International Network of Reform Movements
For the past nine months or so I have been part of an international network of reform movements, lay and clerical. We had a gathering last October in Bregenz, Austria, and since then a group of seven of us take part in regular skype conferences. In April of next year the next gathering will take place here in Ireland. Currently we have members from the United States, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and Ireland. We hope to expand the group further.
One of the issues we are focusing on now is the question of what are the fundamental rights of catholic people in the Church, how these rights are being violated, and how people can be made more aware of their rights. This discussion is focusing in particular on five issues:
1. The appointment of bishops. How does the process work; who is being consulted; who makes the decisions; what criteria are used in making these decisions. Is there a better way of doing this.
2. The problem of ‘authority vetos’ within the Church. This works at all levels. The pope can veto the opinions of bishops; bishops can veto the opinions of priests; priests can veto the opinions of parish councils. How can this be replaced by a system of consensus decision-making? A start would be for priests to agree that all decisions made by the parish council would, in so far as is possible, be by consensus.
3. Closure of parishes is a major issue in other parts of the world, particularly in the United States and Europe. The decision to close parishes is usually made by the Episcopal authorities without any consultation with the local community. This is the wrong way to deal with this situation. Organisations like FutureChurch (U.S.) have modelled better ways of working, which they have outlined in their website. This is beginning to be a problem in Ireland, and will be a major one in a few years time.
4. Related to the above: the right of each believing community to the Eucharist. This raises all the issues about ministry that we are familiar with.
5. Transparency in decision-making at all levels in the Church; and in particular full and open reporting on all decision that are made.
These we see as being urgent issues to be discussed. Our aim is, rather than just raising the issues, to try to model better ways of operating in these areas, and to provide resources for local communities. The conference we will host here next April will try to come up with clear positions on all these areas.