Twelve Holy Rosary Sisters went to the Gresham Hotel on 19 May 2018to hear a panel of 5 speakers discuss how to try to save the Irish Church from dissolution. The venue was full.
Fr Brian D’Arcy’s talk was Listen to the People, and he began with a prayer to the Holy Spirit. He said that when church leaders acknowledge we have a problem, God will save us. Before Pope Francis was elected, Brian had written that the new pope would need to welcome women as full members of the church. He admitted that he would no longer be a priest today if Francis were not Pope. He wants a synodal, collegial model of church, wherein the leaders listen to the people, not just to those who tell them what they want to hear. He stressed the importance of hearing and finding a new way of being community. He sees no reason why we cannot have married clergy, and even questions the need for clergy at all. For Brian what we need are prophets who keep God free for people and people free for the God who loves us.
Fr Joe McDonald from Ballyfermot spoke on Our Church: Cancer and Cure, and named 4 cancers:
- The Ostrich Church: He asks should we close the seminaries and choose a suitable women or man to accompany those interested in ministry, and have a team of women and men reforming the church in the parish. Bishops should ask themselves if they are involved in reforming the church and washing the feet of the Poor, and if not they should resign.
- The Roll-over Church is paralysed by fear and allows adults to talk during their children’s First Holy Communion which for many will be their last. Should children make their First Holy Communion if their parents do not practice?
- The Saltless Church. We are a Saltless Church because we do not speak about the homeless, the exorbitant rents etc in the church. He asks are we followers of Christ or not?
- The Haemorrhaging Church. It is not clear what the haemorrhaging Church is, and as long as we treat LGBTI people, divorcees, priests who ask hard questions …. so badly, we will go on losing members. Joe thinks our only hope is to be steeped in the Holy Spirit.
Sr Stanislaus Kennedy dealt with Challenging the Church to Compassion. We came into the world with nothing and we will go out of the world with nothing. Today the Poor see the church as being for the Rich, not for them. The church needs to face the fact that many of its members are not Christians as defined by our love for each other as Jesus taught. Christianity demands we reach out to others. Sister asked ‘What is your connection to the homeless?’ and pointed out that it is a human right to have shelter. She said there is an insidious myth that some people are deserving poor, but others are not, and the church loves prudence! But we are all church, and therefore called to be compassionate. Pope Francis is trying to make the church more merciful and caring.
Ms Mary McAleese: The Catholic Church’s home-grown existential crisis: The church is suffering the ecclesiastical equivalent of metal fatigue, but there is no sign yet of church leaders reforming. Issues not dealt with include contraception, intercommunion, child protection, silencing of debate and fewer entrants to the priesthood. There is a clash between the International Human Rights Law and Church Laws, e.g. infant baptism is the norm, - we can call it the ‘conscription model’ – but the growing child has the right to freedom of conscience, - the ‘conviction model’. Mary suggests we could consider baptism, Eucharist and confirmation as the initiation rite and hold it when the young person is old enough to choose freely.
Fr Mark Patrick Hederman: ‘Nearer my God to Thee’ – and the band played on. Christ has saved us and the Holy Spirit is with the church till the end of time. The island of Ireland was a theocracy for many years, and books, films etc were censored. As one writer put it ‘I wrote a 3 Act Comedy. But when the censors were finished with it, it was a 1 Act Tragedy.’ The Irish Roman Catholic Church is 3 carriages away from God. The Irish one has already removed itself; the Roman one needs to be uncoupled; and the Catholic one is no longer catholic. The catholic hierarchy and the complete clericalisation has to go. Pope Francis is doing his best though some cardinals and others would like to remove him. We need to support him with our prayers.
There was some time given to answering written questions. Concerned Christians should meet to pray and discuss together. Change will come from the bottom up. Laity need to start reform in the parish without asking permission. The Synod of Bishops must include lay women and men. The final word: Have Faith. God can’t be stopped.
22 May 2018