Fr McVerry questions direction of church

Sat, Nov 10, 2012, 00:00

How can today’s young people be invited “to commit themselves to a male-dominated, authoritarian institution which suppresses dissent and attempts to control what its members may even discuss?” social justice campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has asked.

The founder of the Peter McVerry Trust for homeless people was speaking in Dublin last night at the first annual general meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP). The meeting continues today.

He said there were “many priests and religious . . . who experience only condemnation, exclusion and marginalisation by the very church which was mandated by its founder to reach out to all in compassion, love, and tolerance”.

The church established by Jesus “was to be a community of brothers and sisters, free of all domination”, he said. Jesus warned against “replicating the relationships of power that existed in the wider society”.

“Whatever little theology I have, I learnt from homeless people,” he said. Listening to them had “changed my understanding of who God is and what God wants”.

Fear

Fr McVerry said the wealth, power and status of the church, and its “fear of losing them”, may have filtered “understanding of the message of Jesus”. Such fear was seen recently in the church authorities’ response to child sexual abuse.

He recalled that “for the religious authorities at the time of Jesus, God was a God of the law” and that “the church, too, has often proclaimed a God of the law”. It meant “anyone, like Jesus, dissident priests, organisations like the ACP who challenge this understanding of God, is seen therefore as a threat . . . to be got rid of”.

“Jesus . . . was just ‘the carpenter’s son,’ one of the laity no less” who “was moved by the suffering of his people. And Jesus proclaimed a different God, a God of compassion”.

He wondered whether this was why today the message of the church was seen by so many as irrelevant to their lives.