Reclaim the Laity before it’s too late

Tablet editoral
With the hindsight of 500 years, it is not hard to see that Martin Luther could have been handled much better. He was obviously an awkward character, but he did not start out with the intention of splitting the Church. The lesson is that even awkward characters can make a rich contribution if they are allowed to. If receiving their gift requires not walking the extra mile with them but 10 more, then so be it.
For Martin Luther in Germany in 1517, read Tony Flannery in Ireland in 2017. No doubt, Fr Flannery tries the patience of those in authority. Like Luther, he will not do what he is told. And like Luther, he signals a state of crisis in the Church that urgently needs addressing but which has hardly yet been recognised.
Fr Flannery, a Redemptorist, was ordered to cease his public ministry in 2012 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, until such time as he recanted his views on women’s ordination, married priests, contraception, and the doctrine of the Eucharist. Last week, to celebrate his 70th birthday and with lots of publicity, he celebrated Mass in public in defiance of the ban. So many people turned up that there was standing room only in the community centre used for the occasion. Flannery is also one of the founders of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), which the Catholic bishops of Ireland refuse to deal with, despite its having 1,000 members or more.
Meanwhile those same Irish bishops were in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visit, in the course of which they correctly identified some profound problems in Irish Catholicism. The most striking is the alienation of young women from the Church. Mothers are fundamental to the passing on of the faith to the next generation, so this is very bad news. By comparison, the defiance of Fr Flannery shades into insignificance. Yet ironically, he, and the ideas he represents, may well hold the key to addressing that alienation between the Church and the Irish people.
Mass attendance in Ireland may be declining sharply, and the public reputation of the Church may be at rock bottom, to no small extent because of scandals surrounding the abuse of children by the clergy and women Religious. The latest report on child abuse in care homes and institutions in Northern Ireland is yet another searing indictment. But, particularly outside Dublin, there remains a profound yearning for a community of faith people would feel proud to belong to – if only the Catholic Church could find its way to being that.
The bishops are gradually moving, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, in the right direction, and asking some of the right questions. They know the old model of Catholic Ireland is broken. But mainstream opinion is accelerating away from them, and one day it will be too late to catch up. Still, in the majority of dioceses, there is a resistance to genuine consultation, of which the refusal to speak to the ACP is a symptom. If there is a future for the Catholic Church in Ireland it will belong to the laity, and especially to Catholic women. There is a long and difficult road ahead. But the first step is a simple one. Lift the ban on Tony Flannery, and take seriously what he has to say.
If only they had listened to Luther …

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  1. Finally women value themselves and are empowered to not subject their family to a misynogist institution. Bible was interpreted by & for men to subjugate roles for women in church who controlled society. Thus women being excluded & treated unjustly is no longer acceptable – i favour all women to boycott church unless treated inclusively in all roles incl ordain women priests.

  2. Kevin Walters says:

    If only they had listened to Luther; yes and dealt honestly with corruption within the Church at the time we would have a different church today. The problem for the church do day is its perceived dishonesty as seen in the handling of the cover up of the child abuse scandal and its loss of moral authority stemming from the rejection of Humanae Vitae by many of the laity as the Church is seen by mankind to be colluding with the laity in the West while at the same time been vigorous in upholding it’s teaching in Third World Countries many of which are impoverished this is seen by mankind and especially the young as hypocrisy.
    The church needs to put its house in order before God and mankind by reclaiming its integrity as with all of us this can only be done in confronting the issues (Problems) with honesty and this takes humility.
    To date I have offered up to the church a way forward in the following matters.
    Clericalism; by transform it by reclaiming the integrity of our Shepherds before mankind and the laity through an act of humility.
    Give access to the Sacraments to those in second relationships.
    Pastoral care for LGBT people their parents and families
    A means for those who practice contraception a means to move forward while at the same time restoring the moral authority of the church’s teaching on Humanae Vitae.
    For full details see link
    Jesus was often seen eating and drinking with the righteous and sinner no one was excluded from this open table but an extension is made to His inclusivity of this open table in (Matt 22:11) where All are called to the Wedding Feast but one condition is imposed a wedding garment has to be worn, those who original heard this parable would have known instantly that the custom of the day was that the wedding garment was provided free of charge, by the Bridegroom and had to be worn no matter how well one’s own apparel may be, dignitaries etc would conform to this custom as did those with poor apparel, not to do so would be an affront the groom. This garment also created equality (Mutual respect) amongst the guest. I believe that name of this garment is humility; we can deduce this because we are told that one of the guests had no garment, to those hearing this parable they would have instantly have concluded that he was arrogant by refusing to wear the free customary garment of compliance offered to him. He wanted to be accepted on his own terms as he was in his own/self-image (ego). He was gagged, (his opinion; Stance) no longer to contradict (offend) God his stance so offensive that he was bound hand and foot and thrown into the darkness never to be able to repeat the same action again. The wedding garment has been purchased by the Master own body and blood (suffering) and His body and blood should be freely available to All who are willing to wear the wedding garment (Humility) but to do this we have to willingly drink (accept openly own our own frailty) and suffer it, with our heads bowed low as we form a relationship of Trust in God’s infinite love and mercy. Our Father in the incarnation gave of himself out of love to save that which had been lost. All of us, Clergy, laity, married, divorced, gay, the crippled (in mind and body), the lame, the bad, the good, we (the lost) are all flawed and sinful. But we have ALL been called (invited) to partake in the Wedding feast but when the Master comes will he find our hearts ( which are broken, sinful, and lost,) now contrite, blest, and wearing the wedding garment of humility (Holiness).
    And this is what I am advocating Humility as the basis for cohesion and inclusivity within the Church. A Church that is truly universal where no one (Baptised Christian) is barred from partaking of the bread of life especially those who cannot receive absolution who by openly (Publicly) acknowledge their need for God’s Divine Mercy just prior to receiving the bread of life should not be turned away. This would ensures spiritual growth for all her children no matter in what state, place or time she encounters them at the crossroads (difficulties) of life.
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  3. The Laity : How quaint and outdated the term seems already! Recall people to a diet of Masses? I think not.

  4. Kevin Walters says:

    Them and us: could it be we all need a diet of humility as I am proposing in my post above as this would Create Unity of Purpose. It must never be forgotten that many good men who have given all are now locked into the clerical system and it is the system that needs to change to one built on honesty rather than unaccountable obedience, we will always need Shepherds/ Shepherdesses (Spiritual leaders) We must build on what we have, negativity has no part to play if we truly seek the good of the Church.
    Recalling people to a diet of Masses that are simplified and in harmony with humility a humility that embraces all in equality can only come about by our present leaders abasing themselves in an act of true humility before God that is visually seen (Words are not enough) by the laity/Faithful and lapsed Catholics If this were to happen the church would be revitalized by spiritual growth the true basis for all our endeavours.
    We must be severe upon our own faults, and quick in observing our own defects, but ready to make favourable allowances for others.
    Do you John or anyone else on the site see humility/honesty as I am advocating as a possible way forward.
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  5. Kevin Walters says:

    Connie@ 1
    I agree with you that it is not acceptable for women to be treated unjustly but to bring about change can be difficult as direct confrontation will not change any bias found within human hearts. I believe that change can be brought about through the help of visual action and time. I have a post@2 on the page that deals with The Wedding Garment (Humility) this garment I have read was a simple white over garment/robe and would have had the effect of creating mutual respect amongst all the guests as all would be seen to be equal. To-day the ‘Holy Communion’ garment has become a form of social competition, and this competition often appears to be more intense in poor countries where large families are often struggling to make ends meet; in not forgetting the wonder of the occasion simplicity of dress would send out the message to all that we are all loved equally by God, this would be a start within the Church as the divide of gender would be seen to be eliminated this could be carried forward to Confirmation and then possibly marriage, priests could wear a white vestment/Robe to say mass this could eventually extend to all the faithful wearing one on special occasions and feast days Easter Sunday, Baptism etc; creating a culture of equality and inclusivity.
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

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