19Apr The Catholic Church is in deep crisis. Nessan Vaughan

The Catholic Church is in deep crisis. We are all familiar with most of the contributory factors and manifestations:  recent revelations regarding abuse of children by clergy and the subsequent handling of same by church authorities; growing alienation among Catholics in respect of the position adopted by Rome relating to celibacy, women, contraception; the perceived irrelevance of the church for an increasing number of people, particularly young people; the authoritarian nature of the church, as practiced by the Pope and Curia.

Furthermore, recent decades have seen serious efforts made by Rome to reverse many of the changes introduced following Vatican 2. The latter envisaged a more collegiate church where the Pope would be primus inter pares; where the local church would have more autonomy with an increased role for lay people; serious and sustained dialogue would be held with other Christian Churches, in a spirit of mutual respect; a proper respect for scriptural scholarship and for dialogue with the sciences would be shown. Sadly we have witnessed a more centralised and authoritarian church; emasculation of the local church; the elevation of non-essential teachings (celibacy, ban on women priests, for example) to articles of faith.

And recent developments in Ireland reinforce the above trends. We have had the censored and abridged version of the report of the Apostolic Visitation with its ominous reference to ‘a widespread tendency among priests, religious and laity’ to hold theological opinions at variance with ‘the teachings of the Magesterium’. We have now seen how the Magesterium intends dealing with authentic theological reflection and the search for meaning and truth in the disgraceful treatment of Tony Flannery and Gerry Moloney.

Yet there is hope. An increasing assertiveness among lay people as manifested by the work of We Are Church (WARI) and Pobal De (to mention just two lay-lead organisations) suggests that a new and more vibrant church might emerge. The establishment of the Association of Catholic Priests and their recent deliberations also point to the exciting possibility of a new model of church; a church more in tune with the Spirit of Vatican 2 and, more importantly, a church with Jesus Christ at the centre.

Let us join forces with the above, in a spirit of solidarity and humility, in developing a new model (or models) of church that will genuinely support the spreading of the Good News. Let us not allow authentic prophets be silenced. Let us reclaim the church.

Nessan Vaughan > Tel: 0872515307.   8 Seapoint Court   Parochial Avenue   Baldoyle   Dublin 13.

4 Responses

  1. Fintan Sheerin

    Thanks Nessa for a very though-provoking piece. I totally support what you have written. You mention the effect on young people. I was leader of a youth choir in St. Augustines in Drogheda for about 10 years. This was a small group of young people, many of whom had come together in their early teens and who stayed together until they left school. I have been involved in church folk groups and choirs for around 30 years and this was the most wonderful group to work with. They were acutely aware of their Christianity and of their role in supporting the liturgy and, indeed, each other…as they were bucking the trend that many of their friends had followed. What I also noticed was that they had a clear (and idealistic) awareness of right and wrong…of justice and injustice. These were the future of the Church. The inadequacy and appalling response of the hierarchical Church to the scandal of abuse brought some of them to the edge of their willingness to remain with the Church. The final straw was the Armagh diocese’s rejection of Colm O’Gorman as a suitable person to speak in St. Augustines. Those who left spoke of their inability to stand by a Church that demonstrated such injustice and exclusion. I am reminded of them at this time and of their conscientisation to the realities of the injustice that they witnessed. I followed them out after a while for the same reasons. Recently I have become conscious that we cannot be forced out of our Church and I have made the journey back. We must regain the sense of justice that we had as teenagers but we must continue to speak out from within the Church and demand that we return to a Jesus-centred Church

  2. Chris (England)

    Thank you Nessa. You have made many valid points. As one of those people who continue to hang on within the Church despite the direction that Benedict and the Hierarchy is trying to take it, my hope lies with a more enlightened laity who recognise that we are all Church – The People of God and not weekly customers who go to the building they call Church for a spiritual refreshment.Those who want the laity to return to a pray, pay and obey mentality will not suceed because that particular bubble has been well and truly burst. It saddens me to see the lengths to which the hierarchy is prepared to go in order to pacify traditionalist groups while they deny those of a progressive outlook the right to even speak. If the Institution is not to lose whatever credibility it still has with the vast majority of its members than it must leave behind its authoritarianism, its pomp and circumstance and begin to listen and engage in respectful dialogue. Otherwise the majority will go their own way, using the instition as a agency to help them mark the important events in their lives (maybe), but otherwise ignoring what it says. Fintan is so right when he says we must return to a Jesus-centred Church.

  3. Denis (England)

    Thank God for this website, for providing a forum for non-judgemental discussion and debate, for those who have had the courage and wisdom to establish the ACP, and those who continue to fulfil their ministry and life journey in faith, with courage and despite all, in hope.

    One of the greatest tragedies of the current Vatican stance is the prohibition of informed debate and its response to those who ‘dare’ to attempt otherwise. This conservative, authoritarian stance will only serve to create a church increasingly irrelevant in the lives of people, particularly our young people and increasingly divided within itself. The recent introduction of the new liturgical rite is a further measure of a church increasingly disconnected from a world where the ‘true’ church is alive through vibrant community and prayerful gathering. This is where those young people and not so young are able to
    gather in prayerful worship and not be constrained by institutional liturgical language which even for many priests requires more than a second read to comprehend; a far cry from an upper room in Jerusalem!

    The Lord will sustain us in our faith and lead us in hope-filled joy.

    Thank you Nessan for your contribution and enabling our expression.

  4. Aidan Hilliard

    David sent me a copy of your discussion document following a conversation I had with him regarding developments in Karen’s parish in Gloucestershire.I share all your concerns particularly in relation to the efforts by our Church to nullify the second Vatican Council.I was in Croke Park yesterday and heard the Celebrant claim that our Eucharistic Congress was in line with Vatican 2.These were not his words but he did make the claim.
    Please include me in your mailing list on these matters as I am very concerned.
    Kind regards Aidan


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