Friday, October 30, 2009

John Allen: Women may come out winners in the Synod for Africa (via Mirror of Justice)

There is a fair bit that Africa’s bishops can do, however, to shape the life of the Catholic church on the continent, and that may be where the synod’s concluding message, as well as the 57 propositions for action submitted to Pope Benedict XVI, have their most immediate impact.

On that front, if there's one big idea that seemed to surface, it was a call to take women more seriously -- in society, and also in the church.

In keeping with the candor exhibited throughout the synod about the church’s need to confront its own failures, the bishops called for:

  • A more collaborative style of decision-making in the church, including greater respect for the contributions of religious women and men, laity, women, and young people;

  • New structures to foster decision-making authority by women in the church, including a recommendation that the Vatican create a study commission on women in the church within the Pontifical Council for the Family;

  • Better formation for Africa’s laity, especially those involved in public life, to avoid the spectacle of prominent Catholics involved in corruption and bloodshed;

  • Combating tribalism inside the church, including cases in which bishops’ conferences have been divided along ethnic lines, and priests have opposed bishops from outside the dominant tribal group;

  • Ensuring that Catholic leaders do not take partisan positions in national or regional politics, so they can serve as an independent voice of conscience;
    Fidelity by African priests to celibacy and detachment from material goods;
    An end to “simony” by priests who make money from the sale of sacramentals such as holy water and oils.
In the mind of some, Africa is supposed to be the great hope for the Church -- and yet if this is an accurate portrayal, maybe some errant missionary orders and their seminaries have had a very bad influence on the formation of clerics in Africa? Now, it may be appropriate to have the participation of non-clerics in decision-making concerning parish or diocesan issues. So what exactly is meant by the first point? As for the second, are they talking about women religious or women laity? Do we really need another commission in Rome? Does the Church affirm its traditional teachings on patriarchy, or not? And rather than researching sociological models of how individuals interact or relate with one another, should the Church not be teaching what is normative instead? But that would require it to continue developing Catholic Social Teaching by, dare I say it, returning to classical politics, instead of stumbling about and consciously or unconscioiusly adopting the presuppositions and conclusions of liberalism.

I'll have to take a look at the propositions... maybe Mr. Allen is simplifying things and distorting the findings of the synod as a result.

Draft of Final Message of Africa Synod
Papal Homily at Close of Africa Synod
Benedict XVI's Address at Synod Luncheon
On the Africa Synod
Africa Synod Propositions 1-10
Africa Synod Propositions 11-20
Africa Synod Propositions 21-30
Africa Synod Propositions 31-40
Africa Synod Propositions 41-50

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