Wednesday 29 January 2020

Bishops must be brave with Pope

Next week the Irish bishops are going to Rome for a crucial meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and senior members of the Roman Curia.

They must not allow the Curia to present clerical child sexual abuse as an Irish problem.

The prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, tried to put that slant on the problem in an interview in 'L'Osservatore Romano' (January 13, 2010). President Mary McAleese categorically rejected this claim in her speech to the diplomatic corps when she stated that, "these are global problems and to assume otherwise is to offer abusers the same dishonourable secret view which gave them protection and impunity".

The bishops must have the courage to remind Rome that it has a lamentable record in the area of dealing with clerical child sexual abuse. It promoted Cardinal Bernard Law to the office of archpriest of St Mary Major in Rome, even though there was extensive abuse of children by priests while he was Archbishop of Boston. And it failed to pursue credible accusations of sexual abuse against Fr Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, who had powerful allies in Rome.

Furthermore, officials of the Dublin Archdiocese, such as Monsignor John Dolan, told the Murphy Commission that they did not feel that Rome was supporting them in dealing with the issue (child sexual abuse).

Addressing the clerical abuse of children without examining the wider reality of ministry and clericalism in the Catholic Church would be a major mistake. There is an enormous need for new forms of ministry in the Catholic Church. For the last few decades, the Catholic community has been praying to the Holy Spirit to resuscitate the current form of ministry, with little results. Could this not be the Holy Spirit's way of nudging the Catholic Church to look elsewhere for suitable leaders for Christian communities?

Since the 1970s, individual bishops and bishops' conferences have called for major change in the structure and form of ministry -- but to no avail. Rome seems to be in denial, which is why bishops' conferences from around the world must challenge it on this vital issue.

The Irish bishops are pastors in their own right and not local branch managers Walmart-style of the chief executive in Rome. I hope they will have the courage to tell the Pope and other members of the Curia that the current model of ministry in the Catholic Church is imploding right around the globe.

As a missionary I have witnessed examples of this disintegration in many churches in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Africa, North and South America.

Access to the Eucharist, which according to the Second Vatican Council is the source and summit of the Christian life, is becoming less and less available to Christian communities.

New ministries ought to be shaped in response to the gifts that the Holy Spirit is giving to the contemporary church and not the medieval one. Naturally, these new ministries must be open to everyone, male and female, married and single.

Fr Sean McDonagh
Navan, Co Meath

Irish Independent

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