Sempre Avanti – Ever Onwards – an evolving church – as it has always been and always will be

we’re here, because we’re here, because we’re here, because we’re here.
Unless a man [system/church] be born again, it is not fit for the Kingdom of God.
A time will come when GOD is worshipped neither here nor in Jerusalem.
Such a time is already upon us, it would seem.
Sacraments – time for a complete overhaul? Discuss.
Sacraments basically exist so that priests will have something to do. Priests exist so that bishops will have nothing to do [or nothing that cannot be done at a desk in an hour or two]. Bishops exist because every bureaucracy needs apparatchiks to keeps the wheels turning. Bureaucracies exist for reasons of governance [coded language for control]; and for organisation; and to give employment to the lower ranks, checking and counting ticked boxes.
Sociologically, a sacrament is a construct about belonging and the validation of identity. Theologically it is considered to be a PERSONAL faith encounter with Jesus Christ.
The catechism told us in the 1950s that Baptism could be administered by any lay man or woman in a crisis – a fortiori surely the same could apply for Confirmation [whatever it is] as part of the initiation rite into the Christian faith community. We are now in a time of crisis. We aren’t sure who to baptise as we aren’t sure who in practice belongs to the Christian community
Marriage crept into the sacramental deal during the Middle Ages to protect women from being used as chattels and bargaining chips by the nobility; but “ordinary” people just decided to live together, as happens now.
The “something to do” factor in Holy Orders reached its apogee and debased form at parish level in the sacrament of Penance/Confession, as moral theologians and canonists in the wake of the Council of Trent ran riot with regard to the dos and don’ts of sexual matters. Freud, social evolution, and the contraceptive pill have reduced it to something peripheral; a past its sell-by-date engine of control, no longer able to scare the faithful.
Last anointing and funerals are already being managed by groups of the laity.
As for confecting the EUCHARIST and preaching the Word, better education has produced any number of mature lay men and women who could be selected, given a little training [nothing like the steeplechase that now passes for formation in the seminary system], and designated [Ordained, if you prefer] as suitable to celebrate the Eucharist and preach the Word. It’s simply a matter of the “POWERS THAT BE” deciding to let go – like stopping smoking, everything will become much simpler, and healthier.
Gradually a system will develop which will satisfactorily cover all the appropriate bases.
VOCATIONS? One of the most tiresome prayers of petition is for “more” vocations, even though the church is full of vocations – men and women ready and willing to mission for the values of the kingdom of GOD; In fact already doing so in so many different ways. Not to mention hundreds of already ordained ministers who took a bit of time out to get married – many of them still willing to celebrate the Eucharist, and so forth
Christ urged us to pray to the Father so that labourers might be available to work in the harvesting of souls. There was no indication that that they be priests or ordained ministers, much less members of religious communities. The latter served the needs of their times – mostly in education and health caring. Some of them were outstanding men and women. But the world has moved on. LET GO of fear, and rest in peace.
Jim Mc Cormack

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  1. Eddie Finnegan says:

    When I was ‘at Maynooth’ in the early 1960s, our local down-to-earth-no-nonsense curate, Fr Paddy Halfpenny, used to say to me from time to time, “I don’t know why they still go on with this seven-year rigmarole – two years would train you for anything you’ll ever have to do.” I sort of half agreed with Fr Paddy but, being into Greek, Latin, Philos etc at the time, I thought he might be missing something.
    Now Jim McCormack has convinced me that our curate was right but he has managed to put Fr Paddy’s take on the whole thing into the ‘ha’penny place’! If I’d stayed at home in Upper Creggan parish, I could have been busy “missioning for the values of the kingdom of God” in next to no time at all, while getting on with the business of real life, instead of spending four good years picking at the scab of vocation (though, thank God, we weren’t bothered with creatures or creators called “formators” or even words like “discernment”) before concluding on the most woolly of evidence that I never had one, or at least that I couldn’t furnish proof that my scab indicated the vocational virus.
    So if I’d just stayed around Crossmaglen, and called down to Maynooth every second weekend, at least till I had my ‘L’ plates, I could be still at it though maybe, at 72, getting a wee bit demob happy. No doubt the Americans are already calling this a ‘staycation’ – which means we’ll be copying them by Christmas.
    Alternatively, as a Vincentian product like Jim, maybe I should just have gone to the Vins back in 1961.

  2. Mary Vallely says:

    I’m still trying to understand what “ontological change” means but whilst there’s much food for thought and some truth in Jim’s article, I have huge respect for those women and men who have let go of the false ego (ok- ideally) and who have dedicated their whole lives to the service of God and humanity. I couldn’t do that. I was in the company of a few nuns recently. Their passion and dedication humbled me. I looked at these 3 women, a few years older than myself, and marvelled. No make up, no hair dye… I squirmed inwardly at the thought of the time I spend making my outward self presentable (vanity, vanity 🙁 ) and my respect for these women has increased enormously. I’m totally in favour of a married priesthood, a female diaconate and women’s ordination but in the meantime I admire and put my trust in those who are already working to try to make us more aware of the beauty and the gift of our faith.
    Like Eddie, as a ‘fellow’ Maynoothite with ne’er a whiff of a sense of vocation to religious life, just an average Arts student (’69-72) I carry that sense of loyalty and sentimentalism towards all who dwelt in that place. Just saying. 🙂

  3. Wonderful, concise, brave and true words. Thank you for saying it loud and clear. How exciting the Church could be again if we took these words to heart and acted on them.

  4. Thank you Jim McCormack….
    I consider some of your observations to be spot-on…and I have said for a long while….that
    1. It does not take 7 years to do the ministry
    2. Sacramental Theology needs to be revamped
    3. The “prayer” for vocations is tiresome…and the vocations are already present in the Church
    4. Is there really such a thing as ontological change…at least as it is applied to ordination?
    5. The Preaching of the Word must be renewed

  5. Thank you Fr.Jim for a refreshing breath of fresh air.
    Former Bishop Otto Nall described Roman Catholic Christianity as the religion of the law.
    The pre Vatican Two Catechism stated that a Sacrament was
    an outward sign of an inner grace instituted by Christ.
    Actually, it was not until the Council of Trent that Marriage appeared as a Sacrament. In earlier centuries people just agreed to live together, then some asked the priest to bless their union in their home, later this moved to the door of the local church and then still later on when inside the church door. Thus, a formal church ceremony developed even though it was never instituted by Christ.
    In this day and age of serious misunderstanding, it would be very wise indeed to look more to the Scriptures than to the books of Canon Law.

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