A national assembly or synod which listens to the experience of the laity could help alleviate the current crisis the Irish Church is facing, a prominent Jesuit has said.
Fr Gerry O’Hanlon SJ said that the Church in Ireland is at a “crisis” point and that a national assembly or synod which draws together religious and laity would be a move in the right direction.
“The Church in Ireland really is in a crisis, it needs to address things very seriously and there are all kinds of constituents like women, like disaffected Catholics, who need to be included in this process in a very important way,” Dr O’Hanlon told The Irish Catholic.
The well-known priest added that it’s too early to discuss practical outcomes related to particular issues, stressing that the Church should be focusing on creating “the kind of organisation where people are listened to, where views are exchanged” – which includes listening “very closely” to the experience of abuse victims. This process, he said, will gradually create a whole new approach towards mission and allow practical policies to develop.
“The most important outcome would be a complete change in culture in the Church where it really would become a listening Church and we’d put in place the structures and institutions to make that a continuing reality,” he said, noting that the synod wouldn’t be a “one-off” event.
Acutely aware that the Church shouldn’t be “subsumed” by the surrounding culture, Fr O’Hanlon said there is still room to engage with others without compromising the orthodoxy of the Faith.
“The Church as well as teaching, learns, and learns not only from its members but from the surrounding culture. So, I do think there’s a tendency because of the culture we’re in to become rather defensive and to be focusing in on our rights, where I think a better approach is to be more generous and engage in an open discussion without being naïve of course and without throwing everything overboard.”