Isn’t it remarkable how so much discussion in our churches these days centres on sex?
the words “Catholic Church” anywhere these days and the immediate
thought is “child sex abuse”, and/or
Mention “Anglican” and
what springs to mind is probably either “gay clergy” or “women bishops”.
it is this very public wrestling with such issues by a generally older,
mainly male clergy and a greying laity that has turned young people
Our churches appear dominated by thinking that is resolutely stuck
in the mid-20th century.
Signs of the times
churches refuse to read the signs of the times. Who was it who said,
“When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is
red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red
and overcast’. You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but
you cannot interpret the signs of the times”? Oh, it was that chap
Jesus, wasn’t it?.
His, of course, was not an exhortation to become
dedicated followers of fashion. Rather, it was encouragement to take on
board the insights of the day.
So in a State which has had two
outstanding women presidents we have not yet had a woman bishop and,
worse, where the largest church is concerned, even the issue of women
priests cannot be discussed.
This was why Fr Tony Flannery, Fr
Gerard Moloney, Fr Brian D’Arcy, Fr Sean Fagan and Fr Owen O’Sullivan
were silenced by Rome this year. All five took on board the insights of
the day where women, celibacy, homosexuality and so on are concerned.
unto them! Across the water it was just as absurd. There, with Queen
Elizabeth as the titular head of the Church of England, it was decided
last month that there could be no women bishops.
Here, though the
way has been cleared for the Church of Ireland to have women bishops, it hasn’t happened. Indeed at its general synod last May the Church of
Ireland reaffirmed its traditional teaching on marriage as “of one man
with one woman” by a two-to-one majority.
It was in fact a rejection of
gay marriage and gay clergy and inspired by the civil partnership of the
Dean of Leighlin, Tom Gordon, in July 2011.
This, 20 years after the
ban on homosexuality was lifted in Ireland. Our churches march to a
there were other things going on in 2012.
There was unease in Catholic
Church circles at plans to divest it of some schools, and concern among
Protestants at spending cuts in education.
There was the International
Eucharistic Congress in Dublin last June and the arrival of the new
papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown.
But really it was sex,
sex, sex and orthodoxy, starting with the publication in March of a
summary of seven visitation reports on the Irish Catholic Church
prepared for the Pope following the 2009 Murphy report.
there was another shocking TV documentary, this time dealing with
Cardinal Seán Brady’s handling of a 1975 inquiry into abuse by Fr
Brendan Smyth and, in September, yet another damning tranche of child
protection reviews of Catholic institutions. Same old, same old.
aftermath of the death of Savita Halappanavar in October led to four
Catholic bishops taking to the streets on December 4th to protest
against possible abortion legislation.
Wondering why the Catholic faith
is not being passed on in Ireland, the papal nuncio asked last month,
“Could it be, for example, that filling every hour of every day with
music or television or internet or video games or texting leads to a
kind of spiritual insensitivity or numbness?”
To which the answer
has to be “no”.
Rather is it not, as Jesus himself indicated when he
asked “why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do
not notice the log that is in your own?”
Our churches need to get into
the log-removal business.