The People Speak Out

Local voices connecting globally

This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.  (Pope Francis)

Canon Law 212 calls upon the laity to speak up:

2 - The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. - According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

It is with sadness that I have left the Catholic Church because it does not serve spiritual needs but rather operates to control and hold back. The whole thing came to a head when our new parish priest decided to banish the homeless who had found safety in the covered courtyard from nighttime attacks in the town and instead put large chains on the gates to prevent entrance. Previously, a seat was provided, hot drinks given and much distress prevented through access to friendship from the community. Previously, the assistant priest and deacon openly offered support and friendship to the homeless on the church premises. Not only that, the new priest decided dismiss the assistant saying he prefered to live alone, take away the deacon’s responsibilities to himself and to shut the church during the day to the prayerful church members, going against a tradition of an open door. He was heard to swear on the altar and seen to jump about in frustration, all the time declaring that he was our guide. When I tried to talk to him about his frequent angry outbursts he said he hoped he would never need to speak to me again – this was in front of the chair of our Parish Council.

I find that the arguments about this or that preference in the way Mass is said to be unceasing and often vitriolic between ordinary parishioners. Sides being taken against priests who are not Catholic -born, sides being taken against Liberal or Conservative and congregations full of women who are silent.
The problem of women in the church was highlighted to me by a young priest who happily declared to me that women are auxilary – I must say I found this perception, extended to women who ran the church office, kept the church clean, filled the pews, prayed unceasingly in religious orders, and did every type of task allowable both lay and religious, quite an insulting idea. This is not to say I have not met some great priests but sadly these, usually moderate,have either been driven to nervous exhaustion by fearful critics, derided and dismissed as not being the right sort because of their humanity, as is the case with our one time Bishop who was humbled by admitting to breaking his vow of celibacy. Or, set aside because of their deep spirituality which when translated into homily, most where unable to appreciate.

I really think this last is the saddest. How can a priest who truly wishes to follow Christ and commits to a deeply spiritual endeavour be so unable to find a place to lay his head in Mother Church. That simply is a contradiction. I take the closing of the door as a sign that the Church is hovering on the brink of closing itself to the winds of the Holy Spirit and at the moment certainly seems to have closed the door on its mission to bring about the Kingdom, satisfied with temporal concerns and matters of doctrine that Peter realised he must set aside in order to do the real work of enabling spiritual growth.

Christians outside the church are often entertained by our squabbles and unwillingness to come to terms with what is and often, it is possible to talk sensibly about spirituality with non-believers and people of other faiths. It is my view that the Church needs to look deeply into the causes of internal division and to come up with no more rules of governance that keep us for ever balanced on the edge of a true meeting with our own selves and of that with the Trinity but instead, truly open up the Church to horizons beyond Itself.

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