An historic Diocesan Synod was held in Limerick over three days in April of 2016. It was the first synod to be held in Ireland for 50 years and 400 delegates took part. 50 years ago such an event would have been unremarkable, an instance of ecclesial and clerical housekeeping that would have made it into the diocesan newspaper but possibly have gone unnoticed nationally. Synod 2016 however, was a different and indeed in my opinion historically significant event unique in the history of the Church. As far as I am aware no other synod in the history of the Church has been held where 75% of the delegates were laypeople.
From studying the documents and reports prior to during and after the Synod it is very clear that the process was nothing more than a calculated exercise to clericalise the laity, spread confusion and to further balkanise the liturgy and Faith of Catholics in the diocese of Limerick. Bishop Leahy has been more proactive in this than most of his Episcopal confreres and the damage done is likely to be profound.
This is how the updated pastoral plan (from September 2017) tackles the liturgy and the shortage of priests in the diocese.
“The Synod demonstrated that there can be no separation between the liturgical life of the community and the ordinary life of those who share in it. There is an intimate link between life and liturgy. We must explore and advance the development of liturgical ministries in the Diocese The core thrust of the vote was towards enhancing the quality and experience of liturgy at a local level achieving ‘conscious, active and full’ participation. And here we saw that the emphasis was on liturgy that connects with the lives of ordinary people and that can be delivered by ordinary people. The development of local capacity for leadership in liturgy was a key enabler for this – both for liturgies led by clergy and by lay people.”
The progress report states that,
“About 120 people from almost every parish participated in the formation for lay people to be able to lead public prayer in parishes. This is the first step in a longer process – the emphasis this spring was on leading a liturgy on a weekday morning when a priest is not available.”
One of the core strategic actions of the pastoral plan is to further
“develop and support lay leadership in liturgies and the celebration of sacraments (e.g. lay led liturgies of the Word with Holy Communion, homilies, baptisms, funerals, ‘occasion’ liturgies, etc.)
Reading the report is a curious experience because it doesn’t seem even vaguely Catholic. It gives the distinct impression of being the minutes of a social club with pseudo religious overtones. It is also hard not to be struck by the shift away from Catholic belief and practice and towards a largely lay led organisation.
“We need to look at new models of leadership for two reasons. Firstly, because we are living in a very different world from the one most of us grew up in. We also need to look at new models because the concept of a leadership which depends almost exclusively on the priest cannot continue. That is what leadership, and not just the leadership of priests, should mean in the Christian community, discovering, recognising and fostering one another’s gifts. There was a very high proportion of strong votes in this section – there was very strong support from the Synod for the proposed actions on new models of leadership. At the core of this we saw an affirmation of the shared baptism of all members of the church – priests, religious and laity – and a desire that the gifts of all be brought into fruitful and collaborative service of the gospel.”
What all of this means is a further move away from the traditional parish model with the priest leading and laity providing assistance and a movement towards a largely lay led parish life in the diocese where the priest is a mere functionary.
While something is said about the need for adult catechesis this can in no way be taken to mean Catholic instruction but rather the furthering of heretical beliefs and practice. Any true Catholics still left in the Limerick diocese after this nonsense is finished will have taken refuge in attendance at the Church of the Institute of Christ the King but of course they will need to keep their heads down and their mouths firmly shut if they want to be left to practice their religion in peace.