Tuesday, July 5

The Spanish Church avoids claiming the female priesthood and tiptoes over optional celibacy or sexual abuse


It didn’t pass the filter. Despite the fact that the question of the role of women in the Church has been the topic that has had “the most resonance” in the debates of the 70 Spanish dioceses, the ‘Synthesis’ presented this afternoon by the Spanish Episcopal Conference (and which will be sent to the Vatican) avoids any specific request on the female priesthood or optional celibacy, while tiptoeing past the situation of divorced and remarried people, the reception of the LGTBI collective or sexual abuse, issues that appeared in many of the conclusions known to date.

During the Synodal Assembly that is being held at the Pablo VI Foundation in Madrid, and in which the contributions of 215,000 participants from all corners of Spain have been presented, a 13-page summary document has been published on the that episcopal leaders have conveniently ‘polished’ some of the issues that have been the protagonists throughout a work that has taken several months: the ordination of women, the end of optional celibacy or greater democratization in the Church.

In fact, although the synthesis recognizes that the issue that “has had a strong resonance in the synodal process” has been that of the “role of women in the Church”, among the proposals it is insisted that both this issue and “celibacy optional and married ordination” has emerged “only in some dioceses and, in them, by a small number of groups or individuals”. “To a lesser extent -says the text- the issue of the ordination of women has also arisen”.

“In any case, in relation to these issues, a clear request stands out that, as a Church, we dialogue about them in order to allow the Magisterium to better understand them and to be able to offer a prophetic proposal to our society.” That is: read the Magisterium, and not propose changes.

Along with the role of women and celibacy, the participants in the Synod underlined their “concern about the scarce presence and participation of young people in the life and mission of the Church”, as well as the “important echo” that “the issue of sexual abuse, abuse of power and conscience in the Church, highlighting the need for forgiveness, accompaniment and reparation”.

Also, “the need for a more careful reception in the case of people who need more support in their personal circumstances due to their family situation -the concern for divorced and remarried people is strongly shown- or your sexual orientation. We feel that, as a Church, far from remaining in identity groups that blur faces, we have to look at, welcome and accompany each person in their specific situation”.

“We have known that we have been listened to, we have been free to speak, we have experienced hope, joy, illusion, courage to fulfill our mission, with a strong community feeling of continuing on the road and doing it together”, emphasizes the synthesis, which affirms that “it is It is clear that things cannot remain the same and it is urgent to respond to unavoidable challenges”.

“There are not a few who wonder if this listening process will really be of any use, especially when relating it to previous experiences –synods and diocesan assemblies held at some more or less recent moment, which have generated frustration because they are left without practical applications–”, he admits. the summary of the CEE, which admits that “we know that we are listened to, but not protagonists of the life and mission of the Church”.

At the same time, the synthesis warns of the risk of “overloading the synodal experience”, moving “from consultation to codecision”, and achieving “a greater opening of the process of appointing bishops and parish priests to the participation of the community”. Synodality, in short, as “an effective instrument to avoid clericalism” which has led to the fact that in some dioceses there has been “a scant incidence of the synodal process, which has met with the tiredness of the People of God”.

“The participation has been mainly from people already involved in the life of the Church, mostly women. There has been little response from young people and families and also from those who are distant and non-believers, although those who have participated expressed their surprise at the interest of the Church in knowing their opinion”, the text emphasizes.

What are the biggest concerns observed? “The secularization of the baptized, the loss of the Christian identity of believers and, by derivation, of the structures of which we are a part – institutions and centers of the Church”. At the same time, it is assumed that “the liturgy (…) is lived in a cold, passive, ritualistic, monotonous, distant way”, which results in “the disconnection between liturgical celebrations and our lives”.

Adapt the language and rites, as well as “rethink the role of the homily” so that the celebrations “touch the soul of the faithful”. At the same time, they encourage “deepen the life of prayer, without which we cannot revitalize the Church.”

Plurality and uniformity

“We are Church in many ways and, at times, very different from each other. But that plurality must be assumed in terms of complementarity and we must be able to achieve unity without falling into the temptation of imposing uniformity”, warns the document, who admits that “we have the feeling that we do not know each other and we are divided ”.

“Together with this, we Christians cannot live as if we were a social reality alien to this world. We must walk together with today’s society and this implies making an effort to open ourselves up to everyone. A special resonance has the need to show ourselves as a Church that listens and accompanies, also that encourages and reaches the real life of people”, adds the text, which calls for “breaking prejudices and clichés against the Church, favoring dialogue with the society”.

The drama of “bilateral clericalism”

Along with this, the synthesis warns of “bilateral clericalism” that leads to “an excess of leadership of the priests and a defect in the responsibility of the laity”, while “insistently pointing out the need to expand the spaces for participation , to encourage more people to commit themselves to them, to help the baptized to discover that they are the Church and that, as such, everything that affects it concerns them”.

Derived from the above, “authoritarianism in the Church (authority understood as power and not as service), with its corresponding consequences –clericalism, little participation in decision-making, detachment from the lay faithful– is one of the main criticisms that appears in the contributions of the synodal groups”, which emphasizes that “the role of the laity and consecrated life at the present time is essential and irreplaceable, and we must be able to find the way and the spaces so that they can develop it in all its fullness.”

Fracture between Church and society

Regarding dialogue with the world, the need to “abandon the vision of a Church of maintenance to move towards an authentic Church that goes out, even if it means taking some risks”, such as accepting the “clear fracture between Church and society”, is stressed. that considers the Church “as a reactionary and unproactive institution, far removed from today’s world.”

“In part, we consider that the responsibility is ours, because we do not know how to communicate well everything that we are and do. This image of the Church hurts us – because we love her – and, in a certain sense, the feeling that we have not reached society and that the prejudices against the Church are insurmountable leads us to a deep discouragement that hinders the evangelizing and transforming presence of reality”.

“There is a lack of an evangelizing spirit,” says the document, which yearns for “Christian leaders in the different spheres of public life – politics, economy, education, culture… – and it is essential to promote training processes for these lay Christians who live political charity , as well as accompaniment in the development of their tasks” “There is a lack of an evangelizing spirit”, points out the document, which yearns for “Christian leaders in the different spheres of public life –politics, economy, education, culture…– and it is essential to promote formation processes of these lay Christians who live political charity, as well as accompaniment in the development of their tasks”.



Professionalism, transparency and presence in the media

Regarding the social presence of the Church, the Spanish Synod proposes three measures: “the need for greater professionalization in government affairs (that is, to have experts for decision-making in the different sectors in which we are present) ; the desirability of extending transparency to other spheres than the merely economic –with regard to which it is valued very positively in general terms–, to explain how we contribute to the common good; and the urgency of a greater presence in the general media, both in the traditional ones and in the new virtual spaces, together with a better use of own media”.

overcome clericalism

Finally, the synthesis emphasizes “three urgencies”, which are “clearly intertwined: grow in synodality, promote the participation of the laity and overcome clericalism”. As for the first, it is called for “assuming diversity in the communities in terms of complementarity and having authentically synodal ecclesial structures. It means giving greater prominence to those who are part of them, from the complementarity of vocations, also in terms of decision-making”.

Regarding the participation of the laity, it is insisted on “underlining the full responsibility of the laity in the life and mission of the Church”, and it is requested “to define the matters regarding which the participation of lay Christians would have a decision-making character , especially in those fields that are more typical of their vocation in the world”. At this point, the urgency to “rethink the role of women in the Church, with a greater role and responsibility” is repeated, but without touching the sacramental issue.

At the same time, “it is essential to promote the presence accompanied by the laity in the social fabric: neighborhood associations, unions, political parties, economy, science, politics, work, media, among others.”

Finally, “overcome clericalism” as “an inertia of past times”, which “also implies overcoming the passivity and lack of involvement of many lay faithful in the building of the Church”.

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