Can this forthcoming Synodal Path be a success?

Now that the proposed Synodal Assembly is coming into focus, and the Irish Bishops, at their next meeting taking place in June, are due to appoint a committee who will be central to the organisation of the event over the next few years, we need to be thinking clearly about what is being proposed.

For myself, I would love to see this whole event being a success, because I believe the future of the Church in Ireland will depend to a fair degree on how successful it will be. If it can be a real listening and decision making body, which engages, and enthuses a large section of the catholic people, it could be a major turning point. But that will be extremely difficult. There is a great deal of cynicism, of apathy, indifference, and a general feeling of scepticism around. That will not be easy to overcome.  This will be the initial challenge facing the new committee brought together by the bishops. I think it is already a mistake by the bishops to choose these people at an enclosed meeting; it would need to be done in a much more open and transparent fashion.

Reading through the account of the process in the Irish Bishops Conference website, two major issues of concern jumped out at me. The first one is in this quote:

The members of the Synodal Assembly are those who have been elected/selected to participate. Some of the members are people who “must” be called to an Assembly of this nature such as the Bishops, leaders of Religious Orders, Seminary Rectors and Heads of Theological Institutions. 

All of these members, with a few exceptions from female religious, who must be selected as members are male and clerical. It already seems to indicate that the gathering will be top heavy with male clerics and religious. If it is it will make its task much more difficult, because it will not have credibility with a large section of the people.

The second issue of concern for me is in the following quote from the same document:

Much has been said of the model of synodality being that of a “walking together” in a process of discernment, reflection and prayer trying to discover what God wants of the Church at this time.  However, the question arises as to whether a Synodal Assembly can actually change Church teaching?  Pope Francis has been clear that Synods are not instruments to change Church teaching but rather help to apply Church teaching more pastorally.

There are so many Church doctrines that are being widely questions, or totally ignored, now that it is impossible to envision a meaningful Synod that rules out questions of doctrine. I am thinking of a whole range of issues around Catholic sexual teaching, for instance, contraception, sex outside marriage, homosexuality, etc.

Also a range of urgent questions around the nature of priesthood; and many others.

When I read of these serious curtailments of freedom for discussion, though I would very much want to be enthusiastic, I find it hard to be hopeful about the upcoming Synodal Path. And that makes me sad, because while a successful Synod could do great good for the Irish Church, one that is a flop would be in danger of putting the final nails in the coffin of what is already a seriously ailing Church.