One of the descriptions of the Catholic Church during the years of the Second Vatican Council was “the pilgrim Church”. This referred to the struggles of the Christian community to become better disciples of Christ as they moved together, as pilgrims do, to a holy place.
It was related to another popular description at that time: ecclesia ever reformanda — “a Church always in need of reform”.
Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI), a network of Catholic groups in 65 countries, takes this motto seriously. He has been working since 2013 to identify issues in the Church that need to change and to involve as many people as possible to achieve this.
Reflections and responses from a series of gatherings around the world have been compiled into a document, which will be submitted to Rome in preparation for the 2023 Synod.
The document reflects the deep knowledge of CCRI member organizations when reporting on the relationship (or lack thereof) of the bishops with the people of their own countries.
What Lay Catholics Want
The common concerns expressed at these synodal meetings were:
• The growing number of Catholics leaving the Church, especially young people;
• The dysfunctional governance of our Church. Far too many bishops see their role as autocratic in nature and seek little or no engagement with the people of the Church for whom they are pastorally responsible;
• Patriarchal domination in the Church, with women being excluded from important administrative and ministerial roles; and
• A number of deeply erroneous official teachings are currently being rejected by the sensus fideliumparticularly in matters of sexuality and reproduction, which do not reflect genuine natural law.
Participants in this series of global synodal gatherings strongly support Pope Francis’ efforts to establish a synodal church, a church where bishops and people “walk together” to make decisions for the whole community.
The failure of most bishops
The Catholic tradition—as opposed to the Protestant, Orthodox, and Pentecostal traditions—has always emphasized the role of its hierarchy. She sees in it a symbol of apostolic succession, emphasizing the role of the magisterium. This is why bishops have always demanded respect and obedience from the faithful.
It is therefore sad that this respect has been almost entirely lost today, especially in the West. In fact, the bishops are considered the main obstacle to synodality and ecclesial reform.
This is partly due to the pedophile scandals of the past 50 years, and the lies and prevarications that have served to cover up, all of which have been manipulated by the episcopate.
But it is also because of the aristocratic lifestyle of so many bishops, their estrangement from ordinary people and their misogynistic attitudes.
Relations between the bishops and the clergy and the faithful are at an all-time low. Most bishops do not visit parishes once every five years as required by canon law. The majority of dioceses and parishes do not have pastoral plans.
It is therefore not surprising that “collegiality”—the watchword of Vatican II—was abandoned in favor of “synodalism”. The reform of the Church is not only a task for bishops, but for everyone, especially the laity. They are now taking the lead.
The Indian scenario
To focus more specifically on India, we will dwell on just two issues: gender injustice and caste.
Many reports over the years have given credence to the claim that India is probably the worst place in the world for women as crimes against them are rampant, especially against the poor and helpless.
The plight of Catholic women – whether single or married, lay or religious – is no different from that of the general population. In some ways, it may even be worse.
This is because religious indoctrination keeps women meek and humble and does not allow them to be assertive.
It is high time, a recent publication by the Conference of Religious in India, examines the many ways in which priests and bishops belittle and belittle nuns, and harass them in private and public, especially over matters of property. The very title of the booklet suggests that “it is high time” for the nuns to speak out.
And yet, surprisingly, many women religious superiors are reluctant to let their own communities read this report, fearing “that the bishops will be offended.”
And yet, the report remains silent on a significant crime that is gaining increasing public attention these days: the sexual assaults of nuns by priests and bishops.
No wonder most educated Catholic women feel they have no future in a Church that does not respect them. This correlates with the findings of the CCRI: young men and women are leaving the church in droves.
Caste in the Indian Church
The other major problem in the Indian Church is caste. It continues to divide not only Indian society, but also the Indian Church, and provides the pretext for the worst human rights abuses. Dalits who have converted to Christianity find that their lot has not necessarily improved. They are always despised and discriminated against.
Breaking free from caste prejudice requires the economic uplift of the entire community, which is by no means an easy task. It also requires equal opportunity to hold office in the Church, from which Dalits have hitherto been excluded. Both are huge challenges.
The CIRB concludes its report with an important comment.
Our understanding of Christianity is less about time spent in church and more about the realization that being a Christian means showing our love for God by loving all who are in our lives – our family, our friends, our enemies and those who are not. easy to love.
It means standing in solidarity with the poor, marginalized, immigrants and those less fortunate who need us most in society.
We may be culturally and regionally different, but we are united in the belief that these reforms are essential—to sustain the Church today and provide it with a hope-filled future.
*The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.