we are called to radical inclusion beyond gatekeeping. We have found a jewel in a damaged field, the Christ who listens at depth, and we carry it wherever indifference and cynicism lies.
Fourth, we need a preferential option for the young. The digital synod is an innovative way to connect with young people, but we note other initiatives in the arts, media and community organisations
that empower youth voices and agency. Promoting digital forums for conversation is achallenge of our time.
3. PRIORITIES AND CALLS TO ACTION (<200 words)
Looking at what emerges from the previous two questions: What are the priorities, recurring themes and calls to action that can be shared with other local Churches around the world? What should be discussed during the First Session of the Synodal Assembly in October 2023?
We identify the following priorities for the global church and synod:
The long path of integrity begins by honest reckoning with what the abuse crisis has done to our credibility. We need forensic analysis into our centuries-old relationship with authority, sex, structures and training of men and women in the church.
Men to cede leadership to women, not in absolute terms, but by getting out of women’s way to serve our common baptismal dignity.
Young people to be given agency and platforms to lead.
Lifelong formation for deep conversation in the church and society. The emphasis on conversation as ongoing conversion includes the formation of priests as one way to address clericalism in the church.
Accessible language that invites us to see ourselves in a larger story.
Ministries that meet people where they are, not only in different geographical and cultural contexts but also emotionally, spiritually and intellectually.
Research about where the church has been missing in a global pandemic and what communities are really seeking.
5-7 key points that capture the important parts of your group’s submission (max 250 words)
Integrity and openness are necessary to regaining credibility for the church in society.
Ongoing formation of bishops, other clergy and laity through conversation as a way to address both clericalism and polarisation.
Language is vital for augmenting hope. People will gather where there is life. We need imaginative sharing, translation and transmission of our story.
We are called to radical inclusion in recognition of our common God-given dignity. This includes full and equal participation of women in church language, preaching, and leadership.
A preferential option for the young means empowering younger people to lead and act for their future.
Conversation needs to engage with where people are and what they are seeking.