Speaking of Religion: The Upstaging of Good News

Bennington Banner

November 30, 2018

By David M. O’Brien

It is a common human experience that bad news upstages good news, that conflict and tragedy overshadow stories of cooperation and initiation. Well, this certainly has been the case for the Catholic Church lately. With the reports and re-reports of the sexual abuse scandal and its unbelievable cover-up on the part of some bishops, the unintended consequence has been that all the good news happening in the Church has been push into the background or not mentioned at all.

One of those under-reported happenings, here in the Diocese of Burlington, has been the statewide Diocesan Synod that was called to order by Bishop Christopher Coyne. The process, started over a year ago, has as its purpose: “to establish a pastoral plan for the immediate future in the Catholic Church in Vermont and to establish laws and policies to do so.” Now, I understand from my friends on the Interfaith Council that synods are not that uncommon in some of the Protestant faith communities. But, it is uncommon in our Catholic tradition, with the last diocesan-wide synod happening way back in 1962.

After Bishop Coyne selected a steering committee to shepherd the process, delegates were solicited from each parish in Vermont as well as representatives from the priests, deacons and religious communities. Though the synod started officially this fall, there were three preparatory meetings throughout this past year, plus summer work committees, that helped winnow down the concerns and direction. From the beginning, Bishop Coyne asked to hear from his flock. He queried each parish with three questions: what was our Church doing well, what we were not and what we could do to improve. And he got what he asked for.

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