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Springtime Reflections for Church Renewal

by J A Dick (Reproduced with permission)

April 20, 2017

Reform-minded people need to change their conversation about church reform. Otherwise they end up either talking to themselves or simply repeating what everyone else has been saying for the past ten years. Changing the conversation means looking at church life in new ways and developing new strategies and patterns for church life today and tomorrow. It means thinking creatively and asking challenging and deeper questions….

Some proposals for refection: 
(1)   Look less at the church as institution and more as a community of faith. What is happening within your own community of faith? What are the life-issues that really concern your family and friends? Where do you find your support? How can you motivate and help the men and women in your community to truly minister to each other? What is keeping us from experimenting with new forms of parish and parish life? Perhaps a parish should be a collection of many smaller communities of faith? Household churches in which the heads of the households – men and women — preside over informal Eucharistic liturgies, as in the Apostolic era?

(2)   Look deeper than the shortage of ordained ministers and ordained women ministers. Let’s look at the meaning of ministry itself. Let’s look at and examine the very idea of ORDAINED ministry. Jesus did not ordain anyone. Let’s scratch our heads about new forms of ministry and break out of the old patterns and paradigms. Why not have ordained graduate students helping out in university parishes? Ordaining men and women for five year terms? Perhaps a parish should have many part-time ordained ministers who have “regular” jobs? And how about dropping the word “priest”? “Minister” has better resonance with the Gospel. Should we close all seminaries and agree that they are not the best structures for the formation and education of ordained ministers?

(3)   And why not elect diocesan bishop overseers for limited terms of ministry? Why not five year terms, which could be renewed for just another five-year term? Another thought, do bishops have to be the top person in a diocese? Why not give ecclesiastical authority to a diocesan leadership team? I could see a team of at least three people: a diocesan administrator, who could be a man or woman and not necessarily ordained; a diocesan director of pastoral formation, who could be a man or woman and not necessarily ordained; and a bishop (man of woman) who would serve as spiritual director and sacramental coordinator for the diocese. Shared decision-making and a great way to dismantle the clerical old boys club.

(4)   Catholic and Christian. Healthy Catholicism is rooted in healthy Christianity. So what does it really mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ today? This raises questions of belief. What do we really know about the historical Jesus? He was not white, for sure. Jesus was most likely dark brown and sun-tanned. What about all of those rather saccharin and androgynous images of Jesus that really distort who he was and what he was all about? Was his biological father the Holy Spirit or the man we call
Joseph? Isn’t the “virgin birth” more about saying he was a very special person than analyzing the biology of his conception? What if Jesus was gay or a married fellow with children? Would that make a difference for you? Would that destroy his meaning for Christian believers? Why? Was JesusGod? Early Jewish Christians, including St. Paul, would have never said that. Or was Jesus the revelation of God’s graciousness and love, as well as the revelation of authentic humanity? Jesus is “Lord,” the “Christ,” “Son of Humanity,” and “Son of God.” All of our language tries to point to his uniqueness……..

(5)   Ecumenical discussions. What are the real differences between church groups in Christianity today? Are there any good reasons why we cannot simply start worshiping together? Are we not locked in medieval theological categories about “them” and “us”? Are structural church distinctions based on Protestantism and Roman Catholicism still significant differences in belief? Isn’t Jesus Christ, for example, just as truly “present” in Episcopalian Eucharist as he is in Roman Catholic Eucharist? Are Lutherans and Presbyterians cut off from him in their worship services? What today is the uniqueness of Roman Catholicism? Perhaps the goal of ecumenical collaboration today should be respecting a variety of traditions and at the same time enhancing the Christian life of all believers and not creating a mega-church institution? Why not turn places, like the Vatican, into United Nations heritage sites? Tourist revenue could be used to fight world poverty. Church palaces could be turned into schools and hospitals or residences for political refugees.

(6)    Seven sacraments. We now know of course that the seven sacraments were created by the church not the historical Jesus. What then is the meaning of “sacrament” today? Who controls sacramental forms? Does it make sense to argue about who can “validly” administer certain sacraments? When I got married, I was told, based on Catholic sacramental understandings, that my wife and I as baptized believers “conferred the sacrament” on each other and the priest was simply an official
witness. OK, what about baptized gays and lesbians who get married? Isn’t their marriage then just as “sacramental” as mine? What about “lay” pastoral ministers in hospitals and homes for the elderly. They are often the key Christian ministers in these people’s lives. Why can’t they “anoint” the sick and dying? Maybe they should just start doing it? Isn’t Christian ministry about prayer and  compassion and comforting the sick?

These are just a few thought-starters…… Creative and critical reflection is not a dangerous activity and it can be a source of life….

 

I am celebrating a Public Mass on January 22nd: You are welcome to come if you wish.

by Tony Flannery C.Ss.R

This January marks a significant milestone in my life; the eighteenth of the month is my seventieth birthday. I have wondered how best to mark it. I am not by nature a ‘party person’, so that option did not greatly appeal to me. Having spent forty years of my life ministering as a priest, I am now into my fifth year when I am forbidden by Church authorities to minister publicly. I have decided to honour my age, and my lifetime, by ignoring the Church censures, and celebrating a public Mass. Since I would not be allowed to do so either in a Catholic church or other Catholic controlled building, I have chosen, with the kind permission of the committee, to celebrate it in the local community hall in the village where I now live, which means that the Mass will take place in Killimordaly Community Centre on Sunday, January 22nd, at 2.30pm.

Why am I doing this? I don’t think that I am doing it just for the sake of defying Church authorities. Neither do I want it to be the beginning of an unofficial ministry on my part. I have no wish to start a new ecclesial movement. My reasons are as follows:

1. For the last five years I have been in something of a ‘limbo’ state, neither fully in or fully out of the priesthood. I have known from an early stage that there was no possibility of a resolution of the dispute between myself and the Vatican. So this public Mass will be for me a way of acknowledging the forty years of my life, and the work I did as a priest—a way of acknowledging who I am.

2. Since my dispute with the Vatican went public I have received enormous support from people all over the country, and indeed internationally. Eucharist is essentially a thanksgiving and In this Mass I am giving thanks for the good will of many people.

3. Since the beginning of my difference with the CDF, I have consistently held to one fundamental point. I don’t have any problem with the Church exercising authority. Every institution needs an authority structure. But authority must be exercised in a way that is just, and that respects the dignity of the person. In my experience, and in the experience of many others whom I have come to know in these past years, Church authority is exercised in a way that is unjust and abusive. For that reason I hope that my action will highlight once again the urgent need for change in the way the Vatican deals with people who express opinions that are considered to be at odds with official Church teaching.

4. In celebrating this public Mass I am also saying something else that I regard as important. The Mass, the Eucharist, is not in the ownership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or indeed of the Vatican. It belongs to the believing communities. That was where it began in the early Church, and where it finds its true meaning. My hope is, in this time of great change and upheaval in Church and society, that the believing communities begin, by whatever means possible, to regain ownership of the Eucharist. My late Redemptorist confrere, and distinguished theologian, Bernard Haring, put it this way: “The people of God have a God-given right to the Eucharist. On the basis of human law, to deprive the people of God of the Eucharist is objectively gravely sinful”

I am somewhat apprehensive about presiding at a public mass after almost 5 years in the wilderness, but to quote Macbeth, “to go back is as tedious as to go on” and I now feel the urge to take a positive step.

Directions:
For those who may wish to come to this event from various parts of the country, this is how you will find Killimordaly Community Centre:
Leave the M6 at exit 16, and take the road to KILTULLAGH.
Having reached the village of Kiltullagh – the church is clearly visible in front of you – follow the sign for Ballinasloe.
After about two hundred yards take a left off this road, and follow the signs for ATTYMON. After about a mile you will pass the hurling pitch on your right. A few hundred yards further on you will see the Community Centre, also on the right.

After the Mass refreshments will be available in the local pub, The Earl Inn, about a mile from the hall.

Somebody sent me the following, for directions on a Sat Nav or a phone. Don’t know if my copy and transfer of them will work.

Sat Nav coordinates
N53.306831,W8.621337
Smart phone directions Google Maps
https://goo.gl/maps/fy7weCczqCA2

Pope Francis dismisses critics of his teachings (NCR)

Vatican City -- Pope Francis is firing back at foes of his efforts to make the Catholic church more open and pastoral in its ministry, telling an interviewer that “they are acting in bad faith to foment divisions.”

The pontiff’s lengthy interview in Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian hierarchy, was published Friday and followed days of news coverage of demands by four hard-line cardinals who have grave concerns about Francis’ approach.

The four say that focusing on ministering to people in their particular circumstances is eroding the church’s doctrinal absolutes and that Francis must dispel any ambiguities or face serious consequences.

Read the article

Pope announces 17 new Cardinals in consistory

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis at the end of his Angelus on Sunday announced the creation of 17 new Cardinals. A consistory will be held on the 19 of November, the eve of the closing of the Jubilee of Mercy.

13 of the new Cardinals will be under 80 years and will be eligible to vote in a conclave.

The Holy Father said that those chosen come from five continents. They include three American Archbishops and Archbishops from Mauritius and Bangladesh. Read more

CCRI Director Rene Reid said, "This is wonderful news for the reform movement. The U.S. appointees are all progressive. I hope the same is true for those appointed in the rest of the world. This gives us hope that, when Francis retires, the next pope will continue his vision of mercy and may even be more open."