Family Solidarity and the Synodal Pathway
An open letter to the Bishops of Ireland
Dublin, 18th October 2022
Since when the national and the worldwide synodal pathways were announced last year, Family Solidarity has been actively reflecting on these significant moments for the life of the Catholic Church.
In October 2021, we have hosted a webinar with The Irish Catholic journalist, Jason Osborne, on “The Synodal Church of the 21st Century”. Three months later, we organised an online conference on “Family and Synodality: a Call for Participation”, with Sr Natalie Becquart, under-secretary of the Synod of Bishops, and Dr Vincenzo Bassi, president of FAFCE, the Federation of Catholic Associations in Europe. In February 2022, we held a webinar on “The Irish Pathway” with Dr Nicola Brady, Chair of the Steering Committee, and Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick.
After a year, we must admit that both the process and the provisional outcomes of the synodal pathway in Ireland are disappointing. At the local level, we have seen a lack of enthusiasm and poor levels of participation. Reading the diocesan reports, it is clear that many parishes have shown no interest in the national or in the worldwide synod.
As some of you are aware, no doubt, Family Solidarity was established almost 40 years ago. It is one of the founding members of the Federation of the Catholic Family Organizations in Europe (FAFCE), which now comprises 32 family organisations from 19 European countries. In June, we have celebrated 25 years of FAFCE with Pope Francis in Rome. Our international connections enable us to evaluate issues that are relevant to the family and the Church with a broad perspective.
Nevertheless, while individual members of our organisation have attended meetings in their parishes, Family Solidarity has not been formally invited to any synodal event nationally or at diocesan level. We find this disappointing.
In June this year, the pre-synodal Assembly in Athlone saw instead the participation of groups and individuals that publicly dissent from Church teachings but are well connected to some famous politicians or TV personalities. The views of those who were invited found expression in the National Synthesis.
Focusing on certain issues or inviting certain groups rather than others has predictable consequences for the outcomes of the synodal process. Who is responsible for those choices?
Take, for example, the report of a diocesan focus group. This involved a small number of people who do not accept what the Church teaches on moral matters. However, their view was presented in the National Report as though it was the voice of the faithful. Most of the group’s participants did not even consider themselves Catholic.
The National Synthesis does not represent us and it does not represent what we have heard at the meetings in our parishes.
Pope Francis clearly stated that “what is under discussion at synodal gatherings are not traditional truths of Christian doctrine.” Still, the National Synthesis presents the request to change some immutable teachings of our Faith as inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is not only absurd but also blasphemous.
While we remain hopeful that our organisation will be included in future synodal events, we will continue to reflect on this important experience. Our next public event, which will be held on the 3rd December in Ely House in Dublin, will be dedicated to an analysis of how the synod has been conducted in Ireland so far and of what we should expect from the future phases of the synodal process. We hope you will be able to attend.
Asking your Excellencies’ blessing, I am,