Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition . . .

 . . . . however, the new inquisition appears to be alive and well as this article (Vatican pressures theology journal) from the National Catholic Reporter shows.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Bishop Morris Final Mass. Why can't the church cope with discussion ?

From the Toowoomba chronicle

"A THANKSGIVING Mass was held to say goodbye to Bishop Bill Morris at St Patrick’s Cathedral yesterday.

The congregation overflowed from the cathedral into an outside marquee where the service was broadcast live.

Bishop Morris, 67, was appointed to the Diocese of Toowoomba in 1993 and hoped to enjoy an early retirement at the age of 70.

However, he was forced to retire on May 2. In a letter to parishioners on May 1, Bishop Morris thanked his supporters.

“To the entire diocese I say a heartfelt thanks for your support, friendship, love and prayers over the last eighteen years,” he said.

“You have been a great gift to me it has been a privilege to serve you.

“While the overwhelming majority of you have been supportive of me and have worked collaboratively with me to ensure the ongoing life of the diocese, and its mission to be a bearer of the Gospel to the wider world, a small group have found my leadership and the direction of the diocese not to their liking.

“It would be my hope that as I say goodbye to you as your pastor, that we can both say, because of our relationship over the last 18 years we all know the Shepherd a little better.”"

Friday, 26 August 2011

Geoffrey Nobes new website

At last Geoffrey Nobes has a web presence.  His music deserves to be widely known. Geoff's compositions are particularly effective leading individuals or groups into quiet meditation or contemplation.  Some pieces use traditional prayer texts, passages from scripture or  texts from the Celtic tradition.  Don't take my word for it though.  Listen to some of the tracks on his website or just click below and prepare to be enchanted !

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Silly Season !

Traditionally at this time of year silly articles appear in the 'red tops.'  Scanning the blog world I can't believe some of the things I'm reading - perhaps the catholic blogosphere has a similar 'silly season.' Sadly they're deadly serious.  Check these out:

Thomas Merton : The first neo- Conservative ?

The 1994 statement permitting girl servers was a mistaken tactical retreat which led to a fall in priestly vocations. It’s time to withdraw it

An Ordinariate for the Society of Pope Pius X ?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Council of the Baptised

Just discovered this interesting website. The Catholic Coalition for Church reform has launched “Synod 2011” which aims to create a “Council of the Baptised” that hopes to “invite partnership with the Archdiocesan ordained decision makers.” The website can be found here or click their banner at the top of this page

Join us in Launching a Council of the Baptized

Do you see disconnects between the policies and practices of the institutional Roman Catholic Church and the Gospel message of love that Jesus demonstrated and proclaimed? If so, you are one of a growing number of Catholics.

We see friends leaving the Church because their spiritual needs are not being met. We see the younger generations uninterested in supporting the institution. We see vast numbers of Catholics struggling in their lives without pastoral care. We see women treated as second-class citizens, and gays and lesbians discounted in their humanity. We see divorced and remarried Catholics suffering exclusion from the Eucharistic community. Animosity divides factions. There are no avenues of communication between the official leadership and the people. And meanwhile the world we are supposed to be serving is in need of strong and organized care. How can we see all this without feeling responsible to act?

Our consciences cry out for us to step up and take responsibility. The Holy Spirit is working through us, the laity, according to the official Church doctrine called sensus fidelium, the sense of the faithful. Our mandate for action comes from our baptism and was urged upon us by the bishops of the Church at the Second Vatican Council. For us, stepping up is a moral imperative. If not us, who? If not now, when?

Our strategy for taking responsibility is the creation of a Council of the Baptized to invite partnership with the Archdiocesan ordained decision-makers and to communicate the sense of the faithful.

We will
• pray together for the Spirit to guide us
• discuss among ourselves the concerns of conscience we will bring to the Council
• explain the set up and work of the Council
• hear from people who have envisioned the Council’s work
• nominate the charter members of the Council
• appoint people to work on teams to present the first concerns to the Council in January 2012

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Bishop Kevin Dowling reflects on trends in the Church

Thanks to the Association of Catholic Priests for reposting Bishop Kevin Dowlings address to Laity in Cape Town, South Africa on June 1st this year.  The whole article is well worth reading and his final paragraph (which is hilarious) is reproduced here to whet your appetite !. Thankyou so much to Bishop Kevin.

“Over the Pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even the official Church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism”.

(Joseph Ratzinger in: Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II,Vol. V., pg. 134 (Ed) H. Vorgrimler, New York, Herder and Herder, 1967).

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Holes, what holes?

Just read an article in the National Catholic Reporter by John L Allen Jnr. The article concerns remarks made about the role of theologians by Capuchin Fr Thomas Weinandy. in a May 26 address to the Academy of Catholic Theology in Washington, D.C., and published in July in Origins, the official documentary service of the U.S. bishops.

What I find interesting isn’t so much the article, but the comments that followed. I counted 44 comments. Nine of these favoured Weinandy’s position, 1 was indifferent and a whopping 34 disagreed.

Fascinating. The Barque of Peter seems so full of holes and about to sink. You’d have thought the church would begin to start plugging those holes rather than shouting “holes, what holes?” Instead it looks for scapegoats to blame for making those holes that it denies are there. Meanwhile the water rises . . .

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Misguided Missal ?

Anyone who finds issue with the new translation of the Roman Missal would do well to look at this new website.  It’s full of articles to justify why the new translation is, well  . . . . erm a bit poor !  Don’t take my word for it have a look yourself Here's what they have to say :
Out of Love for the Church……we are deeply concerned with the New Missal Translation emanating from Rome.
…we believe it is poorly translated, indeed, at times, mistranslated, difficult to speak, let alone comprehend.
…we are deeply concerned with the process resulting in the 2011 Missal Translation.
…we believe the process circumvented collaboration and consultation with liturgists, linguists, scripture scholars and theologians and is simply being imposed without regard for the People of God.
…we are deeply concerned with the return to authoritarianism and clericalism implied in the words of the new translation.
…we believe the hierarchy has lost sight of who we are as the people of God, who, like them, are called to discipleship.
…we are deeply concerned with Rome’s rejection of the 1998 Missal Translation in favor of their new translation.
…we believe that the 1998 translation was beautifully constructed, understandable, scripturally and theologically sound and easily spoken out loud and understood by the presider and the assembled People of God.
…we are deeply concerned with Rome’s retreat from the principles and theology of the Second Vatican Council.
…we believe that the liturgical documents of Vatican II are inspiring and a great gift to the Church.
…we are deeply concerned with Rome’s justification for the new translation and their statement that the changes promulgated in the documents of Vatican II diminish our understanding of the Eucharist and our understanding of Christology.
…we believe that the rites emanating from Vatican II have deepened people’s understanding of the celebration of the Eucharist and appreciation of who Christ is and who we are each called to become.
…we are deeply concerned with Rome’s need to silence those who express their concerns and with our bishops’ docile compliance.
…we believe we should be able to expect more from our spiritual leaders who no longer speak for us or with us but simply to us.
…we believe that we have the right and responsibility to express our needs to our bishops.

In the Documents of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium states “Like all Christians, the laity have the right to receive in abundance the help of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially that of the word of God and the sacraments from the pastors. To the latter the laity should disclose their needs and desires with that liberty and confidence which befits children of God… By reason of the knowledge, competence or pre-eminence which they have the laity are empowered – indeed sometimes obliged – to manifest their opinion on those things which pertain to the good of the Church.” Lumen Gentium, #37.

The Code of Canon Law #212, section 3 states “They (Christ’s faithful) have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church.”

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Guilt shortage dooms reform of the reform - Eugene Cullen Kennedy

Thanks to Eugene Cullen Kennedy for this article (reproduced below) in the National Catholic reporter.
Guilt shortage dooms reform of the reform - By Eugene Cullen Kennedy

The Reformers of the Reform resemble those who restore and sell antique cars. They labor strenuously to polish up once sleek models out of the '20s and flog them confidently as the next big thing in Catholic life.

Their sparkling showroom is modeled on St. Peter's, their sales people speak Latin, and, instead of cash, they offer plenary indulgences as incentives. They hand out a stilted language manual that promises the people they want to convert into pilgrims that they can ride happily again on the two-lane roads of pre-Vatican II Catholicism.

There is only one thing missing: the fuel of neurotic guilt that these vehicles desperately need in order to wheeze their way back to that church whose imagined glories depended on making people feel bad even about being good.

The so-called Reform of the Reform will sputter out precisely because it cannot drill in the Arctic, in the Gulf, or in people's backyards for the massive amounts of inappropriate guilt that were pumped into the lives of Catholics to keep them in their pews and in their places in the Father-is-always-right era into which these deluded pied pipers of reform are determined to lead us.

Catholicism can rightly claim that it has always made room for, forgiven and offered comfort to sinners. The cultural evocation of Catholicism that gleams in the eyes of Reformers of the Reform is, however, a distortion of the church's humane and understanding pilgrimage with its people.

These zealots do not understand the profound pastoral majesty of a Servant Church whose energy source is the Spirit; they want a Church as Master that exercises power to control and condemn, if need be, every believer's slightest thought or impulse.

They detest Vatican II because it did away with the pseudo-guilt that made good people feel uneasy or unclean about even the healthy aspects of being human, such as having sexual feelings and the desire for union that goes with genuine love. They want to overturn Vatican II because it placed the dignity of the human person at the center of its deliberations and as the subject of its extraordinary documents. They dislike Vatican II precisely because it did away with the imaginary guilt that these out-of-touch reformers need to fill up their out-of-style vehicles of spiritual life.

The church they long to restore, but lack the fuel to run, was indeed a powerful force that could get people coming and going and give them a phony speeding ticket as facilely as a traffic cop on the take. Indeed, "Catholic guilt" remains a staple for literary critics who think that artists, such as playwright Eugene O'Neill, found their inspiration in the guilt that once seemed to permeate the lives of their people, no matter how hard they tried or how good they really were.

Nothing is more human or natural than the sexual feelings or imaginings that course through ordinary people every day. If, as in a prime distortion of the dead and gone Catholic Culture, you could make people feel that each one of these was -- if the person so much as hesitated no longer than it takes to smell a beautiful flower or savor a taste of fine wine -- always and ever an occasion of serious sin, then you could make them feel needlessly guilty and in dire and urgent need of absolution in the confessional. If a person could be made to feel guilty for taking healthy pride in some achievement, then you could ruin their day and make them feel senselessly guilty even about their efforts to use their gifts wisely.

Many of the good men and women who entered seminaries and religious houses brought generous hearts but a cultural conditioning that made them feel guilty if they turned away from the idea. Many good people remained, against the grain of their truest selves, out of the counterfeit guilt piled on them by spiritual directors and others who insisted that God wanted them to stay.

I recall an 80-year-old priest who tearfully told me that he never really wanted to be ordained but that every time he tried to leave, he was made to feel guilty about departing, and was told that all he needed was "to want to want to be a priest." He made the best of it, as many married couples have of relationships that they were pressured to enter, but there is no way to measure how unhappy they were and how many other people that, incidentally and unintentionally, they infected with their own sorrows.

The inability of these romantic reformers to find the fuel of guilt to keep their enterprise on the road explains the midsummer madness of the cardinal who has decreed that Catholics may only receive the Eucharist on the tongue while standing or the bishops of England and Wales who want to restore meatless Fridays. Granted that the latter is a great symbol but they will never again make Catholics feel that they commit a mortal sin equal to that of murder for forgetfully nibbling on a pig-in-the-blanket at a Friday cocktail party.

Pope Benedict XVI plans to emphasize the sacrament of penance at the forthcoming World Youth Day but, wonderful as the sacrament of forgiveness is, not even he will persuade people to feel that they are guilty of real sin when they are distracted at prayers or feel discouraged about life.

Catholics cut down on confession not because they abandoned the idea of sin but because they discovered the meaning of sin and realized that it was much different in many of its social dimensions than the personal foibles they had been trained to feel guilty about in the pre-Vatican II Church.

The Reform of the Reform is therefore doomed because it can no longer make healthy people feel unhealthy and unnecessary guilt about being human. That is why, when once asked why he convened Vatican II, Pope John XXIII replied not with a discourse on the sinful world but with perhaps the most Catholic sentence spoken by any pontiff in the 20th century: "To make the human sojourn on earth less sad."

[Eugene Cullen Kennedy is emeritus professor of psychology at Loyola University, Chicago.]

Friday, 5 August 2011

The Vatican’s Tahrir Square? - Fr Kevin Kelly

Thankyou to Kevin Kelly for having the courage to say these things.

Kevin T Kelly is a retired parish priest and emeritus Research Fellow in Moral Theology at Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, England. The author has sent this text to all the bishops of England and Wales.

In 1975 in my role as Director of the Upholland Northern Institute (UNI) I was involved in arranging the very first In-Service Training course for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. It was on the theme, ‘The Bishop as Teacher’ and was held at the UNI. When the bishops arrived, they all had embargoed copies of the CDF Declaration, Persona Humana, on sexual issues which was due to be published during the week. Quite a number of the bishops shared with me their deep unease about the Declaration. They were highly critical of it and made no secret of that to me and to each other. I was given a copy and asked to run a special session on it. When I read it, I could see why they felt so critical. Despite its title, Personal Humana was based on a theological approach which failed to do justice to Vatican II’s person-centred vision of moral theology. In my talk I suggested to the bishops that, if they were to be faithful to their role of teachers, they should be prepared to voice their criticism of the Declaration, if they were interviewed by the media. I stressed that we owe it to the truth to be honest and authentic in what we say. Positive criticism is intrinsic to good teaching. As far as I know, none of them followed my suggestion in their subsequent TV and Radio interviews.

What disturbed me even more was the text of a telegram I found in an issue of Documentation Catholique.a few months later.  It was sent to the CDF from  the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and thanked them for their excellent Declaration, Persona Humana! That left a bad taste in my mouth. It suggested a kind of ‘double speak’, as though there was a dysfunctionality in communications within the Church. 

That seems to be relevant at present with regard to the new translation of the Roman Missal. I may be wrong, but I have the impression that at least some, perhaps many, of the bishops share the unhappiness about the new translation which is felt by many priests and lay Catholics. Yet the new translation is being promoted as a precious gift. Let me quote from a suggested insert for parish newsletters for the coming weeks sent out by Liverpool Archdiocese. “The new translation brings with it a deeper and more profound meaning of the mystery we have gathered to celebrate at Mass.” This is because “we have grown as a Church over the last 40 years in terms of understanding how to better translate our Latin texts into the vernacular language of the people”. Consequently, “the changes also bring us a wonderful opportunity as a Church to delve more deeply into the mystery of Christ Jesus and the praise and thanksgiving we offer to God, our Father, during Mass”. 

I love the liturgy, I really do. I find it a rich source for my own devotional life. But I find those quotations deeply disturbing, arousing the same feeling of uneasiness I experienced with the Bishops’ telegram to the CDF. I simply cannot identify myself with what is being said. It smacks too much of a ‘double-speak’, not the straightforward ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ that Jesus urged us to follow.  On the Sunday following Mubarak’s stepping down as President of Egypt, I made the following point in my homily to the community of Notre Dame Sisters with whom I am privileged to share the Eucharist each day. 

“Re-reading the first paragraph of Benedict’s 2009 social encyclical, ‘Caritas in Veritate, has helped me to see beneath the surface of what has been happening in Tahrir Square. Benedict writes: “Love is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of Justice and Peace.” He goes on to stress that this force “has its origin in God” and is a “vocation planted by God in the heart and mind of every human person.” The crowd in Tahrir Square were mainly Muslims but also included many secularists and Coptic Christians. They showed “courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace” in their peaceful demands for a peaceful, non-violent transition to genuine human freedom and justice. Benedict’s amazing words applied to them and made me very conscious that what I was seeing on TV was God’s spirit present and active in these people.”

I am sure many people felt that same “extraordinary force” was tangible in the crowds during the Benedict XVI’s UK visit. I certainly felt that at Evensong in Westminster Abbey. 

However, I also feel that this “extraordinary force” is also manifesting itself in the growing unease about the imposition of the new translation of the Roman Missal. A grass-roots resistance seems to be growing among ordinary Catholics who are deeply concerned at the impact this new translation will have on their Sunday Mass. They had no say in what is happening. They feel disempowered. To my mind, their instinct is right. The New Missal imposition is just one instance of the abuse of power in our Church. It is just the tip of the ice-berg. I sense a growing discontent among many very committed Catholics who have a deep love for the church. They feel it is losing touch with the Spirit-inspired vision of Vatican II and its hope for the future. They want to mount a protest against this but there seems no appropriate channel for such protest. 

Vatican II placed collegiality at the very heart of church governance. Implied in that teaching is the involvement of all the faithful through collaborative ministry and corresponsibility. The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales made that abundantly clear in The Sign we Give, the magnificent 1995 Report from their Working Party on Collaborative Ministry. Sadly, these developments in church governance, so central to the renewal of the Church, have never been properly implemented. That continues to this very day. Until recently most Catholics have felt they had no choice but to tolerate of this abuse of power. Now, however, I suspect that the ‘Tahrir Square’ syndrome in the church is a sign that the “extraordinary force” of the fire of the Holy Spirit is beginning to disturb us from our complacency. 

The flagrant misuse of power involved in the new translation of the Roman Missal is not just about its pastorally disastrous kind of language. It is also about the serious disregard for Vatican II’s teaching on collegiality in the process leading up to the New Missal. The original International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) was set up after the Council and was a fine example of the implementation of collegiality, since it was answerable to the English-speaking bishops conferences throughout the world. ICEL’s only link with the Congregation of Divine Worship (CDW) was the requirement to obtain a ‘recognitio’ (a kind of ‘rubber stamp’!) for its proposed texts and translations. ICEL was also true to Vatican II’s ecumenical spirit since it worked with the liturgical agencies of other Christian churches to ensure that the common texts and the cycle of biblical readings would be shared in common by the churches.  Moreover, it tried to avoid as far as possible exclusive language which might be offensive to women. These original ICEL texts were carefully vetted and voted upon by all the English-speaking bishops’ conferences and are still used today throughout the English-speaking world. However, from the start ICEL had been aware that the need to provide English texts as soon as reasonably possible after the Council inevitably meant that their texts were far from perfect. In fact, Archbishop Denis Hurley, a major figure at Vatican II and first Chair of ICEL, immediately set in motion the work of revising and refining these texts. He gathered together a team of liturgical and literary experts to undertake this task. The guiding principle for their work was based on Vatican II’s insistence that the “full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else” (Liturgy Constitution, n.14) Consequently, this team was commissioned to produce texts which, while not being literal word-for-word translations, should be faithful to the meaning of the original, as well as being simple, dignified and easily understandable. In this they were following the guidance enshrined in the Vatican II-inspired 1969 instruction, Comme le prevoit, approved by Paul VI. 

By 1998 ICEL’s revised version of the Roman Missal was complete and had been examined and approved by all the English-speaking bishops’ conferences. It was then sent to the Congregation of Divine Worship (CDW) for its formal ‘recognitio’. This was refused, completely disregarding the key Vatican II principle of collegiality! Moreover, without any consultation, the CDW brought out an entirely new set of guidelines, Liturgiam Authenticam, which insisted on a much more literal fidelity in translating and actually warned against any ecumenical involvement in the process. Moreover, it showed total insensitivity to women by ruling out any use of inclusive language! Archbishop Hurley, by then no longer Chair of ICEL, is reported to have said: “I find the attitude reflected in the proposed change in translation practice a distressing departure from the spirit of collegiality in favour of authoritative imposition”. He even wrote to a friend: “At times I find it difficult to understand the attitude of the Roman Curia. It seems to be more concerned with power than with humble service.” (both quotations from Paddy Kearney, Guardian of the Light: Denis Hurley, Renewing the Church, opposing Apartheid, (New York, London, T & T Clark, 2009), pp.292 & 295) 

A radically reconstituted ICEL set out to produce a new Roman Missal following the new guide-lines. In due course this was sent out to the English-speaking bishops’ conferences. They could have rejected this new Missal but instead chose to approve it. It looks as though they had given up hope of any genuine collegiality. The earlier revision of the Missal which all the Bishops’ conferences had approved in 1998 was virtually binned, despite being the fruit of years of dedicated expertise and ecumenical cooperation by the commission set up by the original ICEL. A full account of this sad and shameful affair is found in Chapters 4 and 5 of It’s the Eucharist, Thank God (Decani Books, Brandon, Suffolk, 2009) by Bishop Maurice Taylor who was chair of ICEL during the fateful years of 1997 to 2002. 

This new Missal has provoked widespread dismay and disquiet, especially among many clergy, fearful of its negative impact on parishioners. For instance, in January of this year the eminent US liturgical scholar, Anthony Ruff OSB, withdrew from a commission given him by the US bishops to help prepare people for the new translation of the Roman Missal in dioceses across the US. In his letter of withdrawal he wrote:“...my involvement in that process, as well as my observation of the Holy See’s handling of scandal, has gradually opened my eyes to the deep problems in the structures of authority of our church. The forthcoming missal is but a part of a larger pattern of top-down impositions by a central authority that does not consider itself accountable to the larger church. When I think of how secretive the translation process was, how little consultation was done with priests or laity, ... how unsatisfactory the final text is, how this text was imposed on national conferences of bishops in violation of their legitimate episcopal authority...—and then when I think of Our Lord’s teachings on service and love and unity…I weep.” (America, 14/2/11)

Anthony Ruff is not a lone voice. On 3 February the Irish Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) issued a press release entitled “New Translation of the Missal Unacceptable”. They described the texts as “archaic, elitist and obscure and not in keeping with the natural rhythm, cadence and syntax of the English language” and say: “from the few available samples of the new texts, it is clear that the style of English used throughout the Mass will be so convoluted that it will be difficult to read the prayers in public.” Moreover, they continue: “It is ironic that this Latinised, stilted English is being imposed on Irish people who are so blessed with world-renowned poets, playwrights, and novelists.” They ask the bishops to follow the German bishops who have objected to similar texts being imposed on them and urge them to defer the Missal’s introduction for five years to give them time to “engage with Irish Catholics with a view to developing a new set of texts that will adequately reflect the literary genius and spiritual needs of our Church community in these modern times”.

Two years earlier, an article appeared in America (14/12/09) entitled What If We Said, 'Wait'? The case for a grass-roots review of the new Roman Missal, by Fr Michael G. Ryan. He spoke out of his experience as Pastor of St. James Cathedral, Seattle since 1988 and board member of the national Cathedral Ministry Conference. He tells of the reactions of “disbelief and indignation“ of his friends to some of the translations; and of “audible laughter in the room” at a diocesan seminar for priests and lay-leaders. One reaction will strike chords with many: 

“with all that the church has on its plate today—global challenges with regard to justice, peace and the environment; nagging scandals; a severe priest shortage; the growing disenchantment of many women; seriously lagging church attendance—it seems almost ludicrous to push ahead with an agenda that will seem at best trivial and at worst hopelessly out-of-touch.” 

He also notes that when the new translations were mistakenly introduced ahead of time in South Africa they “were met almost uniformly with opposition bordering on outrage”. Fr Ryan makes a gentle “What if?” challenge to his fellow priests:

“What if we, the parish priests of this country who will be charged with the implementation, were to find our voice and tell our bishops that we want to help them avert an almost certain fiasco? What if we told them that we think it unwise to implement these changes until our people have been consulted in an adult manner that truly honors their intelligence and their baptismal birthright? What if we just said, “Wait, not until our people are ready for the new translations, but until the translations are ready for our people”?”

I recommend Ryan’s article very highly, especially to priests. Many Catholics seem to have mixed feelings about the church at present. At one level they really do love the church and, in the UK at least, felt boosted by the Pope’s visit. Yet they also agree with Tina Beattie’s comment that the problems have not gone away. A lot of these problems are related to the way the authority of God is being used to shore up teaching which, at the very least, is open to debate and, in some instances, rejected as inadequate by many theologians and most people in the church trying to be faithful to the spirit of Vatican II. I am thinking, for instance, of the rich understanding of human sexuality found in current Catholic and Christian theology, revealing to women and men, gays and lesbians, the depth of their God-given dignity and the ultimate foundation for their sense of self-worth. The same is true of developments in liturgical and Eucharistic theology with its emphasis on full participation, so crucial to the spirit of Vatican II. Using authority to close down these legitimate debates paralyses pastoral imagination from exploring new ways of coping with such down-to-earth issues as the sacraments to the divorced-remarried, Eucharistic hospitality in an ecumenical context, general absolution’s highlighting the social dimension of sin, as well as stifling the much-needed debate on contraception, the ordination of women, and the presence of God’s love in the faithful love lives of gays and lesbians.

It seems to be increasingly recognised that abuse of power is also a key factor lying at the heart of the scandal of clergy sex-abuse and Episcopal cover-up. The eradication of this horrendous abuse of power seems to lie not just in dealing with the actual perpetrators but also in a radical conversion of the organisational pathology of the church itself. I cannot get out of my mind the telling words of Brendan Callaghan SJ: “The faces of this tragedy are always the faces of the hurt and betrayed children, and we must somehow find the courage neither to turn away from those faces nor to diminish what they show us of death and destruction.” 

For some readers this article might seem too negative and disturbing, especially as coming from a 77-year old retired priest and emeritus (“past it”) moral theologian. I hope and pray that what I have written is empowered by the same “extraordinary force” of God’s love referred to by Benedict XVI which I mentioned in my opening paragraph.  God alone can judge that. Certainly it is what I pray for each morning with the words, “Come, Holy Spirit, enkindle in us (and in me) the fire of your love”. 

At the opening of the 2nd Session of Vatican II, Paul VI spoke of the church as “the Bride of Christ looking upon Christ to discern in him her true likeness” and reminded the bishops that: “If in doing so she were to discover some shadow, some defect, some stain upon her wedding garment, what should be her instinctive, courageous reaction? There can be no doubt that her primary duty would be to reform, correct and set herself aright in conformity with her divine model”. Yves Congar, Hans Kung & Daniel O’Hanlon, Council Speeches of Vatican II (Sheed & Ward, London, 1964) p.51. Paul VI was not encouraging a spirit of negative criticism at the Council. He was inviting the bishops to show their love for the church by facing up to its need for healing and renewal. Positive criticism should be loving, inspiring and life-giving. I believe, with many others, that the church needs this kind of love more than ever at this point in time – not a soft love but a courageous reforming love. Henri DeLubac is reported to have said: “If we do not learn to love the church in its sinfulness, we will not love the church loved by the Lord but, rather, some figment of our romantic imagination.” cf. George B Wilson SJ, Clericalism: The Death of Priesthood, (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 2008) p.x. As members of this sinful church, each of us, myself included, needs to ask the Spirit to help us discern how we are part of that sinfulness and especially in this Lenten season ask for forgiveness and healing. 

Kevin T Kelly

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Church sponsored Genocide in Canada ?

I Can’t say I’ve managed to digest this yet.  It’s left me feeling so very uncomfortable.  Take time to read the report by “The Truth Commission into Genocide in Canada.”  The video below “Unrepentant” with Rev Kevin Annett unfolds a shocking treatment and genocide of native aboriginal children in church residential schools across a range of denominations.