Developing the voice of the laity: moving the synodal concept from ideal to reality / Commonweal

If the Church is truly a sign of God at work in the world, then it needs to model listening to those in society and in the ecclesial body whose voices have gone unheard and whose needs have been overlooked.

By Kayla August, Commonweal

“The synodal listening sessions opened the door to hearing the voice of the laity in a new way, as parishes across the world were asked to share their stories, hopes, and disappointments about living within the Catholic Church in order to guide where it goes next.

“Yet, according to the 2023 U.S. National Synthesis Report, dioceses entered the process with ‘a combination of excitement, confusion, and skepticism.’ In fact, ‘several dioceses noted some apprehension and even opposition as they began their synodal listening’—due, in part, to a feeling the process would be futile.

“This sense of futility reflects a Church that is communal in nature but not yet communal in participation. Though we speak of a united Body of Christ, the synodal proceedings reveal the limits of the laity’s words and actions in the face of ecclesial structures. In a Church where laypeople have been fashioned to receive and not to share, it’s understandable that many are not simply unwilling but actually unable to make their voices heard. Breaking centuries of silence in the space of a four-year synodal session is bound to be a challenge, especially given that we perhaps failed to consider one of the preemptive needs for the synodal process: training lay voices to speak. I propose the laity may be experiencing what I call ‘acute ecclesial laryngitis,’ the inability to contribute to the life of the Church due to a lack of capacity to speak. In this synodal moment, we find the voice is a muscle, and the failure to use it results in a stifled and hesitant voice.”

By Kayla August, Commonweal — Read more …