I READ with great interest and not a little concern two letters in the CL 2/2/03 that take Fr Kevin Ryan’s and others’ courage and openness to task.
While I respect the right of everyone to hold a different view and to have their say, I wonder if the kingdom is built upon divisive, unfounded assertions about others’ motives, vocational calls, spirituality and faith. Such condemnations do not appear to be Gospel-centred nor based upon love.
I was dismayed by these letters’ arbitrary judgments, biased assertions and styles that verged on patronising. I am concerned how one could state so categorically that a diocese may have a deficient spirituality. Additionally, deep reverence and love for the Eucharist is widespread, though sometimes in different, creative and community-centred expressions, and not the sole preserve of so-called ‘orthodox’ dioceses – a curious, often ill-defined term that again hints at exclusiveness and judgments.
I am also interested that one letter actively perpetuates a so-called ‘orthodox/liberal divide’ as if those who coin such definitions have exclusive use of the term. Surely such terminology is divisive in itself and runs the risk of disrespect for difference, local initiatives, openness and growth.
The whole style of such correspondence calls to mind a worrying trend of fear, antagonism and disrespect for difference perhaps no more illustrated than the recent, positively biased account of George Pell by Tess Livingstone. This author, like The Catholic Leader letters, appears to actively judge or condemns others and may, at times, assert a reactive, potentially exclusive view of expressions of contemporary Catholicism. Two of many examples may suffice. Ms Livingstone suggests that those who leave active ministry must not had enough faith (?) – whereas the people who I know grappled with such decisions, remain faith-filled, generous hearted men who are engaged in compassionate roles that support and honour the stories of others.
Further, amongst many new and creative things, this author also disdains ‘community-centred’ Eucharists which, rather than diminishing the centralness of the sacrament, seek to extend its relevance to many and enrich that point with inclusiveness, joy and creativity. Whenever I hear apologists for a strict, rule based Church no matter what the human cost, I ponder ‘where is the love in this?’
In summary, there are so many points to challenge. Yet what appears common to all is that they call to mind the recent phenomena of fear of change, fear of difference which is perhaps best illustrated by the few who kept watch and reported, in an adverse way, on liturgical practices (possibly) rather than entering into such rich sacramental moments.
My hope is rather than condemning open, mutually respectful intrafaith dialogue we all could respond to the challenges by grappling with the multi-faceted richness of the Church and seek to strike a balance that respects tradition and yet is open to new ways of expression and growth.
The impending archdiocesan synod strikes me as an immediate, rich and creative way to do this.