Vince Exley is another much-loved member of this community who has been with us since the very earliest days of the CathNews discussion community. The lucky bugger lives in one of Australia's paradise locations, the Whitsunday Islands in tropical Queensland. He's a really contented bachelor and described his life to me a few years ago in these terms: "I feel God has really blessed me in leading me to retirement in this beautiful area. I lead a very fulfilling life of twice daily Christian meditation, a very fulfilling Sunday Eucharist, pleasant daily walks along the beach, Vinnie's activities, relaxation in the resort's Spas and Pools and an afternoon scotch or two on my balcony (where the parakeets actually try to drink my scotch)." In this second thought-provoking commentary he has offered to us Vince is back at his challengingly radical best. What do you think of his...
by Vince Exley
A COUPLE OF SUNDAY'S AGO I attended a public forum to discuss
the development problems we are having in the Whitsunday Area. The forum
was facilitated by David
Engwicht, who is considered to be one of the world's most innovative
thinkers in the areas of traffic and urban design and has worked with
tourist destinations worldwide on ways to deal with their traffic issues;
helping local communities, government authorities and engineers to work
together. (You can find out more about David Engwicht at this link.)
David is an artist, street philosopher, communicator, inventor and keen
observer of life. He counts his lack of formal education and his marginal
experiences as a child as two of his greatest assets. While maintaining
his playful streak and eccentricity, David has now been embraced by the
engineering profession, urban planning and design profession, safety experts
and the community development profession as a leading cross-disciplinary
thinker, theorist and practitioner.
He reported on new methods for reducing traffic speeds and managing traffic
and how these new methods are now being implemented across North America
I sat enthralled, not only because of the possible benefit locally, in
which I am vitally interested, but because I
could see the application of his logic to the problem of a Church without
the Eucharist which is a very real prospect we are now facing in the regional
areas of Australia.
I have condensed his address into ten rules that could be applied to
the enormous problem facing the church in not having enough priests to
provide weekly celebration of the Eucharist to all of its members.
- Identify the problem.
- Identify any hidden agendas that could divert energy.
- Recognize what are emotional issues and what are rational issues.
- Don't keep trying to knock the wall down with your head.
- Change often comes unexpectedly (e.g. the Berlin wall). It is not necessary to knock the wall down but removing a single brick could bring it down.
- The Church and the hierarchy lives within a culture that resists change, but change has often taken place in the past.
- Start with a real understanding of the situation and all its constraints.
- Don't accept any ceilings of constraint, think outside the present limits.
- Identify what we can do.
- Identify what we can ask others to do.
So let us apply these rules:
- We have many problems in the Church, a few of the major ones being:
Let us choose the lack of priests as our example. It is perhaps the greatest threat the Church faces at present and in trying to solve it we may shine a different light on many other problems. Besides it might be the easiest problem to solve.
- 85% of baptized Catholics no longer come to Church regularly
- There is a lack of collegiality in the hierarchy
- There is a marked decline in the number of priests
- We are faced with many hidden agendas when suggestions are made as to how to overcome the shortage of priests. You have doing away with celibacy, the ordination of women etc. being put forward. But are these really solutions because other Christian denominations have embraced these methods and yet they also are experiencing a shortage of vocations.
- We have to very clearly define the emotional and rational issues that will come up in our efforts to solve our problem. Issues dealing with Religion are more often than not of an emotional nature.
- If we come up with a solution, enormous amounts of energy can be wasted in argumentation for its implementation, often with absolutely no result. Obviously the problem has to be approached in another way.
- Realise that the Holy Spirit is at work in the Church and He can bring about change in the most unexpected ways. Vatican II is an example of this. It may only be necessary to remove one piece from the wall of resistance to change the whole outlook.
Many people in the Church and its hierarchy live in a culture that often prevents them from seeing solutions. David Engwicht gave an urban example where what was a quiet suburban residential street began to be used as a bypass by traffic. The volume of traffic rose to over 10,000 vehicles a day and the kids no longer played on the street, then no longer on the footpath and had to move to their backyards. The residents built high walls along their front boundaries to block out the noise of speeding traffic. A social area had been turned into a traffic area.
The engineers had always handled this type of problem by installing speed bumps and trecanes — they couldn't think in any other sort of context they had been securely locked into that sort of culture and thinking for years.
Rather than doing that, Engwicht's solution was to hold street parties, setting up BBQ's on the footpath. Immediately on those days, the traffic slowed down. People got to know one another and would congregate on the footpath at all times. Front walls and fences were removed altogether. Kids again played on the footpath. The traffic flow didn't stop but it slowed dramatically, drivers apparently are content to travel slowly as long as they can keep moving.
- Obviously any solution to our problem must not interfere with the content of Faith. Our solution must be scriptural. But there is a big difference between the early practices of the Church and what constrains it today.
- We must not accept any false ceilings of constraint but envision where we want the church to be in the future.
- So, as I have posted before I am suggesting that the priest shortage, and the inability of the Church to provide Sunday Eucharist in many areas can be overcome by ordaining a local man in each parish as a minister of the Eucharist, that is he will be able to preside over the Eucharist but not be required to carry out any other services normally done by a priest. He would not give homilies. He could be a married working man and should not be overloaded with parish duties.
To bring this about I suggest that we tell the hierarchy that we will not accept "Service without a priest" SWAP, as a substitute for Eucharist. We will not attend!
We should also strongly object to the importation of priests from overseas, there is a much greater need for such priests in their home countries.
- We should use all media means available to bring the whole Church to agree to our solution.
Vince Exley is another much-loved member of this community who has been with us since the very earliest days of the CathNews discussion community. The lucky bugger lives in one of Australia's paradise locations, the Whitsunday Islands in tropical Queensland. He's a really contented bachelor and described his life to me a few years ago in these terms: "I feel God has really blessed me in leading me to retirement in this beautiful area. I lead a very fulfilling life of twice daily Christian meditation, a very fulfilling Sunday Eucharist, pleasant daily walks along the beach, Vinnie's activities, relaxation in the resort's Spas and Pools and an afternoon scotch or two on my balcony (where the parakeets actually try to drink my scotch)." Following a recent illness and hospitalisation Vince has been learning to live with some permanent paralysis on one side of his face.
What are your thoughts on this commentary?
You can contribute to the discussion in our forum.
[Index of Commentaries and Reflections by Vince Exley]