Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Address to the Concerned Catholics of Canberra and Goulburn Forum
11 September 2018
“The Role of the Faithful in a post-Royal Commission Church in Australia”
PART 5: THE CHURCH ORIENTED TO MUTUALITY AND PARTNERSHIP
Finally, I believe that the old way of being Church, which is deeply steeped in clerical practice and structure is coming to an end. I’d like to use the metaphor of the wine at the wedding banquet in Cana to describe the transition between the dying paradigm and the emerging one. Like the old wine, the old ecclesial paradigm rooted in clerical hegemony. But that model of Church – like its corollary, the exalted, separated and elitist priesthood is drawing its last breaths – at least in many parts of the world including Australia. It is time for us to drink the new wine that is being poured.
The new wine of God’s unconditional love, boundless mercy, radical inclusivity and equality needs to be poured into new wineskins of humility, mutuality, compassion and powerlessness. The old wineskins of triumphalism, authoritarianism and supremacy, abetted by clerical power, superiority, and rigidity, are breaking.
When Jesus sent out his disciples on a mission to announce the Good News, he sent them not as lone rangers but in pairs. What I derive from that practice of his is that Christians can only minister effectively when they recognise their limits as individual and are open to partnership with others. Priests particularly must learn to minister in relationship with one another and with their community.
Yet, ironically, the whole clerical culture is often geared towards individual heroism and even messiah complex.
The Cure d’Ars is probably the patron saint par excellence of the kind of priestly individual heroism. No wonder many of us suffer from ministerial burn out, depression and loneliness.
If the priesthood has a better future, it has to be humanized; it has to find expression in better mutual support, collaboration and partnership. It has to free itself from the variant strains of clericalism such as sexism, paternalism, narcissism and superiority complex.
It seems to me that the Church cannot have a better future if it persists in the old paradigm of triumphalism, self-reference and male supremacy.
So long as we continue to exclude women from the Church’ governance structures, decision making processes and institutional functions, we deprive ourselves of richness of our full humanity. So long as we continue to make women invisible and inferior in the Church’s language, liturgy, theology and law, we impoverish ourselves as if we heard with only one ear, we saw with only one eye and we thought with only one half of the brain – and often the lowest reptilian section thereof.
Until we have truly incorporated the gift of women and the feminine dimension of our Christian faith, we will not be able to fully energise the life of the Church.
Part 6 will be published on Monday 19 November.
To read Part 4 of Bishop Vincent’s address, click here.