St. Paul, Minn., Jun 7, 2019 / 06:04 pm (CNA).- Minnesota’s largest diocese will hold a synod— a meeting designed to help the bishop shepherd his local flock— during Pentecost Weekend 2021, Archbishop Bernard Hebda announced yesterday.
It will be the first synod for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis since 1939.
“In the time that I have served in this archdiocese, I have come to believe that our local Church is particularly ripe for a synod,” Hebda said in a June 6 letter. The archbishop said he plans to formally announce the synod process at the Vigil of Pentecost this weekend.
“We are blessed here with a particularly well-educated and articulate laity with a strong tradition of service to the Church, who along with their clergy and consecrated brothers and sisters, want to be involved in shaping her future, seeing that appropriately as both their right and their responsibility.”
St. Pope John Paul II, with the 1983 Code of Canon Law, emphasized the “threefold priestly, prophetic and kingly office” of all people in the Church and expressed a need for greater prominence for a “traditional structure for consultation and governance in the Church”: the diocesan synod.
Several U.S. dioceses have held diocesan synods in the past decade, including Detroit, Michigan; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Burlington, Vermont; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; San Diego, California; and Washington, D.C., the Catholic Spirit reports.
“After the listening sessions that were held in 2015 when I was still serving as the temporary administrator, I drew up suggestions for the next archbishop, never thinking it would be me. At the top of that list was the convoking of an archdiocesan synod,” Hebda explained.
The pre-synodal process will involve 20 “prayer and listening events” throughout the archdiocese that will “shape our future discussion and deliberations…grounded in prayer and in God’s Word,” Hebda said. The synod will help to shape the next 5-10 years of pastoral priorities in the archdiocese.
In March, the archdiocese announced the creation of a lay advisory board designed to “create a flow of information back and forth from parishes to archbishop, and archbishop back to parishes,” the archdiocesan liaison told CNA. The board will include a lay representative from each deanery in the archdiocese.
“I have sensed that many of you seem to be ready to roll up your sleeves to address some of the pastoral needs that had been placed on the back burner. The enthusiasm surrounding the new Lay Advisory Board would seem to confirm that,” Hebda commented.
“Without losing sight of either the critical importance of our Catholic schools or the urgency of creating safe environments and engaging in outreach to those who have in any way been harmed by the Church, we now need to be deliberate in moving forward on other fronts.”
Father Michael Tix, archdiocesan liaison for the effort and vicar for clergy and parish services, told CNA in March that discussions with the archbishop, facilitated through the new lay advisory board, will mainly be about the “particular needs” of parishes or areas of deaneries in order to move forward and promote healing after “four years of bankruptcy, civil and criminal charges, [and] resignations.”
The discussions will also be a chance for the archdiocese to inform the lay representatives about what has been going on in the local Church regarding sexual abuse, and what steps the archdiocese is taking to addess it, Tix said.
The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in January 2015 amid many abuse claims that had been made possible under Minnesota legislation that opened a temporary window for older claims to be heard in civil court. In addition, former Archbishop John Nienstedt stepped down in 2015 after the diocese was charged with mishandling cases of child sexual abuse.
Archbishop Hebda announced in May of last year a $210 million settlement package for victims of sexual abuse. He has said there are no plans for additional parish appeals to help to fund the settlements, saying last June that most of the settlement money – $170 million – would come from the archdiocese’s insurance and from money already collected from parish appeals.
The settlement, announced after more than two years’ deliberation, includes a plan for abuse compensation as well as for bringing the archdiocese out of bankruptcy. The amount is an increase of more than $50 million from the proposal that the archdiocese had originally submitted.
“It’s been a tough time to be Catholic in the Twin Cities because of a lot of stuff that’s come out that we’ve had to deal with and that we continue to deal with. So I think the first thing that we’re going to talk about is about healing. How do we bring healing to folks? There’s a range of need that’s there. And so in order to move forward we have to address that healing,” Tix said.
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I suspect the bishop and his advisers — in other words the decision makers — know precisely what topics they want discussed at the synod and what topics they do not want discussed. And they know exactly what talking points they want brought forward.
Toward this end the twenty pre-synod “prayer and listening” events will likely be staffed, and stacked, with hand-picked attendees whose job is to direct discussions that support what has already been decided.
The synod most likely will be, for all intent and purposes, a dog-and-pony show; superficial solutions in an attempt to quash dissent.
The Catholic Church is a top-down administration institution. This bishop is not going to jeopardize this business model nor the perks that go with it.