The French bishops conference, meeting in Lyon to finish the national phase of Pope Francis’s synodality plan, have sent the Vatican one document with the critical views they received and a second one with their interpretation of the comments.
This solution came after bishops dropped an initial plan to issue one text with the comments edited by the extraordinary plenary session.
The views from about 150,000 Catholics from parishes and groups around France included those criticising the Church as too clericalist, calling for more a greater role for women, suggestions to make celibacy optional and complaints about authoritarian priests.
“This collection did not seem to all to represent well all that was heard from dioceses, movements, associations and orders that participated in the synodal process,” conference head Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort said.
The first text led to local headlines saying the bishops had unexpectedly adopted a “big bang” for the Church. But Troyes Bishop Alexandre Joly stressed the first document was “the message received as such” within a wider process.
The Holy Spirit, Fr Joly said, “often creates disorder. He destabilises to then reestablish a complex harmony of His own.”
In the second document, the bishops said they should “better express the human side of the Church,” “take up … the sufferings and expectations of women” and “listen to concerns expressed for priests and the conditions of their ministry.”
They also had to “better identify why the liturgy remains a place of recurrent and contradictory tensions.”
Among issues not discussed, they added, were the Church’s missionary activity or major social issues such as the environment, global solidarity and “various anthropological models being proposed.”
Certain “Christian spiritual richnesses” such as the Eucharist, sacraments and priestly celibacy were also “ignored or devalued”.
It appears that few young people contributed to the discussion. “The generation of 20 to 45 years old was missing,” Bishop Joly told a news conference. “The words expressed were not from all tendencies, all generations, but they were the words of a large number.”