You may have been wondering where had we got to recently so I am pleased to be able to tell you that we are alive and well and planning a number of developments for the future. We had hoped to get this message out before Christmas but unforeseen events prevented this.
We decided that Stand up should not be too obvious a presence during the period of the visit of Pope Benedict to the UK, although a number of people associated with Stand up were involved in other ways. Most notably through a new grouping called Catholic Voices for Reform formed prior to the visit to present an alternative view to that of the semi-official Catholic Voices and we are pleased to report that this group were able to present the alternative voice of the Church in over 100 interviews and appearances in all forms of the media during this period.
The visit of Pope Benedict
Pope Benedict has long gone and we have not seen any serious outcomes from his presence here. We are not even aware if he noticed any of the many voices calling for reform. During the visit a number of opinion polls were held as the media tried to understand more about the views of ordinary Catholics, most notably the polls conducted by the BBC and ITV both of which showed a clear majority in favour of reform. For example the ITV poll showed:
- 65% of respondents feel that celibacy should no longer be a requirement of ordination.
- 44% believe that abortion should be allowed in cases where abuse such as rape has resulted in the pregnancy.
- 41% felt that the Church should reconsider its stance on how we view homosexuality.
There is deep disquiet about the way the scandal of abuse of children by priests has been handled with 87% believing it has permanently damaged the Church. The suggestion being that ordinary Catholics are at least as concerned with the cover-up as with the actual abuse.
There seems little doubt that what we have is a Church with deep divisions between the all powerful Vatican and the ordinary people of the Church which our bishops seem unwilling or unable to raise their voices. The truly staggering thing is that only the laity seems prepared to discuss such issues while our bishops go on pretending that any form of change is not for discussion.
A call to action
Those of us who call for change, call for a return to the teaching and doctrines of the Second Vatican Council, not that the Council developed views on the issues mentioned above but the Council did stand for change and for listening to the laity.
We call now for our bishops to engage in an open discussion with lay representatives who are closer to the Catholic people of England and Wales so that an open and honest debate can be held about the future of the Church. For too long we have lived with and accepted a view that our bishops and priests are representative of their people, the opinion surveys show that this is no longer the case and appear to indicate that they may be out of touch with the views of ordinary Catholics.
We are not calling for a revolution in the Church but for a return to the true teaching of the Second Vatican Council where the collegiality of the Bishops was the key to future governance; where priests and lay people would be fully involved with decision making that had a direct affects their dioceses and parishes. Nothing in the Church of today can be more important than ensuring that the Holy Eucharist is celebrated each week in every parish. Yet parishes are closed down, amalgamated and communities destroyed while the solution stares us in the face.
Our bishops refuse to face up to the problem and fail to see how the destruction of communities in order that the few priests that are left can preside at the Mass for ever larger groupings, since one can no longer call these large agglomerations communities this is a policy of defeat. It was reported recently that one diocese will lose forty per cent of its priests by 2015 and yet there seems to be no plan to cope with this crisis. The ordination of suitably married men would ensure every community of the celebration of the Mass which we believe must be at the heart of its life. What we should be doing surely, is to ensure the survival of every Catholic community until such time as there are priests to serve them. This might involve suitable training for lay people to fulfil interim roles for the present. We do not see any such plans being implemented, perhaps not even discussed.
We have been greatly encouraged by the development in Ireland of the establishment of The Association of Catholic Priests and we call on priests in England and Wales to establish a similar body, a body which can speak to our bishops with confidence and authority.
In the last couple of months a couple of us have been busy collecting the email addresses of parishes throughout the country and soon we will be writing to all those we have managed to collect. We will be telling them about Stand up for Vatican II and suggesting some things they might like to do in their parish to promote and celebrate the important anniversaries of the Council coming up in the next couple of years.
One thing you might consider doing is to gather a few people whom you know to be like-minded and talk together about the things for which 'Stand up for Vatican II' is campaigning. Not just to have a moan or provide an opportunity where people can share their criticisms and complaints. Of course there is nothing wrong with constructive criticism or a debate about how we can initiate change but we also need to be positive and a source of support for those who are finding it difficult to sustain faith in these changing times. We need to deepen our understanding, perhaps one member should be asked to prepare for and lead a short discussion. Such groups should be constructive in that not only could they look at the problems that the Church faces and the areas of belief that people find difficult or unacceptable, they should also consider ideas about what might be done to remedy these things. A valuable source of information about the Second Vatican Council is the website Vatican Voice www.vatican2voice.org or you might like to have a look at Towards Tomorrow’s Church a home study pack produced by Catholics for a Changing Church we have attached details of this to this email.
Groups are not difficult to form in fact many people are just waiting for someone to ask them to join. If you are concerned about how to facilitate a group we have material to help you do this which is available on our website.
We will write to you again with a copy of the message we are sending to parishes. If you have not yet signed the petition you can still do so at www.standup4vatican2.or.uk you might also like to look at a couple of the articles we have recently placed on the site.
Bernard Wynne Derek Reeve