The opaque incoherence of a church in crisis
The forces of ecumenical dialogue, of crisis management and of sustained and often strident debate in the civic, canonical and theological spheres have a momentum that is impinging asymmetrically on both the centre and the circumference of the church from outside and inside.
So are we in a process of ongoing conversion or irreconcilable division, a journey towards greater collegiality or enduring primatialism in an increasingly fragmented church? Some might argue, whither collegiality, whither the church.
Teilhard de Chardin says it elegantly: “Some day after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity [we] shall harness . . . the energies of love. And then for the second time in the history of the world we shall have discovered fire.”
Wind and waves are pounding us. Tides are swollen and angry. Once, a long time ago, a God-man invited us to push out into the deep, where there are no safe bunkers, just the adventure of seeing what faith in God and love can accomplish in a world that needs healing from all the hurts that life, nature and human beings inflict, from the enigma of life and the enigma of death. He placed his trust in frail humanity, in Peter, a far from outstanding man who eventually found his strength in facing his many weaknesses, not on his own but with Christ’s help.
In this moment those who ardently desire a truly collegial church have no option but to look to Peter’s successor to push out into the deep, to open the closed doors and let the future in. “Quo vadis?” Christ is said to have once asked Peter. The answer changed the course of history. The same question is being asked again.
The above is an edited extract from Quo Vadis? Collegiality in the Code of Canon Law by Mary McAleese. It is published by Columba, €19.99. It will be launched in Dublin next Saturday by retired chief justice Ronan Keane