TO this date I have taken a neutral stand with regard to the reconciliation rite controversy, but several of my personal observations over recent times came to a head during the readings on Palm Sunday which I feel compelled to share.
In recent travels around Queensland, I have been saddened to find many small country towns with a great Catholic infrastructure built at great sacrifice by our forebears and now with no priest.
During these travels, I have spoken to country families, who have traditionally travelled many miles to attend Mass and the sacraments, who are now travelling up to 200 km further to attend Mass – who now have little chance of attending a First Rite.
As just one example, Townsville diocese has only a handful of aging priests to service Catholics scattered over many thousands of square kilometres.
I recently had the opportunity to briefly tour around Italy. There are churches on every corner and even though I am told there are fewer priests, there are still plenty. I can see that Vatican officials would have absolutely no concept of the distances involved here, which has been acerbated by the shortage of priests.
In fact, many of those from Sydney and Melbourne making the complaints to the Vatican would have little appreciation as they also have a wide selection of churches within easy car or public transport access.
I have been saddened by the fact that the Vatican appears more willing to listen to these people than to the bishops they selected and appointed to lead and guide us.
I am further saddened by constantly reading media comments that the Vatican has, to a degree, lost faith in our bishops due to the many recent defections and moral transgressions of our priests and religious.
These numerous defections and transgressions have been demoralising and shattering in the extreme.
Catholic lay people have met this challenge by continually reassuring themselves that such failings are human and sadly, inevitable.
This position is supported by the fact that Jesus himself suffered a far higher proportion of defections and indiscretions within his small band of disciples who were personally selected after a “whole night praying to God”, his Father. How does Jesus currently rate in the Vatican?
At the Palm Sunday Mass, I was hit by a great similarity. The scribes and pharisees complained to Pilate and Herod of their perceptions of the blasphemy and indiscretion of Jesus and these officials took more heed of the whingers than they did of their own conscience or indeed of Jesus himself.
Christians, faced with problems, are urged to ask themselves, “How would Jesus have handled this situation?”
I found myself asking this same question with respect to the above problem. One Bible story came immediately to mind. Soon after the apostles had been sent out to spread the good word, John reported back to Jesus that a person, who didn’t belong to “our group”, had been seen casting out demons in Jesus’ name.
Jesus’ response was “do not stop him” and “whoever is not against you is for you”. This would appear to have been a far more appropriate Vatican response.
JOHN M. CALLAGHAN East Ipswich, Qld