Decision-making methods, place of women, migrants, homosexuals, cultural traditions, climate change, training of priests… Rarely has a document from Rome covered so many themes in such an open manner. The secretariat of the Synod published, Tuesday, June 20, a “working instrument” in view of the first meeting of bishops and laity to be held in the Vatican, in October, before a second session in October 2024, to reflect on the future of the Church.
Through a series of questions addressed to the participants of the Synod on Synodality, launched in the fall of 2021 by Pope Francis and which has already provoked the consultation of Catholics around the world, the authors of this document draw the future of what they call a “Synodal Church”, more in tune with its base. The word is also present 71 times in this text, distributed by the Vatican in Italian, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
The Instrumentum laboris (the traditional name of this document) intends to organize the work of October, but “cannot be understood as a first draft of the final document of the Synodal Assembly”, warned the authors. The series of questions that he proposes over 33 pages nevertheless offers a fairly clear vision of the Church.
Recognize what the world “has good”
Beyond the first part, which is a spiritual presentation on the concept of synodality, the Vatican outlines, through the themes chosen or the way of asking its questions, the vision of a Church more attentive to the grassroots, where the question of margins is omnipresent. We distinguish an institution made up of believers, called to play a more active role, and which must rethink its way of announcing its message to the contemporary world, a thousand leagues from a fortress Church, besieged, which should defend an acquired.
“What is the attitude with which we approach the world? Do we recognize what is good in it and, at the same time, do we commit ourselves to prophetically denounce all that undermines the dignity of persons, of human communities and of Creation? “, can we read in the working instrument. A questioning necessary because of the “crisis of abuse”, explains the document. “In addition to asking for forgiveness from the victims of the suffering it has caused, the Church must continue to advance on a path of conversion and reform in order to prevent similar situations from recurring in the future”, is -he writes.
Integration of “LGBTQ + people”
Thus, the text raises the question of the integration of “groups of people who do not feel well accepted in the Church, such as divorced and remarried people, polygamous people or LGBTQ + people”. It should be noted that for the first time the Vatican uses this expression to designate homosexual people. The document also worries about “racial, tribal, ethnic, class or caste discrimination, also present among the people of God”. Certain themes are however absent, such as bioethics and the preconciliar liturgy.
In addition, the place of women, an omnipresent theme in the consultations carried out in the field, is also one of the central themes of the document, which goes so far as to raise the question of women deacons, without however explicitly mentioning ordination. of women priests, to which Pope Francis has expressed his opposition several times. “What new ministries could be created in order to provide means and opportunities for the effective participation of women in the organs of discernment and decision-making? “, ask the authors of the document.
Another very sensitive subject not evaded by the secretariat of the synod: that of the ordination of married men. “Is it possible, as certain continents propose, to open a reflection on the possibility of reviewing, at least in certain areas, the discipline on access to the priesthood of married men? A problem already addressed, without having been really decided, during the last synod organized in Rome, devoted to the Amazon.
Addressing the theme of the authority of Catholic leaders, clerics and lay people, and that of the need to adapt its formation, the Vatican goes so far as to question the role of priests, bishops… and even the pope. “How should the role of the bishop of Rome and the exercise of the primacy evolve in a synodal Church? A question unimaginable until then in a document published by the Vatican.
“In a synodal assembly, Christ makes himself present and acts”
Instrumentum Laboris, working instrument of the Synod on Synodality, October 2023 :
“The Synodal Assembly cannot be understood as representative and legislative, like a parliamentary assembly, with its logic of seeking a majority. Rather, we are called to understand it by analogy with the Liturgical Assembly. Ancient tradition tells us that a synod is celebrated: it begins with the invocation of the Holy Spirit, continues with the profession of faith and ends in shared decisions to guarantee or re-establish ecclesial communion. In a synodal assembly, Christ makes himself present and acts. (…) Those who gather in the name of Christ listen to his Word, listen to each other, discern in docility to the Spirit, proclaim what they have heard and recognized as a light for the journey of Church. »