A listening Church?

listeningChris McDonnell

This article recalls the National Pastoral Congress held in Liverpool in 1980, when the future of the ordained priesthood was not considered an issue. The coming Synod on Vocation to be held in 2018 will surely need to address the shortage of priests, and listen to the 'Easter people', writes Chris McDonnell, a retired Head teacher from Staffordshire.

Pope Francis, addressing the Commemorative Ceremony for the 50th Anniversary of the Synod of Bishops on 17 October 2015 stressed that 'a synodal church is a listening church, knowing that listening is more than feeling". It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn.' He went on to say that 'The synodal process starts by listening to the people, who "even participate in the prophetic office of Christ", according to a principle dear to the Church of the first millennium'.

It is not a practice that the Church in the West has followed in recent years, at least not as a shared experience. The vast majority of those who profess themselves to be Catholic Christians, those we have given the label 'laity', have grown accustomed to a one-way exchange and were expected to accept the teaching of a much smaller and socially restricted group, our bishops and priests. For so long, the listeners have had no route to offer response, no means of positive exchange, no option other than to adhere to a given principle. We have been passive in our acceptance.

The significant milestone came with the gathering of the Second Vatican Council. In so many ways it set the tone for a Church that needed to come to terms with a rapidly changing society. Unless we recognise the milieu in which we now find ourselves, we will be unable to respond to the challenge it presents.

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