Next item on the reform agenda

UCA News

Fr. Michael Kelly, Bangkok
April 28, 2014

This is a time of reform in the Church. Everyone who bothers to look, from average Catholics around the world to the cardinals who elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio to become Pope Francis, knows the Church is in strife and in need of a lot of work to render it an effective means to the end it serves: to proclaim the Gospel and serve God’s people.

First steps are being taken to fix a dysfunctional Vatican. But some of the big-ticket items for the wider Church won’t be fixed as quickly. Many of them are pastoral and require cultural change as much as administrative amendments. And as anyone with experience in changing the culture of an organization will attest, that type of change is the slowest in coming.

It will start in October with an issue that is perhaps the single most undeclared but neuralgic item in the Church’s life; also the one that frequently triggers the departure of otherwise observant Catholics from the Church: divorce and remarriage. …

And unless the issue is addressed in its full context, with full consideration given to what ministry in the Church is there to accomplish, such a change would also run the risk of enhancing something that bedevils the Church today and has contributed substantially to the syndrome of sex abuse.

I speak, of course, of clericalism, that culture of self-interest which promotes and sustains the presumption of superiority among clergy and their practice of protective secrecy. It is something that priests share with all would-be elites, such as professional associations in law and medicine, bureaucrats and the military.

If ordaining married men to priesthood inducts more people into a destructive culture that is the antithesis of anything Jesus hoped for among his followers, the move won’t reform but rather entrench the decadence. This is a constant theme of the present pope when he rails against careerism and narcissism among the clergy and the Church administration in Rome.

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