French laypeople have decried the “huge damage” being done by clericalism, and have demanded a say in a much-needed “rebirth of the Church”.

– The “Church in crisis” needs “deep internal transformations”

After a September 26 assembly outside of Paris on the theme “The Church in crisis faces up to its time: defeat or challenge?”, the Catholic Conference of the French-speaking Baptised (CCBF), a self-described network of “open-minded Christians” which seeks to promote the voice of the laity in the Church, said in a press release that it “acknowledges the considerable increase in those who share its approach and who want the Church to renew itself”.

Explaining that that renewal of a Church in crisis “requires deep internal transformations and a firm will to put them into action”, the CCBF called on the French bishops to give a “strong and public sign” of their will for reform and to give laypeople a chance to have their say on an equal footing.

Concretely, the French laypeople urged their shepherds “to begin a dialogue with the Catholics of France, in all their diversity” ahead of the Synod on synodality that Pope Francis has called for 2022.

The members of the CCBF asked their bishops not only to “negotiate” with laypeople on issues such as objectives and organisation in the run-up to the Synod, but also to guarantee a “strong representativeness” among all sectors of the Church in the committees that prepare for the summit and in the delegation that finally travels to Rome.

– Clericalism leading to “silent and massive abandonment of religious practice”, spiritual and sexual abuse

The theme of the 2022 Synod of Bishops will be “For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission”. The CCBF recalled that the assembly will be a chance “to fight against clericalism and the abuses of power that go along with it”.

“Who is not a witness to the huge damage this system does?”, the French laypeople decried, adding that “the silent and massive abandonment of religious practice and the victims of spiritual and sexual abuse are the most visible symptoms” of the plague of clericalism.

“We must therefore get out of it and quickly”, the French Catholics pleaded with their bishops, reminding them that an opportunity to do away with clericalism awaits in Rome.

“How are we, the French baptised, going to participate in it?”, the laypeople asked their pastors.

– Towards “a Church that does what it proclaims”

In its report on its most recent assembly, the CCBF said it stood at the ready to contribute its ideas on “concrete actions” the Church could put into place that do not speak only to the estimated 1.8% of French Catholics that actually practise their faith, “but that address all our contemporaries and work to be reconciled with them”.

All that much with the aim of becoming “a Church that holds on to its heart of mission and does what it proclaims”, the laypeople explained.

“In tune with all those who want to contribute to the transformation of the Church”, the CCBF expressed its desire “to take up the challenge of the future by actively contributing to the rebirth of the Church as a people”.

In the run-up to the Synod on synodality, the French laypeople promised to continue to be a “source of proposals” and to be “very vigilant” of the preparations for the Synod, including those decided upon in the next plenary assembly of the French Bishops in November, in Lourdes.

Expressing their wish, too, “to follow in the footsteps of the synodal Church preached by Pope Francis”, the CCBF said the second part of their assembly – postponed to the end of this year due to coronavirus restrictions – will focus on both “confinement and liturgy” and “abuses in the Church – the damage of clericalism”.

More news on Novena from the French Church:

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Would-be female archbishop: “When there are more women in positions of responsibility in the Church, there will be less abuse”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.