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Faith Exchange: Advice for a church in transition (REUTERS)
Faith Exchange: Advice for a church in transition (REUTERS)


One Pope. Five experts. Our faith panel picks a pontiff Add to ...

Peter Stockland: But Lorna, Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, who I know you know as a loving and humble man, is part of that hierarchy. Neither he nor the hierarchy constitutes some faceless assemblage. It’s human beings living out their call to feed Christ’s sheep.

Paul Hansen: Given the present structures, grassroots change is not possible. We have to return to the vision and the life example of Jesus of Nazareth and, in a very real sense, try to start anew, otherwise we will very quickly become a museum piece in this northern hemisphere of our world. That is why those 30 million who left the institution in the U.S. still call themselves Catholic but are finding ways to live that conviction outside the institutional structures in ways that reflect their lives and their sense of the workings of the Holy Spirit.

Cheridan Sanders: The problem with that is that Christ calls us to be a community. It’s impossible to be a Christian and not be a part of the Church. We are not called to set ourselves apart; we are called to struggle through this together.

Guy Nicholson: One of Pope Benedict’s most remarked upon moves was to register a Twitter account – symbolically significant and essentially free. Are there other examples of “low-hanging fruit” the Church could pluck?

Chris Stedman: Certainly, the Roman Catholic Church should be engaging with the world in a variety of ways, including Twitter. But I think that the question about grassroots renewal gets at where engagement is most transformative: in the immediate, the intimate, the interpersonal. In order to overcome some of the ways in which the Church is perceived by some as being out of touch, and as standing on the side of injustice rather than justice, there will need to be more dialogue and co-operation on the community level.

When it comes to my interactions with Catholicism, I’m personally much more interested in the relational than I am in the institutional. I have been significantly influenced by my relationships with members of the Catholic faith who have committed their lives toward directly serving humanity, and their grassroots activism has challenged my own thinking on Catholicism.

Lorna Dueck: The way Pope Benedict used Twitter to send pithy missives about what was essential was brilliant. The powers shouldn’t have scrubbed his last tweet, “May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of your lives.” Tradition held, and like the papal ring, the account was smashed – too bad.

Other low-hanging fruit: Easier access to marriage. Easier access to divorce recovery.

Peter Stockland: Did Christ actually teach “easier access to divorce recovery”? With respect, I don’t think Scripture supports easy access to divorce or recovery from it.

Lorna Dueck: This is such a wounded ground, Peter; it is “low-hanging fruit” for the grace of Christ. I think we saw it first in Jesus where he spoke to the woman caught in adultery, or the woman at the well who had had several husbands.

Peter Stockland: Who would want a church that invests itself in the lowest-hanging fruit? Isn’t the whole message of the Gospel doing the hard thing when it’s the right thing, that is when it is Christ happening to me?

Guy Nicholson: One final question: Who do you think will be the next pope?

Lorna Dueck: It’s very exciting to watch this, and foolish of me to speculate; there’s a verse in the Bible that frustrated prophets have vented: “Who knows?” My heart was warmed by the wonderful piece the CBC did on Cardinal Ouellet’s family and roots in Quebec, and how his understandings of Quebec blended into his approach to the world; I hope Cardinal Ouellet gets the big job. I suspect, though, that the Archbiship of Milan, Angelo Scola, is the front-runner. At 71, he’s lively with a pastoral and missionary touch that has experienced the world as his parish.

Peter Stockland: I totally agree, Lorna. Cardinal Scola seems the front-runner. But, ultimately, only the Holy Spirit knows and, right now, isn’t saying.

Paul Hansen: I hope for the 55-year-old from Manila.

Cheridan Sanders: Yes, the wildcard candidate is Cardinal Tagle of Manila; he’s a man who exudes love for Christ and the Church. But if I were a betting woman, it’s Cardinal Ouellet.

Chris Stedman: Here, I’ll defer to the Catholics in the conversation. But I, and surely many other non-Catholics, will be watching with interest and optimism.

Guy Nicholson: Best and thanks to you all.

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