28Apr Malcolm Reville reflects on dialogue within the Church

When I tried to send a comment on 22nd May the ‘capptcha code’ got me, and the message was lost. Now that Brian D’Arcy has been censured I think it is important to re-send the post about ‘Dialogue within the church’.

In the book ‘Future Directions’, ” A Call to Dialog within the Church” which he edited, the late Carroll Stuhlmueller C.P. wrote that, ‘the ordination of women enlarges a dialog across the entire church, male and female, and forces us to re-examine the nature and force of symbol within the sacramental system of the Catholic church. Dialog such as this unites rather than divides. It enriches and so makes the bond within the church more worthy of Jesus’ death and resurrection.’…  This book presents no final answers. The authors, however, call all of us to dialog with honesty and dignity, with openness in the pastoral and scholarly forum, that the future directions of priesthood reflect the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our midst.’

The fact that there are now married priests in the Ordinariate, and in a number of dioceses worldwide, allows the ordinary Catholic to become familiar with the role of the married priest. Where I live, there is a Ukrainian married Catholic priest with a family, who runs a family bookstore on a full-time basis. His parishioners have no problem accepting his role as other than normal. It is unfortunate that other Catholic priests who are married, do not have the opportunity of exercising a pastoral ministry

As a result of the recent ‘blitzkrieg’ emanating from the Vatican, against male and female religious, in Ireland and the U.S., many in the church will feel some trepidation at becoming involved in any dialogue about married, or women priests.

Now that our brother Brian has been disciplined, I will now have to add one more individual to my list of people to pray for, who have been ‘wounded’, in the exercise of their conscience. Brian D’Arcy said he had been “living with the pain of censure for 14 months and will have to live with it for the rest of my priestly life”.

As Carroll Stuhlmueller said; ‘Fire is the prophet Jeremiah’s word for the divine summons within his conscience’. ‘I say to myself, I will not mention it, I will speak his name no more. But then it becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones: I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it’ Jer 0;9

Malcolm Reville, M.R.E.

Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, Canada

6 Responses

  1. Fintan Sheerin

    Over the past few weeks, I have been reflecting on the developing situation of the Catholic Church in Ireland. I am familiar with the experience of being considered to be a ‘dissenter’: as a lay member of the community in St. Augustine’s in Drogheda, I was once described as ‘one of THOSE Augustinian Catholics’! There was, however, never any risk associated with such a designation.

    Things are changing though and it is becoming increasingly uncomfortable: changes are being imposed which distance the liturgy from the people; inspections have being undertaken in the form of visitations; dissidence is being suppressed; orthodoxy is being re-established; and so-called ‘dissident’ leaders are being disappeared through silencing, censuring and subjection to spiritual and mental torture. Attempts are even being made to remove their published works from circulation. This is the Catholic Church in Ireland in 2012!

    As I pondered this reality, I was reminded of other situations where experiences such as these have been the reality for people. In most of these cases, people were challenging totalitarianism or dictatorship. Whereas this is different to what we are experiencing today in Ireland, there are some similarities which lead me to question how this can in any way be consistent with the Gospel of love that is supposed to be central to Christianity. Jesus did not come to bring oppression, pain and death; he came rather to bring fullness of life (John 10:10); he came to free those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18). What conclusion am I to reach when the fruits of the Roman Church include such negative outcomes? Ubi est verum?

  2. Vincent Morton

    Great article. Thank you…..

  3. Chris (England)

    In previous centuries, it may have been possible to silence discussion and debate. Books could be destroyed: together with their authors they could be made to literally go up in flames. While it is still true that prophets who dare to speak or write may be personally hurt by being “silenced”, such punitive actions only serve to increase the intensity of discussion. The Internet cannot be so easily silenced and one has only to look at websites and blogs from around the world to see how such discussions have been fanned in recent months. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle and there can be no going back – despite what some of the Church’s leaders may think.
    Sadly, the recent crackdowns on groups and individuals may have been the final straw for many Catholics who had lived in hope of greater understanding, dialogue and mutual respect within the Church. Some of us continue to hang on, hoping and praying for a new kind of leadership within the Church, one based on service rather than power.This has to happen if the Church is to survive as more than a minority sect existing behind barricades of fear and suspicion. As someone said recently the People of God must begin to believe in themselves not as a flock of sheep but a pride of lions.

  4. Len Agar

    Is there not a whiff of hypocrisy in juxtaposing within one article the following sentiments:

    ‘The authors, however, call all of us to dialog with honesty and dignity, with openness in the pastoral and scholarly forum, that the future directions of priesthood reflect the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our midst.’

    ‘As a result of the recent ‘blitzkrieg’ emanating from the Vatican…’

    Does the author really presume that honesty, dignity and the Holy Spirit is wholly on his side?

  5. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh

    “It is unfortunate that other Catholic priests who are married, do not have the opportunity of exercising a pastoral ministry.”

    I agree that it is unfortunate that Catholic priests who left the priesthood, because they fell in love and married, are not welcomed back into active ministry.

    My own brother, Tom McHugh, is a good example of this situation. Tom was ordained for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1967, at St Mary of the Lake Seminary in Illinois. He and most of his classmates left to get married. Tom and his wife are Catholic, as are their 5 lovely children and their spouses. Tom is director of religious education in their parish. He would love to return to active priestly ministry, but our church leaders will not allow it to happen.

    Jesus empowered people. Sadly, the Roman Catholic Church tends to disempower people and that is contrary to the message and example of Jesus.

    I pray that the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland will have a very fruitful meeting on May 7, for the good of the Catholic Church across the world. I believe that you have a lot of support worldwide for your initiatives.

    Thankyou for your courage and perseverance in creating a more Jesus centered Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Legalism has to go. Love and compassion need to return.

    Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois, USA

  6. Clare McGoldrick

    I am interested in how this dialogue about the ordination of women would work.

    Would you be willing to consider that there might be valid reasons, which you are prepared to stand behind and teach, for women not to be ordained?

    I would be delighted to have dialogue with anyone who came to it with that openess, as I believe the scriptural, doctrinal and theological arguments in favour of not ordaining women are strong and compelling.

    And I would be willing to enter dialogue with my own cards very much out in the open. I have read and studied, and carefully considered all the arguments in favour of the ordination of women, and do not find them compelling at all. In fact, to be even clearer, as I believe the Church has now made it clear that this position is infallibly taught by the ordinary magisterium of the Church, if I did become convinced that women could be ordained, I would have to in good conscience stop being a Christian, as all the other truths of the faith which come to me through the Church, like the divinity of Christ, or His resurrection, would also be without foundation in the witness of the Church.

    So again I wonder what you are envisaging as the point of this dialogue?
    Dialogue on practical matters can reach a compromise, like in a discussion of which colour to paint a room. There is no clear right of wrong answer, and some consensus would be useful. But what is a play here is not principle but a practicality.

    In other areas this is not a useful way to procede. Would you be willing to ‘dialogue’ and reach a compromise with Hitler’s plan of extermination? No of course not, Such a thing is ridiculous. Precisely because, no matter what it woudl cost, one could not abandon that principle.

    Now I understand that for many the matter of ordaining women has become for them a amtter of principle. Despite the call for dialogue, I see no reason to think you would be entering that with an openess to abandoning your principles and changing your minds on this.

    So again, I come back to what ‘dialogue’ can really mean in this situation.

    I understand many people are hurt by this teaching of the Church. I am certainly willing to listen to that, it’s why I read this website. But people are also hurt by the refusal to accept the teaching of the Church in this area. Speaking for myself, I feel that this refusal has slowed down the real liberation of women, by trying to import into the Church a false and unhelpful androgynous view of sexuality which flowed from the sexual rebellion of the last century. So I can listen to your pain, and you can listen to mine. Will it help us move forward?

    It would be helpful to move towards some understanding of the purpose of the dialogue being advocated. Have you any ideas?