So the Canadian Religious Conference has "decided to address a Message to the Bishops on the occasion of their Ad Limina visits to Rome in a spirit of openness, dialogue and trust."
Gotta love that word: dialogue. The only people who want to dialogue are the ones who want to change things; dialogue is never initiated to affirm the status quo.
So what do they want to change?
They are asking the Bishops to inform the Pope of the Conference's desire (based upon the results of a survey "sent to the major superiors of 230 religious congregations") for the Church to:
- "lend the ear to the common sense of ordinary people who also hold the Gospel in their hands"
- emphasize that "Christian faith and modernity are not in opposition"
- relay that "men and women everywhere need pastors who, with them, can sit down, ask questions, be ready to seek together and to reaffirm the truth in today's world"
- inform the Holy Father that "our Church is isolated: by its language and its attitudes, it moves away from being a meaningful force in our world"
The plentiful criticism that our Church undergoes comes not from evil, bad or deviant spirits. Christian men and women who speak openly of their incomprehension and their refusal of official Catholic positions cannot be classified as a throwback of what people say and think who are marked by the "spirit of the world", as Saint PaulAh, good that you cleared that up for us. Now that you tell us your dissent is not directed by the evil one, we can rest assured that it truly is not. Because frankly, we were rather leaning towards that conclusion.
Now what's really interesting about this letter that the CRC sent to our Bishops is that this was "a message that was meant to be private" which "unfortunately... became public knowledge for all to see." But still, "it was sent in a spirit of dialogue and listening." This must be that special kind of dialogue and listening which is meant to be unnoticed by hoi polloi.
The CRC does state that they hope "the Message be taken in its entire context and not just one portion of it." Tough luck, I say. Sure, some of what they're asking for is good and perfectly licit, but in poring over the 26 page PDF they have sent to our bishops, I've noticed several portions that can't be reconciled with Catholic morality in any context. Here are some of the juicier ones that I openly admit I cherry-picked. Bear in mind these are direct quotes, with my own interpretation in brackets:
- The lack of freedom of speech among Christians; in the universal Church, the quick condemnation of theologians; the perception of the Church by the media as having no meaningful role for humanity; the loss of confidence of a growing number of people (men, women and young people) in the Church as the carrier of a message that responds to their profound search for meaning. [ie, the Inquisition continues]
- That our Church often gives priority to the reaffirmation of dogma and traditional morals rather than listening to the people's search for meaning and journeying alongside them in the discovery of their deeper motivations. [ie, the Church cares too much about what's true and not enough about what's popular]
- The legalistic image of the Catholic Church - and of our Canadian Church - its rigidity and its intransigent stands on sexual morals; its lack of openness regarding access to the sacraments for divorced and remarried Catholics, its lack of compassion for them; its unwelcoming attitude towards homosexuals: images and attitudes that represent a regression from the evangelical perspectives advocated by Vatican II. [ie, stop denouncing sinful conduct, and let people eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ to their own condemnation unhindered - I Cor. 11:29]
- The clear loss of autonomy of the Bishops and the CCCB in making decisions related to the Church in Canada, ignoring or not taking into account its specific reality. [ie, who's for a starting a Canadian Catholic Church, kinda like the Anglicans did?]
- That the ministerial role of women in our Church does not reflect their numerical importance in communities; that they do not have access to various decision-making processes or to all aspects of Church ministry [ie, forget this nonsense about the differences between the sexes actually meaning something sacramentally]
- The resistance of efforts to translate and update liturgical texts (which, along with the use of patriarchal language, help reinforce feelings of exclusion among women in our Church). The fact that women are still ignored in our Church, not only in the decision-making process, but also in the "exclusive" language used by the Church. [whoa there - women are ignored? If so, then Sr. Dr. Ms. Donna Geernaert, VP of the CRC, and a major contributor to this letter, just wasted a lot of time. She should take it up with Alain Ambeault, C.S.V, the exclusively male president of the CRC.]
- The prohibition, by Roman authorities, from holding communal celebrations of penance with general absolution despite the fact that the People of God had expressed their positive support for this practice. [ie, let the people decide what the will of God is]
- The lack of equality in our Church between men and women, between ordained ministers, religious, and lay men and women. [that's right, totally unequal, oh yeah... there are absolutely no women in places of prominence in Catholicism, except this minor figure]
- That our Church has so little influence in the great social debates, because of its conservatism and that of Rome which it supports, and also because it does not accept any dissent, even responsible dissent. It stifles its prophets [does this really need to be rephrased?]
- That ordained ministers arriving from other countries and other cultures will receive orientation for pastoral ministry specific to the Canadian Church and its culture before practicing their ministry here (leadership, public speaking, work with women, etc.: cultural integration). [ie, stop bringing in those accented orthodox priests from Uganda and Korea if you're not going to liberalize them first]
- That, in terms of ethics and moral teaching, our Church will be open to current developments and perspectives of anthropological, social, and medical sciences, etc.; that in this field, Bishops not forget that lay people (men, women, couples, families etc.) form the People of God, acknowledging their competence and freedom of conscience. As Cardinal Josef Ratzinger pointed out in 1966: "Conscience is the supreme and ultimate tribunal, even beyond the official church, and it must be obeyed." [ie, let trends determine their own morality. Low blow with the unsourced Ratzinger quote too. Now who's taking whom out of context?]
- That the primacy of the person be effectively recognized and promoted within our Church and that any formation of conscience be carried out with respect for the individual's fundamental freedom. [let's temper that with the Catechism, paragraph 1791: "when a man 'takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin'... the person is culpable for the evil he commits."]
- That our Bishops create opportunities for discussion and discernment; engaging in the questions and problematic situations raised in today's society: separated families, reconstituted families, domestic violence, the place of women in the Church, marriage between persons of the same sex, assisted suicide, etc. [again, dialogue only happens when they want to change something, and they've given us a pretty clear list here]
- For a revision of liturgical rites, the encouragement of initiatives respecting the sacred nature of the liturgy with more reference to people's experience; a liturgy that is closely grounded in life. [ie, more priests dressed like clowns, and more Glorias set to the didgeridoo]
- That our Church structures will favour the need for communion over power. [oh, SNAP! Why don't you tell us how you really feel?]
The CRC maintains a list of member Sisters and Priests & Brothers, but it is missing at least two communities I've come to respect: the Companions of the Cross, and the Legionaires of Christ. So I know they're not speaking for everybody out there.
Thank God for that.
My wife recently received a survey from a local nun who was trying to understand what would bring more women through the convent's doors. Funny that the nun gave it to a married woman, eh? The survey was asking if interest would be generated by, among other things, meaningful work with competitive compensation, co-ed communities, or environmental activism. Perhaps the convent should be handing out flyers here.
You bet my wife filled it out and returned it.
For all those religious communities wondering why the average age of your disciples is 67, take this advice to heart: If you want to bring young people in, create an atmosphere of truth, fidelity to the magisterium, Marian devotion, and Eucharistic enthusiasm. You'll be surprised by the interest you generate.