The post-pandemic Church continues to be plagued by silence and denial of longstanding abuse of power and harm to the vulnerable in clergy sexual abuse of children and youth, racism, colonialism and participation in economic and political structures of power and privilege. Secrecy and denial have become endemic pathology at the heart of the Church and are now compounded by pandemic tragedy fatigue and burn-out.
We saw a new ray of hope in this darkness with Pope Francis’ Sunday October 10, 2021 opening of the 2023 Synod “For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission.” “The purpose of this synod is not to produce more documents. Rather, it is intended to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission.”(Vademecum)
Synods in the Church are usually attended only by bishops and ‘experts’. Pope Francis has held four synods on difficult issues of marriage, homosexuality, the Amazon and youth. He learned quickly that the process itself had to begin with listening. So, a three year plan was developed with diocesan involvement in listening to all the People of God as the first step followed by continental meetings of all national episcopal conferences, and finally, the Synod in October 2023.
Francis desires the synod to be an experience of encounter, listening, and discernment. It has been met with both anticipation and high expectations and scepticism and disinterest. It has immense potential to break the ongoing silence and denial in the wounded post-pandemic Church if we step up and speak out in faith and trust in the Holy Spirit.