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.