Theologian says church afflicted by fourfold crisis


THE theologian Father Donal Dorr has told the Catholic lay organisation, Pobal, that the sources for Christian renewal in Ireland will not all be channelled through the crisis ridden institutional church.

He characterised that crisis as fourfold:

. as a crisis of authority around the moral and political issue of the way power had been exercised;

. as a crisis of sexuality and gender, with people who were seeking a theology of human relationships more likely to look outside the church than within it;

. as a crisis of spirituality, with people associating the church less with spirituality than with "a struggle for power, for the instruments of culture and the means to control how people think";

. and as a crisis of redemption, with people unsure about how to respond to evil in the world.

"In some ways even the sacraments and Scripture and prayer services are second level", he told about 300 Pobal members, two thirds of them women, at their annual conference at Milltown Park, Dublin.

He then suggested a number of "first level primal presences or roots of the Spirit" in Ireland which could provide inspiration for Christian renewal. These included people's and groups of people's "unconscious"; he cited the number of cases where dreams were given as sources of inspiration in the Bible.

Another source of inspiration was what he called "the unlikely people" - the poor, old and marginalised, who could teach worldly intellectuals and who were so central to the church if only the latter would recognise and listen to them.

He also cited those people who were inspired by the "wellsprings of culture". His example here was the "incredible exuberance" of the characters in Brian Friel's play Dancing at Lughnasa.

Father Dorr also talked about going back to the inspiration of Christ, not as the son of God but as "the son of man, the human one". He noted that Jesus lived in "a community of people where there was gender equality, so the Scripture scholars are discovering now, and he did challenge the patriarchal structures of his time."

He gave several examples of the kind of "inner power" Jesus had in contemporary leaders. Thus Nelson Mandela became "a source of spiritual energy and inspiration" which allowed him to resist his warders in the 30 years of "living hell" on Robben Island.

Later, he harnessed that power in the service of reconciliation, putting on "a jersey of the Springboks representing all that was oppressive in the white African regime's rule".

He also cited the example of the Burmese opposition leader, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, who led a protest march in defiance of a military officer's threat to open fire.