Deacon Peter Broussard
Deacon Peter Broussard
NORTH BEND — Recent Catholic Sentinels have contained articles and other commentary regarding the parish- and vicariate-level responses to the call by Pope Francis for discussion in preparation for a worldwide Synod on Synodality to be held in October 2023. As can be expected, this call from the Vatican for opinions from local Catholics opened the floodgates of concerns, opinions and doctrinal disagreements which have been pent up in the minds and hearts of many Catholic people. The Sentinel is brimming over with evidence of a church at a crossroads. Dwindling membership seems to be fueling an underlying desperation that the church is becoming irrelevant to modern society probably because the doctrinal “baggage” we’ve accumulated over the millennia seems too heavy for a society of freedom-seekers.

In the May 20 Sentinel the article on synod sessions (Page 4) and the “Arms Open” letter (Page 23) both list perceived deficiencies in the Catholic Church as it is configured today that should be addressed in the upcoming Synod on Synodality in Rome. They seem to be products of long-held opinions born of frustration rather than deep promptings by the Holy Spirit. These include:

• lack of ordination for women to the diaconate and being open to roles for women that are the same as enjoyed by men

• lack of welcome for the LGBTQ community

• lack of welcome for the divorced and the privilege to participate in the sacrament of holy matrimony to all members

• lack of married priests

• allowing every member to take Communion.

It is imperative that, during these times of perceived urgency, moral decisions continue to be based on deeper thinking than platitudes that sound pleasing and appear reasonable only on the surface. This shallow level of thinking may be a product of the very society the church is trying to contrast with and save. The doctrinal nature of the church may appear to some as stodgy baggage. But it serves as a moral compass that has accumulated over time based upon considerable prayer, fasting, discussion and scriptural scholarship that typically fly in the face of much of the guidance offered by secular society. In times past, the moral leadership offered by church doctrine and teaching was refreshing and contrasted with the plight of pagans who had no idea how to placate the rulers or gods who lorded over them. “He has not dealt thus with other nations. He has not taught them His laws and decrees” (Ps 147:20).

Unlike our world today, the world immediately following the Pentecost event was filled with disenfranchised people, people who had absolutely no power to influence their rulers. The Good News being evangelized to them completely undercut the power of that disenfranchisement and availed to them the hope that comes from being enfranchised to the Kingdom of God. The church continues to be strongest in those areas of the world ruled by powers that suppress the rights of their people or are governed by conditions that weigh people down. There, the Gospel is truly good news.

Conversely, developed nations such as the United States are largely made up of people who are more likely to feel enfranchised than people in developing countries. So, a church over which these people have little control may frustrate them, causing their faithfulness to become fickler. How many of us, upon hearing something from the pulpit we don’t like, have moved on to a parish where our ears will be tickled — or more likely just stayed home?

It is curious, and probably tragic, that nowhere in the church “deficiencies” mentioned in the synodal article or letter are mentioned the reparation for the sins of racism committed by the church so completely covered by the editorial “We’ve been too quiet” in the same issue (Page 23).

What may be more tragic is that many Catholics, aware that our numbers are declining and desperate to stop this hemorrhage in membership, have become tempted to sacrifice that very real pearl of great price we have to offer in the first place to a society in moral decline, i.e., moral leadership. This is something, in my opinion, that we must resist precisely if we wish for the Catholic Church to retain its universal relevance.

Holiness is available to all by the grace of God through repentance. The Catholic Church is the most effective means to avail ourselves and others of this grace — because it is the Body of Christ. Repentance is twofold: a) sorrow for our sins and b) intent to avoid future sin. Jesus expressed as much to the woman caught in adultery. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (Jn 7:11).

The trouble with abandoning our moral leadership in order to be a more “welcoming” church is that those newly welcomed may not be willing to abandon the lifestyles that repeatedly draw them into moral decay and sin and the church will dissolve into little more than utopian secularism.

Deacon Broussard serves at Holy Redeemer Parish in North Bend.