What is our Mission Statement?
“Working to end injustices in the Roman Catholic Church”
What are the main Aims of WAC in Ireland?
We Are Church Ireland (WAC Ireland) is a group of concerned Irish Catholics committed to the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church on the basis of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the theological spirit developed from it.
We are affiliated to the International Movement We Are Church (IMWAC) and seek to bring about informed dialogue among the people of God on the five objectives common to every group in the International Movement We Are Church.
We are also affiliated to Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW) which seeks the full participation of women in all aspects of church life, including priesthood.
The five Objectives / Aims are:
1. Equality of all the baptised where decision making is actively shared by all, with appropriate structures for this.
2. Full participation of women in all aspects of church life, including priesthood.
3. Recognition of the primacy of an informed conscience.
4. Promotion of a positive attitude towards sexuality and the removal of the obligation of clerical celibacy.
5. An inclusive church, open and welcoming to all, which does not marginalise people because of their sexual orientation, marital status or for any other reason.
How to become a Member of WAC Ireland
The We Are Church Ireland AGM on 29 June 2013 approved the "Principles of Organisations" which provide for clear and transparent organisational structures.
Click on this link to read the "Principles of Organisation" of We Are Church - Ireland
To become a member of We Are Church Ireland you must complete an Application Form and pay an annual subscription (€10 or €5 if you are aged over 65 or are unwaged)
Click on this link for a Membership Application form to join We Are Church Ireland
WAC Ireland Core Group
The following is the Core Group with the addition of Ursula Halligan on 5 February 2018:
Phil Dunne; Brendan Butler; Margaret Lee; Finbarr Quigley; Colm Holmes; Ursula Halligan;
The following is the Core Group elected at the AGM on 27 May 2017:
Phil Dunne; Brendan Butler; Margaret Lee; Finbarr Quigley; Colm Holmes; (Vacancy (Female))
The following is the Core Group elected at the AGM on 25 June 2016:
Phil Dunne; Brendan Butler; Bernadette O'Reilly; Gina Menzies; Finbarr Quigley; Colm Holmes
The following is the Core Group elected at the AGM on 6 June 2015:
Phil Dunne; Brendan Butler; Bernadette O'Reilly; Gina Menzies; Finbarr Quigley; Colm Holmes
The following were elected to the WAC Ireland Core Group at the 2014 AGM:
Phil Dunne; Brendan Butler; Jackie Nelson; Bernadette O'Reilly; Joe Mulvaney; Colm Holmes
The following were elected to the WAC Ireland Core group at the 2013 AGM:
Phil Dunne; Jackie Nelson; Dairne McHenry; Jerry McCarthy; Finbarr Quigley; Brendan Butler
Background to WAC Ireland
We look forward to a time when we can be part of discussion and debate with all sections of the church about our lives in the church today. This we feel is essential if we are to leave a healthy, vibrant living church relevant to our world to our children and grandchildren
Our guiding principle is simply to follow Jesus in our own time in our own place.
We Are Church Ireland was founded in 1997 and a national core-group was formed at this time which stayed active in various forms keeping in contact with other reforming groups in Ireland, who share our concern in working for change and renewal in the church. It was re-launched in 2011 and in 2012 BASIC (Brothers And Sisters in Christ) voted to merge with We Are Church Ireland. Through our merger with BASIC, We Are Church Ireland has become the Irish member of Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW) which was founded in Gmunden in 1996. WOW held their 3rd International Conference in Philadelphia in September 2015 (the 1st was held in Dublin in 2001; the 2nd in Ottawa in 2005). Our WOW Representative is Colm Holmes, who is a member of the WOW Leadership Circle.
We get heart from words of Archbishop John Quinn "History shows that far from being an idea foreign or inimical to the Church, reform has been a constant and recurring theme. The failures of the church in the second millennium...have been due not so much to reform within the church, as to the lack of timely reform, the failure to weigh carefully enough the signs, and the failure to act in time."(From article by Fr Sean Fagan. Doctrine and Life May 2007...one of our constant and encouraging mentors). We are willing to play our role in" discerning the signs of the times" and look forward to the time when we will be able to share our concerns, opinions and intuitions with the leaders in our church at national and international level.
We have an active Email circle with approx 300 members, we run this website and have a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/#!/WeAreChurchIreland), all of which we use to share news, articles, information, and current material in matters affecting the people of God from all over the world. We have a Dublin group which meets monthly and are working towards having local groups across the country.
Representatives from Ireland have attended the international meetings of IMWAC since 2004 enabling us to be part of the wider global movement.
More recently, we have organised Advent and Pentecost Celebration liturgies as inclusive celebrations of our faith to which all were welcomed. We shall continue to organise events which allow all to celebrate and develop their faith. Details will be available on the Events page and Facebook as events come up.
International Network We Are Church (IMWAC)
The International Movement We Are Church, founded in Rome in 1996, is committed to the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church on the basis of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the theological spirit developed from it. The movement has a presence in over 40 countries worldwide.
It is a network of independent and autonomous groups united by the Internet which allows communication and sharing as a united global group. The ethos of each national group is one of brotherly & sisterly "communion" with no hierarchical form of organisation. Membership is open to all who support the Aims
Further information can be found at the link on our Links page.
Here are 5 articles developing the 5 Goals of WAC:
1. EQUALITY OF ALL THE BAPTISED
The idea of equality of all goes back to Gen.1, v.27 and Gen.5, v.2. Jesus quotes these same texts in his teaching Mt.19, v.4 and Mk.10, v.6. In his conversations and interactions Jesus treats all equally – men, women and children, Jews and non-Jews.
If all of his followers are of equal importance then all of them have an obligation to contribute to the decision-making in the Church. All the baptized together are the Church.
One way of hearing what the people have to say is by holding regular and frequent open forums in each parish. Their ideas and suggestions should be sent on to their bishop so that gradually the hierarchy would benefit from the collective wisdom of all the baptized. At present more than 99% of this experience, expertise, know-how and wisdom are being ignored.
Other ways of putting into action the equality of the baptized would be:
- far greater representation of women and lay men in the administration departments in the Vatican.
- All the baptised taking part in the election of their new bishop.
- Parish Pastoral Council publishing an account of their discussions after each meeting.
- far greater representation of women and lay men on the Diocesan Committees.
2. JUSTICE FOR WOMEN
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
In his discussion of justice in contemporary society in his social encyclical Pacem in Terris(1963) Pope John XXIII observed that one of the "signs of the times" was women's new consciousness of their human dignity and their growing refusal to be treated as objects or as less than full human persons(no.41)
However, half a century later, this sign of the times continues to be largely ignored within the catholic church itself, especially in its structures and canon law: women remain the objects of men's decisions (for instance no woman has a vote at the present synod on the family )and the governance of the church is reserved to men only.
There are seven sacraments for men, but only six for women. Because of their gender women are excluded from the sacrament of orders and therefore from all the ordained ministries. Women's vocations are still determined and limited by their gender, not by their charisms or gifts of the Spirit. This situation has been described by people like Mairead Corrigan Maguire, an Irish catholic and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, as “deeply offensive, dehumanising, demoralising, and a form of spiritual abuse”. (Women's Ordination Conference Dublin 2001).
Our vision for the church is that of a community where there is radical gender equality, where all forms of discrimination and exclusion based on gender are ended and where all ministries and offices are open to all the baptised, according to their spiritual gifts and vocations, not their biological make up. We believe this vision of church is faithful to the vision of Jesus for his disciples and a core element of his Good News for the world.
3. PRIMACY OF CONSCIENCE
When we read the Gospels with the question of conscience in mind, we are struck by the attitude of Christ himself. Typically, Jesus did not ‘lay down the law’ to individuals; instead he preferred to encourage and applaud those who reached moral decisions through struggling with their conscience.
We think of Zaccheus (Luke 19: 1-10) to whom Jesus gave time and space to reach a life-changing decision; of the woman (Luke 7: 36-50) who decided to risk humiliation in order to carry out the highly symbolic act of washing Christ’s feet and was commended by him: “Much is forgiven her for she has loved much.” In the incident of the woman taken in adultery (John 8: 1-11) Jesus refuses to enter into legalistic or moralistic arguments; instead he invites the woman’s accusers to look inwards, to their own consciences, in order to make their decision: “Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.”
There have always been voices within the Church who echoed this attitude of Christ in upholding the primacy of the individual conscience. Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena challenged the ecclesiastical authorities of their day, while in more recent times Cardinal Newman famously declared that he would drink a toast to conscience first and afterwards to the Pope! More seriously he wrote: ”It seems then that there are extreme cases in which conscience may come into collision with the word of a Pope and is to be followed in spite of that word” (Letter to the Duke of Norfolk).
Josef Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI, wrote: ”Over the Pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed over all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.”(Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II) Pope Francis describes conscience as “the interior space in which we can listen to, and hear the truth, the good, the voice of God. It is the inner place in our relationship with Him who speaks in our heart and helps us to discern, to understand the path we ought to take, and once the decision is made, to move forward, to remain faithful.” (Angelus address 30/6/13)
However the importance of following one’s own conscience is rarely taught or preached. Instead the parallel tradition of obedience has been given enormous prominence in church teaching: it could almost be said that ‘blind obedience’ has been given the status of a major virtue. This in spite of Christ’s attitude which clearly was that obedience to rules and regulations has to be tempered by compassion and common sense: we remember how he defended his disciples when they were accused of disobeying the law by picking and eating ears of corn on the Sabbath (Matthew 12 1-8). He frequently criticised the Pharisees for their rigidity in applying the law, their hypocrisy and lack of compassion “laying burdens on the people” (Matthew 23:1-12) If we want to follow Jesus, lazy-minded obedience in accepting the legalistic status quo is not an option.
As baptised Christians we have a duty to listen to the voice of conscience, to be rigorous in our efforts to discern the will of God, so that we may then carry it out with confidence and joy.
4. A NOTE ON SEXUAL MORALITY
Vatican II and John XXIII
When he summoned Vatican II in December 1961, John XXIII directed the Council deliberations to take account of “the signs of the times”. He advocated special attention be given to the development of Moral Theology. During the council conscience was given a new primacy in moral teaching. This was reflected in many council documents and in the subsequent body of social teachings. A new emphasis on historical consciousness (an awareness of and sensitivity to cultural and political realities which influenced the development of the Christian tradition), human rights, justice and the key role of conscience were embraced in statements on global issues, politics and economic issues. However, a similar awareness has yet to be considered in the formulation of teachings on sexual morality. The church uses a completely different methodology when it makes statements on sexual matters. In this arena the “signs of the times” remain unread.
The Task of Moral Theology
Moral theology mediates between Gospel values and modern culture. In reality the gospel has always had to mediate in different historical times and cultures. However, the New Testament has little or nothing to say about issues in sexual morality. There is no code of sexual ethics in the Gospel. However, there are clear values of love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, respect for the other, justice and equal treatment of all reflected in the words and actions of Jesus. These values can provide a framework for all human relationships at a personal, communal and societal level. Incarnating how these values can be lived is the task of moral theology.
Methodology in Social Morality
Up to Vatican II, morality in the Catholic Church had a rigid legal approach. There were rules for all human behaviour, with clear penalties prescribed for when they were broken. Since Vatican II, there has been a radical change in how the Magisterium formulates its teachings on economic, political and social matters. A good example is Centesimus Annus (“The Hundredth Year”, published on the hundredth anniversary of Rerum Novarum, “Of New Things” in 1891). In this 1991 document John Paul IIconsulted experts on economic matters. He condemned communism and rampant capitalism in the same document with a strong emphasis on how wealth is created and distributed. Solidarity with others is a key motif in all these documents. This methodology clearly reflects Gospel values of solidarity and justice. It draws on the tradition which began with the first social encyclical in 1891, it is open to contemporary thinking and expertise and has justice as a primary focus.
Similarly in Laudate Si, the recent encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis consulted experts in many disciplines.
Issues such as contraception, in vitro fertilisation, homosexual expressions of physical love and other issues in sexual morality especially in relation to human reproduction are not present in the Gospel. Even the few references to divorce are disputed by biblical scholars and need to be read in their historical and cultural context. Augustinian thinking on marriage and procreation dominates the current teachings. For Augustine, the sole purpose of marriage was procreation. Vatican II reached a different understanding.
“But marriage was not instituted solely for the procreation of children: its nature as an indissoluble covenant between two people and the good of the children demand that the mutual love of the partners be properly expressed, that it should grow and mature”. [Gaudium et Spes, paragraph 50]
It is interesting that the phrases “two people” and “partners” are used here!
On contraception the same paragraph says:
“....it also involves taking into consideration their own well-being and the well-being of their children already born or yet to come, being able to read the signs of the times and access their own situation on the material and spiritual level, and, finally, an estimation of the good of the family, of society, and of the church. It is the married couple themselves who must in the last analysis arrive at these judgments before God”.
Contraception, as we know, was taken off the agenda of the council. The twenty theologians entrusted with writing the encyclical changed the instruction on contraception in line with these reflections of Vatican II. Unfortunately, as we also know, Paul VI ordered the original group to disband and the published encyclical, Humanae Vitae reiterated the traditional stance.
What had brought about the change in thinking which led to the first encyclical were the contributions of committed American Catholics who were invited to speak to the theologians and in doing so reflected the living reality of married life.
The articulation of church teaching in the twentieth century in many areas, outside sexual morality, reflects in dialogue with scripture, tradition, sources in other disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, economics, current awareness of human rights and most significantly, the life experience of people. It recognises all human behaviour is complicated and multi-factored and therefore moral theology and teaching is of necessity, interdisciplinary.
If such approaches were reflected in sexual moral teachings, we would have a very different and more humane sexual morality. It would not be based on Aquinas’ natural law theory which declared that the mouth was for eating, the sexual organs for reproduction and led him to conclusions such as that masturbation was worse than rape because the seed was lost in masturbation but not in rape.
A New Theology of Sexual Morality
Sean Fagan, Lisa Sowle Cahill and Margaret Fairley have advocated such a theological approach to formulate a new sexual ethics: a theology in dialogue with the world, with the lived experience of the whole church community. An ethic based on justice, respect for persons as sexual beings, with a starting premise of do no harm, relationships built on mutual consent, commitment and fruitfulness in its widest meaning.
The Catholic Church needs to find a way to offer healing, strength and salvation to Catholics whose marriages have failed, who are committed to making a new union work and who long to do so within the church and with the grace of Communion, Cardinal Walter Kasper told the world’s cardinals. Pope Francis had asked Cardinal Walter Kasper, a well-known theologian and author of a book on mercy as a fundamental trait of God, to introduce a discussion on Feb. 20-21 2015 by the College of Cardinals on family life. While insisting—for the good of individuals and of the church—on the need to affirm Jesus’ teaching that sacramental marriage is indissoluble, Cardinal Kasper allowed for the possibility that in very specific cases the church could tolerate a second union.
When two baptised people freely decide to marry each other they want that partnership to remain and flourish until death do them part.
However, for a variety of reasons this married relationship often breaks down even after counselling and consequently they may decide either to avail of civil divorce or separate on a permanent basis.
The breakdown of the relationship is a cause of great anguish to the families involved. The ideal at this stage is for an amicable parting with a just settlement of all outstanding issues.
However, if either partner enters into a full loving relationship with a new partner Catholic Canon law 1155 states ‘Since the bond of marriage remains intact despite the cessation of common life remarriage after a civil divorce puts spouses in an irregular situation that bars them from the reception of the sacraments’.
This ruling was contained in an Apostolic Letter ‘Familiaris Consortio’ from Pope John Paul 2 in November 1981.
It was further confirmed in a letter from C.D. F. ‘Concerning the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried members of the Faithful’ Sept 14 1994 in a response for a more open approach by 3 German Bishops Lehmann, Saier and Kasper.
However these rulings have not stopped people like Cardinal Kasper from questioning their exclusive nature.
The October 2015 Synod gives the church the opportunity to adopt a more compassionate approach to allow divorced and remarried Catholics admission to the sacraments. Such an approach does not contradict the indissolubility of marriage but recognises that a more compassionate approach be taken based on the words of Jesus In Matthew 7.1-4 ‘Do not judge others so that God will not judge you’.
Already Pope Francis has used these words of Jesus in his non judgemental approach to gay and lesbian people.
Now is the opportune time to adopt the same non judgemental approach to the admission to the sacraments for divorced and remarried Catholics
Eucharist as Viaticum, as a source of strength for the Christian journey through life has strong roots in the New Testament. The Christian life, seen as an Exodus journey fed with the new manna has resonances in Luke’s journey section (9.5 1-18) Bread for this journey of life towards God has also resonances in the old testament when Joseph offers his father bread for the journey in Exodus 45.23 and also when Elizah is nourished with bread on his journey.
The people of God journey through history in a new Exodus to the new Jerusalem and receive the Eucharist as a medicinal food to sustain them on their journey.
The Eucharist should not be seen as a reward for the virtuous but as a sustaining food for the fragile Christian family as they journey through the vicissitudes of life.
In this sense the Eucharist should not be denied to any baptised person whatever circumstances they find themselves in. Otherwise the Church is not following the way of Jesus who called all, especially the canonically excluded, to his life-giving Eucharistic meal.