Hand_logo_idea_final7.png

POPE FRANCIS’S SYNODAL CHURCH

We in Root & Branch wholeheartedly support Pope Francis’s Synodal Church process in its desire to walk together, listening deeply to each other, and to its stated aim to hear “every voice”. We want to help our bishops achieve this, and to enable conversations in our parishes, our deaneries, dioceses - and internationally as well.

We should remember that the early followers of the Way were never ‘laity’, because Jesus never ordained anyone. As the Church became clerical, so did discernment move from the people. Now it is time for our voice to be heard, and to hear each other.

R O O T  &  B R A N C H

We owe it to Pope Francis to be as transparent as possible.

We’re delighted to share Diocesan and Parish submissions sent in by R&Bers.

Do send us yours.

Parish Synodal Submissions

St Michael’s, Tetbury, Gloucestershire, UK 

‘A major gearshift is required to bring the Christian Story into the third millennia to reach out to God’s children’

‘Everyone needs to be heard, irrespective of status. Continued reformation and renewal are much needed’

‘All those present at Mass each Sunday during the period of preparation and discussion were invited to remain after its conclusion to share their views, thoughts and experiences, hopes and disappointments. The process took place over a period of six weeks. By way of illumination, and possibly surprisingly, the Parish meetings largely comprised, though not exclusively, people no longer of working age.

Our parish priest, it should be noted, being responsible for two parishes, was required to leave Tetbury shortly after the conclusion of its weekly Sunday Mass to conduct Mass in Cirencester, and was therefore not involved in the discussions, though received a weekly report of each meeting.’

Full report here:-

St Peter’s, Eynsham, Oxfordshire, UK

‘The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said I was not alone!’

‘We are the people who have stayed in the church, but I’m struck now by how out of touch the hierarchy of the church is!’

 

‘A small parish with perhaps 100-120 really active parishioners. Following the introductory meeting from the parish priest, four Synodal Pathway groups addressed Formation, Liturgy & Worship, Social Outreach and Evangelisation. Each group met two or three times. Some attendees also shared discussions they had had with friends and family, or with people who no longer attend Mass, especially younger people, or with members of other Christian denominations.

‘The groups were open, honest, and often emotional and moving. When the parish priest, who was supportive throughout, joined us part-way through the process, this open atmosphere did not change but was in fact reinforced.’

Full report here:-

St Nicholas of Tolentino Synod Report, Bristol, UK

‘Need to put faith into action – we must not be just “Sunday Catholics”’

‘Just as our ancestors’ let go of the blood sacrifices and rituals of the Temple, drawn from pagan traditions, when they gradually understood more clearly God’s purposes, we should let go of our idolatrous grasp of patriarchy and paternalism.’

After praying together for some months 20 facilitators helped set up thirteen groups – meeting physically and online, and via email. ‘We were unable to facilitate a group for our South Asian parishioners, and it was difficult to properly give time for our children’s voices to be heard too.’ Submissions were also sent in via email.

‘Our pastor, Richard McKay, challenges us with Jesus’ words. He opens up space for critical thinking about how we respond to the Gospel. The huge response to the synod invitation… seems a live response to the Gospel we have heard.’

Full report here:-

Holy Spirit, Gt Bardfield & English Martyrs, Thaxted, Essex, UK 

‘We need to listen to each other within our community and outside. We need more than just Mass on a Sunday and above all we need a Listening Church’

‘It is not a Listening Church. Most people do not discuss difficult issues with the clergy’

We asked everyone: What stops Catholics from practising their faith?

To balance this, we also asked everyone to write down what keeps them in the Catholic faith

Full report here:-

Portsmouth Cathedral Parish 

‘‘Dialogue between the institutional Church and people seems a little one way’
 

‘Sensitive issues like clergy abuse need to be spoken openly and honestly about.
There is a clerical culture that needs to be addressed and changed’

 

‘A Church with men in ceremonial robes, dressed as pre Vatican II clergy is about them and not about relating to the people. They sometimes appear priests (for themselves) and not pastors (for the people)


The Portsmouth Cathedral parish synodal meetings were advertised in the parish newsletter. A single 2-hour evening meeting was set up to discuss and receive input. This was repeated on an afternoon for those who could not attend the evening meeting. Participants expressed the inadequacy of these short meetings for a synodal event of such major importance. 

Full report here:-

St Mary and St George’s, Totnes

‘We feel as a family with our parish, our priest and the Pope (but there is a blob in between)’ 


‘“They’ll know they are Christians by their love” is not obvious in the hierarchy’
 

‘It is in the body of the Church where the wisdom is, not the hierarchy’ 


We are a small but active parish, with a mature demographic. We arranged four weeks of feedback (over two months) over the usual coffee morning after the Sunday Mass and one weekday Mass with questions provided by the diocese as a starting point but without limitation for participants. Our parishioners love our Church. Older people feel great pain that young parents, who are good people, do not attend Church perhaps because the Church doesn’t hear their needs. We acknowledge that it is demographically dying and want change in order to reinvigorate it - which may involve confronting painful truths. 

Full report here:-

A group from rural south-west England

‘All Masses and Liturgies should involve us all, together, and should be prayerful, dignified, simple and beautiful, as Jesus taught.’
 

‘A rigid hierarchical structure and individual inability to adapt to change damages relationships and trust.’
 

We are a group of lifelong Catholics, converts and others of faith. With our parish churches closed, and parish activities suspended, we met together during Covid lockdowns for prayer and mutual support, both on-line and subsequently in our own homes. 


Finding that we were not being listened to in our parish, we contributed to the Holy Father’s synodal process. We met weekly over several weeks to pray together and framed our discussions around the topics of Mission, Communion and Participation. All contributions were recorded anonymously and were then collated and distilled to produce this document and envisage a way forward.

Full report here:-

St Peter the Apostle, Leamington Spa,

St Joseph’s, Whitnash & Our Lady’s, Lillington

‘There is an overwhelming and uncontested sense that the time has come for women to play the fullest part in the life of the Church, with avenues of leadership and responsibility – lay and ministerial – that have remained closed off down the ages demanding to be opened.’
 

‘Fruitful cooperation and respectful dialogue would be the defining traits of our relationship with other faiths and other Christian denominations, and with the latter we would come together eagerly in shared acts of worship.’
 

Our Walking Together Programme was headed up by 10 lay enablers. After praying in all the parishes about the 10 nuclei - areas for reflection, 160 people attended seven open meetings and five meetings of existing parish groups. Each covered two/three questions. 137 questionnaires were returned and prayerfully analysed. The enablers’ discernment feedbacks were aggregated separately for each of the questions tackled. Over 20% of the parish engaged.

Full report here:-

A group of Ōtari parishioners, within the

Archdiocese of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand

Our submission encapsulates our Ōtari experience, our place, identity, experiences, listening to the Holy Spirit, and our discernment. We see ourselves as travellers and companions in a pilgrim church.’


‘In future, when we look in the mirror at ourselves, our Church and our church community of Aotearoa NZ, the reflection should be representative of our society, our cultures, our communities, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and our Mission.’

Phase 1 discussions were on Zoom over 6 weeks October-November 2021 with breakout groups on 2xSynod Themes each week. Phase 2 focused on preparation for a submission document. We met once face-to-face during Phase 2 and final document preparation was completed via emails. Some of us are old enough to remember Vatican II and hold onto the hopes and aspirations that followed. This is the last best chance to fulfil those expectations and generate change in the church.

Full report here:-

Saint Cuthbert’s Parish, Diocese of Salford

‘We need to be open to change if we are to move forward.'

'It also made us realise that prayer can take place anywhere.’

 

This response is drawn from a Parish discussion meeting held on the 8th of February 2022, and consultation in the form of a Parish questionnaire that was completed during Masses over the weekend 19th to the 20th of February 2022 in place of a homily. 94 completed adult questionnaires were received representing individuals, couples, and families, and 7 separate young people questionnaires.

‘The synod response seems to be very insular and parochial to me, but I am responding to your request for more information.’ - R&Ber

Full report here:-

St Mary’s Harvington, St Wulstan’s, Stourport on Severn

and The Holy Family , Bewdley, Worcestershire

‘Parishioners are passionate about their faith.’
 

‘The Church fails or struggles to respond to’ our concerns ‘over clericalized culture of the hierarchy and priesthood, the scandal of child abuse, the doctrines at odds with contemporary values, the marginalisation of women, the absence of the young and of several lost generations’
 

There were 2 very good meetings and the report is a very fair account of the responses of the parishioners; it was very much welcomed by the Parish Priest and the Priest in Residence at St Mary’s.

Full report here:-

We’ve asked people to send in their parish submissions along with a couple of quotes and some idea of how the listening process took place.

Liverpool Synod 2020 – precursor to the current Synodal Pathway
A video presentation from Fr Peter McGrail that shares those matters that came forward at the Proposals stage of the Synod which were not within the remit of Synod 2020. Presented on both 12 and 13 march 2021. Also on our Well of Wisdom page. 

Diocesan Synodal Reports/Assessments/Conclusions mapped against the Bristol Text

Unless otherwise indicated all are taken from the diocesan syntheses

All are direct quotes, bold and underlining is original

DIOCESE

MORAL THEOLOGY

Briefly: Our moral vision is not defined by fear but by dialogue with all seekers after truth.

CHURCH AUTHORITY

Briefly: 'What touches all must be discussed and approved by all.’

REDEFINING & RECLAIMING LITURGICAL MINISTRY

Briefly: All ministries are open to all, as they were in the early church.

EMBRACING DIVERSITY

Briefly: Our bodies and our spirits long for truthfulness, and come alive when we allow them to bear witness to it.

WESTMINSTER ENGLAND

HEADED BY CARDINAL VINCENT NICHOLS

Bishops’ Discernment:

[Nothing said]

 

 

Parishioner quoted in Diocesan Report:

‘The Church’s stance on sex and sexuality is alienating, is given
disproportionate weight, and does not reflect core Gospel values of
love, forgiveness, compassion, mercy and care for the poor and sick,
and social justice’

Bishops’ Discernment:


‘Weak Parish Pastoral Councils [are] examples of not [having] achieved meaningful co-responsibility yet’

 

Diocesan Report: 
‘The sadness and disbelief at the revelations of sexual abuse on the part of Church leaders; and the cover-ups which ensued… deeper still was the plea for the Church to listen to survivors of abuse and to respond’

‘Linked to the sense of disappointment in Church leaders were expressions of a lack
of authenticity and transparency at local level’

Parishioner quoted in Diocesan Report:
‘We are excluded from decision making. Many good lay initiatives
come to nothing’

Bishops’ Discernment:

[Nothing said]

 

Diocesan Report:  
‘The suggestion that Priests should be allowed to marry was frequently noted… this seemed to arise from seeing Priests as overburdened and lonely’

‘There was sharing about the consideration of women priests, and perhaps more so about women deacons, most discernment about the valuing of women was not focused on ordination’

‘A significant area of concern shared here was the experience
of the role and place of women in the Church’

Bishops’ Discernment:
‘Anyone who is different, with different life experiences, mental health issues, disabilities, may not feel included in the Church’

‘Many… feel saddened that individuals from other ecclesial communities are not able to participate in Holy
Communion’

Parishioner quoted in Diocesan Report:
‘Every single student [in one school] mentioned LGBTQ+, women,
divorced, single parents’

‘Whenever I go to church no one looks like me, and the images on
the walls and windows — there’s no one who looks like me’

Westminster

bishops'

report:

SHREWSBURY ENGLAND

Bishop’s Discernment: 
‘The Gospel describes people being struck by the awesome authority with which Jesus Himself spoke. It is with this same authority that His Catholic Church has spoken for 20 centuries on all things necessary for salvation.’

 

Diocesan Report: 
‘There were repeated calls for the Church to “reflect modern values” by changing her teaching on contraception, divorce, remarriage

Bishop’s Discernment: 
‘It was good to hear of the desire and need for clergy and lay people to work together… such [as] the re-opening of our churches’ [during the pandemic]

Diocesan Report: 
[There was] ‘a call for equality between men and women, clergy and lay’

‘The issue of abuse still looms large’ [shame at cover up] ‘the lack of trust is now a problem… fresh, open and immediate dialogues are imperative to bring about a transformation’

Bishop’s Discernment: 
[Clergy and lay] ‘have different vocations, but we recognise that everyone is called to participate in the vast fields of apostolate and mission’


‘I am inviting the Diocesan Department for Mission and Evangelisation to provide new opportunities for adult formation as our priority’

Diocesan Report: 
‘People want less power for the clergy, and more power for women as priests’

Bishop’s Discernment: 
‘We need to understand the world and the currents of its thought yet recognising that the spirit of our time (zeitgeist) can mislead us into embracing what only appears to be good.’


Diocesan Report: 
‘There were repeated calls for the Church to “reflect modern values” by changing her teaching on LGBTQ blessings
 

Shrewsbury

Diocese

report:

Shrewsbury

bishop's

discernment:

PLYMOUTH ENGLAND

Bishop’s Discernment: 


‘The Holy Spirit plays an important role in people’s lives. There is a strong call for formation and accompaniment to enable people to deepen their faith. People want to come together for discussion, to gain greater confidence and deeper understanding to talk to others about their faith and Church teaching on sensitive issues.

Bishop’s Discernment: 


‘Although the faithful have skills to offer, not many feel able to serve through the gifts received from the Holy Spirit. The lack of meaningful roles for women is particularly strong, but there are also perceived to be a range of barriers to the whole community being genuinely able to influence and/or participate in pastoral decisions.    

Bishop’s Discernment: 


‘More can be done to tackle the hierarchical structures; own up to mistakes concerning abuse and finances and exercise our prophetic role from conception to natural death.’

[for] ‘Victims and survivors of abuse…further strengthen the systems of responsibility and accountability in the Church’     

Bishop’s Discernment: 


‘There is a perception that those who have been hurt by the Church or other Catholic institutions are silenced rather than actively listened to’

‘There needs to be change as a result of this journey if people are not to lose confidence in the process’

Plymouth

Synthesis:

HEXHAM & NEWCASTLE ENGLAND

Diocesan Report: 

‘The laity wishes there to be change and development if given the opportunity (the status quo is clearly unsustainable)’

‘It is essential that the local stage of the synod is followed by tangible actions that can be monitored and reviewed at regular intervals… working with laity to bring it to fruition.’

Diocesan Report: 

‘The laity are more than able and very willing to play a key part in the Church’ 

‘Requests for the Church to apologise for past abuse and to put in place mechanisms to prevent recurrence and cover up’

Diocesan Report: 

‘Vocal demands that consideration of the ordination of women should begin, but also in places emphatic support for the long established view of the Church on this’

Diocesan Report: 

 

‘The issue of racism was felt strongly by the African community’

‘Inclusiveness and Equality were mentioned many times, and many felt that the church excludes people because of divorce, separation, or their sexuality’
 

Hexham and Newcastle Lay Pastoral Forum's

collation:

EAST ANGLIA
ENGLAND    

Diocesan Report: 


‘The hierarchy is rigidly bound to man-made traditions, rules & interpretations rather than Jesus’ example and teaching’

‘Many expressed the need for open and transparent discussion about the role and equality of women, divorce, contraception and LGBTQ issues. Concern was expressed that these issues would be dismissed as “private agendas”’ 

Diocesan Report: 


‘People wanted better decision-making processes; stronger parish councils’

‘Many felt that the Church’s credibility had been damaged by sexual abuse and subsequent cover ups’ 

‘A significant number of respondents commented on the lack of humility shown by the Church in the paedophile crisis and on the outdated approach to women’s roles. This makes many feel that the Church is not listening to the Holy Spirit.’

Diocesan Report: 


‘Many expressed the need to consider allowing married priests’

Appendix E in Diocesan Report:
‘Several responses felt the questions had been constructed to deliberately avoid controversial issues such as clergy abuse, women priests, divorced Catholics etc. These were felt to be important issues that also needed to be discussed [only reference to women priests]

Diocesan Report: 


‘The treatment of women, LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships, and teaching on marriage are described as undefendable’ 

‘Many felt that the Church’s credibility had been damaged by misogyny, and lack of inclusiveness.’

‘The need for humility in listening to what other Christian religious traditions might offer would help to find out what binds not separates us.’

East Anglia 

Diocesan

Synthesis:

CARDIFF
WALES    

Bishop’s Discernment: 
‘Develop formation programmes’

 

 

 

Diocesan Report: 
‘Frequent mention is made, in the Schools Report, of the need to “move with the modern times” examining Church teaching in areas such as sexual morality, celibacy, contraception, gay marriage, divorce and remarriage, ‘two mums/two dads’, women priests, etc., i.e., where such teaching is at odds with the modern sense of “equality”’

Bishop’s Discernment:
‘Re-establish & consolidate Parish Advisory, Deanery Advisory councils’

 

Diocesan Report: 
‘Almost every report referred to the issue of clerical sexual abuse and attempts to cover it up. It seemed to many that this has caused incalculable damage to the Church. It has shaped people’s attitudes and undermines its authority as an arbiter in moral affairs’
 

Bishop’s Discernment: 
‘Develop formation for Ministries of Lector, Acolyte and Catechist’

 

Diocesan Report: 
‘There was widespread support for women to play a co-equal part in decision-making and Ministry in the Church, which included positive statements in many reports regarding the ordination of women as clergy’    

Bishop’s Discernment:
‘Establish a Youth Forum
Reinforce dialogue with other Christian churches’

Diocesan Report: 
‘Almost all reports expressed concern for those who feel alienated from the Church with particular reference to the alienation of divorced and re-married, and LGBTQ+, people where such teaching is at odds with the modern sense of “equality”’

Cardiff  Diocesan

Synodal Report:

BIRMINGHAM ENGLAND

Bishop’s Discernment: 
‘For further discernment: a reconsideration of… moral teaching’ 

Diocesan Report: 
‘It was felt strongly that the Church should embrace… same sex attracted persons, those who struggle with gender identity, people in difficult situations and those who find it hard to follow all the moral teachings of the Church.’

Parishioner quoted in Diocesan Report:
‘In terms of the Church’s responses to modern issues, a number mentioned the problems we have relating to single parents, family/marriage breakdown, gender and LGBT. These are the contexts which families and individual Catholics live in today. Church teaching and practice, it was believed, needs to be adapted to modern times.’

Bishop’s Discernment: 
‘Co-responsibility calls for new modes of participation in diocesan decision-forming and decision-making which support those with responsibility for decision-taking.’ 

 

Parishioner quoted in Diocesan Report:
‘Many of my friends are lapsed Catholics citing the atrocities of priests and religious as [examples] of the hypocrisy of the Church and its failure to live up to what Christ has called us to be’

Women of the Diocese Group quoted in Diocesan Report: 
‘Women should be invited to participate in institutional Church governance, decision-making, discernment and guidance’

Bishop’s Discernment: 
‘For further discernment: a reconsideration of women’s ordination’

Diocesan report:
There was extensive commentary on the role of women throughout the submissions. Two main themes emerged: women’s ordination… and the effective us of gifts and wisdom of women’ 

Male religious quoted in Diocesan Report:
‘The place of women in society has thankfully changed out of all recognition. The Church’s reactions to this has spread from the welcoming to obstructionism’.
 

Bishop’s Discernment: 
‘Young people, women, LGBT+, people from different ethnic backgrounds, victim/survivors of abuse need an enduring forum in which to influence future decisions… Perhaps… a diocesan Pastoral council’ [+Bernard]


Diocesan report: 
‘It was felt strongly that the Church should embrace all its members and those at the point of entry, those on the peripheries and those bruised by our hurting world. This was seen to include especially those from minority groups, those who have been abused, people who are divorced and re-married.’

LGBT group and allies quoted in Diocesan Report:
‘They all said they felt unwelcome in Church’

Birmingham 

Diocesan

Synthesis:

ARUNDEL & BRIGHTON ENGLAND

Bishop’s Discernment: 

[nothing said]

 

 

 

 

 


Diocesan Report: 
‘Some issues that are often expressed:
the place of the divorced and remarried’

Parishioners quoted in Diocesan Report:
‘We have lost the moral high ground.”

“How is the lived experience of the faithful to be brought into meaningful dialogue
with the official teaching of the Church?’

‘Clericalism is stifling the Catholic Church, which is more concerned with Church Law
than with the teachings of the Gospel.’
 

Bishop’s Discernment: 
‘The need for an effective means for the Bishop to listen to the lay faithful is needed’

‘a clear call for the parishes to have parish councils. While Parish Finance
Councils are mandated, Parish Councils are advised’


Diocesan Report: 
‘Some issues that are often express: lay leadership in the Church’

‘Experience of a lack of accountability and transparency are stumbling blocks’

‘there is a certain lack of confidence in the hierarchy, due in significant measure to the
Abuse Crisis’

Parishioners quoted in Diocesan Report:
‘We are not able to say how we feel about the abuse of children.’

‘In a parish in particular, one-man exercises ‘power’ according to his inclinations, likes,
preferences and constraints.’

Bishop’s Discernment: 
‘the need for formation’

‘the discernment on the part of every person of the gifts and talents with which they have
been blessed and with all are called to bring to the service of the Gospel’

 

 

Diocesan Report: 
‘some issues that are often expressed: ordination of women, and of married men’

‘there is a need to examine the exercise of leadership, enabling all to respond to their
baptismal vocation and the exercise of their gifts and talents in the service of the
Church. It is recognised that, in different ways, widening leadership will require
acceptance and a certain ‘letting go’ on the part of the clergy, together with an
acceptance by a number of lay faithful too’    
 

Bishop’s Discernment: 

[nothing said]

 

 

 

 

 


Diocesan Report: 
‘some issues that are often expressed:
the place of the LGBTQ+ community’

 

‘A number of responses reflected the areas that made listening between Christian
communities difficult: Intercommunion, the role of women, the status of Anglican
Orders, the Sacrament of Penance, Our Lady and the Saints and our Catholic theology
of the Eucharist all being mentioned’
 

Arundel &

Brighton

bishop's report:

MORE TO COME  - please send to hello@rootandbranchsynod.org

 

Their address is at the foot of their homepage:

 

General Secretariat for Synod of Bishops

Via della Conciliazione 34

VA - 00120 Vatican City

Tel. (+39) 06 698 84821 / 84324

synodus@synod.va

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.

With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.

We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path
nor partiality influence our actions.

Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right.

All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son,
forever and ever.
Amen.

Click image to view/download pdf

Vademecum no border.jpg

Penelope Middelboe from Root & Branch

joined the Tablet panel on 19th January, 2022 to ask

The Synodal Pathway -

Good News for Catholic Women?