Sunday, October 26, 2014

Towards the Next Synod: Jerry Slevin on What Pope Francis Needs to Do If He's Really Serious About Reform

At a discussion thread here earlier today, some of you may have seen that I asked Jerry Slevin if he could perhaps summarize an argument he has just made at greater length in a posting at his Christian Catholicism site. In this posting, Jerry argues that, if Pope Francis is to be effective as a reformer, he must aim for the following at the final synod on the family for which the one that has just occurred set the initial stage:

Can and will Pope Francis now providentially save the Catholic Church spiritually, politically and even legally, (1) by effectively sharing power with the silent Catholic 99.9% majority of the People of God, as the earliest popes did for centuries, and (2) by admitting “infallibly”, as he must, that popes are not infallible and that many “moral certainties” are uncertain? 

Jerry has responded to my request for a précis of his argument in the Christian Catholicism essay, and, with his permission, I'm going to lift his response into a posting here. I'm posting this synopsis in the hope that it will point readers to the essay itself. Here's Jerry's response:

If Francis is really serious about reform, three key actions, procedurally and substantively, must be addressed now:

(1) Add A Committee Upfront:

Francis must between now and the Oct. 2015 Final Synod have a small independent, expert and representative committee (including preferably as US representatives Dick Sipe, Tom Doyle, Anne Burke, and persons informed on LGBT issues, perhaps you and Jamie Manson, as openers) that thrashes out the key issues honestly and thoroughly and makes specific public recommendations for action to the Synod prior to September 1, 2015;

(2) Democratize and Open the Final Synod:

Francis must also add to the Synod these committee members, and similar independent and representative persons, as full voting participants at the Final Synod, which also needs to be televised live; and

(3) Address All the Major Church Problems:

Bishop accountability (for child abuse cover-ups and financial corruption, etc,), and bishop selection and removal procedures, as well as adding married and women priests, etc. have to be added to the new committee's and the Final Synod agenda.

In my experience, this is what other multinational organizations would do if they really wanted solutions, as opposed to just public relations stalling with an unwieldy Final Synod until the "storm passes".

If Francis does much less, he isn't really seeking solutions, just interim "cover", in my view. I know from my corporate legal experience how this game is played.

This is not some dream. Who dreamt Benedict would quit? Dream, please :-)

If the US Founders in Philly in 1787 had followed a strict large scale Synod approach, rather than a small committee approach as they did in writing the US Constitution, we would have likely 25 years later have lost the War of 1812 and all of us would likely be British colonists right now.

I might even volunteer to advise, if Cardinal Burke would let me wear his $30,000 outfit :-)

Finally, there is in a link in my brief Washington Post 2010 advice to Benedict to an even briefer article from well-regarded US Jesuit, Fr. Raymond Schroth, recommending an independent committee approach, which is where I first got the committee idea. Here's what Fr. Schroth has to say about the notion of an independent committee to deal with the mess that the church has become:*

What should we do? Benedict XVI's resignation would solve nothing. If he were to quit, the same cardinals who elected him plus those whom he has appointed would elect someone like him. At 82 he is not wired to change his ways. But he might retain a creative spark: he could immediately set up a commission of priests, nuns, and laypersons from around the world who are not beholden to the Vatican culture and who are known for their wisdom, independence, and courage. Their job would be to study the crisis and recommend structural changes that would restore the church's credibility. Celibacy and the ordination of women should be on the table. Over 40 years ago Pope Paul VI set up a similar commission on birth control, only to reject their conclusion that the teaching should change. It was the biggest mistake he ever made. Benedict should learn from his predecessor's bad move.

* I've added the final sentence to Jerry's comment, along with the excerpt from Fr. Schroth's article.

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