Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta – Address at the Manly Reunion Gathering at DOOLEYS Lidcombe Catholic Club, Lidcombe, 30 August 2017
THE PRIESTHOOD IN AUSTRALIA
Reflections on its future in the light of the Royal Commission
PART 6: CONCLUSION
As we are cut loose from the safe and secure moorings of the past and launched into the treacherous waters of the future, we grow in the awareness of Paschal rhythm. We realise what needs to die and what needs to rise. The prophets of doom tell us that the priesthood is dying. They are ready to write obituaries for an institution so glorious in the past but now hopelessly riddled with crisis. They say this is the end for us. The sexual abuse crisis will be the final nail in the coffin. I wager that they are right – but only half right. They fail to see the other side of the equation. The Catholic priesthood is only dying to that which is not of Christ. It is dying to worldly trappings, triumphalism, and clericalism; it is rising again to the power of vulnerability, servant-leadership, discipleship of humble service and radical love. The Paschal rhythm summons us to a discipleship of humility, weakness and vulnerability, of dying and rising in Christ.
In the end, though, I firmly believe that we’re on the threshold of renewal and transformation of the priesthood. Like the wedding feast of Cana, the wine of old has served the church well but it is running out. The old way of being a priest has, likewise, well served the church we love. But that model of the exalted, separated and elitist priesthood is drawing its last breaths – at least in many parts of the world including Australia. There is a better wine that the good Lord has prepared for us. May we be like Mary, who recognises the end of the old and the beginning of the new era. Let us, like her, accompany people in the crisis of the emptying of the old wine. Let us, again like her, point out to them the way forward by cultivating faith and trust in God, who alone can transform the water of our poverty into the new wine of God’s creative power and enduring love.
To read Part 5 of Bishop Vincent’s address, click here.
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