Catholics for a Changing Church

"To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often" - Bl. John Henry Newman

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Ministry?

by Thomas O’Loughlin

Thomas O’Loughlin is Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham. A fuller version of this article appeared in New Blackfriars, vol. 100, number 1086, year 2019, pages 171-183.

Meet any group of Catholics today and within minutes someone will mention that their diocese or local area is undergoing a ‘re-organisation’: parishes are being combined; the ordained ministers being spread more thinly around communities; and the access to gathering for Eucharistic activity being curtailed. The process is sometimes given an elegant name derived from analogies with businesses that are ‘down-sizing’, but this does not hide the reality that this is driven by two key factors: fewer and ageing presbyters. Moreover, there is little prospect that this situation—even with the addition of presbyters from Africa and India—will change any time soon.

In answer to this, we need to reflect on the basics of ministry and not merely imagine that what has been the paradigm of ministry in the Roman Catholic Church since the early seventeenth century is either set in stone or in any way ideal. Rather than being an ideal, it was instead a pragmatic response to the Reformation which, in terms of Trent’s vision of ‘the priesthood’ (a sacerdotium), was perceived as an officer-led rebellion that was to be prevented from recurring.

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THE SEXUAL ABUSE CRISIS IS NOT A CRISIS

by Thomas P. Doyle

The well-known Dominican argues that, far from being merely a tragic moment in the Church’s history, sexual abuse and related cover-ups are the fruits of a systemic disorder in the Church: toxic clericalism. He is one of three authors (with Richard Sipe and Patrick J Wall III) of Sex, Priests and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church’s 2000-year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse (2006). Reprinted by permission from Catholics for Choice. This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared in Conscience: The News journal of Catholic Opinion, Vol. XXXX No. 1, 14-18. © 2019 by Catholics for Choice.

The clerical leadership of the Catholic Church has been aware of the sexual violation of minors and vulnerable adults for centuries, even if it has been buried in secrecy. The secrecy ended in the mid-80s, when the media exposed the Church’s cover-up of a prolific priest-perpetrator in Louisiana. Often referred to as a ‘crisis’, it is, in truth, not a crisis. It is something much worse. It is a worldwide manifestation of a complex, systemic and self-destructive condition in the Church.

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The cult of ‘clericalism—we look after ourselves’ spirituality

by Chris McDonnell

Chris McDonnell is a retired Headteacher, having taught in London, Leeds and on Merseyside before his first headship in Staffordshire in 1978. Since that date he has had two further headships, both in LEA schools in the state sector. He has published in the field of mathematics education and has contributed over the years to on-going discussions in the Catholic Press, journals and on various blog sites. He was one of the opening speakers at the A Call to Action Heythrop meeting in October 2012. He is married, with three grown up children and eight grandchildren. To keep sane on the way through, he also writes poetry from time to time. This article appeared in a longer form in Dominican journal SPIRITUALITY published in Dublin in January 2019.

If we were to read an article in the Catholic press or elsewhere with the word 'clericalism' in its title, we would probably immediately relate it to an understanding of patterns of behaviour by priests and bishops and, more than likely in recent years, that in a pejorative manner: 'clericalism' has become a convenient tag for associated blame. However, in many ways this is an easy way out. It avoids not only an examination of the real roots of many contentious issues but is a loose use of language that doesn't address the meaning of the word.

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