I'm reading Jamie Manson's blog post in NCR. Her words resonate with many in the USA. How would they be heard by Catholics in societies without long Christian roots? She writes:
"Many laypeople have already cultivated their own capacity for moral discernment; they have exercised their God-given gift of conscience; they have managed to grow spiritually without institutional church's constant instruction; they have found that their relationships, which the bishops would label "irregular," are, in fact, deeply sacramental. The synod document suggests that the bishops aren't ready to treat the faithful like the mature adults they've become.
"Francis wants the bishops to love us, guide us, and be merciful to us. But do any of these bishops want to hear the truths that Catholic laypeople have discerned and discovered in their own theological reflections on their lives?...
"The parent/child dynamic was never meant to be permanent. Eventually, children become adults, and their relationships with their parents must mature and change. The People of God have grown up. They are beyond ready to be spoken to and listened to as adults. The synod process will reveal whether the hierarchy is willing to grow with them."
Vatican II was dominated by European and North American perspectives. Now we have a South American pope and much more diversity among the bishops. The African bishops raised their voices to make sure they're heard as the 2014 and 2015 Synods focus on family life. (I don't make too much of this increased diversity. All the official words still come from ordained males.)
We want worldwide perspective, right? We want to be rooted in the fullness of reality. So we need to ask what it means to be Pentecost now: how to embody The Word in the disparate cultures of the world?
The challenge of being a universal Church is one that women religious have been exploring with faithful discernment for decades. LCWR congregations in particular have become genuinely international, with full-fledged communities of native sisters (not US missions, but genuinely local communities) on other continents. What can the Vatican and the Synod of Bishops learn from LCWR's international experience?
Further, LCWR congregations in the USA and elsewhere are thoroughly familiar with the challenge of bridging substantial differences in the spiritualities and spiritual maturity of their members that encompass older, younger, theologically sophisticated, deeply contemplative, more focused on action, etc. To respect the variety, congregational formation programs continue to evolve, starting differently for new members and becoming lifelong processes.
Across international and interpersonal differences, LCWR congregations explore practical ways for cohesive, respectful community in unity of mission. What have they learned about being Universal Church?
I sure would like to find out. And I'd like the Vatican and the bishops to learn from their experience.
Know anyone looking for a topic for a graduate thesis or doctoral dissertation? I'll bet LCWR could point to some great resources.
P.S. It's no accident that the US Catholic Mission Association presented its 2014 Mission Award to LCWR at the conference last weekend. That's a collaboration with long roots and many fruits. Like LCWR, USCMA has much to teach the church about how to be universal.