Time to rock the barque of Peter
Last week’s Lay presidency at the Eucharist: Why not? looked at the need for change. This article considers the possibilities and the benefits of that change: the priests being priests, an involved laity and bishops thumping the tables of Rome.
by George Ripon
Quite clearly the Church has the power to change. Jesus told the Apostles that laws made by them as Church on earth would be ratified in Heaven. So it could be done. And the people involved, the laity, would have to be consulted.
Assuming the breakthrough, think of the benefits. Before crunch time (50's and 60's), most parishes would have had several Masses on Sunday, shared by two priests. With the proposed possible change and taking into account other changes since then -- the introduction of Sunday evening Masses (since the change in the fasting laws when the fast extended from midnight until the reception of holy communion) and of Vigil Masses (since Vatican II) -- we could revert to an appropriate number of Masses and solve one of the major problems confronting our Church: having the beauty, the healing and the joy of the Eucharist available to all as Jesus intended.
Progress here could open up discussion on other areas in need of change.
Revisiting the Third Rite of Reconciliation would further relieve the work of the priest, not that they are overwhelmed in the confessional these days. A revitalised Diaconate, so that women and men could baptise, marry and bury. The last Rites, where due to infirmity confession is not possible, could be administered by a deacon. Priests would still, as available, say Mass, preach, counsel, provide reconciliation and promote spirituality. They would have more time for religious instruction in our schools including preparation for, and conducting, Confirmation.
Proposed changes are not intended to diminish the role of the priest but to acknowledge the reality of our times. In fact a "priesthood" shared with others in the local community might encourage candidates to reconsider the full ministry, and the newly appointed Eucharistic Ministry could in itself become a source of vocations to the full priesthood.
In all of this we have a great inhibition. That is our loyalty to the Church; our acceptance of its teaching and the love we have for our Tradition.
This is especially true of the older generation (mine) who still front up faithfully for Sunday Mass, contribute financially and have involvement in what is going on in our parishes. We are reluctant to say anything critical about "the System".
I certainly felt uncomfortable when I proposed in OLC 95 (Elected Bishops?) that our Bishops should be elected by the People of God. This would be a radical change from the process under John Paul II where "safe" bishops emerged from a mysterious process centered in Rome.
So in any change the grass-roots clergy and the faithful need the support of our bishops. As the local bishop makes the phone call to his parish priest giving him a second parish, should he not ask himself, "Is there not another and better way?"
I believe that there is and a simpler form of Eucharistic celebration as proposed could solve a lot of problems.
But the time has come for our bishops to speak up for the faithful under their care.
Collegiality as proclaimed by Vatican II requires the bishops to share with the Pope in the governance of the Church. Fr Hodgens in his article The Bishops’ last chance (OLC, #112) is very forthright on the duties and responsibilities of bishops. We have many good bishops but also many "safe" ones, conscious of their appointment by Rome. In recent times we have seen a culture of silence and not "rocking the boat".
The time has come to rock the "barque of Peter" and I would like to think that on their ad limina visits to Rome, our bishops would be thumping tables demanding positive action to solve our problems. They would have more clout if they arrived at the Vatican after being elected by the faithful and/or the grass-roots clergy.
On the positive side I believe we are at a new beginning in our Church.
As the debate gets under way we can work on other important issues. These include Christian unity where out Church must stop sitting on its hands. As a great faith we must be more active in reaching out and working with other great faiths. These and other matters are ripe for debate at another time. Meanwhile as another correspondent pointed out some weeks ago, we must continue in earnest prayer for the future of our church.
Let us keep up the prayer and continue the song.
George Ripon (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Hughesdale, Victoria