Faith and community


Sir, – I would like to supplement Angela Hanley’s account of her experience of Catholic faith within small communities (“Laity are revolutionising faith practice in the community”, Rite & Reason, March 6th). As a Catholic and a priest, I am also fortunate to have experience of living, praying communities. In my experience these are, for the most part, made up of ordinary men and women for whom the “Roman imperial model of church”, decried by your columnist , is abstruse jargon that does not connect with their experience.

I’m not sure if any of the Catholics I serve would relate to the caricature of Pope John Paul II as a man who “systematically targeted” leaders of Christian communities. That’s not because they are unacquainted with the vicissitudes of liberation theology, which John Paul and his magisterium sought to correct and refine. Rather, it’s because most ordinary Catholics have a proper sense that the late pope was a man of vision and courage, who systematically inspired rather than systematically targeted.

Angela Hanley is right to esteem Pope Paul VI’s Evangelii Nuntiandi. In that document, he wrote: “ . . . not without sorrow we can hear people – whom we wish to believe are well-intentioned but who are certainly misguided in their attitude – continually claiming to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church”.

It is natural to seek an unfettered expression of faith, aside from the limitations and brokenness of institutions, but it is a form of retreat rather than a manifestation of prophetic courage. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.