ROME — A Catholic reform group meeting in Rome this week – a group that says it represents more than 100 organizations around the world — had a simple message for the Synod of Bishops that opens Sunday: “Listen to us.”
American Rene Reed, president of Catholic Church Reform International, told Crux that the 100 organizations supporting reform have different opinions and methods, but they all have a common goal: “A Church that’s open, where everyone has a voice, the hierarchy, the priests and the laity.”
In Reed’s opinion, every baptized person should have a voice in the Church, because “no one has a corner on the discernment of the Holy Spirit.”
The group held a two-day conference in Rome as a way of supporting Pope Francis. According to Reed, whose life partner is an Episcopalian priest, it’s clear through the pope’s words and actions that he wants to change the Church.
“We’re not a rebel group, we’re not protesters,” Reed said.
In the run-up to the Synod, the group is sending a letter to Pope Francis requesting a review of the arrangements for the summit.
“[We want] to ensure that there is within its membership a truly adequate representation from ordinary and diverse Catholic families, with appropriate provision for them to share their views, be heard, and to have a vote,” the letter says.
One recurrent theme in the meeting was a surprising note for many Catholic liberals, who over the years have called for tighter limits on papal authority. Now, however, they want Francis to be bold.
John Buggy from Australia, one of the founders of this group, said he’d like to get a message to the pontiff.
“I’d ask him not to wait for the bishops to catch up because he’s going to be long and truly dead before that happens,” Buggy said. “You’re the pope. Be the pope and tell them what to do.”
If presented with the same opportunity, Reed would express her disappointment over the misrepresentation of the broad spectrum of Catholic opinion in the synod. According to her, the vast majority of the people disagree with the Church’s teaching on contraception, homosexuality, divorce, withholding Eucharist from the divorced, but none of those have been invited.
“There’s not a single reform mind that’s been invited to the Synod,” she said.
Reed also has a strong opinion regarding the Humanae Vite, written by Pope Paul VI. “We’d like to see it put to rest. If the doctrine isn’t responded and lived by the people, how valid is the doctrine?”
Interestingly, Pope Paul VI will be beatified, the final step before sainthood, by Francis on Oct. 19 during the Synod’s closing Mass.
Irishman Brendan Butler, a member of Catholic Church Reform International, told Crux he objects to the beatification because it’s an “incestuous thing.”
“It’s what they do: honor them because they were popes, no matter what they said during their papacy,” Butler said.
Reed said that ideally, the Church should have diocesan Synods, parish councils and finance committees. These would give the laity a deliberative voice in running local churches, which would run up through the system.
She also suggested that the Roman Catholic Church have synods like the ones held by the Church of England, which have a House of Bishops, one for the Clergy and one of the laity.
“We want what the Church of England has, but remaining Catholic,” she said. “We’re not giving up. We believe in the creed.”
The Catholic Church Reform International website describes this coalition as an international group with the support of like-minded groups from around the world, though in their report there’s no participation of any African or Latin American specialists and only one from Asia, from India.
The Synod of Bishops on the family will meet Oct. 5-19 in Rome, with representatives of every bishops’ conference around the world, as well as 13 lay couples and other members of the laity representing almost 29 percent of all participants.
These lay participants will have the same amount of time as the bishops to express their views, but they won’t have a vote when recommendations are drawn up next year during the second part of the synod.