Zoom Virtual Communion Service Group
The feedback contained in this document is broad and not sufficiently nuanced to accurately reflect the experiences of everyone in our group of eight. I would hazard to say that it captures most if not all the experiences articulated by this small, diverse group of practicing Catholics in our recent synodal exercise.
We are men and women and a mix of lifelong Catholics, returners and converts. The comparative brevity and simplicity of our comments should not belie the deep and abiding love, respect and hope we share for our Church. Though we are observant, active members of the Church, we are dedicated to its betterment through an interior process of reform and update as suggested below.
History chronicles the progressive advancement of the faithful in areas of personal development, education and general wellbeing. Today’s Catholic in developed societies demands an intelligent, transparent and responsive institution that reflects and interprets the good news in contemporaneous terms; encourages personal ownership and participation; proves its efficacy and provides an opportunity for personal spiritual transformation.
As we see it, the Church’s hierarchal structure, social stratification and administrative decision-making process impede our evangelical mission, one that is already enthusiastically embraced and practiced by most of the remaining faithful. We feel that leadership policy and practice has not met our needs for quite some time.
What we value
Local church: Most of us value the experience and practice of community. Some consider the church community a second family and love many of the people in our parish.
For most, our participation in local liturgy and parish activities gives our lives structure.
While our parish has a long tradition of being open and welcoming, current outreach, diversity and general energy are greatly diminished. Under our current local pastoral and episcopal leadership, the culture of our local parish is in transition from an active, lay empowered, Vatican II fellowship to a more traditional church model.
We receive and try to actively live the message of love, generosity, inclusion and service.
Throughout the pandemic, we have shared our faith journeys with each other through participation in a reduced but still active number of small study and guided meditation groups and prayer services.
Universal Church: In the case of the magisterium, our group expressed a more diverse spectrum of attitudes and experiences seeming to turn on each member’s unique personal history.
We generally appreciate the global reach of the institution and the enormous, potential, collective power for significant global change and influence.
Some members of our group expressed interest in modernization and decentralization of some authority. Others said that they appreciate and are comforted by continuity, the uniformity of beliefs, an institution that is slow to change in material ways, and a certain consistency and predictability throughout the institution. But even these Catholics expressed the belief that today’s institutional Church has become mired in policies and practices that hinder its mission to evangelize and shepherd God’s people.
What saddens, angers and exasperates us
(Primarily about the curia and episcopal leadership and less about the local church)
Below, we identify some policies and practices (or lack thereof) that we believe have caused a substantial loss of moral authority, social relevance and membership.
- Through its behavior at all levels, the institutional Church sends a message that the clergy are the sole mediators of grace and decision makers;
- When faced with scandal, the episcopate has not protected the welfare and rights of the most vulnerable;
- The clergy have not adequately educated and engaged congregations from the pulpit about social justice (it’s more than just giving alms); and have not adequately supported and sponsored Church-centered social justice initiatives, especially with regard to racism and climate care;
- The Church practices discrimination by excluding women and married persons from administrative positions of substantial authority, significant religious ministry and decision making;
- The Church does not generally welcome non-traditional families and marginalizes members of the LGBTQ community;
- The Church fails to deal with the divorced with compassion and provides no theological justification for major diocese-to-diocese variation in annulment procedures; and
- Many in the episcopate fail to live modestly.
Our group also noted that the institutional church appears to have not yet fully internalized that the faithful are neither ignorant nor indifferent to the moral, social and legal failings of those in Church leadership, and that, if pressed, those faithful can still leave. Thus, to the extent the issues mentioned above are allowed to persist, they will continue to harm the Church.
We would like to see institutional leadership:
Model the moral and ethical norms of our faith and obey the civil laws of our society.
Model transparency in administration and finance.
Model accountability by holding all Church people accountable for egregious breeches of moral, ecclesial and civil law.
Stop gender stereotyping and gender discrimination. Admit women and married men to positions of substantial administrative authority, significant religious ministry and decision making.
Amend prayers and liturgy practices to substitute gender inclusive language.
Put the welfare of the alleged victims or complainants of emotional, sexual, moral abuse or financial impropriety of paramount importance over the protection of the institution in all credible cases.
Provide uniform, compassionate and timely procedures and process for annulments.
Update Church law to provide a basis and procedures for the Church to investigate and prosecute breeches of Church law and coordinate with civil authorities all suspected cases of civil crimes.
In addition, we would like to see a local Church that:
Shares significant decision making authority and information on temporal and liturgical matters between clergy and laypersons.
Supports and promotes significant lay initiative and maximizes lay involvement in the daily life of the church
Uses non-clergy more prominently to inform and teach the gospel from lived experience.
Adapts to modern times and circumstances both in programs for continuing adult education and from the pulpit.
Revisits, updates and explains to the faithful parish and diocesan administrative routines and practices.
Increases community outreach and cooperative action for parishioners of every age.
Serves all -- the poor, working, middle class and upper classes.
Recognizes and welcomes families that challenge the traditional view of what Catholic families should look like.
Church of Saint Anselm
1028 Wayside Rd.
Tinton Falls, NJ, USA
917 748 3294
Zoom Virtual Communion Group
March 22, 2022