Earlier this week, Irish Catholics sent a report to Rome demanding radical changes to the church including the removal of the mandatory celibacy rule, the opportunity for women to become priests and a major change in attitudes towards LGBTI+ people, divorced and remarried people, single parents and other marginalised groups.
The proposals were made in the National Synthesis document in preparation for a Synod of Bishops called by Pope Francis for October 2023. The suggestions made by Irish Catholics were based from reports prepared by all 26 Catholic dioceses on the island.
We asked Irish Times readers to share their views on these proposals and below is a selection of their responses.
In my opinion, these proposals of liberal/progressive Irish Catholics to mitigate or even cancel their church’s constant, emphatic and unreserved bimillennial doctrine against women’s ordination to the priesthood, homosexual acts and unnatural methods of birth control, should be rejected. Accepting and implementing them would constitute a self-inflicted lethal wound to the Catholic Church’s basic claim to be the infallible mouthpiece of God on earth in matters of faith and morals.
Surely it must be obvious to any thinking person that a church making that claim cannot rescind any doctrine which, by either her ordinary or extraordinary teaching authority, she has previously proclaimed firmly as God’s unchanging truth, without ipso facto refuting that very claim. This monumental flip-flop would make the church a laughing stock among intelligent non-Catholics and non-Christians. Such self-contradiction would be a classic case of sawing off the tree branch you’re sitting on. Fr Brian Harrison, Australia
What about the ongoing discussion about the diaconate? Why do we not have male and female deacons throughout Ireland? Where are there married deacons? There is a shortage of priestly vocations and reduced Masses because of “lack of priests”. So why don’t bishops ask the male leaders of religious orders to let their priests go out to parishes to say Masses? Why can’t they step in to help? Use of a car is use of God’s gift of driving and it doesn’t have to break rules of poverty and obedience etc in having one. Jean Fahy, Co Kilkenny
The expression of Christianity by the Roman Catholic Church is at odds with what is found in the New Testament. Christians in the Roman Catholic Church would perhaps serve Christianity better by reforming in a manner attuned to the teachings of Jesus and perhaps take Francis of Assisi as a role model. The structure of Rome is not capable of adequate reform. Its history of abuse of the laity via clericalism and the many abuses that come from that be they sexual, misogynistic, fear, shame, oppression and poverty are embedded within the structure. Turn your back on this institution and simply follow and lead the life Jesus taught. Andrew Billingsley, Northern Ireland
This is heresy and an abuse of the synodal process, the church doesn’t bend to the zeitgeist and mores of the times. The holy mother church is Christs gift to humanity the church militant is there to spread and follow faithfully the gospel, not to change it as it wills. I’ll pray and fast for those who are confused and misinformed to receive the gift of truth and the strength of true courage to spread Christs gospel of hope so that none may be led into mortal sin and terminal damnation.
The sins of the fallen and the deceived do not justify a perversion of the truth of Gods true love that all must seek with a contrite and true heart forgiveness for all mortal and venial sins and seek to live a sinless, virtuous and catholic moral existence and participate in the church, fast, pray and partake of the holy sacraments. No man priest, bishop or otherwise is beyond Gods commandments. Carl Doneghy, United Kingdom
I attended my parish synod meeting/s and certainly did not hear nor take from points made by those present that “Irish Catholics” were seeking radical change. The Catholic Church has always been inclusive of all people following the example and dictates of Jesus Christ and the apostles. It strikes me as if those seeking change want to impose their attitudes and beliefs on our church but no longer want to follow the Ten Commandments and the theology of 2000 years of church teaching.
We live in a society in which people are required to obey the laws laid down for the common good but when it comes to faith and belief each person makes their own rules and no longer wants to live by God’s law. We have come to the stage in the church in Ireland that even our bishops and church leaders no longer seem to believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist for if they did they would ensure that those who promote abortion etc should not receive the Eucharist. Unfortunately we have weak church leaders and weak church leaders lead to weak teaching and weak teaching leads to weak followers .
Our people, and especially our young adults, need to hear the gospel truths preached by good holy priests. Did our bishops seek our approval for what was sent to Rome ostensibly on our behalf? I certainly did not agree to many of the points that appeared in the reports! I think this push is coming from a media that has sought to divide our people and church by knocking whenever possible our clergy, our Catholic institutions and our religious orders. Ferghil Henderson, Co Dublin
It’s stated that it is church teaching that the LGBTQ+ community is objected to. Is it church teaching, or Christ’s teaching? St Paul’s letter to the Romans, “The Guilt of Mankind” 18:26, addresses this subject. The church didn’t write the bible. So is it church teaching? Alice Smith, Co Offaly
I am moved by the holy spirit – the male hierarchy does not have a monopoly on the wisdom imparted through the holy spirit. The faithful around the world have spoken – open all the windows and doors and welcome everyone into the church in a loving, caring and accepting way. Let the changes start now – they are long overdue. Ann Burke, Co Galway
Priests should be allowed to marry. Women priests should also be ordained. Thomas Kirby, Co Kildare
I agree with the opinions expressed by Irish Catholics on changes needed if the church is to survive and have any moral authority or leadership role. This is the last chance for the church to save itself from extinction or at best becoming an endangered species. Paul McCourt, Northern Ireland
The Catholic Church has a tradition for holding conclaves and synods and councils. This is a good thing and. even if results are not always as one would like, progress is made very slowly but surely. Indeed, the Protestant Churches, particularly the Lutheran, won’t even consider discussing whether to make changes even after 700 years. The Catholic Church needs to change and has never been afraid to discuss change. A council is urgently required and not just to discuss and implement the excellent points brought up by Irish Catholics, but also to show the rest of the world that change can be made for the better, particularly in relationship to celibacy and the appointment of old men to senior posts. Just think what a difference it would make to Catholics if priests were allowed to marry, if women were to be ordained, and if there was a retirement age for senior officials. Raymond McCaffrey, Denmark
Had such a document been approved by Rome 25 years ago, I think churches would still be full. Has indifference set in? Is it now too late? Go for it Rome, hope springs eternal. Margaret Deeny, Co Galway
No serious attention was given by Pope Francis and the Vatican to the unanimous recommendations by the Amazonian Bishops . There is even less hope that the changes recommended in the Irish Synthesis 15 chapter document will receive a better reception‚ seeing that that they are the views of just “lay people“. Some breast beating will no doubt ensue but there will be no change in what Rome has declared to be doctrinal issues such as the ordination of women and definitions of gay people as being “intrinsically disordered“. Years ago when I was a member of a religious order we suggested changes that we believed would be in the best interests for the future of the order but it turned out that we were told that if we didn’t like the existing structures then we could go elsewhere.
I think that the high expectations of change raised in these synodal consultations will be dashed by the intransigence of the Vatican . Pope Francis will not go against the traditionalist Vatican “doctrine cannot change” mentality, even if the barque of Peter is sinking fast. The synodal synthesis will hit this brick wall and come to nothing unless and until lay representatives from around the world have an equal decision making role as the bishops who will assemble in Rome next year. Otherwise the sensus fidelium or Fidei guided by the spirit will be shipwrecked. Brendan Butler, Guatemala
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