Lumen Gentium 37 (1964) – Genesis of A Campaign

I had never attempted this before – the designing of a Tea Shirt. Bishop Donal has one of these now – but will he ever wear it? I got this here – but don’t have time to make sure there are not cheaper and better alternatives. Sean O’C

It was finally an April 2019 pastoral letter from the diocese of Down and Connor (Ireland) that convinced me of the need to stop waiting passively for Irish bishops to honour fully the spirit and the letter of Lumen Gentium (1964) – the Vatican II Constitution on the Church.

That Down and Connor pastoral – designed to promote a ‘vocational culture’ centred on the role of the ordained priest – seemed to me to leave the non-ordained with no comparable vocation of their own, and to ignore vital contributions made by lay people to the evolution of the Irish Catholic Church in our own time.

Most incredibly it ignored the fact that Irish Catholic children are safer in the church today because the parents of Catholic children who had been sexually abused by priests in the years before 1994 had forced this issue into the public domain in that year – the event that precipitated everything that has happened since then by way of child safeguarding in the church.

As this action required courage and a concern for justice – and was effective in making Catholic children safer – it was clearly for me a self-sacrificial action of care for the weakest members of the church, and therefore Christlike. It was an exercise of the common priesthood of the people of God, the priesthood of all of the faithful.

So I posted an article to that effect – published on July 4th, 2019 as: A Priesthood of All Believers?

However, it seemed to me that this argument was now forcing me into campaigning action – to bring home finally to the Irish Bishops Conference the historical significance of events that have occurred in my own lifetime – beginning with the failure to implement Article 37 of Lumen Gentium by 1980 at the latest. It had been this failure that had left Catholic parents reliant upon an unreliable agency – the Catholic bishop – to safeguard children.

That agency was necessarily unreliable because of the conflicting interests that Catholic bishops were expected to satisfy – those of abused children and families on the one hand, and of the social prestige of ordained clergy on the other.

So by what argument are lay Irish Catholics still denied representation in their own church, the right to raise their voices on key issues – for example the flight of teenagers from Catholic religious practice even while at school? Previous efforts by myself to force that issue too into exhaustive discussion by all ‘stakeholders’ had also been futile – because media are packed with irrelevant criticism of the church and my own efforts could so easily be ignored as part of all that.

Hence ‘Lumen Gentium 37 (1964)’ – a campaign to make sure that the lessons of the entire period 1964-2019 have been fully absorbed by all Irish Catholic Bishops. It began on Friday July 26th, 2019 with the presentation of this case to Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry.

None of this should be interpreted as showing lack of concern for the crisis of ordained priestly manpower in the Irish church. A reading of all documents relating to this campaign will show that I am convinced that without a new and complete grasp of what Christian priesthood involves for ALL Christians, the meaning and relevance of the ordained priesthood will remain obscure. It is that current obscurity that lies at the root of the indifference shown by Ireland’s younger generations, both to the Sacrament of Eucharist and to the sacred role of presiding over it.

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