The Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI) hosted an open forum in the Regency Hotel, Dublin on the 21st of March 2015. The aim of the conference was to facilitate dialogue and to develop submissions to the Synod on the Family from ACI members and from Catholic communities. The delegates travelled to the conference from throughout Ireland, from Belfast to Cork and many places in between. This report aims to capture the essence of the dialogue that ensued amongst the delegates. It presents their views on and responses to the questions posed in the Lineamenta. Dr. Margaret Nugent, (D.Ed) facilitated the open forum process and collated this report. This report represents the voices of the 50 delegates who engaged in deep dialogue on the Synod of the Family.
The process adopted was Open Space Technology which allowed delegates to raise the issues that were important to them and to set the agenda rather than operating within a prescribed context. This prevented an overly formulaic and structured approach, and allowed delegates to air their concerns without boundaries.
From this process eight themes from the Lineamenta emerged that were considered important to address during the day. The 8 themes are outlined below:
- Marriage breakdown, social, economic factors, pastoral issues;
- The status of different ‘second relationships’ and access to the sacraments for those in ‘second relationships’;
- The annulment process, options for widening and simplifying the process;
- Issues surrounding co-habitation;
- Humanae Vitae and family planning;
- Same sex relationships, the sacraments, pastoral support;
- Possible pastoral responses to the identified problems and issues impacting on the various forms of ‘family’;
- Family and Faith: What support does the Family need in developing and spreading the Faith?
A number of personal narratives were also shared by delegates to set the context and ambiance of the day. The narratives bring alive the impact that the decisions made and the language used in the Lineamenta has on the lives of people directly affected by it. The names have been changed to preserve confidentiality.
Click here to read:- ACI SUBMISSION TO VATICAN SYNOD ON THE FAMILY CONSULTATION (pdf file)
I was unable to attend this very important conference and enjoyed your extensive and informative report on this ACI website. My thanks to all who helped organise the event and produce the report. It is a shame how little seems to have been done in preparation for the forthcoming Synod on The Family in so many parishes and dioceses throughout Ireland. Thank God for ACI.
I was particularly impressed with the ‘Lived Experience’ Presentations. The courage and honesty of the speakers in sharing their experiences were impressive. They have done a great service to the Church which they obviously love so dearly. They helped bring into ‘graced light’ what is often relegated to the silent shadows at the periphery of parish life. By sharing their ‘transformed present’ within the Church they give hope to those in despair who have left the Church and to all of us who want a rejuvenated Church of inclusiveness and mercy, a Church giving a more compassionate response to the complexity and fallibility of human relationships, and to human weakness that is the burden of all humanity, including clerics.
Their testimony gave powerful witness that coercive obedience to Catholic Church laws formulated by a celibate hierarchy in a radically different era and deemed by the Catholic Church as eternally immutable and universal (although laicised nuns and priests are dispenses from their lifelong vows of virginity and celibacy), often destroys happiness and faith, while remarriage and celebration of gay partnerships can give new life and renewed hope and happiness for the future to so many faithful Catholics. The Catholic Church must release itself from its fictive immutability. It must be open to the creative and more compassionate possibilities in the Spirit-filled evolution of the whole of creation, including the evolution of the Catholic Church, human consciousness, sexuality and marriage. As Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel): “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” The Catholic Church has still to evolve into that reality.
If the forthcoming Synod on the Family in Rome were to adopt the ACI model, with lay men and women from around the world present in large numbers as full members and giving short Lived-Experience Presentations, the clerical attendees would be better informed of the lived-reality of ordinary Catholics’ married lives and partnerships (whether gay or heterosexual) in the 21st century. It would also give the results of the Synod more credibility among the lay faithful, who make up the vast majority of the Catholic Church.