I do believe this is one of the more important Catholic-related stories brewing these days, and one that is not getting nearly enough attention. We heard about it first a few weeks ago, when a small group of Canadian priests publicly dissented from Church teaching on some issues of sexual morality, and the bishops of Canada said there needed to be dialogue.
Canada's Roman Catholic bishops have come under fire from a majority of the members of the country's religious communities, comprising brothers, nuns and priests in religious orders, for what they call the bishops' blind obedience to directives issued by the Vatican.
A letter to the bishops from the Canadian Religious Conference, which represents 213 Catholic religious communities across the country, asks the church to consider offering full communion to "all marginalized persons, divorced and remarried Catholics, and to homosexuals."
It also calls on the church to consider the "ordination of married men, women and elders in First Nations communities." (The elders would serve remote areas that lack priests.)
The conference represents 22,000 nuns, brothers and priests in religious orders. The letter claims to represent the views of 60 per cent of them, who responded to a survey by the conference.
For those of you with the time, I would recommend reading it. It is a rather arrogant piece of work in which certain aspects of Canadian church life are praised, others regretted and still others hoped for. Of course, everything that is regretted (rigid liturgical norms, rigid moral strictures that don't take into account the lived experience of people, blah, blah...) is blamed on Rome and bishops.
Reading between the lines, however, one can see other tensions surfacing. Clergy from other countries are mentioned several times, resentfully, with the "hope" that these clergy would be better prepared to deal with their congregations in terms of language and culture. (I understand that there is a diocese or two out west in which quite a few of the priests, if not most of them are either Indian or African).
There are a few allusions to poorly prepared priests and lifeless liturgies.
There are also great concerns expressed about youth.
And more griping about exclusivity and rigidity.
It seems fairly clear that there are, shall we say, tensions between religious and secular priests and the hierarchy in Canada. But what was striking to me about this document was, besides the arrogance that also marks the self-proclaimed prophet, was the nagging question Well, what are you doing about it?
If you're concerned about getting youth more involved...isn't that your job? I mean, this letter supposedly represents the concerns of 22,000 religious men and women. What are they doing? Isn't it their job to , you know, evangelize? Are their religious communities filled with young people? No? And that's the bishops' fault? Concerned about all of these "foreign" priests? Well...where are the Canadian priests you religious communities are forming?
Aside from the boilerplate calls for nuance and the coy calls for rejection of one Magisterium in favor of another (because that's what it amounts to), this letter intrigues me because it functions, unintentionally, as an indictment of the writers and signers themselves. The Church in Canada is lifeless and decrepit? Whose fault is that? Might it be, in part, the 22,000 religious charged with pastoral ministry within it?