The crisis in contemporary Catholicism is profound. It is of a scale unprecedented in the previous history of the institution. The sell-out of the ideals discerned by the majority of Bishops at the Second Vatican Council and the handing over of the institution to a small Taliban of liturgical and doctrinal fundamentalists has to end. That has been institutionalised theft and sin on a grand scale. Today's editorial is prompted by the words of William H. Slavick in an op-ed piece published in the Portland Press Herald, Maine. Dr Slavick argues it is time for Benedict to resign and take the thoroughly discredited leadership he heads with him. The full text of William Slavick's article calling for the resignation of the present leadership of the institution can be found in the Catholica Forum HERE. Our editorial though takes a softer line in inviting you to help us draw up a list of things that might define a Church we can believe in, or have hope in, again.
The search for a Church we can believe in again...
In response to Professor Slavick's call we outline our own sense of what the majority of Catholics hunger for who have been quietly exiting the pews in a silent protest for decades:
- We seek a less triumphalist more humble Church.
- We seek a church that we can believe in and have pride in not because of pomp and majesty but because it is humble and intelligent.
- We seek a Church that is truly open to the Spirit as discerned by the entire "Body of Christ" not as discerned by some self-appointed minority.
- We seek a Church encouraging of each individual to find "the will of the Father" in their lives but in a non-patriarchal way. Jesus used the term "the will of the Father" because he lived in a patriarchal society. The sense of what he meant is clear: we all have fathers who, in the course of our maturation into adults we are taught to obey and respect. Collectively as a human family we have a sense of our continuing powerless before many of the forces of fate and nature and because of that our dependency on the one who controls fate and nature. We seek to discern today "the will of the Spirit" who is there to guide humanity and to guide the human person. It is a sense of dependency on the Spirit of God who is without gender — neither patriarchal or matriarchal but equally respectul of both.
- We seek a Church encouraging of each individual to find the "Way" of Jesus — a way not characterised by some 'game' of trying to memorise and recite doctrinal certitudes but a "Way" characterised by a way of thinking and acting out our journey through life as modelled by Jesus ... a "Way" of responding emotionally to the challenges and joys of life as modelled by Jesus.
- We seek a Church with a leadership that teaches and encourages its people how to make intelligent moral choices not one that has the audacity, or stupidity, to pretend that it can make the moral choices for its people.
- We seek a Church that truly does transcend the political divisions in secular society and seeks to build the kingdom envisioned by Jesus that embraces all men and women, the poor and the affluent, the educated and the uneducated, the white and the black and every colour of the rainbow in between.
- We seek a Church that seeks to build a sense of unity and solidarity amongst all the people of Creation not because it has an arrogant sense that it has all the answers, or because it arrogantly believes it is some favoured, or exclusive, channel of communication of God to humanity but it sees God as communicating through all of God's people and the role of the structure, or institution, is as a humble facilitator of the human-wide endeavour to discern collectively what we think the Creator-God is saying to the people. If Catholicism is to have a sense of 'primacy' amongst the world's religions it has to be earned through the quality of the leadership it provides to the human family not because we arrogantly assert some sense of 'primacy' we believe was given exclusively to us by God.
- We seek a new imaging of priesthood — not some "ontological elite" who believe they have some especial access to the magic of God to heal, or channel Divine grace, but a priesthood that places itself on the same pedestal of dignity and sense of shared fallibility with its people, women and men of experiential rather than book wisdom, who can help all of us find "the God within" in our lives. We want women and men as our spiritual guides and religious leaders who earn the respect of the people they lead from the wisdom and quality of their leadership not from any titles they might be given by authority figures or the fancy costumes they might wear.
- We seek an institution that is de-institutionalised and accessible to all of God's people. Our Church has to respect the viewpoints in the diversity of its people. It has responsibilities to all but those responsibilities are not exercised by constantly only respecting the rights of any particular minority — such as the Taliban within our midst — at the expense of ignoring or abusing the rights of the majority.
- We seek a Church that respects our heritage and traditions but does not seek to treat them as some 'abracadabra' formulae that provides access to God and Divine grace. Mature people do seek to honour and respect the beliefs and practices of their forebears that have led them to where they are today in their journey through life and the great journey of human civilisation towards its destiny. We don't wish to forget where we came from, we wish to share that with our own children, but we want to do that without becoming slaves to some fundamentalist belief that all wisdom and access to the Divine and the future resides in the past. Our liturgies and religious practices have to come from, and speak to, the heart of today's people. They have to respect our heritage and traditions but, at the same time, be free to evolve, and the people have to remain free to respect and honour their heritage without being forced to re-live it.
- We seek a Church where parents can again share their beliefs and traditions in a proud way with their children instead of having to be constantly apologetic to their children for the behaviours of our pastors and bishops, and the Taliban within our midst. That right belongs to all the faithful not just to the Taliban faithful, those who believe themselves to be 'the remnant' or 'the only true Catholics', and the insecure who elevate the search for certitude and dogma over the search for ultimate truth. We seek a Church we can have pride in again and which our children can have pride in again and want to participate in and support.
We invite you to add to this list via our forum simple statements that begin with the introduction: "We seek...". Let us see if we can formulate some collective sense of those things we both seek in a positive way and to articulate those things which today we reject or have become disbelieving about from our past. We also, of course, invite your comment and criticism on the suggestions made above.
Brian Coyne, Editor and Publisher
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