With his encyclicals on the Joy of the Gospel and the environment, Pope Francis has set in motion expectations that will sooner or later translate into structural reforms. Moreover, recent Vatican scandals have made Curia reform more urgent. What needs to be changed? Here is my wish list which may take generations to implement.
- An ecclesiology of discipleship, equality, and synodality. “The way of synodality is the way that God wants for the church of the third millennium.” (Francis to Synod). Synodality at the Synod seems easy in comparison to synodality in dioceses and parishes. - Transparency at all levels. “The word ‘synod’ means walking together –laity, pastors, the Bishop of Rome.” (Francis to Synod). The “walking together” requires transparency at all levels, from the meetings of the Synods of Bishops, the nomination of bishops and priests, to the reports of bishops at their ad limina visits.
- Spirituality should be seen as more important than doctrine. The over-emphasis on doctrine is a consequence of the Counter-Reformation. Birth control, abortion, and heterosexual marriage are still the main issues of many American bishops. And doctrine is more than reciting lines from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as if it were a Catholic kind of King James Bible.
- Continuous religious education centered on Scripture should be available in all parishes. With more theological education, the laity could play a much greater role in the church. “The sense of faith [of the laity] impedes the rigid separation between the Teaching Church and the Learning Church.” (Francis to Synod). Many administrative functions in the Curia, the dioceses and the parishes could be filled by lay people.
- Many of these initiatives could be implemented by local and national synods involving the laity. A national synod of the laity could be a catalyst for renewal.
- The Roman Curia should be decentralized into continental partriarchates.