Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia and
Professor Thomas O’Loughlin, Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham.
Synods were introduced to the Archdiocese of Wellington when Cardinal Tom Williams was archbishop.
Reasonably rare occurrences, the Archdiocese has experienced four synods, two while Cardinal Williams was archbishop and two during Cardinal Dew’s time.
Dew told the discussion that while some will be familiar with the concept of a Synod, he suspected most in the archdiocese were unlikely to be. He explained that in the Archdiocese, synods are about working together, listening together and encouraging the participation of lay people in setting the Archdiocese’s direction.
Pressed on whether he thought bishops are prepared to give up their authority, Dew said it was implicit that the episcopal authority would change radically.
He cited a very tangible example of synodality in operation.
Where is the church going with the debate over same sex blessings?
Should our understanding of liturgy, blessing and sacraments be radically rethought or is the problem that we understand blessing, sacraments and liturgy as things that are “done to us”?
Answering from a liturgical perspective Tom O’Loughlin says ‘liturgy is a human response to the divine, to each other and to human need’.
The church has a role of interceding for people and if we lose sight of this, we minister to the concept of marriage rather than two people who are giving themselves in marriage, one to the other: “Blessing is not a magical formula” says O’Loughlin.
James Alison considers that some Gay and Lesbian people are seeking the blessing of the church to celebrate a “fixed stage in their lives” and “to bear witness to something”.
Both they and their families wish “to give thanks to God” he says: “We bless God and God blesses us”. We enter into the blessing.
Michael Kelly SJ points out that in the traditiional Catholic theology of marriage “the couple administer the sacrament to each other”.
What makes it a sacrament is they are baptised,” he says.
Because marriage equality is so prevalent in Catholic countries, Joe Grayland pose whether Catholic theology more than Protestant theology is more open to same-sex blessings?
Is there a difference between catholic and protestant theology – more than evangelical protestant theology?
James Alison responds to these questions.
“Intrinsic to Catholic theology is the notion that grace builds on nature and so once we work out what ‘is’; a homosexual person, grace flows, people flourish says James Alison.
So ‘yes’ is the answer.”
Alison points out that in his experience most Catholics, are not particularly worried about what the bible says about Gay and Lesbian people because “most Catholics don’t derive their faith from the bible – the bible goes along with their faith”.
In countries that were previously identified as Catholic, Alison sees a changing face to Catholic theology as a result of the impact of evangelical Protestantism.
In noting the change Alison says the ‘ground music’ of ‘ordinary religious discourse’ is now Protestant.
He puts this down to the evangelical and protestant groups not being elitist, and not identified with the ruling hierarchies.
He notes the irony that the Catholic Church has to sort of reply to newfound circumstance with more charismatic type worship, and this is adding to their problem.