Is the Catholic Church on the verge of major reforms?
The winds of change are blowing.
Could the Catholic Church be on the verge of the most significant reforms it has enjoyed since Vatican II?
It wouldn't happen overnight, of course, but it's a real possibility, depending on what comes out of Pope Francis' "Synod 2021-2023." In a nutshell, the synod is a 2-year process in which bishops around the world are consulting with Catholics of every stripe: lay people, priests, nuns, etc. At the end of this period, the bishops will gather to discuss ways in which the governance of the Church can become more "synodal" – that is, more open to the ideas of various groups that make up the Church. This means, among other things, that the people in general, the laity, will have more of a voice.
"[This is] a 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘮𝘶𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨...involving the entire People of God: ...bishops, priests, religious and laity have to listen to one another," Pope Francis has written. " It is not ... a survey, but a matter of listening to the Holy Spirit... ."
Signaling his openness to change for the better, Pope Francis also writes that it's dangerous "to apply old solutions to new problems." He points out that 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘺 𝘪𝘴 "𝘱𝘰𝘪𝘴𝘰𝘯 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘊𝘩𝘶𝘳𝘤𝘩." He warns against an attitude that says, " 'We have always done it this way,' and it is better not to change."
One voice that is being heard loud and clear is that of John Wijngaards, a reform-minded Catholic priest and theologian who founded and leads the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research. He's written a book titled "𝘛𝘦𝘯 𝘊𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘊𝘩𝘶𝘳𝘤𝘩 𝘙𝘦𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘮: 𝘔𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘪𝘳𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘢 𝘊𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘪𝘤 𝘗𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴𝘵." (Available from the publisher, www.acadianhouse.com/spirituality-enlightenment.) These "10 Commandments" form an ideal framework for any synodal discussions on the real issues facing the Church today.
A quick read of Wijngaards' proposal has been published in The Synodal Times. It can be seen at (https://wijngaardsinstitute.org/Synodal-Times-Jan2023-short2.pdf) Recommendations include: allowing priests to marry, welcoming women into the priesthood and diaconate, and avoiding the appointment of narrow-minded bureaucrats intent on blocking Church reform.
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