Holy Spirit desperately needed for Synod success

I have been on this planet now for almost 80 years.

I grew up in a 50/50 Catholic family but lost the Catholic half when I was 10.

This was largely compensated for by spending seven years at boarding school, both nuns and priests being my mentors.

This is something for which I will be forever grateful.

But something was amiss for much of my life that hampered my own adult spiritual development. And I attribute this to those men and women in black who taught and played a vital role in helping form the person I have become.

What was amiss was something that they neglected to teach me.

The way they taught did not highlight the difference between the faith I was being taught (what we believe) and the Church (the vessel in which it was being delivered).

They taught that the pope was infallible when speaking on faith and morals.

However, it was presented as if also applying to the Church as a whole.

Not much effort was put into making me aware that the two were separate items and should be treated as such.

I think more effort should have been made and it has taken the current sex abuse scandals besetting the Church for me to appreciate the ramifications of this.

I was initially bewildered by the number of my Catholic friends who retreated, at least publicly, from the practice of the faith they had grown up with when these scandals became public.

In the beginning, I could not understand why.

But, with the passage of time, I began to rationalise that these were people who had confused the message with the messenger.

People whose confidence in the Church had been destroyed and, as a result, their faith had gone the same way because they had never learned to distinguish been the two.

If Church leaders had recognised this issue earlier, much of the shenanigans (especially in the clergy) would never have developed into the scandals they eventually became.

The fact that the Church leaders did not do this speaks volumes.

Had the Church leaders recognised the problem, I am sure that many of those who have walked would still be with us.

The efforts of Pope Francis, and the series of synod meetings now being undertaken, are intended to restore the confidence of the laity in their church by opening up their church more to them.

Whether it will succeed is yet to be seen.

The Holy Spirit, no doubt, will play a large part in that.

But for me, I think more will be needed; otherwise, the synod process will be another version of “more of the same”.

This risk reminds me of the Great Benyon, a magician who toured Southland in the 1960s, where I worked. When he came on stage after each of his acts in different garb, he would proudly acclaim, “same man, different clothes!”

I hope this is not the Great Benyon we are seeing now.

Until the Synod outcomes are known—and Rome speaks—I hope our church hierarchy will promote procedures that encourage the laity to be critical of what could be done better in our local Church and speak up promptly when appropriate.

I know a start has been made, but more is needed.

In the first instance, I suggest it be targeted at those who have lost confidence in the Church.

We do not necessarily have to wait on Rome for everything.

  • Michael Vanderpump is a parishioner at Holy Spirit Cathedral Palmerston North
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News category: Analysis and Comment, Palmerston.

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