Beliefnet
If the Roman Catholic Church were to hold a "Vatican III," what would you want it to accomplish? The editors of National Catholic Reporter, a liberal Catholic weekly, asked 300 Catholics worldwide this question. The introduction below, which summarizes most of the replies, is excerpted from a longer feature with permission of National Catholic Reporter. About one third of the 60 respondents were women religious, another third laity, and one third priests.

Should the Church Make Changes?

1) The respondents want the church, as one person phrased it, to take to heart what St. Paul wrote to the Galatians: "Christ freed us so that we may be free."

The next council must take seriously the question of freedom in the church. We need a new style of papacy that will reform present structures and present a type of decentralization that emphasizes the life of the people of God. Vatican II presented a theology of the people of God that has been ignored in practice in the life of the church. Clerical power must be inculturated and the church enter into the conflicts of the modern world.

2) Respondents wanted the widest possible participation of all the church in the next council, laity -- single and married -- and women religious and priests present as a group in proportion to the number of bishops present. A cardinal in a developing country wrote that all religions should be invited "and have the right to vote."

The process and system being put in place for a council, prior to a Vatican III, would need to be radically different from and not just follow the patterns of previous councils.

3) [Respondents] want their church to prophetically and actively recommit itself to the poor, and on behalf of peace.

A priest in Latin America called for the Catholic church to be "a sacrament of globalization, a true sign (but not the only one) to the nations of the unity of the human family as God's will for human history." A second priest there, a liberation theologian, said, "The option for the poor must lead the church to face globalization and preach a universal ethic."

4) Catholic [respondents] want the Eucharist made readily available to all Catholics in a Eucharist-starved world.

Man-made rules can be changed. We immediately need a married clergy to make the Eucharist available to everyone, to help make priests more human in how they relate with people, to make a more horizontal and less hierarchical church, to make a greater understanding of women and elimination of discriminatory practices and attitudes, and to eliminate unnecessary conflict in those who want to be priests, to eventually open the doors to women priests.

How do we as a eucharistic community keep alive eucharistic and vibrant communities of faith when we cannot choose leaders from among all the faithful with shared beliefs? From this springs many other questions.

5) They want the church to re-envision its relationship to the world, and creation.

The cardinal wrote, "The West has to make stronger efforts toward the integration of the East and all its religions. The time has passed when the world could be understood or directed by Western heads alone."

A woman religious whose congregation is in more than 100 countries, and whose focus is keeping in contact with them in person -- she was recently in the Middle East and North Africa -- wrote by e-mail: "The world is dying." It is dying, she said, from war, violence, sickness, neglect, the unequal distribution of resources, and the mindless exploitation of the planet.

6) They want the church to restructure itself, to alter the means, style and content of its governance coinciding with "a gospel transparency" in its actions, along with widely shared decision-making.

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