Bishop Vincent address “The Catholic Church in post-Royal Commission Australia” delivered on 16 May at Mission 2017: one heart many voices, Sydney, Australia.
PART 5: THE CHURCH OF ALL THE BAPTISED
Pope Francis urges us to be a church where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the Gospel. I firmly believe that there can be no future for the living Church without this vital sense of ecclesial inclusiveness that the Pope alluded to. By that I mean there must be space for everyone, especially those who have been hurt, excluded or alienated, be they abuse victims, survivors, divorcees, gays, lesbians, women, disaffected members. Furthermore, as we move beyond clericalism, there is a need to re-imagine the way power is exercised in the Church. Such re-imagining can only be a source of blessing and enrichment for all.
I dream of a church that dares to break new ground with a view to being radically faithful to the inclusive vision of Jesus. For he has a habit of challenging ingrained stereotyped attitudes, subverting the tyranny of the majority, breaking social taboos, pushing the boundaries of love and redefining its meaning. “You heard it said that ‘love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. But I say to you….” His interactions with women, with tax collectors and other types of social outcasts are nothing short of being revolutionary and boundary breaking. It is his radical vision of love, inclusion and human flourishing that ought to guide our pastoral response.
It seems to me that the Pope has more than moved away from the approach of condemnation and judgement. He has refocused on the proclamation of God’s love for the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised; he has firmly placed the pastoral emphasis on the dignity of every person; he has committed the Church to the way of engagement, affirmation and compassion, which is at the heart of the Gospel. The Church can only be the conduit of compassion and speak the language of hope to a broken humanity when it truly personifies powerlessness and stands where Christ once stood, that is, firmly on the side of the outcast and the most vulnerable.
The Synod on the Family was essentially an exercise in administering the medicine of mercy to the wounded. In the past, the results of synods were sometimes seen to be foregone conclusions. This synod, however, has seen the unleashing of the energy long locked up beneath the ice of institutional security. Pope Francis has really lived up to his vision of the Church daring to break loose from its comfort zone and self-referential mentality. It is a church attentive to the signs of the times and incarnate grace at work in the world, even among the unorthodox and the marginalized.
Part 6 will be published tomorrow.
To read Part 4 of the Bishop’s address, click here.