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To change church culture, we need service-oriented leaders

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The church is experiencing widespread calls for reform and has responded with platforms for listening and reflection through the Australian Plenary and the 2023 Synod of Bishops in Rome. Many calls for reform have stressed the need to address changes in the church’s culture. However, the history of organisational and cultural change underscores leadership as being the most important element in successful change. Lessons learned from the leadership of successful cultural reforms stress the importance of focussing on the nurturing of the organisation’s culture through the alignment of values and mission. Inconsistency between culture, mission and values leads to institutional dysfunction and reduced credibility.

Alignment between an organisation’s mission, values and culture cannot be left to chance. Leaders in well-functioning organisations know this. They ensure that structures for governance and administration are consonant with the overall mission; they foster cultures that reflect the organisation’s values. The character and actions of the leaders themselves have a major influence in shaping an organisation’s culture. If the call for a synodal church is to be successful, church leaders will need to be able to discern, promote and live the values of synodality.

For Francis, ‘synodality’ is non-negotiable: ‘what God wants’ of the church at this time. It goes far beyond the collegiality between all bishops with the bishop of Rome through the Synod of Bishops established by Pope Paul VI in 1965. Through the lens of theology, the church is a community of faith, the sacrament of Christ and the People of God. At the same time, it lives out its identity and mission through people and through its organisational structures. Little needs to be repeated about the contemporary loss of credibility of the church, both in Australia and around the world. The Australian church is not alone in being called to account by Government, rather than by its own leaders, for systemic mismanagement of child sexual abuse. There are elements of culture in the contemporary institutional church that undermine the church’s stated mission and values as a holy nation whose heritage is the dignity and freedom of the children of God and in whose hearts the Spirit dwells.

The 2023 Synod process is a call for all members of the church to take up what Vatican II began by way of both renewal (aggiornamento) and a rediscovery of its early essence (ressourcement) to reform its culture and search for an authentic identity and form suitable for the Third Millennium. The Synod’s preparatory consultations carry an explicit focus on the structures and organisational processes within the church — the form, the style, the structure. The call to synodality is a call to convert, reform and renew the church’s organisational culture.

New cultures do not emerge automatically. It is not about turning upside down the present pyramid structure of the church with a clerical hierarchy at the top and the faithful on the bottom. The church is not a political democracy, but a ‘holy people’ whose mission is to make God and Jesus present and, in a sense, visible to our world. (GS 21)

Reform means change. Change can be uncomfortable and resisted. Healthy organisations have all changed at some point in their existence, either in response to internal events (eg, loss of key personnel) or external pressures (eg, covid-19). While leaders have the initial responsibility to drive change in an organisation, it is neither rocket science nor magic: it is all very possible. For example, leaders can embed culture in an organisation through their allocation of resources (money does talk), how they respond to critical incidents of cultural misalignment (eg, sexual abuse), what is rewarded and how status is allocated (or removed), who they recruit (especially for leadership roles). Leaders who consciously seek to embed a certain culture (eg synodality) will pay attention to it and assess it regularly. Culture in an organisation is also shaped by its systems and procedures, rituals and celebrations, the design of physical space (eg, a church ‘in the round’), the narratives leaders use and formal statements of an institution’s philosophy, creeds and charters.[1]

 

"Leaders who are perceived as having integrity and authenticity tend to elicit a sense of trust that the group is focussing together on a shared moral purpose." 

 

Among the many theories and models of leadership, one more suited to leadership in a synodal church, is that of the late Denis Edwards. He described New Testament leadership as service-oriented rather than dominating, non-violent rather than coercive, from below rather than from above, participatory rather than unilateral, empowering rather than overpowering and based on hope in the resurrection of Jesus rather than on personal achievement.[2]

Other models of a leadership sympathetic with synodality emphasise the relational character of leadership; leaders being truly part of the group they are called to lead and of their modelling and practising the values and beliefs of the people they lead. Leaders who are perceived as having integrity and authenticity tend to elicit a sense of trust that the group is focussing together on a shared moral purpose. Such leaders both affirm and extend (‘grow’) the resourcefulness of group members to contribute to the goals of the organisation, thereby shaping it further in that direction. Such leaders continually seek to align members of the group to the larger realities, the macro context, in which they endeavour to pursue the organisation’s goals.[3]

It is difficult to imagine the emergence of a more synodal church culture unless those in leadership understand and exercise the key characteristics of synodality: mission-oriented to the pastoral needs of this place at this time; open to inclusive dialogue and mutual listening; humble and service-oriented; open to conversion, change and the bidding of the Spirit; engaged within their local community and discerning decisions with members of the community based on a faith that recognises the priesthood of all the faithful and the unerring sensus fidei of the whole People of God.

If the church is to move in the direction of a more synodal church, then it will need to have in formal leadership roles women and men who understand this vision and who are prepared for and supported in their leadership using the best tools of leadership theory and practice; leaders with the willingness and capacity to search out structures, forms and styles that are more synodal in character. Local church communities, the faithful, have a right to expect such leadership.

 

[1] Christopher Branson, teaching notes, quoted in Benjamin & Burford, page 27

[2] Denis Edwards, Called to be church in Australia, St Paul’s Publications, Homebush, 1987

[3] Christopher Branson, M. Marra & M. Buchanan, ‘Re-constructing Catholic school leadership: integrating mission, identity and practice’, International Studies in Catholic Education, 11:2, 219-232, 2019.

 

Anne Benjamin is a writer and researcher. She is an Honorary Professor at Australian Catholic University and was previously Director of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Parramatta.

Main image: Pope Francis washes the feet of prisoners during the Mass for Holy Thursday, 2018. (Vatican Media)

Topic tags: Anne Benjamin, Leadership, Church, Synodality, Culture, Change

 

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Anne, 'you hit the nail on the head'. Much has been said about having the parishioners more involved in the work of the parish. If you look into the eyes of the faithful every Sunday,


JOHN WILLIS | 24 February 2022  

Thanks for a valuable article, dear Anne, full of wisdom and practical insights that reveal your years of faithful service as a senior administrator.

Today, ABC RN ‘Soul Search’ aired a wonderful account of the life of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. A persevering life of prayer was integral in years of faithful and enormously fruitful ministry to Christians, to South Africa, and to the whole of humanity. Tutu's prayer life was built around the Daily Office, that is the Breviary.

Several decades ago, how sad it was when our deacons, priests, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals cancelled centuries of Catholic wisdom, by downgrading their prayer lives and junking their Breviaries. From my recollection, not long after many of them began seeking sexual experiences. Lacking the daily prayer routines established by centuries of Catholic synodality, they became prey to various heterodoxies, spiritisms, and ungodly connections. Their child sexual abuses and cover-ups are just ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

Anne, the excellent Church administrative changes you wisely propose will have little transformative impact if we don’t require all in leadership to be people of deep Christian prayer. It is impossible for leaders – even servant leaders – to give what they don’t have.

God who is with us until the end of time lovingly explained to Martha that one thing is absolutely necessary. That one thing is as plain as could be throughout the New Testament; for example, in John 10:27-30:

“The sheep that belong to Me listen to My voice; I know them and they follow Me, I give them eternal life, they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from Me.”

Dear Anne, how many Catholic clergy do you know today who have that single-hearted devotion to daily hearing the living Christ and faithfully following? Yet, our overall leader, Pope Francis continually exhorts them to be converted to Jesus Christ and so able to inspire us all to fulfill our Church’s God-given worldwide mission:

Pope Francis wrote: “In evangelization, then, the example of a Christian life and the proclamation of Christ are inseparable. One is at the service of the other. They are the two lungs with which any community must breathe, if it is to be missionary.”

“This kind of complete, consistent, and joyful witness to Christ will surely be a force of attraction also for the growth of the Church in the third millennium.”

2 Corinthians 13:5 warns that we are mere counterfeits if we don't live a life ruled by Christ within us.

Without that, will even the most excellent synodal reorganization be more than adjusting the deckchairs on the Titanic?

Always in the grace & mercy of Jesus Christ; love & blessings from Marty


Dr Marty Rice | 24 February 2022  
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Your reminder of 2 Cor 13: 5 is particularly salient as a corrective to placing excessive emphasis on externals, Dr Marty.


John RD | 26 February 2022  

I hardly think that Anne Benjamin's mellow and closely argued piece needs a 'corrective'. Why don't you respond to her call for leadership directly or have we in the Church become so immured to our self-appointed leaders that lick-spittle and drool is all that emerges from the parched mouths of famished sheep, for us all to drown rather than launch a lifeboat at this dire time?


Michael Furtado | 06 March 2022  

Dear Michael, I'm not sure that 'self-appointed leaders' are one of our problems. They will be if people start 'launching lifeboats' (see 1 John 2:19). Take care. Love & blessings from Marty


Dr Marty Rice | 08 March 2022  

‘for us all to drown rather than launch a lifeboat at this dire time?’

To launch a lifeboat is to say that the Barque of Peter is sinking. But the Barque cannot sink because it will still be there when Christ returns. It has to, unless Christ is divorcing his Bride, which is odd as he wasn’t complimentary about divorce.

On the other hand, there may be times when we have to bail water from the Barque because to assume that that is never necessary may be to test God.

As Marty says, once the lifeboat is on water and you’re heading off, you’ve, regrettably, just left the Church. Now leaving the Barque and leaving Christ may not be the same thing, God being above his sacraments, but, like the fate of the unbaptised, all the Church can say about those not in it are that God desires everyone to be saved and if they are saved, it will be through some mechanism unknown to us. However, when we already have a known mechanism, it’s stupid to adopt a policy that the possibility of a bird in the bush is worth a bird in the hand.


roy chen yee | 10 March 2022  

One of the things you need to remember Anne, is that, with your education, contacts and work history, you are a bit of a Lucy Worsley to the vast majority of us reading your piece. You appear to be inside the Church, as Lucy appears to be inside British History, which she explains so well. The truth is, you, like her, are outside. The Vatican is a little like the British Monarchy, with the Pope possibly more immediately powerful than the Queen, whose influence is more subtle, as she is limited by Parliament. The power of the Pope is not limited by an established solid, working institution like Parliament. The Pope is an absolute monarch. Progressive change, such as you advocate, means changing the system.


Edward Fido | 24 February 2022  

Dear Edward Fido,

You concur with Anne in discerning that our ailing Church culture is protected by ancient and revered structures.

You both want to change things from the outside. That may or may not work.

Rather, if all our hearts return to trust in God, who is always here in the living and omnipresent Christ, then Church revival will not and indeed cannot fail.

With God, structures are peripheral; heart is central.

So many of us Catholics are in a rut, cut deep by decades of repetitive rituals and routine serving and giving. These are not bad and are sometimes even holy. Yet, they can obscure the core essence of our Catholic Christian tradition.

For nigh on 2,000 years, it's always been loving obedience to Christ that has attracted the irresistible, re-sanctifying, and fructifying power of The Holy Spirit.

As a contemporary example of the devotion I’m referring to please listen to: ‘Lord, You Have My Heart’ (free on YouTube). Surely a call to where God wants every one of us in Christ Jesus, so beautifully sung by a dad and his daughter.

Elle Limebear: Lord You Have My Heart feat. Martin Smith (Acoustic) - Bing video

Could there be a more prophetic song for the work of our Catholic synods . . .

All the best to you Edward and ever in the love of Jesus; from Marty


Dr Marty Rice | 26 February 2022  

Dear Marty Rice,

I think you misread both Anne and myself.

Ancient institutions were once founded for a purpose. That institution is a container. The container is not the purpose.

The late Metropolitan Anthony Bloom was probably one of the most genuinely profound thinkers in the Christian Church in the 20th Century. He once said that Jesus came, not to found an institution, but to change the world.

Now some institutional setup is indeed necessary in the Church, but I don't think Jesus envisaged the huge obfuscating bureaucracy which has grown up.

When Anne talks so insightfully of synodality, that is exactly what the Pope wants. It is those at the lower levels in the Church who do not wish for the scrutiny of their administrative actions who are against it.

Synodality has nothing to do with the Magisterium.
Neither Anne, nor John Warhurst, the other great champion of synodality as proposed by Pope Francis on ES has, as far as I am aware, shown the slightest sign of heresy.

I wish you the best,

Edward Fido




Edward Fido | 27 February 2022  
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Thanks for taking the trouble to reply, dear Edward.

You say institutions are containers but that something of that sort (but NOT the container we now have) is indispensable.

I'd say: "Of course!", then add: "To accord with past generations of godly Catholic Christians, the container's contents have to be devoted to loving and obeying Jesus Christ, as the only tried and tested way to avoid grieving The Holy Spirit of God."

Structures vary with time & place (am thinking of the plethora of different Catholic religious orders) but Catholic authenticity always depends on the one thing.

Whatever our externalia, internally we are one Body, with one Holy Spirit, holding one hope in one Lord Jesus Christ, one in faith, of one baptism, and under one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all."

For humanity, there is no greater calling. St Paul exhorts us, then, to: "Make every effort to keep this unity of The Holy Spirit by being united in peace."

You write: "It is those at the lower levels in the Church who do not wish for the scrutiny of their administrative actions . ." Well, Edward, let's by all means request that synodality be applied to overcome such evasions.

However, in modifying the container to make it fit for purpose in today's society (e.g. with women having equality at every level in Church leadership), let's remember why the container has been given to us.

God has trusted the Church into our hands as a global public witness to the world-confronting truth revealed by Jesus Christ (see John 18:36-37).

There's no lack of historical evidence that wherever the Church has forgotten that, it has been heterodox

Surely none would dispute your truism, Edward: "Jesus came, not to found an institution, but to change the world.", other than, perhaps to say that 'change' means through witnessing, not by winning in a worldly way.

The Gospel acclamation at Holy Mass, yesterday said it all: ". . be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like stars . ."

As Pope Francis exhorts: synodality is to facilitate our witness to Jesus Christ, in a world desperate for eternal truth. Let's all ensure the synodal modifications we make to the container don't impede the unchanging witness of its content.

Let's keep in mind, the Church is not OUR Church, it is God's. We, are not in the Church for OUR benefit but for the benefit of the countless millions who have not yet found eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Ever in the grace & mercy of Jesus; love& blessings from Marty


Dr Marty Rice | 28 February 2022  

'Synodality has nothing to do with Magisterium.'

Edward, "Synodality", if I understand Pope Francis correctly, is an important part of the Church's consultative process which can assist the deliberations of the College of Bishops whose "communio" together with the Pope constitutes the official Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
The following excerpt is from "Episcopalis Communio" (2018):
During every Synodal Assembly, consultation of the faithful must be followed by discernment on the part of the Bishops chosen for the task, united in the search for a consensus that springs not from worldly logic, but from common obedience to the Spirit of Christ. Attentive to the sensus fidei of the People of God - "which they need to distinguish carefully from the changing currents of public opinion"* - the members of the Assembly offer their opinion to the Roman Pontiff so that it can help him in his ministry as universal Pastor of the Church.
(* Address on the 50th Anniversary of the Synod of Bishops)


John RD | 28 February 2022  

And, precisely how, pray, do you think that Anne Benjamin disobeys this instruction?


Michael Furtado | 06 March 2022  

The Magic Sternum JRD? Is that like a kevlar vest?
Strewth! Communio? Hic! Give us another sip o' that Seven Hill Padre! Not Bad! Those wafers are a little stale... a tad tasteless. They need a little salt! As for Good sensus? Gawd... up there with the CFD, or was it the Ink Quizishion? The Pontif? You mean the Argentinian cove in the white robe? Pooncing around blessin' those sycophants with the red sashes and crimson top knots?
Assembly? after school or after mass in St Pedro's square? Now when did those lecherous (rarely sober), clowns ever listen to the common sensus of the fidei people of God? As for these green currants of public opinion ...chewy but a tad bitter for Rome's taste buds. Les P.


Francis Armstrong | 07 March 2022  

Thanks, dear Francis: LOL.

But that other Francis has his sails filled with an altogether more worthy Wind:

Here's a part of what our Pope said about the synodal journey. “Dear brothers and sisters, may this Synod be a true season of the Spirit! For we need the Spirit, the ever new breath of God, who sets us free from every form of self-absorption, revives what is moribund, loosens shackles and
spreads joy. The Holy Spirit guides us where God wants us to be, not to where our own ideas and personal tastes would lead us.”

Francis ended this reflection with this prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit! You inspire new tongues and place words of life on our lips: keep us from becoming a “museum Church”, beautiful but mute, with much past and little future. Come among us, so that in this synodal experience we will not lose our enthusiasm, dilute the power of prophecy, or descend into useless and unproductive discussions. Come, Spirit of love, open our hearts to hear your voice! Come, Holy Spirit of holiness, renew the holy and faithful People of God! Come, Creator Spirit, renew the face of the earth! Amen”

Am trusting all involved in our Aussie synod will add their own loud Amens!


Dr Marty Rice | 08 March 2022  

It might be relevant for us to read Pope Francis' recent comments, in the light of Anne's article.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church needs women, especially women saints, who have shown throughout history an unwavering dedication to God and to caring for their brothers and sisters, Pope Francis said.

The women honored as doctors of the church and as co-patrons of Europe, he said, are examples of “the courage to face difficulties; the capacity for being practical; a natural desire to promote what is most beautiful and human according to God’s plan; and a far-sighted, prophetic vision of the world and of history, that made them sowers of hope and builders of the future.”

Pope Francis made his comments in a message March 8 to a conference at Rome’s Pontifical Urbanian University on: “Women Doctors of the Church and Co-Patronesses of Europe.”

The academic conference, held on International Women’s Day, focused on Saints Teresa of Ávila, Catherine of Siena, Thérèse of Lisieux and Hildegard of Bingen, who are doctors of the church, and on Saints. Bridget of Sweden, Edith Stein and Catherine of Siena, who are co-patrons of Europe.

The teaching and example of the seven women, he said, “can offer light and hope to our fragmented and fractious world.”

While they lived at different times, in different countries and had “very different missions,” the pope said, they each offered an example of a holy life.

“Through the grace of baptism, they were docile to the Holy Spirit and pursued their own journey of faith, moved not by shifting ideologies but an unwavering adherence to the ‘humanity of Christ’ that permeated their lives,” the pope wrote.

Sometimes they: “felt incapable and limited, ‘little women,’ as Teresa of Ávila would say, faced with an undertaking that surpassed them,” he said, "but they drew strength from the love of God and followed their vocations on “a path accessible to all: that of holiness in daily life.”

While the world today demands that: “the dignity and intrinsic worth with which the Creator endowed them be restored to all women, the church also recognizes that it needs their gifts and full involvement", the Pope said.

Is it too much to conclude that by: "restoration of dignity and intrinsic worth", and by: "full involvement", Pope Francis is pointing our synods to the crying need for a renovated Church that opens all of its ministries to qualified women?

This is the most vital and fruit-bearing issue facing all Catholic synods today. Many other serious issues will be resolved once women regain their equal share of servant authority throughout the Church.

In the grace & mercy of Christ; love & blessings to all women & men who sincerely love Jesus; from marty


Dr Marty Rice | 10 March 2022  
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There's certainly a need for "a renovated Church", Dr Marty, but following Pope Francis' reiteration of his papal predecessors' reservation of ordination to the priesthood to males, it seems unlikely that "renovation" includes radical innovation: e.g., women's ordination.


John RD | 13 March 2022  

Dear John RD, your comment certainly reflects centuries of entrainment by a dominating male Catholic priesthood. It would seem to need a miracle to shift our entrenched mindset. Yet, are there not now good reasons to raise the issue, synodally?

1. the manifest failure of large sections of the male Catholic clerical establishment to faithfully and exclusively represent King Jesus Christ and His Apostles. If faithful women had been part of the priesthood, it's unlikely criminal child sexual molestation and lying cover-ups would have been so scandalously unopposed from within the priesthood.

2. the original high status of women reported in the New Testament (contra the ambient cultures of those times). One thinks of Lydia leading a household of believers (aka local church), in Philippi. The eminent deaconess, Phoebe, carrying huge responsibilities for men, women and children in Rome (Romans 16:1). It's impossible to imagine that these saints did not officiate, as needed, at Holy Eucharist in their own home churches. We can add Prisca, Mary of Rome, Tryphaena & Tryphosa, the mother of Rufus, Julia, Olympas, and the sister of Nereus, and many others.

3. the encouraging example of decades of faithful women priests in several reputable Protestant denominations. Their witness has generally been far more impeccable than the generality of our male Catholic priests. Surely God is telling us to open our eyes.

4. the example of Catholic saints, like St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, whose massive responsibilities and incredibly brave witness, amidst persecution by some devious and colluding male clergy, should inspire every Aussie Catholic.

The entrenched prejudice: that such saintly women are intrinsically disqualified from officiating at a Holy Eucharist is, at heart, misplaced and shameful. Not only that, but it deprives many (often the poorest Catholics) of access to the precious Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, that would be available to them if all Catholic women who are qualified and called to be priests were ordained.

The prejudice against this incredibly simple and universally beneficial return to our origins is like a massive mountain (having widely negative social ramifications). As you say, dear John RD, it makes change seem unlikely. Yet, our much beloved Pope Francis has prayed:

"Come, Spirit of love, open our hearts to hear your voice! Come, Holy Spirit of holiness, renew the holy and faithful People of God!"

So, I for one, think it possible to move the mountain of prejudice against Catholic women priests.

I greatly respect your learned reflections; so, how do you say, dear John RD?

Ever in the merciful love of Jesus Christ; blessings from marty


Dr Marty Rice | 14 March 2022  

Is not use of rhetoric such as "centuries of entrainment by a dominating male priesthood" and "mountains of prejudice" itself prejudicial, Dr Marty? After all, this allegedly "dominating male priesthood" has traditionally addressed the Church herself as matriarchal, and held her, with reverence, to be Christ's bride.
In recent times, such is the widespread, media-facilitated assumption of an exclusively pejorative sense of "patriarchy" - and even "father" - that radical feminists have sought to expel these words in reference to scriptural and patristic sources, and in Catholic liturgy and ritual.
Overall, I find your argumentation here largely suppositional and tendentious.
It strikes me, too, as reductive, to say the least, to imply that two millennia of substantive Catholic Church tradition, upheld constantly by Peter's successors, is based merely on patriarchal prejudice.
This said, I can certainly pray with you the prayer to the Holy Spirit you offer.


John RD | 17 March 2022  

Etymologically, to renovate is to make new again. To innovate is to make into something new.


A renovated Church recaptures the focus of the new assembly in Jerusalem run by those who worked with Christ or the assemblies which complied with the no-nonsense tutelage of Paul.


An innovated ‘church’ or ecclesiastical organisation is the Episcopal Church of the United States.


roy chen yee | 14 March 2022  

The principle of freedom of speech exists to protect speech which is unpopular. When something spoken or written appeals to the ears and minds of all, the principle is unnecessary. Similarly, this fond and cuddly notion that the Church is protected from preaching falsehoods by the Holy Spirit exists for truths which are unpalatable. When a truth is palatable, who needs the Holy Spirit? People will gravitate to those truths on the strength of their own reason and emotions.


The guarantee of the Spirit is necessary to affirm truths which are unpalatable and to disaffirm lies which are palatable.


To assert that a woman can be a priest is to assert that for two thousand years the Church was wrong about who could deliver the two most important channels of grace, the channel of absolution and the channel of spiritual nutrition. If that is so, just what has the Spirit been guaranteeing?


roy chen yee | 15 March 2022  

Dear Roy Chen Yee, thanks so much for your strong, clear reply. There's no doubt that absolution and the Holy Eucharist are Christ-appointed means of grace. Very sad, though, how surveys show such a sharp decline in the numbers of Catholic clergy and laity who affirm that.

Their basic lesion is unbelief in Our Lord. They spurn "the most important channel of grace" given us by The Holy Trinity; that is faith in, love of, and obedience to our King, Jesus Christ.

Let's recall, Christ repeatedly said: "You have heard, but I tell you!".

To those who insisted on some long traditions of Israel, Christ said that those rules were only allowed because of their hardness of heart.

Foods that were religiously abhorrent for millennia were permitted by Jesus, since what you eat doesn't make you unclean but what comes out of your heart.

Saint John (3:8) says Jesus instructed traditionalists: "The wind blows where it pleases, you hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. That is how it is with all who are born of The Holy Spirit."

Overall, would it not seem to be a stretch to claim that traditions of men (which advantaged the long established patriarchy), were and are immutably in accord with God's Holy Spirit, and thus not open to synodal deliberations?

Thanks for stimulating these reflections dear Roy.

Ever in the love of Jesus Christ; blessings from marty


Dr Martin James Rice | 16 March 2022  

Responding to Roy Chen Yee - 10th March 2022

Excellent parallels, dear Roy.

In a Church ripped open, so not sea water but the world’s spirit is flooding in, our first priority is to bail out the salt water (wrong spirit) and then seal the hull.

We pray for God to do this, but as you rightly say, Roy, those millions of us on board are expected to be more than mere bystanders!

Anointed, inspired & united by the Holy Spirit, marine waterproofing is a task we can do. Then, let the world be astonished as the Barque of Peter rescues drowning souls by the millions, again!

Ever in the grace & mercy of Jesus Christ; love & blessings from marty


Dr Marty Rice | 12 March 2022  

Incisive, cogent and compelling are epithets which easily attach to Anne Benjamin’s article. Yet, I have been labouring with a 'Yes, but' reaction. Towards further reflection, I offer the following observations.
If Anne's schema is proposed for a renewal of Catholic education, health and welfare agencies – then, I would endorse her analysis. For here, we are dealing with institutions which have incorporated structures, procedures and modes of association taken directly from the secular realm. Accordingly, these institutions are always in need of nurturing their basic ethos, lest they be diluted by a secularised pragmatism.
However, the same accommodation is not easily appropriated to the Church. When cultural change has been achieved, across the centuries, it has happened only after internal sifting processes have been satisfied. There are no short cuts. Confrontations calling for reform, however well intended, usually evoke an ecclesial variation of the Roman phalanx – a lock down where immobility translates into intransigence and worse.
Francis' entire pontificate has been a gardening exercise seeking to rejuvenate those sifting process so that they may recover their capacity to influence ecclesial discernment. The limited returns to scale associated with his several Synods should stand as an alert to onlookers – renovation is still in progress and is a slow and fragile process.


Bill Burke | 15 March 2022  

Is your last piece in favour of women being ordained, Marty? In which case I think you will find the Pope coming down on you like a ton of bricks.


Edward Fido | 15 March 2022  

Responding to Roy Chen Yee - 10th March 2022

Excellent parallels, dear Roy.

In a Church ripped open, so not sea water but the world’s spirit is flooding in, our first priority is to bail out the salt water (wrong spirit) and then seal the hull.

We pray for God to do this, but as you rightly say, Roy, those millions of us on board are expected to be more than mere bystanders!

Anointed, inspired & united by the Holy Spirit, marine waterproofing is a task we can do. Then, let the world be astonished as the Barque of Peter rescues drowning souls by the millions, again!

Ever in the grace & mercy of Jesus Christ; love & blessings from marty


Marty Rice | 17 March 2022  

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