Battle lines are clearly drawn, as conservative members resist any attempt to relax church laws on issues such as whether divorced and remarried Catholics should be allowed receive Holy Communion and whether the church should adopt a more tolerant approach to those in gay
course, this synod is concerned only with issues to do with the family, but one would hope that it is a precursor to a universal synod or council that would consider all the issues facing the church in the 21st century. Notwithstanding the boost that Pope Francis has given the church since his election two and a half years ago, it is clear that the institution itself remains not fit for purpose.
This is my vision of church, my hope for it:
- I believe in a church inspired by the teachings of the second Vatican Council, and not the old style, neo-triumphalist model of church that some now want to restore.
- I believe in a humble church – that is acutely conscious of its faults and weaknesses, that engages in a common quest for truth in dialogue with people of all religions and none, and that doesn’t see secularism as an enemy against which it must stand as the perfect society in opposition.
- I believe in a Spirit-filled church – that recognises that the Holy Spirit speaks through all the people of God by virtue of our common baptism and not only through the magisterium or the Roman curia.
- I believe in a welcoming church – that in its language and actions treats all-comers with sensitivity and compassion, irrespective of background, or circumstance or sexual orientation.
- I believe in an inclusive church – that uses the gifts and talents of all to build up its life and ministry, and that recognises that any organisation without women at its centre is dysfunctional and lacks credibility.
- I believe in a listening church – that doesn’t insist it has all the answers, especially to the complicated moral and ethical questions of today, but that is prepared to learn from the world of science and biology and the social sciences so as to better respond to the signs of the times.
- I believe in an open church – where theological discussion is encouraged, and the free exchange of ideas is regarded by those in authority not as a threat, or as disobedience, or as being “confusing to the faithful,” but as a sign of a vibrant community of faith in which the Spirit freely moves.
- I believe in a partnership church – that recognises the priesthood of all the baptised and that renounces clericalism as a deadly disease that damages the work of building up the people of God.
- I believe in a transparent church – that eschews secrecy, that treats its members with respect, and that never operates through bullying, or silencings.
- I believe in a servant church – in which every member of whatever rank is at the service of others, never abusing their authority or treating others arrogantly, or having a fixation with status or office or titles or dress.
- I believe in a marginal church – that upholds all people’s dignity at every stage of life, that identifies especially with the poor, and feels most at home alongside the voiceless, the alienated, the powerless, the hurt and the abused.
This is the kind of church I believe in; a model of church that in many ways through so many people already exists. We just need those at the top of the ladder to introduce the changes that will help make every aspect of it real.