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Letters Extra

The Pope would want our bishops to be more open with us
01 May 2014

The bishops of England and Wales are meeting in Leeds in early May and, I hope, will be considering our and their responses to the Questionnaire on Family Life in preparation for the Synod in October.

So far we have heard that Cardinal Baldisseri apparently does not wish them to feedback to us the findings. Perhaps after the bishops have met we will receive some feedback, so we know, before the Synod, what our bishops might be saying.

I am hoping they want to give a collegial response. For many years it seems there was a disconnect between the Vatican and dioceses. Bishops apparently had a tough time being able to dialogue and discuss pastoral issues. In Evangelii Gaudium the Pope has given many indications he wants to listen, and encourages the Church to be collegial.

If we are not going to hear anything after the May meeting it would seem as though the disconnect would be sadly shifting nearer to home, between the bishops and their people. Collegiality starts at home. Like many others I believe we are approaching a crossroads: lay people wish to engage responsibly in collegiality and we have trusted our bishops with our responses. Let this be the first official sign of dialogue being a transparent two-way process.

I write as a survivor of divorce and annulment, before I met my second husband. When we married I went through the Internal Forum so I could receive the Sacraments, as he had been divorced. Several years later he wanted to become a Catholic and he was required to go through an annulment in order to be received into the Church. We have both been through painful hoops. This happened many years ago and I am not sure we would put ourselves through these legal contortions now.

I have offered to speak to the bishops if they want to hear first hand experience from survivors. There are some kind, pastoral priests but the system is hard. The Pope is showing us all the way. Caution and silence were the norm but now we have an opportunity to take courage and engage in real, responsible dialogue together.

Pippa Bonner, Harrogate

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Comment by: M Ring
Posted: 10/05/2014 14:54:28

This is an excellent synopsis of where we stand now, and invitation to the hierarchy to respond. "There are some kind, pastoral priests but the system is hard" sums up why too many people are still being presented with authority, rather than authenticity, as they struggle to live a Catholic faith. It is indicative that Pippa uses the word 'survivors'.

But she is right to be optimistic about the opportunity offered to us all by Pope Francis's attitude. Do Bishops read and cherish the Tablet? I do hope so.