Catholic Church ‘judgemental and condemning’

Many laity have expressed the view that the Catholic Church appears to be ‘judgemental and condemning’. They also conveyed a strong sense that the Church must be ‘there for all.’

The feedback has come from a synthesis of reports from the dioceses of England and Wales in a “listening” process that is part of the build-up to the Synod on Synodality scheduled to take place next year.

“The emergent themes might have been penned even before the synod was called: the role of women, poor communications, insufficient effort to engage the youth, says Frank Callus, chair of A Call to Action, which promotes respect and dialogue in the Church.

Callus reports that there are substantial reasons to be hopeful of the outcomes of the synodal process.

However, inevitably, serious issues have surfaced already that will need to be addressed.

In a large number of synod responses, there was a strong sense that the Church must be there for all. However, many laity said that the Church appears to be judgemental and condemning and there should be more focus on commonalities with others rather than differences.

Too often, the Catholic Church was seen to be censorious. The laity called for a more tolerant attitude towards those deemed to be in irregular relationships, and members of the LGBTQ+ communities

“It seems that the laity are providing the lead for the bishops in shaping the Church towards the model of the field hospital envisioned by Pope Francis,” writes Callus.

It was felt by many that the Church generally does not react well to change, with authority and decision-making held centrally. There were examples of this at all levels, from the institution of the new translation of the Mass and banning the Extraordinary Rite, to individual pastoral decisions by priests.

The place of women in the Church was evident in the vast majority of reports. The leadership roles and ministry of women were particularly emphasised. “In a western European society that has had equality legislation for a half-century, the Church’s position on women was seen as anachronistic and damaging.”

The clerical sexual abuse scandal was referred to in most reports. “The impact of it on the Church was still being felt, and many regarded it as having caused incalculable damage. In almost every case, the issue was set out as a separate statement within the report. It was often represented both as a cause for many leaving the Church and for difficulty in executing the Church’s primary role in evangelisation,” reports Callus.

A national synod gathering of bishops and lay people who helped produce the submissions will take place in St George’s Cathedral, Southwark.  The final document for England and Wales will be sent to Rome by 15 August this year.


The Tablet

CathNews New Zealand


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