Church in Freefall: Where to Begin?
Paul Traynor, Benoni – Maybe it’s not good to write something when emotions are heightened. I have been considering addressing various issues spiritual, theological and religious over the past weeks and months.
However, having spent the weekend following the pope’s visit to Ireland on television, I am left with a lot of mixed emotions. Our Church is so badly in need of reform in so many areas that it is hard to know where to begin. If I was an insurance broker looking at the situation I would declare it a writeoff.
It’s not just issues of sexual abuse; I believe those to be symptomatic of deeper issues of honesty, trust, justice, humility, faith, and all the things we consider fundamental to a proper relationship with God.
In the years when I ministered as a priest during apartheid, I called for responsibility. Many people thought I was blaming them for something they neither created nor supported, and I had to keep reiterating that it was not about blame but about responding in a Christian way to the reality in which we found ourselves.
Perhaps it was easier from the pulpit. Today, from the pews, I see the need for responsibility for the unholy mess that the Holy Catholic Church is in, but how do we take up that challenge?
Perhaps we begin by dropping the “Holy” from our description of the Church, and follow Pope Francis’ example of beginning our liturgies with a true and explicit confession of our sins as Church.
Perhaps we need a Holy Year of Repentance in which we all pray for forgiveness and initiate an examination of conscience as to where we really are in relation to abuse — sexual, spiritual and moral. Where we stand in terms of justice towards our members, clerical, lay, male or female. How we exercise our authority or abuse our power, and who we have left behind in the process.
There is a huge agenda for us to tease out but it is an agenda for all of us. It is our responsibility. Where do we begin and how?