As I write the Pope is in hospital receiving treatment for a respiratory illness. We all pray for a speedy recovery.
As we wait for news and prepare for Holy Week, it feels like a moment when the tensions within the Church are riper than ever.
Cardinal Hollerich, the Luxembourgian Cardinal is out there pushing the boundaries of Church teaching. He suggested that ordination of women is possible and the Church’s position on gay relationships should change.
In the interview Hollerich also commented on the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality, saying: “If we say (to homosexuals) everything they do is intrinsically wrong, it is like saying their life has no value”. He added: “Homosexual people must feel welcome in our house. Otherwise, they will go away”.
This has been a recurrent theme in Synodal discussions as explored by Owen O’Sullivan in a recent edition of the The Synodal Times.
If homosexuals feel valued only when they live a life that is less than whole, a half-life, they may well feel that such a life is worthless, and suicide may follow. A survey in Northern Ireland of gay men aged between 16 and 25 showed a level of attempted suicide five times that of their straight counterparts.
In the Synod many hope that the space to have conversations about these topics may be created. Certainly that was on the mind of our own Garry O’Sullivan when he wrote.
I don’t want to take the environmental analogy too far but perhaps rewilding is a good term to use for what a hopeful vision for our church might incorporate. We need to rewild the scriptures and understand them better. We need to rewild how we do morals, how we do doctrine. Landscaped control needs to give way to herbaceous borders. We need to rewild liturgy. We need to rewild Jesus. We need to rewild ourselves. We need to breathe a little and let the Holy Spirit blow freely.
Yet all these hopes may run into a harder reality. Overshadowed by the Pope’s trip to hospital was the resignation of Fr Hans Zollner from the Papal commision on the protection of Children. This German Jesuit is one of the most respected figures on safeguarding and abuse in the Catholic Church.
He said in a statement that ‘structural and practical issues’ within the commission had led him “to disassociate” from it.
“The protection of children and vulnerable persons must be at the heart of the Catholic Church’s mission. That was the hope I and many others have shared since the commission was first established in 2014. However, in my work with the commission, I have noticed issues that need to be urgently addressed and which have made it impossible for me to continue further.” Abuse remains an original sin for the Catholic Church. If it cannot address it, all the hopes of the Synod will be for naught. The resignation of such a respected figure also tells us we are in the endgame of this pontificate and power is flowing away from the Chair of Peter. Interesting times ahead…
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God Bless, Ian