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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?

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  1. Donal Dorr says:

    Thank you, Sean. I pray that your hope will be met.

  2. Mary O Vallely says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with what Sean O’Conaill says but I suppose most of us are rather inarticulate when it comes to talking about faith matters in public. Creating a safe space for people to talk is a first step and I’m delighted to report that I just heard that Armagh parish is hosting two sessions within the next two weeks for local parishoners to air their views on the family. One session will be in our Synod Hall and one in a local community centre. Both will take place during daylight hours too. I certainly think it is a great step forward as many people will find the online survey far too intimidating and inaccessible. These two sessions, I note, will be facilitated, not by our diocesan clergy, but by someone from the Armagh Diocesan Justice Commission, a lay person and a local Jesuit who lives and works in the community here.
    That’s not to avoid the challenge of Sean O’C’s words above. It’s something I’m still reflecting on.
    P.S. A wee reminder about the Forum on the ACI page opposite. It’s another way of engaging with each other and lay run. I guess we lay people are still learning to find our voice. Don’t forget the Facebook page for lighter topics and tell the youngsters to drop in and have a look. The door is always open. 🙂

  3. Sean O`Conaill,
    It appears to have been the intention of the Vatican author(s) that parishioners be asked to respond to the questions on the survey, “to seek the opinions of Catholics on a number of church teachings”.
    If so, do you think it actually does appeal to ordinary people, or in its language, which is ambiguous in places, and perspectives, is it not designed and worded to actually exclude them?
    Does it look as if bishops here have done anything to help people respond to the survey, apart from instructing that it be mentioned at Masses and in some cases having put it up on diocesan websites? If not, doesn’t that suggest they don’t want us to respond, leaving the field open to themselves, as always?

  4. There is an obvious great hope for the future of Christianity and the necessary reform of the Roman Church. History repeats itself, there is a need for reform, and hopefully it will be initiated and continued from within the Church and not from outside. Another 16th Century reformation should be avoided.
    In last Saturday’s Irish Times there was an interesting Book Review ” God’s Labrador and a turbulent priest”. In it the reviewer commented on two books; ‘Fr Tony Flannery’s ‘A Question of Conscience’ and Fr.Brian Darcy’s ‘Food for the Soul’. He contrasts the differing responses of Fr.Tony and Fr.Brian to the censures they were subjected to. Perhaps, the Labrador route which allowed Fr.Brian to remain in pastoral work was the wiser decision.

  5. # 3 mjt
    The overall wording of the preparatory document suggests that it was not intended for the ‘person in the pew’ but for diocesan staffs. I think they were then supposed to derive from it a series of questions for us. However the timescale (responses to Rome by end of Jan 2014) and the Internet led to the publication of the document directly to us. The challenge for bishops of relating directly to their people on such issues has still to be taken up.
    The general quietness of Irish bishops in response to what Pope Francis has been saying since his election makes them impossible to read just now. Maybe next week’s Maynooth conference will tell us more?

  6. Joe O'Leary says:

    “The general quietness of Irish bishops” — they have been quiet for years about everything — hard to blame them.

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