Belgian Bishops Propose Radical Changes — By: Church Militant

ROME ( – Ahead of the Second Session of Pope Francis’ Oct. 2-27 Synod on Synodality, Belgian bishops have reportedly launched discussions on allowing women deacons and ending mandatory priestly celibacy.

The Belgian bishops’ conference

Sources from the Belgian Catholic news outlet Kerknet reveal that the Belgian bishops’ conference dispatched a letter to all dioceses, advocating for a reevaluation of the Church’s traditions. 

The communication proposed a more inclusive approach to ecclesiastical roles and a reconsideration of celibacy requirements for clergy.

It urged specific steps by which a “synodal Church” could ostensibly cultivate a more collaborative, welcoming and inclusive Church environment.

It recommended involving laity in decision-making.

It recommended:

Engaging in open dialogue with the contemporary world to avoid unidirectional transmission of the gospel 
Defining “Church tradition(s) as dynamic and in constant development” 
Pursuing “concrete form to the decentralization” of topics of discussion” for the sake of “unity” and “diversity” and
Involving laity in decision-making processes to achieve “accountability” and “transparency.”

The Synod on Synodality is a process that was launched by Pope Francis in October 2021 and is set to culminate in sessions involving prelates as well as laity in Rome in October 2024. It has become a point of contention for delving into divisive topics such as the ordination of women, the married priesthood and the Church’s stance towards the so-called LGBTQ community.

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The Synod’s website urges the Catholic Church’s “whole community” to “pray, listen, analyse, dialogue, discern and offer advice on making pastoral decisions which correspond as closely as possible to God’s will.”

Rethinking Tradition

Central to the discussion is the role of women in the Church. The Belgian bishops propose allowing individual dioceses or national bishops’ conferences to decide on the ordination of women to the diaconate, permitting regional discretion rather than a uniform policy.

The … letter suggested a need to revisit the symbolic and sacramental understanding of ordained ministry.

This comes despite the fact that Holy Orders can only be conferred on men, as noted in paragraph 1577 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The bishops’ letter suggested a need to revisit the symbolic and sacramental understanding of ordained ministry. It instead advocates for a system that integrates lay people more significantly in Church governance.

Pope Francis

The bishops further express openness to the ordination of viri probati, that is, “proven married men” — those with mature faith that could be extraordinarily admitted to the priesthood. The topic has seen considerable debate since the Church’s 2019 Amazon Synod. 

The Belgian bishops, citing the Synod on Synodality’s worldwide survey of believers as a catalyst for change, also openly embraced the Vatican’s document Fiducia Supplicans, which allows blessings for “same-sex couples.” 

Pope Francis later backpedaled on the wording of the document, claiming it meant blessings only for individuals, not homosexual unions. 

Emphasizing the importance of engaging with youth and enhancing the Church’s digital presence, the letter also called for use of modern technologies to ensure effective evangelization.

Proposals Advance

The proposals set forth in the bishops’ letter will undergo thorough discussion within Belgium’s dioceses, with findings to be consolidated by April 7 and submitted to the Synod of Bishops’ office in Rome. 

Matters of great importance … will be considered at the level of the whole Church.

A similar process of consolidating feedback for the Synod is occuring worldwide. It is being coordinated for North America by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

According to the Vatican, information gathered globally will be synthesized for further consideration. “Matters of great importance” — such at those being considered by the belgian bishops — will be considered “at the level of the whole Church” in collaboration with the dicasteries of the Roman Curia as well as “groups of experts from all continents.”

Pope Francis will ask the participants to work on specific topics with a report to be presented at the Second Session of the Synodal Assembly in October 2024. 

Pope Francis’ so-called Synodal Way has been criticized by cardinals, archbishopsbishops, Anglican converts, young people, women and others for democratization that they claim entertains changing the Church’s immutable positions on contraception, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality and female ordination, as well as what many call its “uncatholicconclusions

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