Yesterday afternoon, the bishops of Flanders received the initiators of the “Faithful have their say” petition (which I wrote about here) to discuss the suggestions in said petition. The document, which calls for the abolition of celibacy, the ordination of women, lay people ‘celebrating’ Mass, people who are not priests giving the homily and people living in sin receiving Communion, was obviously not accepted, but the people behind it were. And that’s how it should be. Uneducated in the faith, these people need and want explanations, but it remains to be seen whether they’re open to them.
As it is, however, the Flemish bishops issued the following press release (my emphases and comments):
“We, The Flemish bishops, attentively took note of the manifest “Faithful have their say”. The desire for change that speaks from the text, does not leave us untouched. We too are looking for renewal and a greater authenticity, loyal to Scripture and the tradition of the Church.
The situation which we are going through as Church today is not comfortable. Much is asked from those with pastoral responsibility. We no longer have the social position nor the impact which we had in the past. We make every effort to bring the Gospel closer to the lives of the people. But this is not easy in a society in which the secular sense of life is increasing more and more. We understand the pain and powerlessness of many. How can we proclaim the Gospel in such a way that it touches the hearts of the people of this age? That is the question which lives in all of us and which remains our greatest challenge. Structural reform or adaptation will not change anything about that [In other words, changing outward appearances does not remove the challenge]. But they may help us. That is why we understand that the gradual nature of these reforms [what sort of reforms, though?] try the patience. But the evolutions in our society are so fundamental that they require time and discernment to see what can and must happen in these cases.
The manifest also gives us the opportunity to clarify our position. Some elements, such as the question of Word services on Sunday, are diocesan affairs and at the moment subject of deliberation. Others, especially those about Holy Orders and the priesthood, are matters of the world Church. [A missed opportunity here to clarify what can be changed and what can not, and, most importantly, why or why not] In questions which touch upon the personal lives of people, we plead for a respectful, pastoral attitude. Even though not every state of life is equal, no one is inferior, because a human being is always more than his actions and than the situations in which he finds himself. The Church community then, built up around Christ and His Gospel, is sent to all people. She takes on this mission from a vital core which lives from the Eucharist. Because there the branches connect to the vine (John 15:5). [The celebration of the Eucharist is therefore not just one form of worship among many. It is THE form of worship.]
God needs all faithful, all baptised, to make His love known to the world. Let us work together for a Church community which takes care of its identity, faithful to the mission it has received, a Church which is open and accessible for everyone, with a heart for all men.
Signed, the Flemish bishops.”