Catholic Reform Looking Local
By Kate Irish Collins
February 17, 2006
SACO (Feb 17, 2006): When Father William Clark came to Saco last week, urging local parishes to push for reform within the larger Catholic Church, he found a receptive audience in Ron Druin.
Druin, a faithful Catholic and Eucharistic minister at Most Holy Trinity Church, agreed with Fr. Clark that true changes in the church will have to come from the bottom up.
"Power corrupts and the more power and the more money the church has, the more it wants," he said Monday of church hierarchy. Druin argues the church should follow the example of Jesus Christ, who when he first arrived in Jerusalem cleansed the temple of the moneylenders.
Druin spoke Tuesday evening after a talk by Fr. Clark, a professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. Fr. Clark came to Most Holy Trinity to address the topic of hope and the church in troubled times.
The talk was co-sponsored by the Northern York County and Portland chapters of Voice of the Faithful of Maine. When Fr. Clark was finished speaking on Feb. 9, Druin said the church needs another Martin Luther – a radical 16th century reformer credited with beginning the Protestant movement.
Druin has hope that the Catholic Church will change, but doesn't believe it will happen in his lifetime. In fact he fears, with the recent election of Pope Benedict XVI, the church is actually going backwards instead of forwards.
"The hierarchy still thinks it's business as usual, but it's not," Druin said. Although a practicing Catholic, he has no problem with married or women priests and says the church needs to be more inclusive.
"I'm a Republican, but when it comes to my faith I'm very liberal. I think we need to be inclusive. We need to include everybody," Druin said.
Doris Buonomo, vice president of the Northern York County chapter of Voice of the Faithful Maine, who introduced Fr. Clark to an audience of about 50, said in an interview after the talk the priority of Voice of the Faithful is to "change those systems that allowed (sex abuse by priests and cover ups) to happen."
"We have an expression, 'Keep the faith and change the church'," Buonomo said about the work of Voice of the Faithful.
In addition to the talk by Fr. Clark, the Northern York County chapter of Voice of the Faithful of Maine has also held panel discussions regarding justice surrounding the sex abuse scandal, on the idea of optional celibacy and the ordination of women and a presentation by church officials on canon law.
While Fr. Clark did not come to Saco to speak directly on the issue of the sexual abuse scandal, he did have plenty to say about the authority of church officials and how changes at the local level can have a ripple effect on the church as a whole.
"Despite all the betrayal, the sin and the hurt, there is something here that's true and real that we don't want to let go of. Even the depths to which we've sunk now can be matched and surpassed by the actions of the church in the past," Fr. Clark said. "Honesty is the best thing we can offer to the church and the world right now."
He said the sex abuse scandal has underscored three areas of crises in the Catholic Church - a crisis of authority, a crisis of community and a crisis of intimacy. Fr. Clark said society as a whole is also experiencing crises in these three areas, but that's where hope comes in.
He said it's in the local churches that parishioners are most aware of the importance of the individual, where people are most aware of shared values and beliefs, and where the community is more important than the operational structure of the church.
"When I call for more local authority, I'm not setting it up as a rival to the bishops or the Pope, but a chance for there to be cooperation and decision making between the laity and the clergy," Fr. Clark said.
"The alter community is the heart of the church, that's where we make a connection with each other and where Christ is sanctified," he added.
Fr. Clark said there are several characteristics of an "authentic" local church. One is that although there are shared beliefs and values, there is also the courage and the honesty to examine where those beliefs and values came from.
Secondly an authentic local church is a place where people are interconnected in many ways, similar to the threads in a spider web. Thirdly there is a recognition that time doesn't stand still and that society is constantly changing.
By living and embodying these characteristics a local church can demonstrate to the whole church what true authority really is, and also show it's possible to re-imagine what a church can be, Fr. Clark said.
For more information on Voice of the Faithful, go online to www.votfmaine.org, or go to the national Web site at www.votf.org.
Buonomo said the next major event for the Northern York County chapter of Voice of the Faithful of Maine is to plan its annual prayer service, which will take place sometime after Easter.
Based in Saco, Staff Writer Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 207-283-1878 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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