Is the ACP in danger of adopting ‘Group Think’?
In his psoting ‘Who do the Irish bishops think they are?’, Ted Schmidt is rightly concerned about ‘System Think.’ I have used a similar term (borrowed from RTE Report on the Reynolds case), ‘Group Think.’ We are all caught within our own narrows & are confined by what we see to be the way and the only path. That could even be said of Peter McVerry on Friday night at the ACP AGM. His presentation was so true and very obvious. It was almost impossible to disagree. But it is not the only way! There are more ways to skin that famous cat.
‘Group Think’ happened with Newsnight (BBC); with RTE; with Savile; with Hillsborough; with the Church. It happens all of us. I am little hesitant lest we too in ACP become corralled into a single thought pattern. I don’t want us to be distracted by the Bishops or Rome. In the usual throwaway line: “I thought someone should do something but then I realised, I was someone.” We all wish things were different but we can’t just become whingers.
Rome is imprisoned in its own fears – pace the stupidity of the crude language of the Missal and the intrusive Latin. (However it is the atrocious theology behind the Missal which is more serious). Rome embarrasses us and even disheartens us. It is also seriously defective and far from the Gospel in regard to our priests who have been censored. There is the rust of fear in their behaviour.
Our Bishops too, clearly should be speaking with their priests. ACP is an ally not an enemy. But again our bishops are overwhelmed with the business of life and are incapable of reaching out and working together which is the essential language of Communion. We rightly ask if there is any understanding of what Eucharist is in the behaviour of Rome and the Bishops.
But I do think it is very wrong of us to start shouting at them and almost suggesting that they are useless puppets of a dead theology in Rome. Some of this is true but the bishops need help and understanding like elderly and concerned parents who are lost for words and are finding life too difficult at present. Retrenchment always happens when people are afraid. They rush into the arms of the familiar and away from any form of discussion. Much of what they see to be important has become dismissed in recent times. They need our sympathy and our shared reflection rather than any insults.
Rome is not the real problem. The bishops are not the real problem. The only Church that most people know is the local church. That is where everything happens or doesn’t happen. Out in our Parishes – the Bishop or the Pope is largely irrelevant! It is in the local church where Christ lives or is allowed to be or isn’t. The ‘Word’ is made flesh or isn’t. I believe that the driving force of the ACP has to focus on what we do (or aren’t doing) or are trying to do . We cannot pass on the blame.
There has often been too much adolescent behaviour among clergy. We are responsible for things. We are responsible for the Living Gospel. We can change things. We can stop everything changing. We are often the problem. How many of us would still be attending Church or involved in Church if we had to put up with what so many local communities have to experience? All that we accuse Rome and Bishops of doing and not doing is exemplified out in the Parishes. Liturgy? Team Work? Clusters? Lay involvement? Parish Pastoral Councils? I think we need to pay attention to the article written by Brendan Hoban after the May meeting. That states succinctly our plan of action. We are fighting together for the heart of the church and we must do what we can , politically (the art of the possible). We cannot set up battle lines.
Mary Oliver wrote in her book Thirst (after the death of her partner) in her poem Messenger:
‘Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
Keep my mind on what matters,
Which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.’
Yes, our boots are old; our coats are torn; we are no longer young and we aren’t even perfect……We can never lose that map for life. The ACP is a delightful community. We cannot allow it be damaged by rambling up too many boreens or getting reduced by System thoughts or Group think.
Seamus Ahearne osa (Finglas South, Dublin). 12th November 2012.