Crisis of faith? Many Belgian Catholics want women priests

Crisis of faith? Many Belgian Catholics want women priests
Pope Francis. Credit: Ashwin Vaswani in Unsplash

Growing numbers of people worldwide no longer find religion necessary to find purpose and meaning in their lives. This crisis of faith has also marked Catholicism, so in October 2021, Pope Francis launched unprecedented proceedings in the Catholic world to discuss the functioning of the Church and its future, reported La Libre.

The process, called 'Synod on synodality', was also organised in Belgium. Parishes asked parishioners probing questions on if they feel listened to by the church, with the results from each Belgium diocese made public on 6 July and sent to the Vatican. An estimated 2,000-4,000 people from each diocese participated, although younger people were hard to reach.

The documents are meant to result in first a continental reflection for the church, leading to a worldwide reflection in October 2023. At stake is whether to Church will start making decisions differently.

Reconnecting with the world

For many respondents, the Church is too far removed from the modern world and is "endowed with clerical structures and too hierarchical. It is perceived as moralising, formal, distant from people's lives and instrusive."

Many are worried about the decrease in the number of faithful and volunteers with every passing year, and the withdrawal from the church of some communities.

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The Church is considered "alien to the world", particularly on "its position on ethical issues" and its stance on gender equality.

Many families stressed that they do not understand the Mass and are bored by it. Families among the respondents do not always feel welcome.

Nevertheless, these concerns "do not prevent people from expressing their sincere love for the Church."

Overall, respondents called for a "desire for adapted, lively liturgies, welcoming, better prepared, better presided over, where everyone finds their place and feels involved."

Respondents call for initiatives to create greater community as well as "a renewed and contemporary language that

that abandons expressions that make people feel guilty and moralise."

More women

The report particularly stressed the conditions of the ministry, with calls to open up the ordained ministry, the priesthood in particular, to include women and married people.

A sense of injustice prevailed on the place of women in the Church. It is a touchy subject for the Church, and Pope Francis previously tried closing the subject in 2016 at a visit in Sweden, when stating, "St. Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands, this stands," Francis said, according to Reuters.

Francis referred to a 1994 document by Pope John Paul that closed the issue on female priesthood, with the Vatican saying this teaching is an infallible part of Catholicism.

Catholic tradition has justified its stance by referring to how Jesus only chose men as his apostles. However, reformers say Jesus only followed the norms of his time. One female Swedish reporter pointed to the female head of the Lutheran Church in Sweden, who welcomed the Pope in 2016.

The Catholic Church's reasons are now insufficient for many believes, who believe the Church is for removed from reality. Older generations take less issue with equality, but for many younger generations, it is their main reason for resenting and ignoring the Church.

Many of the younger respondents of the synod seemed to be waiting for the Church to "listen" to them and to bear "true witness of the faith in order to better understand the Christian story."


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