I speak as a priest from a Greek Chorus within their tragedy plays. “The Catholic Church is beyond reform”. I repeat this, to myself, not because I am negative, but rather that I am facing reality. Strangely, I have found a kind of peace with this in the last few days. This is not new, that the Catholic Church is beyond reform.
Arguably, continuing, at least since the time of the Reformation and on this day of 15/5/2014, the Catholic Church is beyond reform. What of all the women, men, priests and religious who have left a Church that refuses reform? So many, many priests alone have left every diocese in Ireland during the reign of Pope John Paul II. Look up the statistics and see for yourself.
We belong to a Church which refuses to talk, listen and learn from those who have left. Does this not speak of a Church that is not interested in reform?
In order to face reform, the Catholic Church would need to spend a few years in a trauma hospital or a rehab centre between crucifixion and resurrection. It would need to travel with all the Thomas’s & Thomasina’s of this world who ask the hard questions and refuse to move on until they were faced. The Thomasina’s represent the many women who have no forum either under this papacy. So I am Thomas and I refuse to move on because I belong to a Church that will not face hard questions.
The present Pope speaks of a field hospital but in other ways he is still operating out of a very exclusive Church that does not include Thomas and Thomasina and especially all those treated so inhumanly by the CDF even in this moment as I write. So much of his outreach and all his good efforts are increasingly becoming more hollow for people who cry out for substance.
We are suffering from the Russian-Fatima syndrome! The enemy is out there far away in the big world while we can remain unchallenged in our own bubble zones. Why didn’t Our Lady of Fatima, ask us to pray for the conversion of the Vatican Curia or for all those who would cover up child sex abuse? Why didn’t Our Lady ask us to pray for the conversion of America, for all their destruction in Vietnam, South America and lately in Iraq? So why Russia? All the Popes since John 23rd have refused to face reform of the Catholic Church and have concentrated their efforts elsewhere.
As we know from our own experiences, it is safer to address the big world out there, while refusing to face the in-house issues. I wonder, not only do we belong to a Church that is twenty centuries chronologically removed from Jesus Christ but also to a Church of twenty centuries of accumulated structures that have suffocated Christ and his message. This is what makes inviting Pope Francis to Ireland so unpalatable. A complete ban should be put on him making any visits abroad and for once face all the in-house issues. I agree with those who say, making these personal phone calls, living in a ‘sparse flat’, adopting a simple life, as commendable as these are, are somewhat irrelevant unless he addresses Thomas’ and Thomasina’s hard questions.
We need new structures at every level that will rid us of clericalism, patriarchy and hierarchial- authoritarian- dominating ways of relating with people. Anyway the present system of replacing Bishops is saying that Bishops don’t matter! This is loud and clear in that it often takes up to three years to replace a Bishop. If they believed that Bishops were so important, one would be ready to replace the other on the day of retirement. They nearly got this right in the almost immediate replacement of Bishop Willie Walsh, of Killaloe!
Again, as in a Greek chorus, I repeat, the Church in Ireland is beyond reform. As a colleague, says we are like in a boxing match, beaten into a pulp, yet each time we are about to stand up for the next round, we are knocked out punch drunk. We spend all our energies, trying to get up again, barely making it to the next round, which is like a nightmare, with no relief. Where have all these listening sessions in dioceses up and down the country got us? They have, with a few exceptions, made us more like Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus, a futile search … task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. I remain with Thomas and Thomasina, outside the Upper room. In my lifetime, sadly but realistically, I don’t think I will ever see the Upper Room – the promised land!