David's previous articles
May 6, 2012 David Timbs
(Melbourne) David's previous articles
talking to whom and about what?
of the greatest miracles of Christianity beyond the fact that it still exists is
that it has communicated its message with stunning success throughout history.
It has become expert in finding a home in places and cultural environments quite
foreign to its own. It has appropriated the languages of the host societies,
communicating and expressing its beliefs in foreign signs and symbols. The Word
became human in many forms and dwelt among many peoples.
original genius, inspiration and inventiveness of a Charism and its capacity to
remain prophetic have always faced the possibility of becoming complacent and
presumptuous. Over the centuries, this has sadly been the Christian experience.
With ecclesiastical ascendancy and power, its message has gradually become
domesticated and muted. This has always happened when the Church has forgotten
that it is a means to an end, the servant not the served.
Second Vatican Council, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, sought to reverse
this process not only in theology and praxis. The Council reclaimed the
authentic biblical imagery of the Church as People of God with its message of
Good News to preach to a modern world. The internal culture of the Catholic
Church underwent a swift and dramatic transformation and this in turn profoundly
affected its relationship with secular society. US Jesuit historian John
O’Malley describes the changes of direction,
commands to invitation, from laws to ideals, from definition to mystery, from
threats to persuasion, from coercion to conscience, from monologue to dialogue,
from ruling to serving, from withdrawal to integrated, from vertical to
horizontal, from exclusion to inclusion, from hostility to friendship, from
rivalry to partnership, from suspicion to trust….from fault finding to
appreciation, from behaviour modification to appreciation.
II challenged all Catholics to experience a new Pentecost and a radical
transformation of being and call to action. It encouraged a profound adult
renewal by reappropriating the baptismal call to engagement, partnership and
participation in ecclesial life. The Council also challenged the Catholic laity
to take on not only education in the faith but also to become faith educators.
All were reminded that preparation and effective communication are vital if the
Gospel is to strike root in the world and to realise its mission.
has however become abundantly clear that during the past thirty five years or so
many of the hopes, dreams, inspirations and directions of the Council have been
systematically drained of energy. After decades of subsidiarity,
co-responsibility, mutual respect and shared leadership an enormous ecclesial
regression has taken place. The Church of Vatican II has become the focus of
Pope Benedict’s program of the Reform of
the Reform. Its bench mark is the past and its template a Church long gone.
great conversation and dialogue among the People of God have now largely become
monologue and directive. The laity has been deprived of their voice and Christ,
in them, has become muted, unheeded and sadly even ignored.
Church leadership has in recent years been actively promoting and encouraging
the use of the new technologies of Social Media in the cause of the New
Evangelisation. It is precisely the message and the medium of the New
Evangelisation itself that have become the first to be scrutinized and
demystified. It has become increasingly clear to Catholics that the new message
speaks of an alien and ossified Church, a Church of the elite few who find their
comfort in recent antiquity; the medium is no longer conversation
but prescriptive monologue.
problems which have re-emerged in the Church since the early pontificate of JP
II are many. They have surfaced in a culture of ingrained paternalism,
clericalism and oligarchic control
which was synonymous with the Roman Curia up to John XXIII. The pre-conciliar
world has now been recreated with the defence mechanisms of pontifical secrecy,
unquestioned autocratic governance and communication firewalls. Typical of that
ecclesiastical cosmos is a profound fear that its divinely ordained and
validated status will be contaminated by the mere laity. What this secretive and
self-interested Curial elite now fears most is to be themselves found defective
and corrupt especially by the standards of the secular relativist world. It is
now patently obvious that they are, by comparison, no
Transparency, candour, the ability to live with and learn from embarrassment and failure are central issues facing Church governance at the very highest levels. Instead of facing the real worlds of secular society and of its own people it has retreated into an aggressive reactiveness towards outsiders and punitive action against its own. Examples are many and varied on both fronts. The hubris and relativism of Vatican leadership in particular is not going unnoticed as the prized unity of the Church fractures in full public view. Andrea Tornielli writes, There are silent ‘schisms’ forming and the press is necessarily and mercilessly talking about it. In doing so they are shattering the image of an ever triumphant Church.
the Vatican and other levels of Church leadership are inviting all Catholics to
become more actively engaged in the communication of the faith to outsiders,
the Church has virtually stopped communicating with its own, the insiders.
Not only are their faith concerns not listened to by much of the Hierarchy, the
very communication and practice of that faith are under a level of scrutiny,
control, moderation and manipulation unparalleled in the history of the Church.
profound institutional lack of trust, nerve and courage are indicative of a
weak, introspective and self-interested leadership which sadly invites little
confidence or credibility. While the Curial Cardinals in Rome are spruiking up
some of the more exotic elements of the New
Evangelisation and prepare to launch its flagship, the Year of Faith, who will listen to them if they are not in turn
listening to those entrusted to their care and leadership?
September, 2011, Nelson Mandela commented insightfully, There can be no
keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.
the same vein, perhaps the leaders of the Catholic Church might contemplate
Mandela’s words and seriously ponder just how they treat their adult sisters
Timbs writes from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
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