I wrote the excerpt below in 2004. I was very optimistic then. Has the Church learnt anything since I published these words of hope?  The recent revised norms seem to suggest not.  Women who desire nothing more than to follow the calling of the Holy Spirit of God, God’s Shekhinah (a feminine characteristic, ironically) are portrayed as sinners who deserve nothing less than excommunication, along with any Catholics who support them.  Is it time to give up?

The Journey Forward for our Church

…  According to the Jesuit poet G.M. Hopkins, the grandeur of God flames out in the world and in nature.  Hopkins believed that despite our destructive ways humankind cannot destroy the presence of God’s grace in nature, renewed by the Holy Spirit each day at dawn. In a similar vein, I believe that the sins of our leaders cannot destroy the power of God’s grace being experienced today in the faith and hope of our Catholic community.

This is a time for renewal, a new dawn for our Church.  The momentum for change is building at the grass-roots level, the people of God.  All the people need a voice; all the people deserve to be heard.  And the journey forward will not be easy. 

…But what about God’s grace? Can’t a priest be forgiven and receive the grace of God to overcome his compulsion to abuse children? As Elizabeth Dreyer eloquently expresses in Manifestations of Grace, grace has the power to transform, to bring life out of death, hope out of despair.  I firmly believe in God’s grace and that I am alive only through the power of God’s grace. God’s grace is not in question. The issue, however, is not God’s grace, but the power of the human person to remain open and respond to that grace.

. . . I do believe, as Jesus himself modeled, that the greatest challenge for any Christian is to turn evil into good.

Where is evil to be found in our church? In the crimes and careers of abusive priests and religious; in the coverups, legal manipulations and obfuscations of bishops, cardinals and Congregations; in the rejection of victims of abuse, and in the attacks on individual Catholics who are committed to justice, equality and fidelity to God’s grace. 

I don’t believe that giving up on the church is the right answer.  The church has nurtured and nourished my faith and the faith of millions, often despite its official doctrines and decrees. Today the church continues to nourish and nurture my faith but not through the liturgy, certainly not through any parish preaching, but through the courage of Catholic activists and writers, women and men, laity, priests,  and religious.  Contrary to Vatican opinion, these women and men do not risk their eternal souls, because fidelity to God’s Holy Spirit in the pursuit of  truth and justice can never, logically, be a sin. It may be an offense against Vatican sensibilities and official doctrines and norms, but how can it be an offense against God?  It would be a profound tragedy if these courageous individuals give up on the church, even if the official church is so ready to give up on them.

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