PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish



January, 2019


[The following is an excerpt from an article to be published on]


A New Way To Be Church

            The gathering of heads of bishops’ conferences with the pope at the end of February, 2019, could be a start in a new direction.  Archbishop Scicluna of Malta, one of the organiz-ers for this meeting, stated, “We bishops need  . . . to adopt what Pope Francis is calling a ‘synodal approach,’ that is, we cannot do it alone in our community; we need also to empower the lay people, the laity, in order to help us be good stewards.” (Interview with America Magazine on Nov. 23, 2018.)   What would this empowering entail?  Many of those interviewed for a forthcoming book entitled, “Can Francis Change the Church?” (Crossroad Publishing, 2019), called for the laity to take a more active role in the various structures and decision making processes of the Church.

            Kathleen, an older woman living is Washington, DC, called for the Church to “bring the laity in, full force.  We are a huge hunk of the Church.  We need to be part of deciding what the Church is going to look like.”


Expand the Role of Women In the Church

            Larry, retired and living in Wisconsin, pleaded, “Bring women into leadership positions at the highest levels even if you don’t want to ordain them.  So much of what is human, caring, inclusive, watchful and loving is, by and large, better expressed by women, or at least better expressed by men and women together.”  This sentiment was a common theme among those interviewed.


Pope Francis’ Role Is Critical

            The pope is key to a shift from clerical power and privilege to a sharing of authority and decision making.  Nancy, a Midwesterner said, “I want my pope to be, at this point in time, very bold, loud, demanding, a daily voice; one who is championing changes that need to take place in the Church.”  Tom, an 80-year-old from California, also asked for bold action from Pope Francis, “Lead the way!  Be strong!  Be not afraid!  Propose and promote real changes, recognizing and realizing the stiff opposition that you will encounter.  Reform the culture of the Church itself.  Either that or watch the Church deteriorate and see millions of people lose their faith.”


A Cultural Change For Bishops and Priests

            This cultural change must then be embraced by influential bishops and priests on the local level.  Imagine what it would look like if those who attended the February conference took to heart the insight that, “Yes, we have to be transparent and accountable in our handling of sexual abuse.  But this is only the be-ginning.  We bishops must also change the way we manage the diocese.  No longer can we operate on our own.  We must learn to be in partnership with the laity.  Our chanceries will be open, inviting environments with an emphasis on hospitality and cooperation.  Training in this new approach will be offered to priests so that a shift towards a more inclusive culture becomes the norm in parishes as well.” As Ed, a priest who is no longer active, mentioned in an interview, “The task is enormous, the resistance is palpable and seemingly impossible, but a deep conversion is essential.”  Let this February meeting among heads of bishops’ conferences and the pope be the start of this new conversion.