The Church has its problems, and nobody knows how to deal with them.
The typical response is to say, “the Church is perfect, but she is run by imperfect people.” OK, well maybe theologically and/or theoretically that makes sense, but it gives no practical advice on what a person who loves the Church can do other than sit there and grieve at the sight.
One thing I think we finally can get out into the open: all is not right in the Church. Whether scandals, cover-ups, or whatever are the work of individuals working within their job description or just acting as renegades, we still have the Church and her officials making bad decisions that are morally wrong and legally risky. Of course, that risk has turned out to be very real.
Consider you may be called to a prophetic ministry. People who are both aware and sensitive to the things of the Church, and people who are aware and sensitive to the things of the world both, and are able to articulate these issues across boundaries, are very important to this Church.
Most sighted men (I suppose anyway) use a mirror to shave. Note that shaving is not a direct indicator of character, but doing it right determines how you will appear (in reality) to the world. The prophetic ministry, IMO, supplies that “mirror” to the Church and her people, so that they can see to make such corrections without cutting themselves up.
The problem I see with all this is nobody knows where to go to start the problem. Well, you start it by separating the theology from the practice, and refusing to get defensive about any attack whatsoever on the Church, because even if the “attack” is 90% false, there still could be that 10% grain of truth in there that serves nobody to have killed the messenger instead of using that precious information to form an action plan for our own lives or to keep in mind the next time it becomes apropos.
A friend on this forum once sent me a document, “See, I am Doing Something New: Prophetic Ministry for a Church in Transition” which has been instrumental in helping me accept my grievances, and to become more productive about the way I think of them and speak of them. I do not need to get defensive or feel threatened anymore by those who are trying to protect the Church but are in fact protecting her false-face instead by scaring off anybody who would say things are not all right.
I was particularly impressed that last Sunday’s first reading included the statement, “See, I am Doing Something New.”
A sample from the article:
Bishop Richard Sklba has just given us a masterful description of the prophetic vocation as it is found in the Scriptures. I would summarize his insights with the following description: The prophet is both a keen observer of the signs of the time and is acutely attuned with the heart of God. Out of these deep sensitivities the prophet speaks truth . . truth that is often uncomfortable and unwelcome yet always essential and life-giving. My task is to ponder the significance of this insight for us as priests here and now. Our question is: What does it mean to exercise a prophetic vocation in the Church in a time of transition? What I offer is simply one perspective, one attempt at prophetic listening to the voice of the presbyterate; and one effort at articulating what the Spirit might be saying to and among us today.
The prophet’s role:
Walter Brueggemann argues; is to propose alternative visions and possibilities than those that are officially endorsed. He states that the biblical prophets have a twofold task: first, in light of God’s word, to express the people’s deepest hopes and lead them to embrace God’s promise of new life. Isaiah’s words have haunted my prayer for the past year; and now echo within me as a summary of this dual vocation: “See; I am doing something NEW.” Thus I believe that the prophetic vocation is first, to help the faith community to embrace a loss it does not want to admit, and then to proclaim to the people a hope that they cannot dare to image.
Part One: “I have heard the groans of my people.” (Exodus 3:7):
The prophetic vocation begins with listening to the community’s groans and giving them voice. A “groan” is different from a mere complaint or gripe. By definition, a groan is inarticulate. It is a cry of deep distress or pain that does not always reveal its source or cause. The prophetic consciousness is peculiarly sensitive to “groans”,” the inarticulate cries of a people’s distress, because such groans are the initial and indisputable signs which announce: “all is not well!! Something is terribly wrong! This is not how God wants things to be!”