Collegiality, pastoral wisdom, justice and the hopes of the people of God featured in presentations made at the Monastero delle Suore camaldolesi all'Aventino on Thursday evening (7 March 2013)
Noi Siamo Chiesa and the International Movement We Are Church arranged the meeting to offer analysis and reflection at this important moment in the the life of the Church.
Journalists, church workers and representatives of various organisations and movements heard brief presentations by Catholic speakers from three continents. More information may found by clicking on their names
- Martha Heizer (Austria), Chair and co-founder of the We Are Church movement.
- Vittorio Bellavite (Italy), Coordinator of Noi Siamo Chiesa
- Michael Walsh (United Kingdom), Church historian, writer and commentator on Roman Catholic matters.
- Marylin Hatton (Australia), represents her country to Womens Ordination Worldwide
- Anthony Padovano (USA), theologian, writer and Professor at the University of New Jersey.
- Paul Collins (Australia), broadcaster, writer and historian of the Papacy
Following the presentations the speakers were pleased to receive and answer many questions.
The opening day of the Conclave has not yet been decided; but today as in 2005, there are great expectations that this might mark a turning point in the Church and make the gospel of Jesus more and more heard in ourworld. The problems experienced during the pontificate of John Paul II are still unresolved, or have worsened. Nonetheless the conviction remains that the situation can change for the Word of salvation is powerful.
It is the duty of the College of Cardinals to recognise the seriousness of the situation, to read the signs of times. The Cardinals have in their hands both the book of the Gospel and the documents of the Second Vatican Council. They must read them, and meditate on them. Within them are the directions, sometimes implicit but often very explicit, for the road the Church must travel. The expectations of those who appeal to the Council have already often been voiced. “We are Church” has contributed to raising issues about the Church as a whole, but with especial emphasis on the reform of the Papacy, because that is the key to the entire structure of what is the modern Catholic Church. We shall briefly recall four main issues.
It is essential to embark upon a decentralization and democratization of the Church. The system as it is now, focused on the image and role of the pope, is theologically questionable and especially over the last decade has revealed its limitations, even from the point of view of good government. The synodal model must be put in place at different levels, tested, and eventually adopted without any fear. The appointment of bishops – even of the bishop of Rome – must entail greater participation without the current regime of secrecy. All in all, “there should be a shift from Magisterium to Ministerium, from magis to minus, from doctrine to knowledge, from power to cooperation” (Vito Mancuso, La Repubblica May 4).
The Roman Curia has to be thoroughly reorganised, authority being devolved to local churches. In the light of recent scandals now – and this is a minimum claim - is the time to carry out a full clearing out, convicting those who caused scandals, not those who unveiled them. Everything must be brought into the light of day, including everything related to paedophilia among the clergy. The People of God will judge.
Together with the reorganisation of the Curia, life styles characterised by sobriety and simplicity should be embraced. Honorific titles appear useless nowadays, if not plain ridiculous. A radical change is needed in handling the wealth of the Church. The property of the Church belongs to everyone, especially to the poor. Wherever it is excessive it should be used for the promotion of social justice. And – what is very rare – it should be handled transparently, inspired always by a spirit of poverty.
Peace and social justice
It is a widespread conviction that the central government of the Church, and the papacy itself, must transcend the Eurocentric, “western”, vision fostered during the pontificate of Benedict XVI. A worldwide vision would give a greater credibility to Christian action and would be more faithful to the Gospel. The teaching of Gaudium et Spes on the relationship of the Church to the world should be turned into concrete actions; these are already to be found in the lifestyles of many believers, of families, parishes, religious orders, associations and local churches.
It is not difficult to make a list of the expectations that, arising from the heart of the Church, should be considered as the DNA of those who believe in the Gospel. Human rights must be granted for everyone, starting from the weakest and poorest; religious freedom is one of these rights and must always be claimed even – indeed especially – when it does not involve Christians; increasing poverty needs to be tackled not just with first aid but also with education for political action; the acceptance of unrestrained capitalism, as the only and inevitable model for the economy has to be abandoned; the unequal relation between countries of the North (where the majority of the people claim to be Christian) and countries of the South must not endure for another millennium; in the light of a renewed arms race, one can only say that every war is an absolute evil and that nonviolence has to be embraced; a message condemning war, and violence in general, must come from Rome, as it did during the pontificate of John Paul II, a condemnation that shall become the shared expression of the conscience of humanity and of all those of good will.
We must acknowledge the degree of damage to the Church’s witness arising from the support it has given to right-wing regimes and ideologies over the past few years.
There is an increasingly widespread awareness, at least among the most committed part of the Christian community, that the rigidity of many attitudes, bolstered by the current hierarchical structure of pope/bishops/parishes, must be changed. We are thinking in particular of issues relating to sexuality and the family. Indeed, they should have a less central position in the pastoral efforts and should leave room for an approach more based on freedom of conscience than on the rigid precepts of a moral theology that to many seems outdated. More attention must be given to the situation in which believers exist; they more deserve understanding and forgiveness than exclusion and condemnation. There are many examples of such rigidity to be overcome: the prohibition of contraception, judgments on homosexuality, celibacy imposed on priests, the refusal to allow divorced and remarried people access to the Eucharist. There are impatient expectations for a reorientation, one that could reconcile the faith of many with their daily experience in parishes and in every Christian community. Such a reorientation would prevent many people distancing themselves from the Gospel because they find it impossible to accept attitudes and decisions that cannot be understood in the light of Gospel teaching.
Another important issue concerns the ministries in the Church: service to the community should prevail, not ecclesiastical norms that make them difficult. The main problems include compulsory celibacy for the clergy, the exclusion of women from ministry, the readmission of married priests and the acceptance into ministry of viri probati . Above all there is the subordinate role of lay women and men, their lack of authority in the Church, when they in fact support the activities and the organisation of our Christian communities.
Ecumenism and interfaith dialogue
The ecumenical movement, after the many steps undertaken with and after the Council, is now in stalemate. There is still distrust In Rome towards the churches of the Reform, defined by Benedict XVI simply as “Christian communities”. Intercommunion is still forbidden. Too much energy has been spent on uselessly pursuing the Lefebvrians. Similarities on ethical issues with the Orthodox have been sought out, whereas nothing has been done about the ministry of Peter, which is the real point at issue. We need to get out of this deadlock: staying still, as we are now, would inevitably mean to go back. Yet going forward is not difficult. The “conviviality of differences” is one of the conditions for which Christians, brothers and sisters one to the other, can take part in the suffering and joy of the world, trying to put the Gospel into practice. Ecumenical dialogue is one of the conditions for retaining and fostering relations with other religions, particularly with Islam and Judaism. That is where the challenge lies. Their faith and their spirituality can contribute to tackling the many and serious problems of humanity, in this difficult phase of its history. It is within churches and religions that the battle against fundamentalism is to be fought.
“We are Church” hopes that, in this problematic situation for the Catholic Church, a situation more difficult than that in which recent conclaves took place, cardinals will be able to “go beyond themselves” and contribute to the reform of the Church by thinking of new synodal structures, both at central and at local level. Many texts have been written, many calls have been made, both recently and in the past, by the movement of all those, in Europe and throughout the world, who appeal to the Council with serious conviction. Among others, we can recall the proposals for the first hundred days of the pontificate, published in 1978 during the conclave that elected Pope Wojtyla, by the Institute of Religious Sciences of Bologna founded by Giuseppe Dossetti.
The movement “Noi siamo Chiesa” (NSC) together with the International Movement We Are Church (IMWAC) has always engaged in analysis of, and proposals for, the reform of the papacy. “We are Church” invites the College of Cardinals to take this document into account while praying to the Holy Spirit to give them light.
Prepared by NOI SIAMO CHIESA
(member of the International Movement We Are Church)
Rome, 7 March 2013