Change & The Church June 2011 following Hans Kung statement on the need for change.
I wonder about this fear thing. Hans Kung was right to say that the Vatican is very powerful. The Pope's power, already considerable was further enhanced by the 1870 "Vatican 1" Council where Papal Infallibility was defined and formally promulgated although the tradition had existed long before. Pope Benedict is arguably the last reigning absolute monarch. How does this sit with Christian teaching in any scriptural sense? Those who hold power in this way usually become part of an unaccountable oligarchy unless supported by a wider structure such as existed among the Royal families of the pre-reformation period. Yet too strong a reaction towards say, the Anglican or Episcopalian tradition is also fraught with consequences for the authentic teaching and leadership responsibilities of the Church. Ensuring lay involvement without losing the plot that is scripturally indicated. There is no question however, the Church hierarchy (not just the Pope) is convinced that there can be no doctrinally authentic acceptance of women into the full priesthood even though the majority of the Church including, I suspect, the majority of priests, wishes it. Is the Church just another structure? an unreformed potential democracy or is it something much more?
If it is something more, and I believe firmly that it is, where do we go from here? This is an issue which has a far deeper dimension than that of priestly celibacy which the Church could revoke tomorrow in its current absolute form. This raises a question about scriptural interpretation, a primary role of the Church. Can the Church decide it got it wrong? Hans Kung thinks so but he has never been flavour of the month in Rome. In a Church which elevates the sacramental in every sense a male priesthood lies at the heart of things, at the heart of the sacrament we call the Eucharist, the real presence of a male Christ, the daily miracle of transubstantiation where bread becomes God.
Does it have to be this way?
I'm not sure that this is the last word somehow.
Intriguingly the answer may be with us already as part of another piece of Christian teaching, a teaching that nobody disputes. The Church accepts the guidance of the Holy Spirit and this is a crucial thing that protects the Church and the Pope from error. It is the thing that informs conscience, the thing that enables personal faith. Are we listening though?