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Reform of Church “Inevitable”

Nearly 400 supporters gathered for the FutureChurch 14th annual dinner on October 7th to re-commit to our mission of preserving the Eucharist as the center of Catholic worship.

James Carroll, renowned Catholic author and columnist for the Boston Globe, resonated with many when he described himself as a “traditional Catholic” in search of trustworthy Catholic leaders, who wants the church to go forward honoring its traditions while responding to the needs of our time. His faith life was transformed by the spirit of Vatican II and by the humanity of Pope John 23rd who so embodied the message of Jesus.

He began by presenting a difficult set of facts: 10,666 children abused by clergy, 4,392 perpetrators, 4% of priests guilty of the rape of children, more that 700 priests forced to leave the priesthood and almost 100% of bishops guilty of protecting the rapists, but not the children. The response from Rome has been denial, scapegoating homosexuals and even blaming the “Jewish media.”

Confessing that much of his writing seeks to justify his right and that of his readers to offer words of dissent, he challenged the audience to consider why we, as Catholics, continue to assent – when the very future of the Church has been put into question by a massive collapse of a corrupt structure of authority which has wounded so many because of a sexist, sexually repressive, patriarchal system of ministry.

Yet he firmly believes that a reformed Catholic Church can become the global force for justice and consolation for all people. He challenged us, as living witnesses to the profound moral and cultural changes in the church as a result of Vatican II, to be resolute inrescuing these reforms from efforts to quash them.

Carroll remains a Catholic because of his longing for God and because the Eucharist feeds this hunger and builds a sense of community. He also remains because he believes the Church is the great custodian of the western tradition, a world community of a billion members reaching across the divides of affluence and poverty, north and south, information technology and illiteracy, superstition and scientific rationalism. He saw the church’s promise personified in John the 23rd who knew that if we change this institution, we can change the world.

Noting that disappointment and gratitude are at the heart of the Catholic experience, he challenged us to not be driven away. Seeing the Church’s flaws plunges us deep into the mystery of the “good news” that God works through human instruments. Human history, not just the dreams of a few, drives the reform of our church.

History may have its tragic character, but it continually presents us with choices, which are the occasions of change, growth and reform.

Carroll believes that reform in the Church is as inevitable as the fall of the Soviet Union, a process that was a straight line from the disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He sees the worldwide sex abuse scandal as Catholicism’s Chernobyl.

His hope and trust in the promise of history are buoyed by being with Catholics committed to preserving the reforms of Vatican II like the members of FutureChurch: “You are the source of hope for me and for many others.”


Winter 2005



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