- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 402 KB
- Print Length: 160 pages
- Publisher: Columba Press (5 Jan. 2012)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0087OUIAS
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- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #362,755 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Can I Stay in the Catholic Church?: The Abuse Scandal Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
"The church is the body of Christ. It is meant to be the visible sign of the presence of God in the world, to show the compassion, the forgiveness, the justice , the hope that God holds out to all people." For those who question how we have moved so far from this truth, this book has many answers and also offers a hopeful way forward.
Brian Lennon SJ has three main themes: the abuse scandal in Ireland - its origins and the response of the hierarchy; faith and scripture - an analysis of key parts of the scriptures and the formation of the early church; and the causes of the current organisational crisis, with a seven point plan for recovery.
Well researched and clearly argued, Brian Lennon's book is a lucid examination of a church in crisis. Though sometimes painful to read, the book is clearly written by a person with a deep love of God and his church. Its arguments are logical and and its conclusions unavoidable.
Read it. Share it. Act on it.
It's a question many Catholics have answered in their droves, leaving the Catholic Church with their proverbial feet. In his latest book, Can I Stay in the Catholic Church? (Columba, 2012), Jesuit Brian Lennon ultimately answers `yes.'
But it is his argument that those who choose to stay in the Catholic Church should take it upon themselves to change the church that it is most compelling.
Lennon has worked for more than 30 years with people affected by the conflict in Northern Ireland and has a previous book titled, So You Can't Forgive? (Columba, 2009). He writes out of a lifetime's experience in the Irish Catholic Church, which has of course in recent years been crippled by the sexual abuse crisis.
The book tackles the abuse crisis in its very first section, asking `Who was to Blame?', and then examines the role of bishops and religious superiors, the Vatican, and lay people. It is helpful that Lennon includes an extended quote from abuse survivor Andrew Madden, as this reminds the reader of the horror of abuse. This keeps his reflections on `blame' from becoming too abstract, especially when he distinguishes between the `personal guilt' of abusers and those who covered up the abuse, and argues that there is a `corporate connectedness' among all members of the church.
This corporate connectedness is key to his argument that lay people must assume responsibility for reforming the church (p. 35):
`One of the key causes of the abuse crisis was that we maintained a clerical church which marginalised lay people in direct opposition to the focus of Vatican II on the People of God. If this is to change, all of us, clerical and lay, have a corporate duty to bring that change about.Read more ›
It is an easy book to read and there is no sense of Lennon trying to press his views on others but his approach resounds with his own passion for a real Christian community.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
My second, more reflective reaction to the title of the book was, in the Ireland of to-day, is it the appropriate question, or is it relevant at all? It is hardly relevant for the young Irish people referred to by Peter Sexton SJ in reviewing The Wow Factor: Bringing the Catholic Faith to Life, by William J O’Malley SJ in the Summer 2012 issue of Studies: “Many young Irish people are now unchurched for a second generation” (p.248). And with the sexual abuse scandals since the 1990s significantly affecting the morale of all Church members it is evident that large numbers have already decided in the negative about staying ‘in’ or ‘with’ the Catholic Church as they experience it. At the ‘ground level’ I suggest that the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is in a state of deep shock, has in some very real sense ‘lost its way’ and is in a period when the reaction to the awfulness of the sexual abuse scandals is one of pervasive rejection towards it. This has resulted in at least three significant outcomes: one, a compounding of the already established drift away by the young generation; two, and maybe even more worrying, the apparent disaffection within the more traditional middle class, middle aged and better educated groupings in society; and three, weaknesses in leadership that have been brutally and painfully exposed. The connections between and within these outcomes are obvious.
Into this deep pool of serious, sometimes hostile, antagonism Lennon plunges with his question; and even with my stated reservations, I think he should be applauded for having the courage to do so. From an early point in the work it is obvious that he is not setting it up as a Will I stay or will I go? scenario and by the end we are not exactly waiting with bated breath for his answer. Rather, he uses the question to bring us on a pulsating journey which, although it begins with the question of what happened with respect to the sexual abuse scandals, it then reverts to what might have been a better starting point of the experience of believing in God and specifically a Christian God; the purpose, nature and authority of the Church, including the primacy of Rome and the power of the Papacy; an examination of what the abuse crisis says about Church structures, related to a perceived increase in papal power and within these observations and descriptions asking the critical and foundational question, “How much diversity can we tolerate within the Church?” (p.116). He partly answers the question for himself by stating that, “In the end we need to find a way to live with difference” (p.117). From his own insertion in the Northern Ireland reality of the last three decades any fair minded observer would agree that the author is making sense in terms of the state of the Catholic Church, especially in Ireland, but perhaps in a wider context also.
Nonetheless, the above begs another question: is what is being rejected by the youth for the most part and by a seemingly increasing number of now ‘nominal’ Catholics in Ireland a particular model of Church rather than the Church founded by Christ or, more precisely, another model of it? Lennon touches on this in chapter nine when he outlines the important reasons – among others – for the abuse happening:-
1 The Church and the society of the time were patriarchal and male dominated.
2 The perceived superiority of clergy and religious.
3 Church authorities were not accountable to external agencies.
4 There was a culture of deference towards clergy and religious.
5 Church systems were not transparent and so could operate with secrecy.
I would add a sixth reason here and that is the absence of any culture and practice of reflection and evaluation of past actions and behaviour which, it would appear, resulted in a grave loss of the Christian virtue of humility. As described, the evidence suggests serious dominance here, even arrogance. So, are we rejecting a particular model of Church? One of the benefits of going with Lennon on this ‘journey’ is that he provides us with relevant clues as to how Christians came to develop this
particular model and, in time, how we developed our own Irish version of it. In chapter six on Authority in the Church the author refers to the East / West split in 1054 as a “major rupture in Christianity” (p.94) and he goes on to reveal this as fundamental to the evolution of the power of the papacy and how we experience that to-day. On the following page, keeping to this theme of papal power, he moves on to the sixteenth century stating, “one of the key divides between the churches of the Reformation and the Catholic Church has been over the powers of the papacy”
A key argument by the author is what he terms a reduction in power of lay people in the Church. In a sense this is his core point and his final proposition relates to confronting this loss of power. I think he is correct to emphasise this. In my view this is the central, if sensitive, substantial issue facing us as committed Church people to-day. On page 100 Lennon speaks of how the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council “wanted to give an increased role to lay people in the church”. We know that progress on this desire has been minimal and painfully slow. Following an attempt to unpack the principal points by the Council on the People of God (p.101), the author states, “there are tensions within these statements between the power of the people and the power of the teaching authority of the church”; however, when one places the desire of the Council Fathers (1962-1965) in this regard against the Code of Canon Law – no. 129 (revised in 1983) wording on the participation of lay people, no layperson can exercise the power of governance in the church, we are, I believe, at the core of Lennon’s work and also at the core of the problem of the current model of Church in Ireland. That particular model has over emphasised the role of the hierarchy (in descending order of Pope, Bishops, Priests, Laity) for some considerable time and is to a certain extent, fifty years on, now in opposition to the desires of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. This point is well captured in the frontispiece of the book: “The Church, the mystical Body of Christ, has become a monstrosity. The head is very large, but the body is shrunken”.
One of the attractive qualities of this book is the ability of Lennon to put both sides of the case, so to speak, on a variety of complex issues. In that he does us all a great service. I suspect that while the laity can accept there will be a tension to be lived out and there will be mediation required as between the different views and strongly held opinions of themselves and other groups that make up the Church, notably the hierarchy, they will find it difficult to accept that the paradigm for this dialogue has been already set and conditioned by canon 129. In other words, no matter how much faith I have, no matter how much I love the Church of Christ, no matter how much I wish to evangelise and spread the Christian faith with all my strength, I shall never, in the words of canon 129 “exercise the power of governance”.
Lennon concludes this book with a question for all Catholics: “what can we do to make the church become the sign of the presence of God in the world?” (p.155). He wishes to see canon 129 changed so that, “clericalism will decline and accountability…be improved”. The weakness in this stance is that he is looking to lay people to lead the charge when they have already been considerably disabled by this same canon 129. What may be more likely to succeed in this ambitious target, in time, is some powerful coalescence of like minded people from within the different Church groups ideally led (because of canon 129) by a member of the hierarchy.
This book is a valuable contribution to the ongoing dialogue and debate on the future shape of the Catholic Church in Ireland. In addition to providing a most readable account of some significant moments in Church history, it confronts the serious issues for people of faith in a style that, while it is probing, is also hopeful. And, in good Jesuit teaching fashion, it leaves us with a question and with some work to do!
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