Monica Doumit: What the Plenary won’t discuss

It’s meant to be a moment - and an event - of critical importance. But is the Plenary even considering the baptised laity and their families who make up 99 per cent of the Church?

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In the section of the Framework for Motions dedicated to the role of women, the word “mother” does not appear. Photo: CNS photo/Mary Ann Wyand, The Criterion
In the section of the Framework for Motions dedicated to the role of women, the word “mother” does not appear. Photo: CNS/Mary Ann Wyand, The Criterion

In my two-minute intervention for the First Assembly of the Plenary Council, I said:

“To prepare this intervention, I asked members of the Maronite Women’s Movement what they desire from this Council. While answers varied, they all centred on one theme: more support for the domestic Church.

“They asked for initiatives to assist women experiencing the pain of infertility or miscarriage, of raising children with special needs and caring for ageing parents, for those trying to raise their children in a faith to which the world around them is indifferent or even actively hostile. They want support in the challenges of the ‘hidden’ years of transition from being single women to wives and mothers. I hope this Council can assist.”

Reading the Framework for Motions this week, I came to the sad realisation that there is nothing in the motions to be voted on in the Second Assembly of the Plenary Council that will address any of the above.

In the section of the Framework for Motions dedicated to the role of women, the word “mother” does not appear. Instead, it talks about ensuring women have theological education, publicly-recognised and commissioned ministries and decision-making authority.

“It’s not just the women. It is very difficult to locate anything in the motions that will have a noticeable impact on the average, practising Catholic who isn’t a Church employee and does not aspire to be one …”

There is even a note in there about making sure women who work in the Church (like me) are remunerated “more appropriately.” And of course, there are a couple of mentions of the female diaconate.

Basically, it focuses more on the needs of women who want to be theologically trained, employed by the Church or involved in public ministry of some sort.

There is much more for me (a single, chancery employee or “professional Catholic,” if you will) than there is for the majority of faithful, Catholic women who aren’t involved in Church bureaucracy.

It’s not just the women. It is very difficult to locate anything in the motions that will have a noticeable impact on the average, practising Catholic who isn’t a Church employee and does not aspire to be one, or who doesn’t sit on or desire to sit on a decision-making body at a parish or diocesan level.

This seems to have been lost on the “professional lobbyists” who have been spamming myself and other Plenary Council members with unsolicited emails this past week, giving us their ‘wish list’ of amendments.

It is very difficult to locate anything in the motions that will have a noticeable impact on the average, practising Catholic. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Disappointingly, if unsurprisingly, none of the suggested amendments from these reformer groups have anything to do with trying to make the motions more tangible to those who sit in the pews.

Instead, the “reform spam” is all about increasing the roles of Church bureaucracies and insisting annual reporting of every aspect of Church life, presumably so that a “professional Catholic” or even “professional non-Catholic” class of handsomely-paid, mainly Anglo-Saxons close to retirement age and looking for a good gig can have oversight of every aspect of Church life.

The “reform spam” also includes amendments that would downplay Church teaching on many issues and water down Church teaching on marriage and sexuality.

Some have even taken to suggesting that the language used in Sacred Scripture is patriarchal, sexist and misogynist (silly me thinking it is the inspired Word of God.)

Ironically, for all their talk of synodality and “deep listening” these reform spammers are doing the exact opposite: engaging in direct and unsolicited lobbying of Plenary Council members is frankly quite unsynodal and I very much hope their efforts are ignored by members and by the Drafting Committee.

“I suppose that instead of being disappointed, I should be glad that the “reform spammers” didn’t propose any amendments about family life.”

To have these amendments put for a vote at the Second Assembly would undermine confidence in the listening and discernment process to which we all signed up.

I suppose that instead of being disappointed, I should be glad that the “reform spammers” didn’t propose any amendments about family life.

Judging by the way they proposed other motions, we may have ended up with a newly-created, handsomely-funded, centralised and bureaucratised structure that was tasked with providing assistance to a diversity of every type of family (except the traditional family) after several years of committee meetings.

It is probably for the best that support of Catholic families has been completely ignored by the reformers and by the motions at large and instead will remain with parishes and priests, who – left to their own devices – usually do this stuff pretty well anyway.

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