A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Love the church with no secrets

by Fr Brian O'Connell sm

Carlo Carretto’s famous Love Letter to the Church (here) has been quoted recently, notably in Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s Chrism Mass homily in New York. It sums up for many church people the mixed emotions experienced concerning the Roman Catholic Church in its present travails.

My faith in the Church is that it is the Body of Christ, a Communion of believers, of divine institution, founded by Jesus Christ on Peter and the Apostles, with the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I trust this promise without knowing the precise terms of it.

The People of God, the name for the Church favoured by Vatican 2, includes all the baptized , from the Pope to pauper. All are called in their own way to build up the church, and make the church what it is called to be, a powerful sign of the kingdom of God on earth.Vatican Seal

The Church is also a human organization, with all that implies. Human weakness is no obstacle to witnessing to the gospel. because the church carries within itself the healing power of the Risen Lord who has overcome the world. Moreover, since day one the Church has been beset by weakness and sin – witness Peter and Judas in the first twelve Apostles.
I love the Church for she has given me my faith community, and I, like Carlo Carretto, hope to die in her arms. However, the questions being asked by me now and many of my generation , are why the Church seemingly cannot heal itself as before? Why cannot the Church reform itself of abuses which are blunting its witness to the world?

In my view, the main reason the church is taking so long to heal itself is the pervading secrecy which has become a way of life in the administration of the Church. The Roman congregations entrusted with running the church conduct most of their business in utmost secrecy. Church officials know that their actions will never be scrutinized, and act accordingly. It is only human. And this secrecy filters down to local churches and parishes. It is not the same as confidentiality.

The reputation of the church came to be seen as the paramount value. As a result until recently, the moral failures of church officials have been concealed at all costs. The result is that when the truth comes out, the reputation of the church takes a bigger hit than it would have if the truth was owned in the first place.

No organization likes to wash its dirty linen in public, but if it fails to do the cleaning inhouse, the scandals inevitably become worse.

Despite all this, I persist in my love for the church because of the holiness of its members. There are Church members all over the world quietly and lovingly supplying vital support to communities for the sake of the gospel. Pope Benedict produces daily words of encouragement and wisdom, and is an inspiration. He is doing his job well. He recently visited Cuba and spent 40 minutes with Fidel Castro.

Honesty, transparency, and accountability are the hallmarks of a healthy organization. They are based on gospel values. Would anyone dare to argue that they do not apply to the Church of Jesus Christ? Pre-eminently in fact? And do not rank and file church members have the right to expect ‘best practice’ by Church officials who are by definition men of God working for a community of charity? All the baptised have a right to these things, and should continue to require them from their ministers.




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