The report from the North American synod of the Roman Catholic church was recently released. It contains some important reminders for the Episcopal church, and if its recommendatioms are implemented will be the death knell for the Episcopal church.
The thirty-nine-page document reflects the first phase of a listening and discernment process occurring at Catholic churches throughout North America. The process began in Rome in 2021 and included 12 virtual listening sessions.
America Magazine, published by the Jesuits, provides details:
The participants were about evenly split between men and women and included in the sessions were 391 lay women, 235 lay men, 148 priests, 146 bishops and 77 women religious.
The publication pointedly adds:
Most bishops met in separate small groups, though some decided to participate in dialogues with lay Catholics.
The second phase of the process begins this October.
Among the report’s findings:
- The Catholic church faces enormous internal tensions, including between traditionalists and liberals.
- There is a profound need for unity, even amidst the tensions.
- The church must welcome the marginalized, including:
- Those divorced without an annulment.
- The poor.
- LGBTQ+ persons.
- Those still struggling to deal with abuse in the church.
Particularly telling was the report’s discussion of the context in which it is issued:
a global pandemic, local and international conflicts, growing impact of climate change, migration, various forms of injustice, racism, violence, persecution, and increasing inequalities across humanity, to name a few. In the church, the context is also marked by the suffering experienced by minors and vulnerable people “due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power, and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons.” (emphasis added)
Lessons for the Episcopal church
So what does this have to do with the Episcopal church? At first blush, the report’s findings seem to endorse the Episcopal church’s ostensibly inclusive positions.
And while it’s easy to jump to that conclusion, a careful reading makes clear that the report is, instead, a stunning indictment of the Episcopal church.
Specifically, the report reflects a level of introspection absent in the Episcopal church.
For example, the report focuses on church members, including those who rarely or never practice their faith. Indeed, procedurally, the report emphasizes the importance of proactively reaching out to these groups, along with people with disabilities, people experiencing poverty, people experiencing homelessness, and more.
That contrasts sharply with the Episcopal church, which typically ignores those who leave. Or, if someone leaves and criticizes the church, they are derided as “crazy,” or “angry” or “unbalanced.” After all, how could they not love the famously inclusive Episcopal church?
Yet that approach ignores the fact that the Episcopal church, which conflates doing church with being church, is profoundly exclusive.
Indeed, one priest, canon law instructor, and delegate to General Convention says:
Another reality that slowly dawned on me was how the GC, especially the House of Deputies, is much closer to the unfortunate way that many vestries operate, namely, as the rubber stamp for decisions made elsewhere and by other people. In the case of GC, those other people are the members of the various committees, task forces, and standing committees that operate between each GC. The vast majority of legislation comes from those committees and are then sent to the legislative committees which are created for each GC. The membership of the various bodies, along with the legislative committees, is determined by just two people: the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies
The synodal report also decries clericalism, which it describes as profoundly damaging to the church. Yet the average Episcopalian has no concept of clericalism, despite the idea of the priesthood of all believers.
Most tellingly, the report’s recognition of spiritual abuse, including abuse of power, which we referenced above, stands in stark contrast to the Episcopal church, where bishops routinely see themselves as above accountability and often prefer “not to get involved” on these issues.
Thus, the Episcopal church lavishes itself with praise for being inclusive and addressing abuse while failing to recognize that these claims are fiction. Like mirages of oases in the desert, these illusions are siren songs, set to lure the unsuspecting to a tragic fate.
Yes, the Episcopal church took an early stance on sexual abuse, but if it doesn’t involve sex, children, or drugs, forget it. And even then, the situation in Texarkana makes clear that #metoo issues and corruption remain endemic in the Episcopal church, conveniently hidden by the whitewash of the church’s self-deception.
Will the Catholic church get its act together? Anglican Watch believes the answer is yes, although given its size, the church will plow along like an oceanliner, going miles before it can turn.
But when the day comes that the Catholic church addresses the pain and suffering it causes to those it marginalizes, it will quickly become apparent that what remains of the Episcopal church is nothing but the final glimmer of a geriatric interpretation of 1960s liberalism.
In other words, the pipeline of disaffected Catholics that allows the Episcopal church to barely hang on will close.
As it does, the church as we know it will also close, except for a few endowed parishes. These will sit, much like the remaining Shaker communities, largely empty, monuments to a once-thriving denomination that couldn’t get its act together.
The synodal report is below.