The dilemma facing the Synodal Process.

I have been impressed by the way Archbishop Eamonn Martin has handled the Synodal Process in Ireland. He has shown an openness, a willingness to listen and to take on board the views of the people that has been impressive. The document that went from the Irish Church to the Vatican is testament to that. It contains most of the issues that we in the reform movement have been campaigning for.

He attended the funeral Mass for former pope, Benedict, in Rome a few days ago. Later that evening he was interviewed on Primetime, RTE television. After speaking about the day and the funeral, the presenter asked him about the Synodal Process, and where he thought it was going. He spoke very positively, and with a degree of enthusiasm about it. Then she went on to ask him about the issues around womens place in the Church, including decision making and ordination.

I felt this threw him a bit, though he should have been expecting it. He answered, saying that it was not possible to have any change in dogma concerning either faith or morals. The clear implication was that many of the issues raised in the document were non-starters. But then he went on to talk about the importance of women, and what a significant part they already play in the life of the Church. To my ears it sounded very patronising, and I thought of all the women I know who are working hard for change in the Church, and how they would feel listening to him. To be fair, what he said was very similar to a recent response by Pope Francis to a somewhat similar question. Having ruled out any change for women, he went on to talked about the Petrine principle and the Marian principle. Again it sounded patronising.

This I fear is the rock on which the Synodal Process will perish. If there isn’t real change in the position of women in the Church, it is going nowhere, and the present collapse will continue and accelerate. 

When Church people appeal to unchanging dogma, they need to make clear what exactly they are talking about. Which dogmas are considered unchanging, and which are not. And then it would be better if they came straight out with it, and skip the soft talk about the importance of women. That only causes greater frustration. If Church authorities believe that there is nothing of real importance they can do to change the situation of women in our Church, it would be better for them to say it straight out, and not be dragging out a process that will inevitably fail. If, on the other hand, they began to suggest that there are certain traditional dogmas that may need to be looked at again, then we would have real scope for discussion and discernment.

Have they the courage to do that; the Germans are doing it.