April 30, 2017
Some of you will have noticed that Bishop Coyne has convoked a diocesan synod. What? Why? And why care?
A diocesan synod is a legislative action by which a diocesan bishop, after broad consultation, establishes the laws that will govern his diocese. But, we thought the Pope made the laws! Well, he does – for the universal Church. But it is obvious that the situation of the Church in Vermont is different from that of the Church in Africa. So, the Church in Vermont will need to have rules and procedures that it will use in applying the universal Law. Moreover, Vermont may well have unique needs, unforeseen by the universal Law, that require unique approaches and treatment.
Let me list a few:
- Vermont is divided in two by the Green Mountains; east-west travel takes a disproportionate amount of time.
- Burlington is a long way from the whole of southern Vermont (Bennington is closer to the sees of Albany, Springfield, Worcester, Manchester than it is to Burlington!)
- The population of Vermont is concentrated in Burlington, as is the wealth and everything else but the scenery.
- The rest of the population is scattered in small towns and villages
- There is almost no industry in Vermont and, so, almost no jobs for our youth.
- Thus, the population of Vermont is weighted to the gray end
- More Vermonters describe themselves as ‘church-less’ than in any other state
- Of these, 60% call themselves ‘ex-Catholics’.
Obviously, the Catholic Church in Vermont, since it is made up of Vermonters, reflects all of these issues. Obviously, then, the Catholic Church in Vermont faces challenges and has opportunities that must be met and seized that the Universal Law of the Church could not have imagined.
One might just decide to leave each scattered little population center to work things out for itself. The ensuing chaos is not hard to imagine, but it is very hard to imagine that this would create a meaningful Catholic presence in the state as a whole. Besides, such ‘congregationalism’ is absolutely antithetical to the very meaning of ‘catholic’.
So a Synod is necessary
- To assure that every section of this ‘scattered’ Diocese is heard
- That the religious needs of every section are met
- That the pastoral priorities of the Diocese as a whole are clearly laid out
- That lines of communication and responsibility are well defined
- To draw up fair and uniform policies for the allocation of assets – money, personnel, buildings –
- To define criteria for the creation, modification or closure of any and all Church ministries
A synod is big business. Its work will touch every single one of us. We should watch its work, support its outcome and pray for universal wisdom and clarity as it begins this fall.
Really and truly and yankee-ly yours,