Summary of the Synod's progress in the dioceses

Dialogue in the Church is important and necessary

When I first heard that Pope Francis intends to hold a Church-wide consultation ahead of the synod to be held in 2023, I had ambivalent feelings. On the one hand, it is a joy that the pope has matured such a need, and as the published documents showed, he demands such consultations everywhere and very widely, potentially inviting everyone. On the other hand, distrust that the clergy organizing the meetings will do everything to ensure that nothing good comes out of it. These fears I still have, by the way, and time will tell if they are unfounded. However, this is not what I wanted to write about. Surprisingly for myself, something else happened in me during the process itself.

As it happened, I have already attended 16 consultation meetings to date. They took place in as diverse configurations as can be imagined. From meetings with LGBT+ people to meetings where the tone was set by people who came to guard doctrine and protect the Church from any changes, and would even advocate undoing some of the changes that have occurred since the time of Pope Pius XII.

At the meetings, completely different, inconsistent and even sometimes contradictory visions of the Church collide. The formulated expectations of the clergy are a topic for a separate book. We have great expectations, both for the sanctity of the clergy's lives and the quality of their work, not to mention the scope of what that work or rather ministry would include. We need heroes almost, for that well educated, with great energy and emotional intelligence. Is the Polish Catholic Church capable of giving birth to such vocations? I'm not convinced...

There are few topics on which meeting participants are in general agreement. These certainly include the problem of pedophilia, or rather the systemic cover-up of it, and the inadequate response to various types of scandals among the clergy. The second thing that basically hurts everyone is the inconsistency between the principles preached, the standards, and the life led. And this is true for the hierarchy as well as for consecrated persons and the laity. In short, we see that behind the facade of the Catholic faithful lies a spiritual and moral void. We do not live as Christians simply. It's probably an oversimplification, but these are the conclusions from the meetings. I listen, I take notes, I express myself, and then the reflection comes to me that within a single community these immensely diverse expectations are practically irreconcilable. Each participant is very attached to his version of Christianity. Everyone has his own needs that he expects to be fulfilled, everyone recognizes some elements as extremely important, necessary, as those that he wants to defend almost to the last blood. And these are not inauthentic confessions. On the contrary, although the meetings are held in a very cultured atmosphere, the issues spoken are of considerable emotional caliber. Talking about the Church, which is a reference point for us in many fields, gives grounds for taking these statements very seriously.

Some participants question the Church's rules. For some, the demands for change are absolutely unacceptable. Some of the opinions stem from different fears and different stages of the faith journey we are at individually. I entered the synodal process with a certain personal vision of problems and solutions for the Church. I was even sanctimoniously convinced that this vision adopted by the rest could save the church community, which was in crisis. At the entrance I had a lot of regrets to voice, a lot of painful experiences, but also a whole way of growing and maturing my faith, which largely took place in the welcoming thresholds of the Church. I was received, listened to, found understanding. Today, after several months of meetings, taking seriously what the participants say, I would be afraid to impose this vision of mine on others. She is one of the possible ones, but I also see many other competing ones that have their sincere God-seeking followers. In this night of darkness of the Church, as outlined by Sebastian Duda, in which we are currently walking, I am learning what St. Paul said. St. John of the Cross considered the most important virtue acquired along the way, that of humility. It's probably difficult to listen without it, too. Perceive things as they really are. A difficult art in spite of appearances.

But what to do in a situation where you see these visions that are difficult to accommodate in one community? I don't know the answer yet. The synodal process is underway, and each new meeting surprises me and reveals to me faces of the Church that I did not know. Perhaps you need to learn to live in it. Although Christianity represents a coherent system, capable of answering almost all of man's existential questions, it is perfectly clear that we formulate these answers in different ways. Our meetings are attended by a modest proxy of those who declare themselves as believing Catholics. What about those who are completely indifferent to all this? What to do about the political polarization that overlaps with the religious one? Maybe it just has to be that way. Maybe we've mentally returned to the days of St. Paul. This was the time when St. Paul's rival ideas and religions were circling the Mediterranean. Perhaps it remains to discover the kind of beauty in which one can cultivate a personal relationship with God while having a myriad of lifestyles and ways of practicing religion to choose from. These are the questions I ask myself today. Who knows, maybe I'll find the answer along the way.

The dominant reflection is that my Church has long failed to read the spirit of the times, because it does not see that it has become a participant in a great cultural debate, a war, a conflict in which everything is a matter of choice and preference. It's interesting that in the church organization often the only Catholics, but also more broadly Christians trying to learn languages, other cultures and develop their sensitivity to other perceptions of reality, are missionaries who are sent to other countries to be effective in conversion. Perhaps this is a faulty assumption? Perhaps that is the futility of the successes of the New Evangelization? The deeper I dive into the meetings, going back to the faces, to the phrases spoken, the more I see what a tremendously diverse environment we have come to build the Church in today. Cultural differences, differences in the perception of reality, in the interpretation of changes in the world, and differences in the value system even within Polish Catholicism are proving to be enormous. I feel that finding ways to navigate this "fluid reality" is the challenge for now, for today, for this synod.

At the meetings you can hear the whole spectrum of views, concerns, fears, hopes, demands for change, cosmetic and very radical. Listening to the voices of the participants, I have a pretty good sample of the society of our time, which is radically pluralistic and in which we are actually permanently in dialogue with those who think differently, believe differently, practice differently, even within the Catholic confession. How difficult it is in all this to determine what is the truth for which everyone expresses longing! So you can cover yourself with arguments, verses, encyclicals, exhortations, traditions, etc., and you can sit down and listen. Usually the consultation begins with a passage from the Holy Scriptures, while at the end of the consultation we recite a prayer and in it the "Our Father." It reaches me then that this is the element that unites us and about which there is essentially no controversy. Doesn't it follow from the fact that we are all created in the image of God, that resemblance to Him, is what we all have in common? Each of us expresses it differently, through the prism of different points of view, but ultimately this is the foundation on which we can anchor the search for community. To consider what it means that we are all equally beautiful in the eyes of God, that we are all equally responsible for shaping reality, but also have an equal right to be a subject. Since it pleased God to create us so different, we must make room for this otherness in each other, including pastoral and theological diversity. Perhaps this is the lesson we now have to learn: to learn to love the other as God loves, who created us diverse and freely gives us a completely free choice to go our own way. If God doesn't love us less for it, then it's all the more a quality that we too are to possess.

Radical following the path of the Gospel has never been easy or particularly popular. The metaphor of Francis walking together the Church is not a simple template. It requires a constant critical look at oneself, courage, questioning established patterns, reaching out towards others despite injuries and prejudices. In this sense, there is a growing conviction in me that the synodal path, more than a debating panel where one pulls the rope of arguments, has become a path of inner transformation, conversion, prayer, meditation on the nature of the Church, relationships, dogmas. I don't know about others, but for me it has already become an important, transformative stage of life.

[Source: https://kongreskk.pl/2022/03/14/synodalne-konsultacje-doswiadczenie-nieoczekiwane/]

Tomasz