Dialogue within the Irish Church may flow from Pope Francis’ leadership
“In all the baptized, from first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization.” Evangelii Gaudium #119
When I ask myself ‘Is this true for me?’ my answer is a resounding ‘Yes’ – but where will I be able to explain why, sure that at least some of our clergy will be willing to listen?
The logic of decentralisation, and of Francis’ insistence that he himself can’t answer all those questions that occur locally, is that we may be on the brink of major change in the way the Irish church conducts itself – especially with regard to internal communication and dialogue. The danger is that a deeply embedded Irish clericalism, instead of seeking to arouse Irish lay passivity, will go on exploiting it by seizing the initiative and setting an agenda that will go on stifling the truly open discussion that needs to take place. The tiredness of so many of our clergy may well advise them in that direction also.
So I feel strongly inclined, and as soon as possible, to buttonhole local clergy for open discussion of ‘Gaudium Evangelii’ – to allow me, and anyone else interested, to say, first of all, what joy we personally derive from the Gospel – and then, if necessary, what may still deter us from recommending our Irish Catholic church as a welcoming and safe place for all.
For me, despite all the severe shocks our Irish magisterium has given me since 1994, despite the continuing denial of dialogue in Ireland over this and other matters, despite the unjust structures that still encourage what Francis calls ‘witch hunts’ of our bravest clergy – the gift of the Gospels is still transcendent and a source of joy. It calls me to spend the rest of my life in saying so. I lack only a formal context in which to say why – a structural context that is sanctioned by the church that has formed me.
One misgiving I have about Evangelii gaudium is that it does not explicitly call all bishops to fulfill the promise made in Lumen gentium #37 – that lay people would be able to articulate their needs and desires ‘through the institutions established by the Church for that purpose’. These institutions could yet still be denied us by an Irish magisterium that would see a decentralised power of initiative as stopping solely with themselves.
If this is not the moment to tell our clergy, day and night, that this would be a mortal error, will we lay people ever get another? Are there any ACP members out there ready to hear this and respond?