Dear Editor, I was delighted to see the extensive coverage given by The Irish Catholic last week to the concerns of orthodox young Catholics who are worried that the up-coming national synod will be the occasion for watering down doctrine. I too share their worries, especially looking at what is happening in Germany and their ‘Synodal Way’.
One issue sure to be fought over in the Irish Catholic synod is the ordination of women to Holy Orders. I was disappointed and concerned, therefore, to read Dr Jessie Rogers say in response to the question of women’s ordination, “I’m sure that at some stage it will be the right time to open up that all again”. Is Dr Rogers suggesting that the Church’s doctrine on Holy Orders is not to be fully assented to as settled and definitive Catholic doctrine? This would be particularly odd, darkly ironic in fact, coming from someone who has just been made Dean of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, which houses the national seminary.
Perhaps I’m misinterpreting Dr Rogers’ brief answer, and, if so, I’ll happily accept correction. Perhaps she is saying only that there is potential for lay Catholic women, as lay members of the Church, to exercise appropriate and orthodox leadership in the Church. If so, then I’m in complete agreement with her, adding only that lay Catholic men also should be challenged and supported in developing and exercising their appropriate and orthodox leadership roles! Let’s hope the national synod promotes this along with fully and firmly promoting the Catholic sacraments and faith.
Dr John Murray
Lecturer in Theology, Dublin City University, Dublin
Church must maintain rural Catholic communities
Dear Editor, It was sad to see in The Irish Catholic [IC 08/04/2021] Bishop Fintan Monahan of Killaloe saying that there is a very real possibility that many small, rural churches face closure due to the pandemic and depopulation.
He rightly says that the communities in these rural areas are tight knit and the community spirit there is unparalleled – particularly when compared to urban areas. Although I understand there are financial realities that must be addressed and an aging demographic of priests, there must be something we can do to assist the Faithful living the rural way of life. People in these small towns and villages have a strong faith and they will be left behind. Bishop Fintan says that banks, shops, post offices etc.. are all closing down in these communities, even schools and GAA clubs are becoming unsustainable, so in many ways I understand that as many amenities leave so too will people, but if I know anything of the missionary spirit of Irish people the churches should stand strong and open despite the challenges.
Perhaps that is a romantic idea, but if a missionary priest in the middle of nowhere in Zimbabwe is able to build a church and a congregation, surely in Ireland we can maintain churches that are already built?
Celbridge, Co. Kildare
‘They are not conservative they are faithful’
Dear Editor, Both Michael Kelly and Fr Eamonn Bourke make wise observations about the synod in the Irish Church [IC 08/04/2021].
The terms ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ do not belong in any consideration of our Faith. St Bernadette Soubirous was asked, when Prussia was set to invade France in 1870, if she was afraid? Her reply was, “I only fear bad Catholics”.
There are two types of Catholic – faithful and bad. I did not say ‘good’ Catholics, for most faithful Catholics fall often in sin and need God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance.
Bad Catholics are found in the highest places in the Church and society. These are the kind who attempt to blur the clear divisions God has set between light and darkness (II Corinthians 6:14).
The Church is given the mission of preaching “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Our baptism calls us to be faithful to Christ and to follow Him even though discipleship is demanding and difficult.
If there is to be a synod, it must not seek to impress the world or compromise with it. The message of the Cross is illogical to them that are perishing. We must nevertheless preach Christ crucified (I Corinthians 1:18-23). God the Holy Spirit will do the rest.
People will repent and be converted or they will choose to reject the message. We don’t change the message but we insist upon it – welcome or unwelcome (II Timothy 4:2). It is not our concern what the world wants or expects.
As Fr Bourke points out, there are a growing number of young people being drawn to the truth of the Catholic Faith. As Michael Kelly says, they are not to be patronised. They are to be cherished and encouraged. They are not ‘conservative’. They are faithful.
Fr Patrick McCafferty,
Belfast, Co. Antrim
Understanding God’s will after 20th Century horrors
Dear Editor, I would like to preface my letter by explaining that I have a licence to teach theology, specifically spirituality, in a Catholic seminary. In my years of study one tract that stood out was Conformity to the Will of God by Alphonsus de Liguori. This sublime booklet summarises traditional teaching that we reach holiness by conforming to God’s will in everything that happens to us.
The theory is splendid, but I was left with a nagging question: does it really still speak to us today after the horrors of the 20th Century, such as Auschwitz, the Gulag archipelago, the killing fields of Cambodia? Can such ordeals really represent the unfolding of the will of God for the victims?
I was surprised and delighted to get my answer in a book that was recently given to me: He Leadeth Me by Fr Walter Ciszek SJ. The author writes out of a lived experience of 15 years in one of the toughest Gulags in Siberia, following five years in the notorious Lubianka prison in Moscow (during World War II). He not only survived but thrived through his practice of aligning his will with the unfolding will of God. I can highly recommend carefully reading, even studying, both these works for a masterclass in authentic Christian spirituality.
Castleknock, Dublin 15
Dropping terms like ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’
Dear Editor, In your editorial [IC 8/04/2021] you described the reaction of a priest friend when you relayed to him comments made by young Catholics regarding the coming synod.
His immediate response to their concerns, chills me: “But they’re all conservative,” he said.
Until we drop the labelling ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ and think and talk about ‘Spirit-led’ people instead, it doesn’t bode well. The first reading from the second Sunday of Easter says: “The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul.”
Perhaps we should have a national, Catholic picnic first!