The Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) has presented this Saturday a synthesis of the proposals of the Spanish Catholics for the future of the Church, among which it is contemplated to open a dialogue on optional celibacy, the ordination of married priests and the female priesthood.
“Although these are issues raised only in some dioceses and, in them, by a small number of groups or individuals, we see fit to incorporate into this synthesis, due to its relevance in the essential ecclesial dialogue and with our fellow citizens, the request they formulate about of the need to discern in greater depth the issue of optional celibacy in the case of priests and married ordination; to a lesser extent, the issue of women’s ordination has also arisen,” reads the document, consulted by Europa Press, and presented this Saturday at the Pablo VI Foundation, in Madrid, before more than 600 representatives of the Church.
The Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) detects, in relation to these issues, “a clear request” that, as a Church, “dialogue about them in order to allow the Magisterium to better understand them and to be able to offer a prophetic proposal to the society”.
On the other hand, the document also highlights the need for the Church to offer a “more careful welcome” to people from the LGTBI community and to people who are divorced and remarried. “Each and every one of them”, as he specifies, “has a place in the Church and it must be offered clearly, without exclusions”.
“The need for more careful reception is highlighted 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 marry- or their sexual orientation. We feel that, as a Church, far from staying in identity groups that blur faces, we have to look at, welcome and accompany each person in their specific situation, “emphasizes the CEE.
Similarly, the bishops conclude that greater discernment is needed on “sexual abuse, abuse of power and conscience in the Church, highlighting the need for forgiveness, accompaniment and reparation.”
These are some of the proposals that the EEC has collected from the summaries carried out, in turn, by the Spanish dioceses, and will now be sent to the General Secretariat of the Synod, ahead of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, convened by Pope Francis, to be held in October 2023 at the Vatican.
For seven months, 14,000 synodal groups that have involved more than 215,000 people, laity, consecrated persons, religious, priests and bishops have made their proposals.
The 70 Spanish dioceses have been involved, with 13,500 parish groups, religious congregations, 11 regional CONFERs, 215 cloistered monasteries, 20 diocesan Cáritas, 37 lay movements and associations, and 21 secular institutes. People outside the Church have also been heard as members of political parties and cultural and social initiatives.
During the final Assembly of the diocesan phase of the Synod, held this Saturday, the president of the CEE and Cardinal Archbishop of Barcelona, Juan José Omella, stressed that synodality forms part of the “DNA” of the Church and compared the process of discernment that they have started with a GPS “navigator” that “sometimes says by recalculating, that you have made a mistake”.
Another issue that has had “strong resonance”, as observed in the final document, has been the reference to the role of women in the Church “as concern, need and opportunity.” “The importance of her in the construction and maintenance of our communities is appreciated and her presence in the responsibility and decision-making bodies of the Church is essential,” underlines the CEE.
The “concern for the scarce presence and participation of young people” in the Church is also “clear”; the family is proposed as a “priority area of evangelization”; institutionalize lay ministries, and strengthen dialogue with other confessions.
At the same time, it is proposed to promote a qualified presence of the Church in the rural world, promote pastoral care with the elderly, pay attention to popular religiosity “as a channel of evangelization in a secularized world” and increase care for prisoners, the sick or immigrants.
The document also highlights the need for a “personal, communal and pastoral conversion” of the Church; and to adopt an “open and listen” attitude. The word listening has been one of the most underlined by the synodal groups. “Christians cannot live as if we were a social reality alien to this world,” they deepen.
Likewise, they insist on training, on which they recognize “serious deficiencies”, particularly in the lay faithful, but “also in priests”. For this reason, facing the formation of seminarians, it is requested to deepen “synodality and co-responsibility” and “of authority understood not as power, but as service.”
“We are particularly hurt by the lack of enthusiasm of a very relevant part of the priests of the different local communities and our lack of effectiveness as a community when it comes to accompanying them in the experience of their vocation. A concretion of this is what we can call clericalism bilateral, that is to say, an excess of protagonism of the priests and a defect in the responsibility of the laity”, emphasizes the EEC.
In this sense, one of the main criticisms that appears in the contributions of the synodal groups is “authoritarianism” in the Church, that is, authority understood as power and not as service, with its consequences such as “clericalism”.
Regarding the laity, they consider it essential to strengthen their functions within the Church as well as their presence in the social fabric: neighborhood associations, unions, political parties, economy, science, politics, work and the media.
Likewise, the Spanish Church proposes to reflect on the “adaptation of languages, ornaments and part of the rites that are farthest from the present moment” and “rethink the role of the homily”. Specifically, they suggest improving their “understanding” and making it “more participatory and community-based.”
The document also warns of “a clear fracture between the Church and society” because they recognize that “it is seen as a reactionary and unproactive institution, far removed from today’s world”, something they attribute in part to the fact that the Church itself “does not know how to communicate well ” what it is. This image of the Church, as he points out, “hurts” and “discourages” them because it gives them the feeling that “the prejudices against the Church are insurmountable.”
Among other solutions to “break prejudices and clichés”, the CEE proposes building “welcoming, close and inclusive” communities, especially with excluded people; and seek greater presence in the general media and virtual spaces.
Later, some highlights have been incorporated into the Synthesis, such as promoting the real and effective presence of women in the Church; the elimination of bilateral clericalism; the co-responsibility of the laity, or the reception of the divorced and the LGTBI collective. Among the gaps detected in the document, and that will be incorporated, they have highlighted the lack of explicit mention of children and people with disabilities, vocation ministry and the permanent diaconate.
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