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Interspersed with our regular commentaries we are presently running excerpts from a lengthy, detailed and interesting analysis by former priest, Dr Anthony T. Padovano, which looks at the progress of reform in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council. This fourth extract from his essay is interesting: following on from part three and speaking from the perspective of a former priest (and originally this article was largely addressed to former priests), Dr Padovano examines the legacy of those who have challenged the system. He ends with a public confession that might be challenging for all of us. If all of us honestly look back at our commitments to our faith over recent decades what sort of things would we include in our "public confession"? Are there elements where we would find agreement with what Dr Padovano confesses and elements that we disagree with? For those of us non-clergy who have felt increasingly marginalised within our own Church, or who have increasingly "dropped out", in what ways do we continue to have a sense of gratitude, and forgiveness?
What is our legacy?
The best legacy is the future. The past and the present have nothing better to leave than the future they make possible.
Our legacy is three-fold:
- we leave the testimony and witness of who we were and of how the creative energy of our lives made a difference when contrary forces sought to take the Church in an opposite direction; this energy will be part of the future which emerges from our efforts
- this testimony includes not only the witness and behavior of our lives but a huge body of writings and interviews and news stories developing the theology, ethics and spirituality of a new church and an inclusive ministry; the future may find in all this a rationale for its own reform choices and, indeed, an insight into the liabilities of a reactionary way of governing the Church
- this testimony includes the weaving together of what we were once told was an impossible tapestry, namely:
- celibate choices and marital commitments
- a love of the Church and creative dissent
- a sacramental ministry that is non-canonical
- pastoral service to marginal Catholics who remain marginalized
- a place at the center of our lives for our wives and children at the very core of our hearts where once, it seemed, only celibacy and canonical priesthood could abide
- a sense of gratitude for all the official Church made possible in our lives, even gratitude for its resistance, which led us into deeper waters and different harbors.
All this has not come to pass without the sin that is seldom totally absent from human lives.
Let us confess some of these sins:
- in some instances, there were arrogance and anger, an assumption in our favor that we were more often right than we were, a fury when people in the Church (laity, priests, bishops) blocked our way or sought to punish us; in some cases those who resisted us acted with a good faith we did not acknowledge (even though we always claimed this for ourselves) or acted in the only way they thought was open to them (we may have expected bishops to put their careers and credibility on the line even when we might not be willing to do the same); this anger may have been fueled by our eagerness to be vindicated and to have our adversaries vanquished and embarrassed; we who argued for an inclusive Church may have been willing to exclude those who did not find room for us by denying them room as well; we might add that there were leaders in the reform movement whose narcissism and single-mindedness made them a counter-sign of what they claimed to be
- in some cases, we may have been so focused on our courage and pain that we took for granted the courage and pain of our wives, especially, but also of our children who chose to stand with us no matter what it cost them and who loved us through it all far more than we deserved or recognized
- we were often impatient, wanting the reforms we envisioned to happen on our timetable so that we could experience them in our own lifetime not only because they were important for the People of God but because they would bring us certain advantages
- we took too often into our new lives the sense of entitlement we became used to as clerics; this made us occasionally blind to the lives and needs of others, even those closest to us
- we grieved quite rightly but sometimes inordinately because our children or those we loved could not find comfort and consolation in the Catholic Church as we once did or that they did not have open to them the ordained priesthood as a meaningful ministerial option
For all these shadows in our lives, let us pray for light and ask forgiveness and make amends the way the Catholic Church once so correctly taught us.
NEXT SATURDAY: In the final part of this essay we explore with Dr Padovano a couple of future scenarios. It makes for interesting reading: in scenario one he assumes that the institution had continued with the Vatican II vision and asks how our perspectives would have been different. In scenario two he basically assumes that nothing is going to change quickly and asks how that alters our perspectives.
NAVIGATION: You are presently looking at Part 4 of 5
PART I | PART II | PART III | PART IV | PART V
FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SKIP AHEAD: For the impatient the full text of Dr Padovano's address is available in pdf format on his website at: apadovano.com. The website also contains further background information.
IMAGE SOURCE: The background image for the quote, entitled "Black and White", was sourced from stock.xchng. The photographer is T. Fresnell, Cophenhagen, Denmark.
Dr Anthony Padovano was the first elected president of one of the oldest reform groups in the United States — Corpus (www.corpus.org). He is presently Ambassador for the organisation. He holds doctorates and professorships in theology and literature. He is the author of twenty-eight books including three award-winning plays, translated into eight languages. He has been visiting professor at twenty-five American colleges and universities, lectures world-wide and appears regularly in the media on both sides of the Atlantic. Dr Padovano will be visiting Melbourne for a conference next year. This essay was originally delivered as an address to the 2006 Annual Conference of Corpus but will be largely unknown to our Australian readership. We thank Dr Padovano for permission to republish his analysis on Catholica.
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©2008Dr Anthony Padovano
[Index of Commentaries by Dr Anthony Padovano]