A stormy night with reduced attendance. Several apologies received.
- Prayer opening
- Apology from Aideen Darcy Pastoral Co-ordinator who was unable to attend due to a family member’s illness in Cork. A moment of prayer.
- Letter of 12th December from Vatican General Secretary to Bishops accompanying the Lineamenta (Preparation Document for the Synod) highlights the development of focus and approach. The Synod in October 2014 was titled The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization while the title for Synod in October 2015 is The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World. We saw in this a something of a shift from focus in vocation of the clergy to vocation of the family. The letter requests the Bishops “to send this document to dioceses with the request that it be widely circulated in deaneries and parishes so as to obtain the input of all components of the People of God “ .
To see the letter Google “Letter of the Secretary General to the Episcopal Conferences”
The Lineamenta was put on www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie on 11th December.
- Letter from Noel McCann,Chair of Steering Group was very positively responded to by Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin in which he invited comments on the Lineamenta from ACI.The meeting were very encouraged by this response. A follow up letter to the October meeting has also been sent to Dublin Archbishop, Diarmuid Martin.
- The Irish Catholic Bishops launched a pastoral letter (16 page pamphlet) titled The Meaning of Marriage in mid December. It was issued in the context of the Lineamenta and the planned referendum on same-sex marriage. It is available on catholicbishops.ie. It was noted at the meeting that the low key publicity, distribution and availability of the letter passed most people by. This reflects what happened with last years pre-Synod questionnaire .There is an obvious need for better communications.
- It was proposed that our starting point for study and response to questionnaire might be our personal direct and indirect experience of family life and challenges today. We reflected together on some of the positive developments in family life over time. These included growing respect for women and women’s rights as illustrated in the social concern over the difficult decision in the recent case of the brain dead women and her unborn child. This case also illustrated the difficulty of conflicting rights.We also recognised as a positive development in child rearing, the prioritising of love over discipline which enabled growing in self esteem and self confidence.
- Discussing the Lineamenta we felt the document in its present form is not likely to be read by many people as its abstract language does not make for easy reading. It seems to lack immediacy with its frequent use of abstractions suggesting a distancing from daily family life. Some elements of the questionnaire leave little room for exploration, especially those presenting static/fixed Church doctrine or dogma.
- The question of who the questionnaire is aimed at and who should be listened to. This lead us to questioning whether the discussions should take place in a religious or wider moral context.
- It was felt it would be worth trying to arrive at a more readable version of the issues. This could include building a practical real life story to highlight the essence of each question or group of questions.
- The practicality of getting the questions into a wider audience was discussed and it was felt that priests may have some reluctance or even fear to open debates because of a sense of a lack of support and negativity. It was also felt that priests need more reaffirmation and support.
- Several ideas were suggested for promoting visibility of the consultative process including :
- Mentioning it to our own clergy and others
- having a small number of the questions in the Parish Newsletter/Bulletin as this is read much more than pastoral letters or lengthy literature.
- That the questionnaire be sent to the Third Level Colleges through the Chaplins.
- The development of online conversation among the group either through the ACI website or otherwise was thought a possible way to facilitate discussion on the issues.
- It was noted that there is only a few months to the response deadline at Easter
Next meeting Wednesday February 11th
Note new meeting time 8.00 p.m.
Well done North Wicklow Branch. You seem to have really wrestled with the Lineamenta. It’s very difficult to know what to do with it. The questions don’t seem to ask, “Have we got the teaching right?”, but rather, “How can we convince more Catholics to follow the current teaching more faithfully?” Whereas we want to tell our stories of how much of that teaching is hurting and excluding people and driving people away. So the question you ask, “who is the questionnaire aimed at?” is a valid one. It feels like we are on the fringes of a hierarical conversation, and it remains to be seen if they are really interested in our stories. But if not, there is still power in telling them among ourselves.
Yes,Martin. One of the aspects we must remember is that Pope Francis is asking for what people really think. So giving back doctrine or dogma is not what is needed- the bishops will adequately communicate that at the Synod? What’s needed is real on the ground stories of how people are trying to live their lives in faith yet are challenged by a changing world as a result of new medical ,scientific,psychological, ecological, economic and other research,knowledge and insights.
I meant to add – if anyone wants to balance their reading in the run up to the referendum on marriage equality then along with the Bishop’s pastoral pamphlet ‘The Meaning of Marriage’ you could read ‘Marriage Equality – A Positive Catholic Approach’ by Francis DeBernardo. A PDF version can be downloaded here :- http://www.newwaysministry.org/Marriage_Equality_Book.html
A very interesting easy read. Here are a few quotes:-
“Lay people, by virtue of their baptism, and not by concession of the bishops, are equal partners with the clergy in the Church.”
“The Church is not ordered like a military hierarchy where some give commands and others obey. Instead, the bishops ideally strive to reflect and proclaim the faith of the entire Church.”
“To know the full Catholic position on any issue, one must listen to three groups: the bishops, the theologians, and the laity.”
The proposal in the minutes of the recent North Wicklow ACI Group meeting suggesting that we focus on “personal direct and indirect experience of family life and challenges today” offers a way around the convoluted and cumbersome language of the Lineamenta and questions.
The other idea of “building a practical real life story to highlight the essence of each question or group of questions” is also well worth further consideration. How can we advance these ideas and use them to engage ordinary people in the dialogue – people who are interested but who will be discouraged and dis-heartened by the language used in the Lineamneta and questions?
I have made out a paraphrase of the ‘Relatio Synodii’ document as the language of the original document is too difficult for many people to comprehend and I hope to use it with some groups. It is not meant to replace the original but to be used alongside it. If anybody would like a copy, email me at email@example.com and I will email it to them.