08 September 2022, The Tablet

Challenge to bishops' synod report

Challenge to bishops' synod report

St Alexius and Catharina church in the large beguinage of Mechelen.
Bjorn Beheydt / Alamy

About 200 young Belgian Catholics have challenged the national synodal synthesis that their country’s bishops sent to the Vatican, saying in an open letter that many reform ideas it listed went against Church teaching.

The Belgian synthesis, like several other national reports, said the Church was too clerical and too distant from modern life. Among frequent lay proposals were ordination for women and married people. The sex abuse crisis was also often mentioned in diocesan discussion groups.

“Some of the conclusions of the Belgian synodal process testified... to a lack of understanding of the mystery of the Church and its teaching,” the open letter declared. “We’d like to hear a different story.”

The synthesis was published on 6 July. The young Catholics responded with a letter addressed to “the Christians of Belgium” on 31 August that was published on CathoBel, the Belgian Church’s French-language website.

“The problem we are experiencing is not clericalism, but the flight of certain pastors and the absence of beacons, because a Christian cannot discern alone,” it said.

The open letter described priestly celibacy as “a treasure of the Church” and said the call for women priests reflected a “logic of power” when the Church “should be in a logic of service”.

The movement for women priests went against an authoritative 1994 decision by Pope St John Paul II banning them, the letter added. Challenging this amounted to questioning the Church’s magisterium, “which seems to us extremely dangerous in a world where we already lack clear guidelines”.

“The shepherd’s duty is to guide his sheep, not to lose them by following the wandering flock. Communion, participation and mission cannot accommodate error,” the letter said.

CathoBel said the signatories, who called themselves “the future of the Church,” were aged between 15 and 42 and came from six of the country’s eight dioceses.

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