Synods, seen by Pope Francis and many to be inclusive, have the possibility of becoming exclusive.
The signs of hope that Synods hold for women and those within the Church who want to see change may deliver the opposite.
The warning comes from involved and committed Catholic women in a conversation on Flashes of Insight.
Saying that synodal discernment is not easy nor fast, leaves the question open to how much time and effort people will have to give to a process that perhaps seems to be better suited for church professionals.
The women warn the noninvolvement of people may have the inverse effect of opening up the Church, implying it may return the Church walled garden albeit built by a minority view.
Through groups, she is associated with in Australia, Auckland theologian and lecturer Jo Ayers is watching the Australian Plenary (synod) develop.
From her involvement with these groups, she questions how inclusive the process is and suggests that excluding people from the conversation will have the significant potential to further alienate, perhaps the majority of Catholics.
“There is a lot of discussion and struggle about the agenda for the (Australian) Plenary and who will be the members who make the decisions”.
All four women on Flashes of Insight are hopeful and want to see change.
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.