08 March 2023, The Tablet

New laity platform makes plans for synod

Brian Devlin said the synod's structure means “the intense desire of the laity to reform what is poisoning the Church may not be heard”.

New laity platform makes plans for synod

Sr Joan Chittister OSB (left, with the actress and writer Mary Bays in 2019) will be one of the speakers at the Discipleship of Equals event.
Associated Press/Alamy

Spirit Unbounded, the new international network of reform-minded Catholics, is to host a series of events in October to provide laypeople with a platform to express their views during the synod in Rome.

According to the network’s spokesperson, Brian Devlin, one of the whistleblowers who revealed the abuse by Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the new platform – titled the Discipleship of Equals – aims to ensure that the bishops, cardinals and the Pope have to listen to the sensus fidelium.

Speaking to The Tablet, Mr Devlin said the way the synod is currently structured ensures “the passion and the intense desire of the laity to reform what is poisoning the Church may not be heard” due to the filtration process led by the bishops.

“It’s clear that there are major deficiencies in the governance of the Church because it does not authentically listen to the voice of the laity.

“One major concern that is expressed again and again is the failure of the hierarchy to take seriously the role of women in the Church. There is an institutionalised misogynistic apartheid at play in the Church. This cannot go on,” he said.

He said the Discipleship of Equals event will be held in Rome, Bristol and online globally to “witness to the complexities of life for Catholics today, to voice responses to the synod, and to showcase speakers for an emerging Church looking to the future”.

Devlin, a former priest, denied Spirit Unbounded was attempting to set up “something to rival the ‘official’ process” of the synod.

Instead, he said, members were “keen to ensure that every opportunity is given for lay people who support Pope Francis’ vision for the Church to be heard”.

Two keynote speakers already lined up for the event, which will take place between 8-14 October 2023, are Sr Joan Chittister and Prof Mary McAleese. Other in-person and online presentations are currently being finalised.

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