We have learned a great deal in the early years of Voice of the Faithful in Ireland – about church matters as well as the management of an on-line presence.
Disappointed by the failure of Irish Catholic Bishops to address the issue of structural dysfunction in the Church – the root cause of most of its present troubles – we have been waiting for circumstances to change.
It may soon be time to put all we have learned to good use, confident that the Trinity continues to empower – for one another’s care and healing – all who have suffered from the sterile dysfunctions of a dying model of church.
The most important thing we have learned is not to expect reform of the church to be offered by those most empowered by the present church system. All of VOTFI’s failed efforts to find caring collaborators among the Irish church hierarchy have taught us that this is a futile exercise. Catholic bishops are at the summit of a pyramid of deference, and almost always define Catholic loyalty in terms of deference to themselves. To deny them this subservience is to be considered by most of them to be ‘not really our people’.
We are confident that the light of the Gospel shines most brightly when the going is toughest. Deference and servility were never conditions of membership of the church when it was at its healthiest – and our Baptism made us a free people, not serfs. When our bishops get around to responding to the call of Pope Francis to dream of a different kind of church, we will be ready.
Meanwhile we don’t need to be twiddling our thumbs. Just in case the Trinity may have it in mind to replace the clericalist model of church with something more suited to the future, let us look to that and behave as though that future was here. Let us also look outward – to those in need of their right of respect – and give it to them, to the limit of our resources. Let us also stay in prayer, seeking those gifts the future so badly needs.