21 November 2023, The Tablet
Mary McAleese among signatories of open letter to Rome about Synod
The Synthesis Report of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is “not the first document of a new synodal age” according to the signatories to an international open letter to the Vatican, which include Professor Mary McAleese.
Welcoming the Synod Assembly’s Synthesis Report, the letter says it offers “a lucid insight into the thinking of our current bishops” and they also welcome recognition by bishops that the laity have an important part to play in discernment.
However, the letter describes the synthesis as “the record of an Episcopal Conference in which prophetic voices won no significant concessions from the powerful and wealthy forces of conservatism”.
“This document will disappoint and wound the many faithful, from all quarters of the Catholic world, who had called in their submissions for progress, among many other pressing issues, on women’s ordination, on teaching on LGBTIQ issues, on the celibate priesthood, on reproductive rights or on measures to end the many forms of clerical abuse,” the letter states.
For the Church to be synodal the bishops need to accept a new model of authentic co-responsibility with the laity, the letter states. The signatories highlight that no co-responsible institutions have been established by the report.
The bishops, the letter continues, “are not yet ready to let go, either of clericalism or of control”.
However, Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin has expressed support for the Synod saying the way the synodal assembly unfolded, “was a surprise both to the participants and to those observing”.
He said the synodal way “gives me hope” despite the many challenges ahead.
“While its process has rightly emphasised the importance of listening to the voices of those not often heard in, or even repelled by Church, this is not the totality of the synodal process”. The church leader said ways need to be found to listen to the voices of all whose faith commitment is deeper – both ordained and lay, especially women.
Separately, a symposium on the Synod hosted by We Are Church Ireland heard Professor Tom O’Loughlin respond to the synthesis which he described as a “very neutral document” but “useful”.