Meetings were held in late September and early October 2021 to hear the views of the priests on the proposed process. 3. Four Zoom meetings were held in mid-October for parish volunteers inviting them to engage in a listening exercise. 28 parishes (80%) were represented at these.
In parallel with this, a listening process for young people was led by the Diocesan Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry.
Faith is still good news
• Faith provides guidance and direction in daily life.
• Faith is important to people I love, so I respect that. It gives them meaning in life.
Desire for greater participation
• Ensure the parish priest is actively engaged and seen in the community. The other looks for a more synodal church. It sees the need for greater participation of lay people in the life of the church.
• I would like to see a system similar to the reformed churches, where the laity takes a bigger part in the church. A part that is recognised, valued and supported by the clergy.
Desire for a more inclusive church
The modern sensibility about justice and inclusion is offended by the church’s treatment of women and minority groups, especially LGBTQ+. There is a call for the Church to face up to and embrace change.
Voices of youth
‘Faith helped me cope and get through the last year. It helped me cope with being lonely during lockdown last year.’ For many young people their faith is based around morality. There is a strong voice that is seeking a more inclusive church for the future and to let go of the past and rebuild.
I believe in equality for women, which is something the Church does not stand for. The catholic church does not hold women in the same respect as men, so Catholicism ends up angering me instead of helping me.’
‘Be kind and respectful to minorities or marginalised groups, i.e., people of colour, LGBTQ+ people. Treat them with equal respect.’ A lot of hurt and anger is still with young people and when asked about their own faith, church scandals and abuse is stopping them from exploring their own relationship with God.
The Church needs to either get with the times or expect less and less young people taking part in a church that has previously condemned them, for example – being gay and giving half-hearted apologies.
What might the Holy Spirit be saying?
There were differences in how people saw the challenge of the church engaging with the wider society. There were two languages underpinning these differences. Some people used the language of invitation, others the language of obligation. For the former, the church needs to change to effectively connect with the people who have moved away. This group was largely in sympathy with the criticisms of the church in the report. But for the latter it is the people who have moved away who must change. The church needs to hold firm in its beliefs and teachings, and challenge people to live up to the demands of faith. There was a sense of grieving here for the lost position of church in society. A desire that church should teach, and people learn.
There was a concern that the Synodal process in the diocese has been rushed. One round of short meetings in difficult Covid circumstances does not represent deep listening.