Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What Will The Church Of The Future Be Like?

The well-respected theologian and expert at Vatican II Karl Rahner, SJ, proposed in 1965 that the Christian of the future would have to be a mystic or he will not exist. And his reference to mysticism meant “a genuine experience of God emerging from the very heart of our existence.”

He predicted that Christians would live in a diaspora situation, that is, as a “relatively small minority,” and nowhere would there be a Christian nation which would lead people to embrace the Christian faith.  A Christian of the future will be Christian because he has a personal experience of Jesus and makes the deliberate choice to follow him as Lord. Culture or society will not be sufficient to lead one to Christ.

“The Christians,” he said, “will be the little flock of the Gospel, perhaps esteemed, perhaps persecuted…The Church is the sacrament of the salvation of the world even where the latter is still nor and perhaps never will be the Church.”

Rahner did not spell out what I have written below, These possibilities are purely of my own imagining --hunches, if you will, about what the Church of the future may be like. I am not a sociologist, I have no crystal ball, I claim no gift of prognostication. And yet trying to read :the signs of the times,” I suggest that

By 2020 Pope Francis II will try to emulate Pope Francis I and carry on his work.
Smaller parishes will be administered by lay leaders.
The Roman Curia will be in need of reform.
Dorothy Day will be added to the Church’s Hall of Fame (canonized a saint).
The Roman Missal of 2011 will be under revision.

By 2025 women will be serving as deacons in many parishes, especially in the missions.
Religious orders of Sisters will experience renewal and growth.
The number of Catholic parochial schools will have declined significantly.
Most bishops will no longer wear miters.
The Roman Curia will be in need of reform.
Catholicism will identify more with social justice issues than previously..

By 2050 a majority of the Catholic priests in the United States will be of African origin.
The Third Vatican Council will be convoked to reaffirm the direction and reforms of Vatican II.
Priestly celibacy will become optional.
The Roman Curia will be in need of reform.

Even though it is said that the future is the hardest thing to predict, what do you imagine the Church of the future will be like?

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Challenge Of Implementing Amoris Laetitia

The start of a new year fuels speculation about what it will hold.

The election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States (some say he is the  44th since Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th) already challenges prediction.

The surprises in Pope Francis’ leadership of the Catholic Church are likely to continue as he promotes a less legalistic and more pastoral approach to the Church’s mission and ministry.

One of the certain challenges for episcopal conferences and individual dioceses will be how to implement Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia, his exhortation on family life, especially chapter eight, commonly entitled “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness.”

Most of this apostolic exhortation focuses on the gift of married love and the blessings of family life. Pope Francis and the bishops of the two synods on family wanted to offer support and encouragement to husbands, wives and their children in light of God’s plan and the Church’s teaching. At the same time they also addressed the trials, troubles and failures which threaten this basic building block of Church and society.

Having affirmed that breaking the marriage bond “is against the will of God,” Pope Francis’ exhortation also acknowledged the weakness of many members of the Church. He confirmed that “the Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children” by restoring in them both hope and confidence. The Church’s task, he said, “is often like that of a field hospital” (# 291).

He noted that the bishops who participated in the Synod on the Family (the  14th ordinary general assembly of the synod of bishops, October 4-25, 2015) did not fail to acknowledge that even in civil marital situations which do not correspond to the Church’s teaching on marriage the grace of God can be found  in such constructive elements as the courage to do good, to be caring toward one another in love, to be of service to the community around them  (## 291-92).

The synod bishops and the pope’s exhortation recall Pope John Paul II’s teaching on the “law of gradualness,” which acknowledges that people grow at different rates in their understanding, appreciation and implementation of the objective demands of the law (# 295).

It is in awareness of this phenomenon and in the light of divine mercy that the Church chooses to take the path not of rejecting but reinstating people in situations of weakness and imperfection.

The synod and the pope agree that the Church has the responsibility to help people in marital or cohabiting situations outside its teaching to come to an understanding  about grace in their lives and offer them assistance toward the fullness of God’s plan for them (cf # 297).

Even more challenging for the Church and her ministers is to acknowledge situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the upbringing of the children, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate” (# 298).

There is in some cases, of course, the possibility of a Church-granted declaration of nullity.  Or, as the exhortation suggests, there can be situations calling for the application of “the discernment of pastors,” perhaps a reference to the unnamed but sometimes used “internal forum” (cf # 298).

The exhortation cautions against making those in such situations to feel that they are excommunicated.  Catholics who divorce are not excommunicated, nor are Catholics who divorce and remarry under excommunication.

Pope Francis explained, “If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor the Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases” (# 300).

Bishop Robert McElroy met the challenge of implementing Amoris Laetitia for his San Diego, California diocese by calling for a local synod and responding to recommendations raised during the six months of meetings and discussions.

According to the report in the National Catholic Reporter (Nov18-Dec 1, 2016), the San Diego synod issued 15 recommendations, offering support for family life and a response to those who are divorced and remarried. Among the recommendations are creation of a diocesan office for family spirituality which would develop resources for ministering to families, including “the divorced, single-parent, widowed, deployed, deported, special needs, multi-generational households and LGBT.”

In his own pastoral letter “Embracing the Joy of Love” (which set the stage for the diocesan synod), Bishop McElroy challenged San Diego Catholics to develop a culture of  invitation, welcoming, and hospitality for families of all kinds, and to offer support to those who are divorced.

Other dioceses across the country and around the world will likewise read, study and embrace Amoris Laetitia and develop ways to help families, as Pope Francis put it,  “to grow and mature in the ability to love” (# 325).

Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent Trees

Sometimes we’re just too close to something to see it well. It’s that adage about not being able to see the forest for the trees.

It’s when we step back that things come into better focus, or we see more than first we could imagine.

Aging does that. Seniors tend to become nostalgic about the people, places, and experiences they used to know. It’s often a pleasure to review old photos or videos, re-read old letters and cards, return to sites we used to haunt.

Many of us know the :”if only” experience. If only I had spent more time with so-and-so. If only I had appreciated the kindness, wisdom, or relationship I was offered. If only I could see a face, hear a voice, share an experience with someone now gone.

The wise say, “You can go back to the place, but you can never go back to the time.” And given the speed with which venues change, even going back to the place as remembered is often impossible.

Two important lessons emerge from our regret that the past is past and cannot be made present: 1) we should recognize and cherish the people and places around us now; and 2) we should be understanding  when those we cherish now do not see us often enough or share themselves with us as we wish.

For sometimes we’re just too close to something or someone to see the big picture. It reminds me of the response of that blind man in Mark 8:22-26. Jesus put spittle on the man’s eyes, touched him, and asked, “Do you see anything?” And the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” And Jesus had to lay hands on the man’s eyes a second time before he could see everything distinctly.”

The waiting and preparing of the Advent season, the theme of light and the coming of the Christ all conspire to invite us to step back and see life and church and relationships more distinctly.

Many of the people of Jesus’ day could not see him for the messiah he was. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. And Jesus replied, “A prophet is not accepted in his native place” (cf Lk 4:22-24).

If we can’t see the forest for the trees, it isn’t surprising we can’t see Christ because of the way we celebrate Christmas.

Monday, November 21, 2016

It's Happening Again (Still?)

One of the major obstacles Jesus had to confront in spreading the Good News was the legalism of the official religious leaders of his day.

On one occasion Jesus did not do the prescribed washing before eating (Lk 11:38). On another occasion, on a Sabbath, his disciples plucked heads of grain (Mt12:2). Also on a Sabbath Jesus cured a man’s withered hand (Mk 3:2). And on any given day of the week he could be found eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners (Lk 5:30) or a Samaritan woman (Jn 4:7-9).

The Pharisees challenged Jesus and his disciples for their failure to observe the law. When Jesus responded by asking whether it was lawful to cure on the Sabbath (Lk 14:3), and then challenged their pride in seeking places of honor (Lk 14:8) and called them hypocrites and blind guides, they began to plot against him (Lk 6:11).

 They made “a formal act of correction of a serious error.” They said, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the Sabbath day” (Lk 13:14).

Not all of the Pharisees opposed Jesus. John says that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night (3:1-2). Luke says that Joseph of Arimathea, who claimed Jesus’ dead body, was a member of the Sanhedrin (23:50). It takes, however, only a few opponents acting in bad faith to foment divisions.

We can surmise the reaction of the scribes and Pharisees who brought the woman caught in the act of adultery and made her stand in  the middle only to have Jesus offer her compassion and understanding without condoning her failure (Jn 8:1-11). It must have been clear to them that Jesus was undermining Mosaic teaching and long-standing tradition.

They stood on the solid ground of irreformable moral principles. Under different circumstances they would have likely judged it their responsibility to request a clarification lest there be widespread confusion  leading people into error. Jesus was causing a tremendous confusion about what is an intrinsic evil, about the state of sin and about the correct notion of conscience.

The Pharisees believed they had a responsibility before the people for whom they were religious leaders. For them to remain silent about these fundamental doubts would be a grave lack of charity. No wonder, as Jesus continued his teaching, that his opponents picked up stones to throw at him” (Jn 8:59).

It is, of course, undeniable that Pope Francis’ exhortation Amoris Laetitia (Love’s Joy) has led to much discussion, debate, and differences of interpretation. Chapter eight quickly became the focus of attention. It addresses the issue of the permanence of marriage and the frailty of people. It urges pastoral care for those in marriages not sanctioned by the Church, most especially the divorced-and- remarried.

The teaching in Amoris Laetitia is Pope Francis’ response to the discussions on “the family” which took place during the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in October of 2014 and the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October of 2015.

These Episcopal synods do not seek unanimity of thought, do not legislate, do not necessarily present infallible teaching. A synod, as Pope Francis reminded the bishops at the opening gathering, is “a protected area where the Church is experimenting with the action of the Holy Spirit.”  It is an effort of the Church leadership to be open to the guidance of the Spirit so as to be faithful to the Gospel and to be Christ-like in applying the Gospel in the contemporary world.

Pope Francis wrote that he thought it appropriate to issue this exhortation in order to collect the contributions of the two synods on the family and to include “other considerations as an aid to reflection, dialogue, and pastoral practice.” This document on love in the family is presented “as a help and encouragement to families in their daily commitments and challenges.”

Amoris Laetitia re-affirms the biblical and Church teaching on the permanence of marriage. It confirms traditional teaching on marriage as a sacrament, on the necessity and characteristics of genuine love, on the erotic element of marriage, on the challenges to family life.  The document does not reject former teaching nor introduce teaching that is new. It is, however, an application of the truth of the Gospel to the present age. It sometimes re-captures insights that may have been neglected.

In that critical and criticized chapter eight, Pope Francis said that when the synod bishops discussed how to deal with couples in so-called ‘irregular situations,” the synod fathers reached a general consensus which he said he supports, namely, “In considering a pastoral approach towards people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together, the Church has the responsibility of helping them understand the divine pedagogy of grace in their lives and offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of God’s plan for them.”

He went on to say that “the Church acknowledges situations where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate.” He was referring to statements made by Pope John Paul II (for example in his Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, September, 1981) and Vatican II’s Gaudium et spes, #51, where the council fathers acknowledged that “where the intimacy of married life is broken, it often happens that faithfulness is imperiled and the good of the children suffers…”

Pope Francis also points to situations where a husband or wife unjustly abandons the spouse, and the abandoned party enters into a second marriage for the sake of the children fully convinced that “the previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid.”  He immediately affirms that this is not the ideal which the Gospel proposes, but he notes too the statement of  the Synod Fathers which insists that “the discernment of pastors must always take place ‘by adequately distinguishing,’ with an approach which ‘carefully discerns situations’” (Amoris Laetitia, # 298).

Most Catholics are aware of the possibility of a Church-sanctioned declaration of nullity when the Marriage Tribunal judges consider the circumstances of the couple and the apparent marriage and find it fatally flawed. Some Catholics are aware of the application of  “internal forum” when sufficient evidence cannot be compiled to satisfy the judges and overturn the presumption that the marriage is valid. Amoris Laetitia (## 298-305) seems to be referring to this solution or one like it.

The exhortation specifically addresses the need to avoid “the notion that any priest can quickly grant ‘exceptions,’ or that some people can obtain sacramental privileges in  exchange for favors” (#300). At the same time the document warns pastors to avoid simply applying moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives” (#305).

Pope Francis acknowledged that “neither the Synod not this Exhortation can be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases….Priests have the duty to ‘accompany (the divorced and remarried) in helping them to understand their situation according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop.”( Ibid, #300).

But more directly Pope Francis insists that “it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace….Therefore while upholding a general rule, it is necessary to recognize that responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases.” (Ibid, ##301, 302).

There is, then, no template applicable to every couple or situation. Life is a lot messier than the application of law. Grey areas exist, and some critics of the pope and the exhortation cannot accept the ambiguities and discernments which must be factored into judging individual cases.

When a handful of critics among the hierarchy demands that Pope Francis answer their doubts, when they go public with their criticism, and when they threaten him with the possibility of making “a formal act of correction of a serious error,” it is possible to conclude that they are short in due discretion and humility and view the faith and moral standards through a legalistic prism . They see things simply in black and white and fail to acknowledge the grey areas and ambiguities of real life. Other hierarchs have welcomed the exhortation’s distinctions and direction. (The four prelates demanding that Pope Francis answer "yes" or "no" to their five questions concerning Amoris Laetitia are all cardinals: Carlo Caffarra, Raymond Burke, Walter Brandmiller, and Joachim Meiser.)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, as cardinal-designate, said that Amoris Laetitia cannot be reduced to a question of “yes” or “no.”  Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, described Amoris Lateitia as a call for a compassionate pastoral approach and one that is “in continuity with the teaching of recent popes.”

A tendency toward legalism among some church-people is understandable when we consider that the Church’s law code has 1752 entries. The final entry, however, includes an acknowledgment that “the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the church, is to be kept before one’s eyes.”  It is reasonable to expect that there be critics of the document’s attempt to include both dogmatic, canonical and pastoral theology. Amoris Laetitia is Pope Francis’ effort to bring a sense of balance and apply them in real life situations with orthodoxy,  justice and  mercy.

This supreme law echoes what the Roman philosopher and lawyer Cicero said a hundred years before the coming of Christ: "Salus populi suprema lex esto” (De legibus 3.3.8). More recently, however, critics challenged another great teacher:  “…and one of them (a scholar of the law) tested him by asking, ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” And he said love of God and love of neighbor summarize all the Law and the Prophets (Cf. Mt 22:35-40).

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pope Francis Repairs The Church

 Pope Francis says what’s on his mind., especially when he is talking to Church leaders.

On September 16, 2016, he addressed  a meeting of ninety-four recently ordained bishops who were called to the Vatican, according to custom, for training in their new responsibilities.

As reported by the Vatican website  Pope Francis  offered them a warm welcome, explained that he was sharing  what was on  his mind as Peter’s successor, and urged them to  preach mercy as the summary of what God offers to the world.

He described their ministry as "an icon of mercy,”  adding that mercy is the only force able to permanently attract the human heart.

He then told the assembly (the translation here is mine not the Vatican’s) that “the world is tired of enchanting liars,” and he included in that category “stylish priests and fashionable bishops.”

He said that people run away from narcissists, manipulators and promoters of their own crusades. Bishops, he said, must seek to satisfy God, not themselves.

He warned them to be more concerned about the quality of their seminarians than the quantity, adding that they should be wary of any seminarian who takes  refuge in rigid attitudes.

Pope Francis offered the Good Samaritan as a model for the episcopal  ministry, noting that the one who was neighbor to the man who fell in  with robbers put mercy into action. “Verbs, not adjectives,” he said.

He further urged them, “Be close to your clergy,” and asked them to offer their priests a hug from the pope and  an assurance of his appreciation for their active generosity.

Two days earlier, in a General Audience,  Pope Francis had said, “It is bad for the Church when pastors become princes, separated from the people, far from the poorest -- that is not the spirit of Jesus. Jesus rebuked these pastors, and Jesus spoke about them to the people:, saying ‘Do as they say, not as they do.’”

Early on in his pontificate, in a June 21, 2013 address to papal representatives, Pope Francis was emphatic about  whom they might recommend for ordination as a bishop: “You know the famous expression that indicates a basic criterion in the choice of the person who must govern: si sanctus est oret pro nobis, si doctus est doceat nos, si prudens est regat nos — if he is holy let him pray for us, if he is learned, let him teach us, if he is prudent let him govern us.

“ In the delicate task of carrying out the investigation required prior to making episcopal appointments, be careful that the candidates are pastors close to the people: this is the first criterion. Pastors close to the people….May they be fathers and brothers, may they be gentle, patient and merciful; may they love poverty, interior poverty, as freedom for the Lord, and exterior poverty, as well as simplicity and a modest lifestyle; may they not have the mindset of  'princes'

“Be careful that they are not ambitious, that they are not in quest of the episcopate. It is said that at an early audience Blessed John Paul II was asked by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops about the criterion for the selection of candidates for the episcopate, and the Pope said with his special voice: 'the first criterion: volentes nulumus'. Those who seek the episcopate.... no, they won’t do.”

It is reasonable to suppose that Pope Francis’ life story has contributed to his mindset about the clergy needed for today’s Church. He openly acknowledges the mistakes he made when he was at age 36 appointed in 1973 the Provincial Superior over all the Jesuits in Argentina and Uruguay.

Biographer Paul Vallely concludes that “something happened to Jorge Mario Bergoglio which changed him dramatically” when he was removed from the office of Provincial in 1987 and in 1990 was sent into a kind of exile in Cordoba, Argentina. In his two years there Father Bergoglio underwent a conversion.

Vallely says, “Before Cordoba his leadership style was that of a strict, severe, dutiful disciplinarian, authoritarian who rarely smiled…afterwards he became gentler, more forgiving, more concerned to preach mercy, more listening –and more anxious to empower the poor…”

Pope Francis’ ministry in many ways reflects the conversion and ministry of his namesake, Francis of Assisi. The founder of the Franciscan order said that one day in the chapel of San Damiano he heard a voice telling him, “Repair my church.” It is said that at first he thought he was to fix the church (which he did), but later herealized he was called to repair the Church!

Pope Francis is clearly working to make repairs, an overhaul –from the top to the bottom.

{Sources: Vatican website; Religion News Service article by Josephine McKenna (9/16/16); National Catholic Reporter online article by Robert Mickens (9/26/16), Pope Francis: The Struggle For The Soul Of Catholicism by Paul Vallely (Bloomsbury, 2015).}

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mother Teresa Inducted Into Church's Hall Of Fame

Sunday, September 4, 2016, marks the induction of  Mother Teresa of Calcutta into the Catholic Church's Hall of Fame.

Known for her dedication to caring for "the poorest of the poor," Mother Teresa did not escape criticism. Journalist Christopher Hitchens insisted that she did not really believe in God and that her life was a charade.

At the time of her funeral Archbishop Henry D'Souza of Calcutta said that Mother Teresa was aware of the criticism against her, but she would simply reply, "While you go on discussing causes and explanations, I will kneel beside the poorest of the poor and attend to their needs."

Most people were surprised if not shocked to learn that Mother Teresa spent perhaps as many as thirty-five years struggling with the doubt that God loved her. In a letter to her spiritual director, she wrote, "Tell me, Father, why is there so much pain and darkness in my soul?"

On another occasion, at the direction of her confessor, Mother wrote a letter which she was told she should address to Jesus.She acknowledged, "In my heart there is no faith --no love --no trust --there is so much pain --the pain of longing, the pain of not being wanted...The work holds no joy, no attraction, no zeal...In the call you said that I would have to suffer much.--Ten years --my Jesus, You have done to me according to your will."

To Bishop Laurence Picachy she revealed both the darkness that she felt but also the consolation she was beginning to discover: "You must have prayed very fervently for me --because it is now about a month that there is in my heart a very deep union with the will of God. I accept not in my feelings --but with my will, the Will of God. --I accept His will --not only for time but for eternity. --In my soul --I can't tell you-- how dark it is, how painful, how terrible. --My feelings are so treacherous."

Christopher Hitchens wrote that Mother Teresa's secret acknowledgment that she felt abandoned by God was proof that she was a hypocrite. A cartoon in the magazine Christianity Today ridiculed those who were shocked at Mother Teresa's dark night of the soul; a news reporter is shown saying, "In other news, people of faith were shocked to learn that a woman who devoted her entire life to chastity, poverty, and caring for lepers had experienced some bad days..."

Those who know of Mother Teresa's ministry and respect her dedication applaud the Church's decision to declare her a saint. Such an honor was deemed inevitable long before she died. She herself had said, however, "If I ever become a saint --I will surely be one of 'darkness.' I will continually be absent from heaven --to light the light of those in darkness on  earth."

To say that our world needs the example and encouragement of a Mother Teresa is stating the obvious. Perhaps her canonization by the Church will serve as a reminder, challenge, inspiration that in some measure we are all called to reach out to those in need.

{The sources for this article include Mother Teresa, Faith in Darkness by Greg Watts (Lion Hudson, 2009); Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light, edited and commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC (Doubleday, 2007); Teresa of the Poor by Renzo Allegri (Servant Publications, 1998).}

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tensions In Our Church Today

In every era, the Church has had its problems, from resolving the question of  whether Jesus is divine (Council of Nicea,  325) to whether some of the naked figures in Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment fresco in the Sistine Chapel should be painted over because they were deemed by some bishops to be indecent (Council of Trent, 25th session, 1563).

Our day is obviously not an exception. Among the issues facing the Church in the post-Vatican II era are these (in no particular order of importance or priority):

Refugee crisis: It is reported that over the past five years more than 1.5 million war-weary Syrians have crossed into Lebanon. Some 300,000 Somalis are living in refugee camps in a tent city in Dadaab in Kenya. Every day Mexicans seeking jobs slip through the loose borders separating them from the United States. In his September 23, 2015,meeting with the US Bishops, Pope Francis urged them to welcome immigrants: “I am certain that, as so often in the past, thee people will enrich America and its Church.”

Priest pedophilia crisis: Sex abuse by priests and bishops has rocked the Catholic Church in the United States and around the world. Pope Francis’ June 4, 2016, motu proprio stipulates that any bishop who is negligent in response to sexual abuse by his clergy can be removed from office. The document says: “the diocesan bishop or the eparch or who has the responsibility for a particular church…can be legitimately removed from his position if he has, by negligence, placed or omitted acts which caused serious harms to others…”

Ordination of women as deacons: At a May, 2016, assembly in Rome of over 800 women religious (sisters and nuns),  Pope Francis was asked about the possibility of ordaining women as deacons, that is, admitting them to the status of clergy in the Church. He said he was open to establishing a commission to study the matter. Pope Francis has said repeatedly that he wants a greater role for women in the decision-making of the institutional Church.

Preaching the homily by lay people: Grass roots efforts are underway to encourage a change in the legal restriction of the homily at Mass to clergy alone. Some couch the matter in terms of women as preachers, but in fact the legislation applies to lay men as well. The US Association of Catholic Priests (AUSCP) addressed the issue at their June, 2016, assembly in Chicago, and overwhelming agreed to recommend that the United States Catholic Bishops ask for a change in the law, thus allowing lay persons to exercise the charism of preaching at Mass. The restriction against lay preaching of the homily rests on the idea that the homilist at Mass acts in persona Christi, which in some theologies is a designation restricted to the clergy. He who defines the terms wins the argument.

Other issues of discussion and contention:
Which comes first: catechesis or evangelization?
Women's roles in the Church
Shortage of priests
Closing or regionalizing parishes
Family Life Issues
Clergy: administrators or pastors?
Ordination of women as priests
LGBT rights
Poor celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy
English translation in the Roman Missal
Appropriate response to the poor, negelcted, abandoned
Gun control
John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”
Admission of divorced-and-remarried to Holy Communion
The environmental issues of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si
Married priests in the Roman Rite

From the start the Church has found it necessary to wrestle with conflicting opinions, theologies, and disciplines. The Church of our day is not an exception.. As it was in the beginning so now it is today – we need to pray for and listen to the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

To acknowledge that the Church (at least in its members) is deeply flawed poses no threat to our accepting its divine core. I think often of Pope Benedict’s remark about the Church’s having a disfigured face. Our troubles as Church come both from without and from within. Frank acknowledgement of our brokenness keeps us humble, militates against our being self-referential, and promotes ongoing openness to the Spirit which Jesus promised to send.

 We do not have all the answers.