RELIGION: If the synodal journey fails, the Church will be in serious trouble

Dear Reader,

Was COP26 a failure or a success? Or is that too simple a question? I suppose that depends on the criteria by which success is judged. I’m aware of where it seems to have failed, but nevertheless wish to mention a couple of successful outcomes. In that context, I wish to pay special tribute this week to Ellen Teague who worked non-stop throughout the conference to keep Tablet readers, as well as other interested parties, up to date. Even after returning home, on Sunday night, when she must have been exhausted, she was still willing to file on the latest. I hope our coverage reflected the relentless lobbying and protests by Catholics, other Christians and faiths to keep the issue of climate change in the public eye, and emphasise the imperative for change. From my own limited observations, I feel public perception has shifted. I’ve started doing Park Run and find myself most Saturdays now jogging well behind a number of others of my (older) generation in our part of south-west London. We like to go for coffee afterwards and put the world to rights. Among us is an American atheist who, as you might imagine, is generally up for robust debate on any number of issues of the day. He’s been absent for a couple of weeks, but was back last Saturday. Where had he been? It transpires he was on the Camino to COP, and walked a substantial part of the route from London to Glasgow and then took active part in the Glasgow protests, alongside others of all faiths and none. Suddenly, it seemed, our differences mattered far less in the face of a greater objective, on which we could be united, and hope to unite others.

1. Members of the Catholic Church along with hundreds of people from other denominations and faiths continued lobbying and praying for a positive outcome at COP26, the UN climate summit in Glasgow, as it drew to a close. Ellen Teague was in Glasgow. The outcome of the COP26 Climate summit in Glasgow was described as “disappointing” by Bishop John Arnold, lead on the environment for England and Wales, writes Ellen as those who were present and observing at a distance began to assess the outcome. The leader of the Irish Church called on the three third level institutions in Maynooth to work together to become “a model of sustainability and community well-being”, writes Sarah Mac Donald. In the magazine, we are running extracts from the COP26 diary of Laurence Freeman OSB.

2. Aftershocks from the sexual abuse report in France continued last week with the removal of the French bishops’ conference spokesperson, who fanned controversy on the issue of confessional secrecy and the primacy of French law, reports Tom Heneghan in Paris. Hans Zollner, writing for the magazine, says the report into sexual abuse in the Church in France provoked the question that had been raised after the publication of similar reports in Australia, Ireland, the United States and elsewhere: should it be mandatory for a priest who hears about sexual abuse committed against a minor in confession to report it to the secular authorities? This feature is free to read for one more day only.

3. Catholic bishops across Europe have demanded a resolution to the migrant and refugee crisis on Poland’s border with Belarus, while backing Polish church calls for urgent humanitarian aid. By Jonathan Luxmoore. Earlier, he also reported that the Polish Church intensified conflict with the country’s current government when it announced a nationwide Sunday collection for migrants and refugees currently barred from crossing the eastern border with Belarus.

5. Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick have agreed to work together to establish a joint group to study the question of access for Catholic priests at scenes of traumatic violence. In particular, the group will consider whether any changes are required to the guidance issued to officers overseeing crime scenes. By Ellen Teague.

6. Cardinal George Pell, pictured right, speaking in Oxford, has urged young British Catholics to defend traditional Church teachings. By Jonathan Luxmoore.

7. Synodality is “the only game in town” and if the synodal journey fails, the Church will be “in serious trouble”, Fr Kieran O’Mahony told the annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests. By Sarah Mac Donald. Kate Keefe raises some serious concerns about the synodal process so far. Matt Kappadakunnel suggests the key to unlocking the mystery of Pope Francis may lie in the religious order in which he spent most of his life: the Society of Jesus. German bishops and lay representatives have outlined their plans to discuss church reforms but emphasised that they had “absolutely no intention” of pursuing a German sonderweg, or special path, writes Christa Pongratz-Lippitt.

8. Archbishop Arthur Roche, the leader of the Holy See’s divine worship office, has spelt out the Vatican’s position on the Old Rite. Christopher Lamb analyses the latest in this ongoing controversy. In the print edition, in his View from Rome column, he looks again at this, and also the latest developments in the Pope’s attempts to reform Vatican finances. Also in Rome, from CNS, lawyers representing six defendants, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, on charges of financial crimes have accused Vatican prosecutors of omitting evidence and testimony they said are crucial in preparing their defence.

9. The US bishops are meeting in person in Baltimore for the first time since the pandemic began. CNS has a team there. There is no mention of banning politicians from Communion in the document on the eucharist. Apparently, such a ban was in any case never part of the plan. The bishops have, perhaps inevitably, come in already for a certain amount of criticism.

10. William Hogarth cast himself as a social critic, but contemporary audiences will find plenty to criticise in the social attitudes betrayed by his pictures. Read Laura Gascoigne’s review of the Hogarth exhibition at Tate Britain. Medievalist Michael Carter writes about the relics of Battle Abbey. And in his sermon this week, Fr Alban McCoy OFM Conv preaches on reconciling the vicissitudes of history with the promises of God.

Ruth Gledhill

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