We have received the sad news of the death of Des Wilson, at the age of 94.
We extend our sympathies to his family and to his colleagues in Down & Connor.
May he rest in peace.
Over the years Des made a number of contributions to our website.
Below is a communication from Des, 12 January 2011, in anticipation of the arrival of the “visitors” engaged in the Apostolic Visitation to the church in Ireland. The wisdom it contained then is as true and valid today as it was then.
Dear Friends in the ACP,
I hope the papal visitors will be aware that in the nineteen thirties and forties people were urged to join in Catholic Action. This was defined as participation of the laity in the work of the hierarchy.
It is unlikely that any such definition would be acceptable nowadays but there is a possibility or probability that that may be what we are expected to assent to. It did not work during the decades since the nineteen thirties and is even less likely to work well now.
What would be useful to know: Is participation of lay people in the church going to involve helping carry out decisions made by the hierarchy, or lay people actually having a real part in making such decisions?
There may be the usual arguments about church doctrine not being negotiable, but there are many parts of church life and policy which are.
People may be dismissed with the bald statement – the church is not a democracy.
Some few of us have argued through the years that the church ought to be – no other group on earth claims its members are gifted with the Holy Spirit – wisdom understanding etc. etc.- not even our political parties claim this. So it is entirely inappropriate to tell people they are so gifted and then tell them they have nothing useful to say even regarding doctrine.
Also, we should not be asked to use in public worship translations into local languages which have not been approved as useful beforehand by local communities. Archaic language and words which are not in normal use could well be an obstacle to worship.
There is great need for clergy and others in the church to take a lead again in the intellectual life of our communities, there was never in my lifetime a better time for it. The old division between science and religion is old-hat, scientists have their mysteries now just as we have and of the two choices, intelligent creation or an answer of let’s-wait-and-see- if-we-can-invent-a-new- mathematics-and-a-new-geo-physics-to-explain-the-universe, ours is the more logical and rational. We are the real rationalists. So we need people and leaders who will stop hanging their heads as if we are always on the defensive.
No need to answer this letter, sometimes I just feel the need to say things again which some said a long time ago – the main lesson for the visitors should be, that we tell them where we need to go, not have them tell us where they will let us go.
I would prefer to have the Cardinals explain why they believe in God rather than have them chiding clergy for sins which most of them did not even think of committing.