by ROWENA OREJANA
Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan says the Synod on the Family, which starts this weekend, is not about accommodating trends but about the way the Church views its faith.
“Underlying all the questions that the synod engages with is a fundamental one: How do we view ourselves as a Church historically; how do we understand the evolving growth in insight of our faith over time?” Bishop Drennan asked.
Bishop Drennan said interest in the synod among New Zealanders is high.
“There is a somewhat undefined sense of expectation and a growing recognition that a synod is the Holy Spirit at work, through the participants.
The news that Sharron Cole and John Kleinsman will be with Cardinal John and me has certainly been very well received,” he said.
He said the bishops are pleased that their efforts to engage people who identify themselves as Catholic but do not necessarily go to Mass on Sundays “met with success”.
The bishop said the second survey confirmed what they found out from the first.
They learned, he said, “something which we already suspected: that for many of this grouping their first marriage had come to grief; or they are homosexual; or they simple do not recognise themselves in the language we tend to use when describing marriage and family life”.
“The overarching impact these respondents made was this: We do still belong to the Church, or at least wish to belong to the Church, but we find ourselves beyond the formal reach of the Church. It is precisely to these people that Pope Francis has, as we all know, been reaching out,” he said.
He does not see New Zealand Catholics as more liberal or conservative in their thinking.
“Those terms are more political than ecclesial. Different responses usually reflect who or what one believes the Catholic community to be,” he said.
“Those whose world is ‘practising Catholics’ will have a certain image of the Church, and those who view the Church as including all the baptised, and indeed ultimately the whole People of God, will have a different image. This points to with whom we engage and how we define ourselves; questions of identity,” he further explained.
Bishop Drennan said the Instrumentum Laboris (working document), a three-part document which outlined the initial working positions of the previous synod, is ”clearly the work of a committee”.
“This means that one can detect various voices in the document, some of which are very dull and some of which are perceptive,” he said.
He criticised the “copy and paste theology” of the dull voices. “The dullest voices are those that simply call for repetition of existing formula and provide as the only solution to the challenges we face, more and longer catechesis. It’s a kind of copy and paste theology; lazy,” he said.
Bishop Drennan said there are very insightful parts, too. “These recognise that many people are tired of being talked at; they want to be listened to and walked with,” he said.
Bishop Drennan said the synod is about praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance in the way our faith evolves.
“Those who claim that nothing ever changes in the Catholic Church aren’t faithful to history; rather they choose a portion of history and then try to absolutise that period of time. That is not how the history of revelation and salvation works. It is not how faith grows,” he said.
Bishop Drennan said he recently read the work of eminent Catholic historian John W. O’Malley, “who was saying that imagination and creativity must enter every reform if it is not to be utterly irrelevant and dreary beyond human endurance”!
“That view brings us directly back to the work of the Holy Spirit. Let’s all pray that the Holy Spirit is the
determining guide for those of us who gather in Rome,” he said.