Extraordinary Synod on life, ministry of clergy sought

An Extraordinary Synod on life and the ministry of clergy is being sought by an English bishop.

Bishop Philip Egan says his suggestion was prompted by the recent scandals of clerical sexual abuse.

“Clerical sex abuse seems to be a world-wide phenomenon in the Church,” Egan says in his letter.

“As a Catholic and a Bishop, these revelations fill me with deep sorrow and shame.”

He says he asked for the synod because he feels compelled to offer a more “constructive suggestion” to the abuse crisis.

The synod could be preceded by a “congress” for bishops that is organised and run by members of the laity.

Organisers should have “particular expertise” in clergy abuse scandals and in forming policy for safeguarding children and other vulnerable people, he suggests.

From there, the synod’s results could be carried into a formal session of the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

Egan says topics at the extraordinary synod could include discussing the “identity of being a priest [or] bishop,” and devising guidance on “life-style and supports for celibacy,” to proposing a “rule of life for priests [and] bishops” and establishing “appropriate forms of priestly [and] episcopal accountability and supervision.”

Egan said the results of such a synod could be used to inform changes to canon law and help dioceses draft their own “directories for clergy.” He also noted that as a diocesan bishop he had “few tools” to help him in the day-to-day management of clergy, and compared this with the structures and supports which existed in seminaries to help formators assess and develop vocations.

“By contrast, once ordained, priests [and] bishops have few formal on-going assessments or ministerial supervision,” Egan wrote.

“It ought to be possible to devise mechanisms to help bishops in their responsibilities towards clergy and to help clergy realise they are not ‘lone operatives’ but ministers accountable to the direction and leadership of the diocese.”



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