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An extraordinary man now sits in Chair of Peter

There is a crisis in the Catholic Church, not a crisis of faith, but crises of leadership, of moral authority, a crisis in institutional management, good governance and administration.

Firstly, it is not a crisis of faith. Truly faithful Catholics are knowledgeable in their faith and the gospel. They live and practice, as best they can, discipleship as taught by Jesus of Nazareth.

They follow their consciences faithfully, work for social justice and help the poor. Their faith is anchored in the person of Jesus Christ, not only in the institution or vessel that carries the message.

If the Barque of Peter appears to be sinking, fear not, do not be afraid, for Jesus will come, walking on the water to hold each one of us. 

For many, their faith is a profound personal relationship with Jesus as their friend, guide and support through a life strengthened by their commitment to the kingdom of justice and the Eucharist.

True Christians, who meditate on his words, deeds, personality and character learn from him and follow his example and inspire others. They look to Jesus of Nazareth as a personal force in their lives with due respect, their faith and inspiration come from him, not necessarily from the pope, the Magisterium or the Curia.

It would be great if the institutional Church could inspire personal faith in Jesus as the New Evangelism movement tries to promote.

But alas, it falls short due to scandals, bishops covering up child abuse and even silent and secretive cardinals. So a Church management and leadership crises is not a spiritual crises for Catholics with faith in Jesus, only for those whose faith is rooted in Church authority and dogma alone.

Bishops, archbishops and cardinals are the top managers of the institutional Church. They rarely know what is going on in the lives of the poor. The poverty, confusion, HIV-AIDS pandemic, the isolation of the laity and women in the Church decision-making is generally glossed over.

The community of the faithful, or the gathering of believers, is the Church, as Vatican II declared, and makes the Church a Faith Community guided by the bishops united in collegiality with the participation of the laity.

Sadly, those Vatican Council II decrees have fallen by the wayside and a centralised command structure has taken hold once again. 

The decrees of Vatican II must be revived and put into vigorous practice to enliven and reform the Church.

The concentration of Church power among the Vatican elite results in the same power struggles that the apostles experienced. Jesus scolded them and taught them to learn from his example, as he knelt down and washed their feet as would a slave.

He welcomed everybody, especially the poor and the outcast, the abused and women and children, the sick and the nobodies of his day. 

He said they were his brothers and sisters, children of God, the most important members of his kingdom of love and friendship.

But today, there is a shocking failure among some Church leaders to help and protect abused women and children.

The inaction on the part of Church leaders to prevent further abuse has damaged the credibility of the institutional leadership of the Church.

The cardinals in the conclave, guided by the spirit of truth, have chosen a leader who is independently minded and strong enough to resist and dissolve the elite groups that rule within the Vatican.

We have hope that Pope Francis will be able to reform the Curia and restore collegiality in a way that is inclusive of the laity.

He needs to be empowered by the spirit, steeped in scriptural faith and social justice and use his wide pastoral and administrative experience, together with compassion, love and understanding for the poorest of the poor.

In other words, be Christ-like; a tall order, even for the Holy Spirit.


l Father Shay Cullen