Synod can give parishioners a more central role in Church life

Former Jesuit Provincial says clergy and laity must face challenges together

Parishioners should be given the opportunity to take on a more central role in Church governance, a leading theologian has said.

Fr Gerry O’Hanlon SJ insisted that “the very important role” of Church leaders have “should not preclude input from the laity”. Referring to the upcoming diocesan synod in Limerick planned for April 2016, Fr O’Hanlon told The Irish Catholic lay people of the diocese “have a great opportunity to make a real difference”.

Writing in The Furrow, the former Jesuit Provincial warned that it was “unrealistic to ask a bishop on his own, or with clergy, to tackle the many challenges” facing the Church, suggesting that “together we are in a stronger position to do so”.

“This is an exciting time for all of us in the Catholic Church, and a time when we can learn a lot from fellow Christians who have travelled this path of synodality for a long time. More than ever we are all learners at this stage of our journey, invited to take a risk of letting go of our more traditional, full time cleric/part time lay way of being Church in order to travel together,” he said.


“What is being proposed, then, is a more collegial Church at all levels, a communio in which the baptismal dignity of everyone is respected, and all this to occur at local level too, with a renewed sense of the relative autonomy of each diocese, always in communion with the universal Church,” he added.

Calling for a “real and not just token consultation” as well as “honest and open debate” Fr O’Hanlon also said “it would be quite in order, even in matters which require further processing, for the synod to voice its concerns over particular matters of non-infallibility defined current Catholic teaching and for the Bishop to publicity share these concerns with the rest of the Church”.