The Church of the future

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Sunday, April 21, 2013

THE Catholic Church has lost much of its credibility in the past. Our new Pope Francis himself admitted this when he said Mass last Sunday in Rome.

He said: “Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility”.

There is a need for a shake-up of the Vatican bureaucracy, and a need to clean up the Church from sexually abusive priests. Church surveys in the Philippines show that Filipino Catholic faithful are increasingly becoming less faithful. People don’t like to go to Mass anymore because liturgies are bland and boring. Priests in their sermons keep on coming back on the issue of the RH bill.


One reason of all this is that the faith of the Filipino people hasn’t really lodged deeply in the Filipino psyche. Many have been nominal Catholics since the Spanish period; they are satisfied with what is superficial.

The Church needs a profound conversion and renovation. Clearly, there is a need to go deeper into what faith really is and also what the Catholic Church is supposed to be, the Church of the Poor.

First of all, the true head of the Church is Christ. He is the head of the Universal Church, not of the Catholic Church only. The Risen Lord is the head of the Church.

We must follow Him with joyous calm and unshakable faith along all the unknown roads of history. The Pope is the Bishop of Rome and he must exercise his authority as pope in collegiality with all the other bishops all over the world. If he does that, we may consider him to be infallible, but only Christ is absolutely infallible.

Secondly, the Church is not a corporation but it is a communio of the Spirit, a community of faithful; its discipline doesn’t come from coercion, fear, threat or persecution but from love of Christ, from his mission, his people and his truth.

This community is really alive when it tries to become the Church of the Poor by showing its loyalty and compassion for the poor and the oppressed. Then the faithful have what is called the sensus fidelium. This is not a passive assent to Christian truth but an active wisdom manifest in the faithful praxis of Christian life and witness.

Like in civil society common sense goes beyond the letter of the law so also in the Church the wisdom of the faithful can apply and adjust canon law according to its culture, race and sexual orientation.

If someone is guilty like hell, you don’t have to look for technicalities to declare him innocent. If someone has sinned against the Spirit, he is condemned unless he sincerely regrets his sin and asks the Spirit for forgiveness.

The leadership in the Church must be guided also by this sensus fidelium. The bishops and priests must listen to what is alive among the faithful, how they feel about serving the poor, about issues of married priests and women priests in the Church.

The faithful must follow their conscience before obeying the commandments of the Church. All this will show how the future Church will look like.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 22, 2013.


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