Don’t come to me with a problem unless you have a possible solution.
There are many disappointed and frustrated souls in our church today. Some
use online discussion boards to vent their anger. Some gripe to their priests
and bishops. Some write blogs and columns (!). But complaining without
seeking effective tools and solutions is fruitless.
He identified the problem in these simple terms. “The church is tired, in the Europe of well-being and in America. Our culture has become old, our churches and our religious houses are big and empty, the bureaucratic apparatus of the church grows, our rites and our dress are pompous.”
Many hearts soared to hear this critique coming from a high-ranking cardinal. But, identifying and courageously proclaiming the problem is only the first step. Cardinal Martini also proposed solutions, solutions that require a concerted effort from all who desire a renewed and revitalized church.
He named three imperative tools. The first is conversion: “the church must recognize its errors and follow a radical path of change, beginning with the pope and the bishops.” The sexual abuse scandal has shown that the sins of the church can no longer be swept under Vatican carpets and insipid apologies do not connote a radical path of change.
Cardinal Martini was a renowned Scripture scholar who balanced study with prayer. He spent many hours sharing and promoting lectio divina with young people in Milan. He knew that faith needed to be grounded in both the mind and the heart. His second tool, therefore, was the Word of God.
“Only those who perceive this Word in their heart can
be part of those who will help achieve renewal of the church, and who will
know how to respond to personal questions with the right choice. The Word
of God is simple, and seeks out as its companion a heart that listens.
. . . Neither the clergy nor ecclesiastical law can substitute for the
inner life of the human person.”
How often do we complain about boring homilies or uninspiring liturgies?
How often do we complain about our ordained ministers, blaming them for
our own lack of faith? How often do we complain that laywomen and men are
not given a greater voice in our church? The Word of God does not speak
to deacons, priests and bishops alone. The Sunday homily is never meant
to be our sole source of spiritual nourishment for the week.
When we pray with the Word of God daily, we allow God to
speak to each of us in our own place and time. We open our minds and hearts
wisdom and are formed into mature women and men of faith. We become accountable
for our own spiritual journey, and better equipped to work actively to
help rebuild and renew our church.
Cardinal Martini’s third tool is grounded in the core of our Catholic
identity, the sacraments. For Martini, the sacraments “are not an
instrument of discipline, but a help for people in their journey and in
the weaknesses of their life.” If, as we believe, the sacraments
are tools for healing and food for our journey, how can we deny them to
those who come to the altar in good faith? As an example, Martini challenges
the church to revisit the rules and regulations surrounding second marriages.
After all, when we turn a mother or father away we often turn away an entire
family, losing a generation of Catholics in the process.
In the wake of Cardinal Martini’s death, many pondered if we had
lost the last great liberal cardinal. Who are the people that can bring
change to the church now? Martini calls us to look beyond the institutional
structure. Using Rev. Karl Rahner’s image of embers lying under the
ash, he asks, “How can we liberate the embers from the ash, to reinvigorate
the fires of love? For the first thing, we have to seek out these embers.”
He forwarded an exciting proposal for the pope and bishops
out 12 people outside the lines for administrative positions, people who
are close to the poorest, who are surrounded by young people, and who try
new things. We need to be with people who burn in such a way that the Spirit
can spread itself everywhere.”
We need courageous voices to identify the deadening ash that suffocates new life in our church. But, loud voices that offer no solution ring hollow. Voices backed with the spiritual tools and hard work of ongoing, inner conversion give us hope. Grazie mille, Cardinal Martini!
Moyer is a Catholic blogger (http://catholicdialogue.com) who lives with her husband David in Neepawa, MB. She is president of the International Organization of Marianist Lay Communities, a canonically recognized, private association of the faithful whose charism promotes a Marian model of church that is inclusive, egalitarian, participatory and concerned with social justice.