The fear has gone - and So have they
From A Love that Dares to Question A Bishop
challenges his church
by Bishop John Heaps
Published by Canterbury
Press, 2001. pp. 35-38,
Published on our website with the authors
If the teachings of Jesus are to go out to all nations and to people of all times without change, this could happen only by and through his sustaining presence.The doctrine of an infallible Church follows logically from the commission and command of Jesus to his disciples. Orthodoxy, however, implies adhering to theological concepts. The teachings of the Church gives us access to the great, unchanging truths regarding the being of God and his coming among us as a human being; as a human being, his saving death and resurrection, his continuing presence in the sacrements and our eternal destiny with him.
About these essential teachings of the there are not only the official Church Councils but a living Church the people of God -loving and accepting these teachings across the ages. We see reflected here the Church's own teaching on Christ's abiding, infallible presence: The holy people of God share in Christ's prophetic office. The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole people's supernatural discernment in matters of faith when, from the bishops down to the last of the lay faithful, they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals" (Lumen Gentium, para. 12). ("Down to the last of the lay faithful" is an unfortunate expression.)
Throughout the ages this astounding unity of faith has held the Church together as a worshipping community bound by a common faith. It is in matters of everyday life and everyday relationships that difficulties arise. In this area we seem to have lapsed from a united voice into two voices, one called "official teaching" or "the rnagisterium", and the other described as "dissenting voices". We all have a dissenting voice within us which calls us to having things our own way. It calls us away from Christian generosity and love, to selfishness and sin. I am not referring to this self-centredness but to the voice within that cannot sing in unison or in harmony with a voice that speaks from a position of authority and is neither understood by the head nor accepted by the heart. I have referred previously to a voice that spoke from authority and used the persuasive power of fear. In many cases, people seemed to respond, not from love, not from reason, but from fear. The fear has gone and so have they.
There is not only the fear which the Church has in the past tried to instil to control dissent. There is also the fear seemingly present in Rome now which cannot listen openly to challenge, criticism or opposing views of loyal and devoted members of the Church. It seems that this closed fearful mentality is also a factor contributing to frustration and the rejection of the Church by many as being irrelevant and out of touch.
There seems to be no attempt at all to tap the wisdom, knowledge and holiness of the whole body of Christ in a search for orthodoxy to teaching and clarity in communication in regard to human living and relating. It is no wonder that the faithful walk away and that the young mostly find no satisfaction or answer to life in a Church which seems again to have closed its doors and windows to the world. In general, where is there any message of joy or hope or even support for the adolescent struggling with changing relationships, facing the workplace, experiencing sexuality, accepting some responsibility in society
There is a fear seemingly present in Rome now which cannot listen openly to challenge, criticism opposing views loyal and devoted members of the Church.
If we could trust the so called ordinary magisterium of the Church, we would have more confidence in following it without the necessity of an order to obey. This ordinary rnagisterium, however, does not possess a great record for reliability into matters of natural or human science. Its teachings on marriage and sexual ethics have been abysmal. Any pastoral priest will know from experience the misery inflicted on people through commonly accepted teachings, now no longer held. The physical interpretation of the functions and purpose of God-given nature is, and was, a force for misery and destruction of the human spirit that needs healing and redeeming. Even today we could ask in relation to this body-centred moral theology, what is more important to take seriously: the coming into being of a new human life, or the physical means by which we prevent this life? What is more important in the physical and sexual expression of love: its depth of reality, or the time of the month in which it is most unlikely to conceive a child? What is more important: love and spirit, or caution and physical methods?
Our moral decisions should concentrate on the existence of life and on its quality.
A moral theology whose basis is mere physical function means very little and achieves very little in a world already so directed towards materialism. We are the very people who believe in an immortal soul, but seem to be so obsessed with bodily functions. How can we have a more spiritual Church, a Church which on every level is doing the things Jesus was sent to do? Let us look at each of those reasons for which he was sent and try to respond.
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