by Lis Regula
Here in Ohio, we are just gearing up for primaries and a midterm election later this year, with relatively high stakes. Many of us are used to this part of the political cycle with lower turn out that is often driven not by big races like the presidential race, and instead by boots on the ground grass roots organizing.
In a less frequent (sort of) political process, the Catholic church is in the beginning phase of a two year long synod of synodality. The purpose of this is to ‘listen and discern’ and come together as a global church to discuss the future of the church.
Pope Francis has requested that the 2023 Synod of Bishops hear from the people of God prior to making decisions at that event, and has a record of looking to youth to lead. Between the youth synod in 2018 and Pope Francis’s call to young people to lead on the environment, it should be no surprise that he is also calling for Catholic schools and universities to chime in now, as well.
This comes as young people are moving further away from the church, especially on issues of gender and sex. Young people are also leaving the church, and not just the Catholic church. While Pope Francis has given mixed signals on many issues, he has at least spoken out about the need to treat members of the LGBTQ+ community with respect. And just this past year, the Vatican listed the LGBTQ+ affirming New Ways Ministries as a part of their resources website. The removal of the group’s info led to an outcry from the community, replacement of the missing information on to the website, and an apology from the Vatican.
This is a vastly different treatment than what has happened in the Heart of It All, where the Lyceum (a Catholic school) sued the city of South Euclid over a non-discrimination ordinance that included protections for the LGBTQ+ community in housing, employment, and public accommodations. It’s also very different from the fairly regular firings of gay teachers by Catholic schools that makes the news even recently. There has been changes over the years, though, that are more often finding the schools in the wrong.
This first phase includes a request for every parish to come together and listen in community. So far, of the six Ohio Dioceses, all but Toledo have information added to their websites with when synod meetings will convene, and resources to prepare for these events. You can find this information at the links below:
The timeline for the synod process is as follows:
Now, here’s the ask, lovely people:
If you have a connection with the Catholic church — whether it is current or past, school or church, whatever — find a local meeting at which to raise your voice. The Cleveland Diocese has a handy participant guide if you want to prepare or get an idea of what to expect. The Catholic church is large enough that most people have at least some experience with them.
Personally, my family has a long history as members of various Catholic parishes. My mom left after finding another religious home more in line with her feminist beliefs, and I have severed ties with many family members because of their unwillingness to accept me as who I am. I work at a Catholic university and religious trauma is a topic that does get brought up at times by my LGBTQ+ students and colleagues. I, for one, look forward to our campus’s synod meetings.
I encourage you to join me in attending to our community’s spiritual needs and asserting that if the church wants to be in relationship with us, they respect our dignity. If you would like more information on synodality, New Ways Ministries is hosting a series of webinars on the topic. You can get involved by checking out the diocese links above, following along on Facebook, or by emailing Lis Regula or JM Triplett of Equality Ohio.