European Bishops Synod
The division within the Roman Catholic Church
the last decades, problems relating to faith and morality, politics, economics,
social, sexual and family decisions, have all been the subject of such
differing interpretations among Roman Catholics, that they have led to
a split without precedent in the history of the Church. This division calls
for careful analysis. It can be compared with the ongoing schisms between
it and other Christian churches, in some cases for more than a millennium,
and which have also played an important role in the conflicts between various
European nations. On the occasion of the European Bishops Synod, we feel
it worthwhile to focus on a number of considerations in respect of the
division within the Roman Catholic Church.
Our analysis of the division in the Church
studies show, without exception, that there is no unanimity among Roman
Catholics in following official Church teaching. International and trans-cultural
inquiries - such as that carried out by the North American sociologist
Greeley - show particularly clearly how the faithful have reached totally
different opinions, even in matters which Papal authority regards as closed
for discussion (i.e. 'almost dogmas'), such as the ordination of women
and married men. In many countries, the majority of the faithful think
and act in a manner which the Church's teaching qualifies as 'erroneous'
is particularly true of matters concerning family and sexual ethics :
and social field, the divisions are just as clear.
of Roman Catholics regard not only the Papal teaching on birth control
as mistaken - to such an extent even that they have no 'guilt feelings'
about it - but also the teaching on pre-marital sex, cohabitation, fertility
interventi-ons, divorce and abortion, etc.
field the divisions, although somewhat misty, are nonetheless consistent.
Catholic advocates of pacifism and non-violence stand opposed to Roman
Catholics who justify war (e.g. the NAVO bombings in the Balkans).
Catholics in favour of ethnic and racial integration find themselves confronted
by other Roman Catholics who have other opinions on the subject.
Catholics favouring neo-liberal economic theories (with the market and
profit at the centre) stand against other Roman Catholics who give their
support to various movements which condemn capitalism and neo-liberalism
as modern forms of 'mammon'.
Catholics who see Roman Catholic schools as an expression of religious
freedom, and Roman Catholics who see schools for the children of the rich
as basic anti-democracy training grounds.
Catholics who fight for an 'ethical state' (or even a confessional state')
and Roman Catho-lics who struggle for a (laicised) 'constitutional state'.
Catholic defenders of the social order by force (penal code, imprisonment,
capital punishment, armed self-defence) against Roman Catholics who give
preference to educative and rehabilitating measures (group therapy, training
centres, self-defence committees, publicity campaigns, and so on.)
field of dialogue with non-Christian religions, which represent
three quarters of mankind, the division is almost total.
Roman Catholics who, together with other Christian churches, organise demon-strations,
night vigils, prayer services or discussions, in the search for effective
reconciliation and common solutions to serious social justice problems,
stand other Roman Catholics who profess to speak on behalf of the 'One
True Church', i.e. the Roman Catholic Church, and condemn any contact or
meetings with 'dissidents' as concessionary.
is no less apparent in the field of theology itself.
one hand, there are Roman Catholics, including theologians and bishops,
who believe as a matter of principle that a new programme of evangelisation
must take place on the basis of an effective enculturation, whereby Western
categories which have conditioned the Christian message for two thousand
years, are set aside; on the other hand, there are Catholics who believe
that in defending and propagating Christianity, nothing of the Western
tradition must be surrendered.
in which the bishops conferences function, once again reveals sharp
course of recent decades, supporters of liberation theology, 'native' theology,
Asian theology, the theology of earthly reality (peace, politics, ecology
etc.), have proposed interpretations of God, original sin, the sacraments,
devotion to the Virgin Mary and the saints, and the jubilee year, which
diverge greatly from 'Tradition', and which has provoked a way of thinking
in the Church which stands in total opposition to the views of the 'traditionalists'.
of opinion between what the Pope thinks about his role and what
a large part of the Church thinks about it, is particularly striking. It
is the result of open, conscious and diverse statements, 'position' declarations
or working methods which can, however, be camouflaged by an 'apparent'
conformism, even to the point of resulting in open indifference, lack of
interest, or contempt.
some national episcopates work together 'synodally' by stating the pro-blems
(without bypassing the 'untouchable'), and inviting the Roman Catholic
populati-on to deal with them in certain forums, other episcopates act
in a totally different manner by excluding any form of consultation with
the People of God.
awkward question of priestly celibacy is neatly avoided :
example of this is the case of the 'Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church'
which was compiled by the Roman Curia; despite being sold in the millions,
it has in practice been 'ignored' by nearly all bishops, priests, theologians
and leaders of lay movements.
of the Papal assertion that the use of contraceptives is both against nature
and a mortal sin : the Church machine and the Church as a whole 'pretends'
it knows nothing about it,and remains silent on this teaching.
the Pope solemnly declares that the chapter on the ordination of women
and married priests has been closed, bishops and parishes, often without
an unmarried cleric, resort to entrusting almost priestly tasks to the
faithful. This has even reached the point at which the Holy See felt itself
obliged to publish an 'instruction' calling on bishops to guard against
the 'misuses' which run counter to decisions laid down in the official
Papal encyclicals were not published by the international press, they would
hardly be known by Roman Catholics at all. With a few exceptions, bishops,
priests, lay movements and the Roman Catholic press avoid studying them,
commenting on them and especially distributing them, whereby they, in fact,
isolate the Pope from the Roman Catholic community.
lay movements and lay associations, too, cannot escape the divisions
currently affecting the Roman Catholic Church. They are all aware of the
existence of traditionalist, anti-communist, defenders of foetal 'life',
lovers of the Church Triumphant, paladins of the 'Catholic' school,who
usually possess important financial means and training centres for their
own adherents. There is no doubt that they are favoured by the Vatican
Curia which, by means of arranging meetings which are open exclusively
to their lay leaders as trainers-informers, for bishops 'sympathetic' to
these movements (Rome, June 1999).
prospects of the unpleasant consequences inherent in their 'return to the
lay state' (unemployment, loss of accommodation and pension), many seek
a solution to their sexual problems in another way (masturbation, secret
relationship with a loved one, cohabitation, paedophilia, homosexuality,
etc.), practically always with the 'complicity' of a bishop trapped between
the fear of losing 'a servant of God' and the fear of revealing a scandal.
different is the situation of other lay movements which are usually difficult
to identify because they have no training centres or publishing facilities,
no businesses and no capital. Although they recognise the Church's authority,
they do not spare it any criticism. They prefer a church community that
constantly renews itself, throughout its history. They feel themselves
more engaged with defending human rights, justice and peace. They read
the Bible in the light of modern exegesis and today's events.
The church division according to Instrumentum Laboris
actual division in the Church would seem, in fact, to be confirmed by Instrumentum
Laboris, published by the General Secretariat of the Bishops Synod in July
1999, following long consultations among the European episcopate. The Vatican
text recognizes that "there is a shift from a routine ritual practice of
religion to one of greater conviction and personal involvement" (43), for
which "A profound change in mentality is needed in each and every situation,
a mentality which requires time, patience and formation on the part of
those involved." (49), especially because "it is less and less possible
to base pastoral programs on a presumed acceptance of a 'generally shared
Christianity'" (15). There should, in fact, be at least two very different
ways of understanding and organising the church.
consultations for the European Bishops conference, for which Instrumen-tum
Laboris is its mouthpiece, also acknowledges in the same way, that there
are two different ways of understanding and experiencing Church, and that
they stand in opposition to each other. (69)
one hand, it is a fact that "the church .... expresses a new vitality,
especially in bible and liturgical renewal, in the active participation
of the faithful in parish life, in the new experiences of community life
..., in the increase in magnanimous forms of service to the poorest of
the poor and to the marginalised" (77); on the other hand, "some speak
of a danger in continuing to devise a pastoral program which, no longer
bearing the characteristics typical of a time when Christianity was the
dominant religion, is psychologically incapable of accepting a position
of reduced esteem and social recognition for the Church. Such people seek
to save structures and the Church's influence at all cost, even to the
point of compromise, permitting many persons to live a generic kind of
belonging to the Church where there is no need to make clear fundamental
the field of priests and laity working together, Instrumentum Laboris points
to the fact that "As a result of the existence of various councils and
structures of participation at the parochial level and beyond, a positive
development in collaboration - and oftentimes in co-responsibility - is
present among those who are actively involved in the life of the ecclesial
community. This cooperation is based on a respect for the roles and competency
of each as well as a recognised equality. In addition to parish life, this
tendency is also seen in new movements and communities of the consecrated
life.", and "Numerous situations, however, continue to exist in which priests
maintain a rather domineering, authoritarian mentality which does not properly
acknowledge the maturity of the faithful laity and their condition as adults
who have responsibilities in many sectors of family and social life, nor
the precious contribution which they can offer to the ecclesial community.
Though there are signs that such a situation is progressively changing,
oftentimes an effective collaboration in a shared mission remains a distant
reality. There are many particular Churches where the collaboration of
priest and laity is not seen as a priority." (49)
ever-widening pluralism of faith and culture, there are some, formed in
a kind of Christian Western mono-culture, who look at the situation with
apprehension. Finding themselves unprepared to understand and interpret
this pluralism." Another chapter sums up the fruits of such a Christian
mono-culture as : "the temptation to give too much attention to temporal
power, financial matters and a trouble-free running of organisations; a
form - even if latent - of a new clericalism; the subtle tendency of serving
self through authoritarianism in pastoral projects, with the danger of
manipulating conscience and avoiding collaborating in the work of evangelisation;
and the risk of yielding to hidden forms of paternalism in relation to
charitable services and social assistance." (39).
the liturgical area, this situation presents itself as problematical because,
on the one hand, liturgical celebrations and prayers services which violate
the prevailing norms and provoke an unacceptable proliferation of liturgical
creativity, are shaped and improvised; on the other hand, there are experiences
whereby the need to be appealing, overshadows the mystery dimension, experiences
of liturgical celebrations and devotional practices which are so concerned
with the rubrics that they are in fact spiritually dry and for many boring;
and not forgetting all those traditionalist groups which by accentuating
some of the outward liturgical forms, give them in fact an orthodox character..
(69) The conclusion is as follows : "Undoubtedly, these different and oftentimes
opposing realities in understanding and celebrating liturgy lead frequently
to polarisation. In this way, various aspects related to the matter come
together to create a picture of the Church which gives the impression that
there are two diverse ways of perceiving and living the Church, parallel
to each other, when in reality, they are diametrically opposed to each
2. Two world
at first sight, the situation in the Roman Catholic Church looks very much
like a mixture of military uniformity (all give formal obedience to the
leader) and of an actual anarchy (everyone buys or sells what he or she
favours in the Roman Catholic supermarket), further reflection will show
that the current 'crisis' is determined by one indisputable fact : the
merging of two radically different world views, without discovering any
authoritative mediator able to 'reconcile' the differences and set the
wheels of a 'conversion' of the whole in motion.
The patriachal world view
ideology that feeds the whole Roman Catholic sector in an extremely coherent
fashion is, in essence, patriarchal (the patriarch assigns tasks to the
whole family, which in turn is expected to give absolute obedience), machistic
(the macho, the male, is superior to the 'little woman'), monarchic-theocratic
(tends to assume a special status, with its own use of language, with private
buildings and private leaders), clerical (all leading functions belong
to ordained personnel who are also celibate), dogmatic (of divine origin,
and the teaching is immutable).
world view becomes concrete in the power, private possession, the wealth,
laws, discipline, fear and, if necessary, suppression and violence. Every
move against its authority is seen as sacrilege and is subjected to exclusion
from the community (excommunication).
this world view, the faithful believe that their primary duty is to follow
the teachings in their entirety as laid down by the hierarchy, and which
become 'infallible' in the person of the 'Holy' Father, as :
a true believer is his degree of 'orthodoxy', in other words, his subjection
to the world view of infallible authority : this explains the constant
effort of that authority to distinguish orthodoxy from heresy, the endorsement
of contradiction. Personal salvation depends on rigorous obedience to the
norms and rites, stipulated and controlled by the church hierarchy.
'guardian' of the Church's material goods;
judge, to such an extent that there is no possibility at all of appealing
against his decisions;
law giver, the only person able to decree the Church's laws and norms;
who appoints all responsibility-carriers (bishops, cardinals, nuncios,
and so on) and, according to his inscrutable judgement, dismisses from
office those who do not stand in 'communion' with him;
who convenes Councils and Synods, exercises legal authority and disqualifies;
who designs a political approach towards internal organisations and heads
of state with whom he maintains 'diplomatic' ties, often supported by means
who justifies to no one what he does.
The brotherly and sisterly world view
other world view on which the Church bases its inspiration, is completely
opposite from the first. It is brotherly (all are equally the children
of God and, therefore, brothers and sisters), egalitarian (equality of
the sexes, ethnic groups, religions, and so on), democratic ('that which
concerns everyone must be decided by everyone'), laicizing (independent
of the religious, ordained powers) and charismatic (all have received the
gifts of God which have contributed to the development of official teaching
and norms with the possibility of authority but never with the pretension
of infallibility). This world view means :
merges with orthopraxy : theological debates surrounding God-Christ-Church,
constitute the second level in relation to caring for the poor and for
brothers and sisters in difficulties. Eternal salvation is given, not by
an abstract adoration of God, but by concrete help 'to those who are hungry
and thirsty, imprisoned or sick'.
manifests itself within a community of people who share material and spiritual
goods with each other in service, dialogue, brotherly and sisterly love,
mutual trust, and trust in God.
Spirit is their bond and strength. The first aim is 'to seek the Kingdom
of God and His justice'.
'heads', 'masters' and 'bosses'. Whoever has the capacity to be the first,
must make him/herself the last.
possesses no goods (no state, no banks, no schools etc.), no wealth, because
it is poor, as was its founder.
is forbidden beyond strictly stated conditions : only the community can
impose the punishment of exclusion, according to norms which are the fruit
belongs to the whole Church when the people 'from the bishops to the simplest
of the faithful, expresses its universal unity in matters of faith and
morals' (LG 12).
respect civil authority and maintain their critical autonomy.
3. Two formation
of the two world views are nurtured by a formation process directed specifically
to their survival. This explains why two fundamentally different viewpoints
on upbringing can co-exist side by side.
The formation in a patriarchal perspective
Church's pedagogical activity inspired by a patriarchal, dogmatic, clerical
and monarchic mentality, tends of necessity and in a coherent manner, towards
a kind of teaching for the faithful, children and adults, that :
acquired by Roman Catholics in this way is abstract in nature. It classifies
and is archaic, with an absolute emphasis on the written texts, authorized
by the hierarchy. It is primarily individualistic : what matters is saving
preference for theoretical concepts (the written truths, summed up in the
primarily towards passivity (lessons without exercises);
no inspiration in the logics of personal experience and promotes no critical
to use error as a source of knowledge;
no skills in its own way of working and decision-making;
neither self-reflection nor self-preservation;
no account of the group as a source of knowledge.
Formation from a brotherly perspective
faithful formed according to the brotherly world view (basic communities,
ecumenical groups, Bible groups, experimental catechetics, families, progressive
parishes, etc.) tend to learn that faith :
of knowledge that typifies the faithful with community experience, is exceptionally
practical, contextual and based on the preference for verbal communication.
It is important to 'seek the Kingdom of God and His justice'. (We are redeemed
interest in actual problems;
active in, and focused on, every day life;
personal experience, a critical spirit, expertise and a holistic mentality;
the right to error and applies the cognitive capacity inherent in it;
theory and reality by means of repeated assessment;
self-reflection, self-esteem and emotional participation;
the tendency to work together with those who are emotionally active.
4. Two organisations
two types of interpretation of God, of the Church and reality, presuppose
two organisation types of which the implications are radically divergent.
The Church with a clergy at its centre
patriarchal, monarchic, machistic and sacred world view, brings with it
a organisation based on a centralised and bureaucratic machine with a strict
hierarchy (in which power increases commensurate with the level of clerical
career achieved) endowed with an ordained aura befitting a monarchy of
divine origin. The members of this 'machine' :
of the faithful (the laity) cannot enjoy the privileges accorded to the
clerical machine, nor carry out any task reserved exclusively for the 'clergy'.
Legally and sociologically, the laity do not form part of the organisation
but are merely 'consumers'. Their power is limited to the possibility of
accepting or rejecting that which the 'producers' (hierarchy, clerics)
from military service and manual work because of their dedication to the
a long curriculum of theological studies;
marry (ordination is irreconcilable with sex);
the sacraments, determine and control the teaching and religious formation
of the faithful;
by the 'superior' to whom they are subject and on whom they are dependent
for their upkeep, work and accommodation;
the real estate and financial assets of the church, and
right to veto in lay meetings.
The Church with the people at its centre
'brotherly' model which has inspired the Church's organisation from the
first century of Christianity, sees the gathering of the faithful (ecclesia),
as a whole, as being jointly responsible for decisions relating to clerical
and material matters, because they are 'partners in divine nature' and
in 'the Spirit of Christ'. This model which, in the past, also constituted
the basis of the poverty and church renewal movements, is the same as that
which currently inspires the modern 'basic movements' (shared partly by
religious orders). In these groups :
type of organisation, power fans out to the 'base' which has the right
to appoint its 'chairpersons' who, on their replacement, again become ordinary
members of the group.
not a single member, enjoys any privilege whatsoever (on the basis of status
or work, etc.);
part in implementing the main concepts of official teaching (theology,
liturgy) and of the organisation;
is no man/woman, married/unmarried, discrimination;
are open to all and pre-suppose an attitude of service; there are no 'ordained'
are based on community, mutuality and equality, and
has a veto right.
5. Two paradigms
two world views which currently stand in opposition to each other within
the Roman Catholic Church, and which call for two formation and organisation
models, also stand in relation to two metaphysical and epistemological
premises ('paradigms') which again are totally divergent. According to
Norgaard, they can be reduced to five.
The deterministic paradigm
monarchic-patriarchal-machistic-bureaucratic paradigm premises have been
largely responsible for Western technical-scientific-social developments,
and they support, to a large extent, the philosophical-religious-political
system. The five premises are :
is, in fact, fatalistic-deterministic and stands for the certainty that
it is possible to foresee and control the development of future events
by knowing and controlling the starting conditions. This ability to anticipate
also includes disaster situations, which are experienced as inevitable,
and implies no element of responsibility whatsoever.
: the system (be it social, religious or natural) would seem to be composed
of unchangeable parts, and is ultimately nothing more than the sum total
of those composite parts;
: the relations between the different parts are pre-determined, and change
manifests itself as uniform, is reversible and predictable;
: the parts of the system and their mutual relationships, are of one and
the same nature, always and everywhere;
: the system can be understood and controlled in an objective way without
one becoming a part of it; the reality can be understood on the basis of
abstract and personal values;
: the different ways of knowing a system can be reduced to one only : the
best; there is no diversity of good answers.
patriarchal-clerical-dogmatic Church is nurtured by this paradigm. It defends
the contention that, as the elements of the church system (dogmas, rites,
ethical and social norms) become unchangeable and non-renewable, mechanically
integrated into the pastoral by means of its bureaucracy (the clergy),
and become 'transplanted' throughout the world; the Church is able to meet
the future, without any problem, because the future will simply be the
extrapolation of today.
The probability paradigm
is a new fact that, as a result of the simultaneous development of science,
technology and society, the 'Western-patriarchal paradigm' has to a continuing
degree been weakened to the point at which it universally no longer seems
applicable. It is clear that completely deterministic rules and laws can
bring forth an unforeseeable and chaotic movement which, paradoxically,
could be called 'deterministic chaos'. This has resulted, in the course
of recent decades, in the emergence of a new 'system paradigm' based on
five metaphysical and epistemological premises which differ totally from
the 'deterministic paradigm'. Namely;
paradigm' crisis arose when, as a consequence of the exceptional technical-scientific
acceleration, Man set himself the task of observing the invisible reality
(of the atom, the genes, the sub-conscious, the atmosphere, and so on)
and to intervene, whereby he discovers and advances the endless evolutive
complexity of the cosmic system.
(the opposite of atomism) : the different elements cannot be understood
by separating them from the whole of which they are a part, and the whole
differs from the sum of the parts;
(the opposite of mechanism) : the systems can be mechanical, but also chaotic,
unpredictable and with a high degree of discontinuity;
(the opposite of universalism) : the various features are dependent on
a large number of contingent time and place factors. Analogous features
can be discerned in conditions which differ in time and place, even though
they have arisen from different factors;
(the opposite of objectivism) : we cannot understand the systems independent
of ourselves. Perception changes what is seen;
(the opposite of monism) : the complex systems cannot be acknowledged unless
by means of thought-models. These different models are not comparable,
and cannot be reshaped to become one and the same.
the social level, it suffices to look back on the social irregularities
which occurred when women raised the matter of their own place in creation
and history, which also followed the transpersonal processes which have
already been described above. Women provoked weighty reflection within
the church, which saw itself forced for the first time in its history,
to admit openly that God is not only 'father' but 'mother' too. Women unveiled
the disturbing problem of women's access to the 'ministries of the ordination
sacrament' that, traditionally, is open only to men.
this made it necessary, from the 'deterministic' paradigm, that millennia
was valid, to switch to a 'system paradigm', from which the dogmatic definitions,
the liturgical and canonical regulations, the church organisation and the
ethical norms, can only be formulated in an cautious, careful, contextual
and intelligent (intus legere = inner reading) manner. It is impossible
to analyze, programme, define, universally apply and centrally control
this rigidity, on pain of their implosion and inapplicability. It would
be like a state now taking it into its head to programme and rigidly define,
for once and for all, the entire lives of its citizens, something that
might be conceivable in a non-complex society.
the metaphysical-epistemological paradigm immediately would certainly demand
'metanoia' (conversion), which itself would comprise magnanimous willingness,
not in order to change ideas, but rather the manner in which 'the reality'
in its entirety, is observed and thought through.
and acting in holistic terms, is very much the same as 'system thinking',
i.e. integral and complex, with the whole typified as follows :
is an extremely complex example of eco-self-organisation. The human being
is not the centre of creation, but a point of arrival in the plot of human
living organisation cannot be understood on the basis of the logic of a
machine, of which the loss of one of its parts is sufficient to paralyse
the whole. They both combine a large number of units and interactions,
incalculable and indeterminable;
systems are integral 'wholes', in which there are no unconnected parts,
and which contain their 'relations networks' which, in their turn, are
incorporated into the greater wholes. Their function consists of other
elements to assist in producing and transforming whilst maintaining
the network's global circularity;
living world comprises levels of variable complexity, whereby features
which do not occur at the underlying level are revealed;
exists simultaneously with change; the imbalance is the source of order,
beauty and variety.
result is that system thinking is implicitly complex, because it acknowledges
the possibility of not being able to dominate over inaccuracy, ambiguity
and dissent. Tragedy cannot be expelled, such as when the scientist sees
himself confronted by amazing discoveries which contrast with the traditional,
to E. Morin, complex thinking is, in fact, dialogue. For him, the order
and the disorder are not each other's enemies, but each other's allies,
and they keep the duality in unity's lap. Cause and consequence also change
roles, such as the part and the whole which, in its turn, cannot be thought
of independently of the parts (Pascal).
its being, complex thinking links the one with the many, without the one
ever being absorbed by the many, or the many by the one.
regards complete, perfect, infallible, universal and superior knowledge,
as impossible. As St. Paul very realistically commented two thousand years
ago : "Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror, but then we shall
be seeing face to face." (I Cor. 13,12 - Jer. Bible).
does not reject order, nor determinism, nor logic, but establishes that
reality also comprises the opposite.
system thinking leads to appreciating even the smallest of living beings.
Indeed, the degree to which the state is able to restore itself, to organise
and procreate, its organisation is endlessly richer than that of a nuclear
power plant. It integrates itself, in addition, into the cosmic organisation,
including the orbiting of the earth and the transition from day to night.
system viewpoint seems to have been prefigured in many passages in the
Bible, and St. Paul systematised it even better when, for instance, he
saw the church as 'the body of the Lord', a body of which the cells and
organs share a mutual relationship, as well as with the cosmos in its totality.
For Paul, Christ's disciples were people who manifested charismas of 'healing',
'leadership' and 'prophecy', in the interests of building the corporal-community
of the Lord, a true network of uncontrollable and uncodifiable 'circular'
relationships and movements. The community, by the same token, reflects
the world of the Trinitarian God and of the Church as a whole.
Paul, the foundation of all relationships lies in mutuality. He sees in
the community a sanctuary of solidarity, "the ones with the others", where
"strong efforts must be made to create a climate of mutual esteem", where
people must : "be loved", "corrected", "cared for", "helped in carrying
their burdens", "encouraged", "tolerated", "mutually forgiving", "each
confess his/her faults", and "be hospitable" - where "the ones stand in
the service of the others".
virtue of such a 'relationship network', equipped with a certain order,
although not free from imbalances and disruption, each community sets 'collective
thought and action' in motion, thereby enabling it to organise itself,
to differentiate itself from others, and to generate more complex 'relationship
networks', without the need for 'central' assignments.
such a 'relationship network', each element is assigned a role as 'activator',
'interpretative value consultant' and 'co-negotiator', whereby it contributes
to the maintenance of a circular organisational solidarity, comparable
to that attributed to a 'trinitarian' model. And on this basis, the concept
of 'subsidiarity' is given meaning : the dominant party surrenders power
so that the others can fulfil an inspirational function for the social
and applying system thinking, therefore, means re-encountering the source,
not only of Biblical thought and action, but also of that exceptional intuition
of a relational God, the One True and Trinitarian God (prime dogma of Christian
faith). On the other hand, its rejection exposes the Church to being placed
'outside', even outside the ecological, pluralistic, problematical, democratic
paradigm that constitutes the 'signs of the times' to which the whole world
(religions, political parties, institutions, commercial organisations,
and so on) is called to 'convert' on pain of destruction, not only of 'Jerusalem'
but of the earth itself.
7. Opening the
problem of division 'in' the Roman Catholic Church which, without doubt,
is of a complex nature, can only be addressed in a complex manner and thus
as a 'system' in which all is brought concretely into 'communion' with
everything, and everything with each separate element.
will be able to find their inspirational model again in the 'Pentecostal
event' whereby only a few of the Lord's fearful disciples " ...whilst they
were all at one place, were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak
in strange tongues as inspired by the Spirit".
the considerable differences in race, sex and religions, they were able
to speak the languages of 'foreigners', 'others' and 'heathens', so well
in fact that these 'stood stunned and amazed'. What happened there? God's
promise, as Joel had foretold, was fulfilled : "I will send my spirit out
over all peoples, your sons and daughters will benefit, the young among
you will see visions and the old will dream dreams" (Peter ...). Pentecost
brought down the dikes of the patriarchal, machistic, dogmatic, priestly
system in order to allow the water of the Spirit to flow freely. The Spirit
"gives it to all to express"; the Spirit knows no infallibility and no
absolute powers, no priestly bureaucracies, no divine rites; even less
does the Spirit allow itself to be imprisoned in religious creeds. The
Spirit creates consensus, solidarity, creativity; enables dreams and prophecy.
It does exceptional things and miracles become reality. In short, the Spirit
liberates history from determinism and orientates it in an evolutive, probabilistic
The dynamic of Pentecost
dynamic of Pentecost is comparable to the open, self-organising, dialogue
system, with the following characteristics.
happy to close this contribution, which is of course only partial and insufficient,
with a quotation from Instrumentum Laboris, which states that the Church
called to proceed in her life and mission by believing and professing in
word and deed that the Spirit is capable of overcoming divisions and disunity",
by fostering "the forging of a network of love relationships
which are being formed by the Spirit himself in today's Europe and which
are a reflection of the love of the Blessed Trinity."
are 'no heads, nor masters, nor lords", but only people who communicate,
who adjust their image-forming to that of others in a succession of inter-active
experiences (Von Glaserssfeld).
enter a de-tideologized zone in which the confrontation with the other
renounces the difference (in sex, race, religion and so on), and where
they learn to speak the languages of the 'foreigner' and of the 'poor'.
called to conversion, the only one who could freely initiate a changed
empathy with communicating people.
time has now come for us, in the footsteps of the Pope, not only to re-establish
that the Church is the community of Jesus' disciples, but to ensure that
today's people really experience Church."
Peter James Cullinane
of the New Zealand Bishops Conference
the Oceania Synod, Autumn 1998
order to be able to enter into intensive discussions of this text at the
Forum of European Christians in Rome (7-9 October 1999), it will be necessary
for large numbers of women and men to work and think with us.
therefore ask all our readers to mail their comments as soon as possible,
but no later than 15 September 1999, to the e-mail address given below.
Bear in mind that we expect to process a very large number of contributions,
and we ask you therefore to formulate your viewpoints as concisely as possible.
We would also like to draw your attention to the fact that if the
expected number of mailings do reach us, then we will not be able to include
all contributions in the final document.
nonetheless look forward to your cooperative efforts; we hope thereby to
liberate the synod from its golden Episcopal cage, and to turn it into
a matter for the people of the Church as a whole.
comments please to: