Church membership trends are clear, and in most of the Western world steeply downward. The Church is rapidly ageing as many young people walk away. To people of God committed to the teachings of Christ and wanting to help make the Church more Christ-like it's encouraging that Pope Francis advocates strongly what so many faithful believe to be the Church's necessary path to renewal. As people of faith we need to be forthright and to work collectively for renewal with all other people of God. To not do so would be to fail in our duty of faith.
The Church's dysfunctional system of governance – command and control, lacking accountability and inclusiveness, predominantly male with a culture that appears more concerned with reputation than Christ's mission and example – needs a fundamental overhaul to ensure a Christ-like focus listening to all the diverse people of the Church, the sensus fidelium, This need is tragically illustrated by the Church's at times immoral response to the disgrace of clerical child sexual abuse throughout the world. Present indications are that the Church, even Pope Francis’ Pontifical Commission on the Protection of Minors, will continue a focus on process rather than examine the dysfunctional governance of the Church as an institution, governance that has allowed the Church, not just individual bishops, to tolerate and indeed effectively allow the sexual abuse of children. The institutional Church at all levels from the Pope down has failed to protect children.
Church history (see Church Mutation) like world history confirms that renewal rarely comes easily and can only be achieved collectively. Wise leaders understand that critics who are faithfully committed to the organisation's values are actually the best people to drive renewal.
Much hope for wide engagement was raised by the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family, bringing some new life into the Church. However the Synod output, the Lineamenta, seemed to reverse the sense of openness and transparency that Pope Francis brought into that Synod, and worse still replaced it with a mechanism for effectively reaffirming the status quo. It runs the real risk of contributing to many more leaving the church, for much the same reasons that very many others before them have left, that the Church is inward looking and appears not to be truly listening to or understanding the lives of families today. Throwing further light on reasons for mass exodus from the Church, Catholics For Renewal member David Timbs publishes below the first of his four articles "The Great Disaffiliation, Part 1". Two immediate questions emerge from all of this:
What are the consequences for the 2015 Synod on the Family of failure of the Lineamenta?What encouraging recent signs are emerging? Brief comments follow on both of these questions.