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Princes of church

• In considering the cry for the resignation of Cardinal Brady, one has to distinguish between deliberate, culpable actions and actions issuing from incompetence.

Clearly, it is mainly through incompetence that Catholic bishops have done irreparable damage to the church. It will not matter much if all or none of them resign. What will matter is if we see the church unchanged in its perception of its role and in the manner in which it conducts its relationships with its priests and its people, and in the way that bishops are appointed.

The church in Ireland can never return to its former glory; it would be in nobody's interests if it did. The organisation of the church under current hierarchical arrangements is clearly dysfunctional and no longer fit for purpose. Sadly, there are already some hints that the central organisation in Rome will redouble its efforts as it steadily loses sight of its aims.

Bishops on appointment usually talk about how unworthy they are of the post. If this is a genuine feeling it should be sufficient indication that they may have been ill-advised to have accepted the offer from Rome in the first place but, being human, they may have been tempted by the lure of status and power.

The bishops, with a few inspiring exceptions, have been their own worst enemies in adopting an aloof, impersonal and judgmental approach to their role. The complexity and remoteness of the church as an organisation, in which the bishops collude, has taken us a long way from the humanity and inspiration of the life of Christ.

The people are crying out to be led by systems of insight and inspiration and not by systems of power and control. The absurd emphasis on a form of servile obedience has led to a destructive form of deference.

The critical voice of the people has been weakened through the impediments of hierarchy, formality and status consciousness. In any hierarchical institution, wisdom does not trickle down easily from the top and is unwelcome from below. To be effective, leaders must be close to those who are led, listening to and responding to their voice. The membership of the church is teeming with good faith, desperate for Rome to awaken from its dogmatic slumber and be seriously attentive to those loyal members who are willing to plod on.

The church tends to see itself as the official receiver of revelation which is transmitted hierarchically. The function of the institution must surely be to tap into the lives of those who seek to live the way Christ did. It is to listen to the people it purports to serve, whose voices could not be clearer. The bishops seem to be taking comfort in the forlorn hope that eventually these voices will fall silent or, in the case of priests, be silenced.

Philip O'Neill
Edith Road, Oxford

• If only the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, had said: "I know it's not fashionable today to talk about commissions but I do really believe that an independent commission of investigation into the activities of the Catholic hierarchy, in both the Vatican and in Ireland, into how the abuse was allowed to continue so long, would be in the public interest so that the full story would come out." ("Cardinal reflects on future amid 'cover-up' claims", Irish Independent, May 7).

Dr John Doherty
Gaoth Dobhair, Co Donegal

Irish Independent