Tuesday, March 5, 2013

When Pundits Talk About Reform of the Church What They Leave Out

Father Robert John Araujo, SJ talks about what pundits mean when they talk reform of the CHurch and what they are leaving out at Reform—legal and ecclesiastical .

He says in part :

........I have been looking over many of the recent claims made by pundits who are asserting that now is the time to “reform” the Church given the papal conclave that is about to begin and given the qualities that are deemed by some as essential for the new pope. I find that while the word “reform” is often employed by these analysts, I doubt that the speakers mean the same thing. For example, I can see that some advocates for “reform” of the Church are interested in changing fundamental teachings of the Church, particularly in the realm of human sexuality. Related to this claim for reform but of a more general nature is the voice that argues that there is a pressing need for “reform” because the Church is less interested today in confessing sins than she is in liberating consciences, if I may borrow from the title of one recent book on the subject. Consequently, the Church’s teachings must reflect this shift. Still, another group sees Church “reform” as mandating dramatic changes to the Petrine Ministry, the office of bishops, and the office of the priesthood. In addition, there are “reformers” who argue that the “institutional Church” must acknowledge the equality of the magisterial office of theologians with the teaching authority of bishops. 

In looking over this list of reasons that are used to validate the call for ecclesiastical reform, I realize that each of these categories is not hermetically sealed from the others; in short, different “reformers” may well share some or all of these arguments for reform. However, these “reformers” tend to have one thing in common: they want to change the status of offices and/or amend Church teachings. None of them really acknowledge or discuss the reform of the human person as the one means of reforming the Church, and I think this is essential to any sincere and holy desire for “reform” of the Church. Why do I offer such an argument?
My explanation begins with the reason why Christ came into the world in the first place and founded the Church on the rock, Peter: to save us from our sins. In the world of the present age, we often hear phrases like “social sin” and “the evils of institutions” being identified as the sources of the problems which the world and its people face. This is wrong, because it is the sins of persons and the evils which persons introduce into the institutions they establish that are at the source of the grave difficulties which the Church and the world face. Until this element of intelligible reality is acknowledged as the essential source of any credible claim for reform of the Church, the clarion for transformation will be flawed. So I end today’s posting with a call for prayers that will be of assistance for authentic reform:

The first prayer is for the cardinals who will elect the new pope: may they put aside whatever individual flaws they have—and we all have them—so that they might elect a holy, humble, and wise man who understands well the nature of the Church and the great demands of the Petrine Ministry.

Second, let us pray for the many places in the world where the Church suffers persecution and other threats. In this latter regard of threats, we should pray for the Church in the United States.\

Finally, let us pray for our own reform as members of the People of God that we will heed Christ’s teachings that lead us away from sin and strive for the path of virtue and holiness. Surely this last petition will be heard by God who will strengthen us in this holy desire. And with this, true reform of the Church will follow.


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