Update on my Reform Talks: an attempt at a summary.

The latest of my Reform Talks took place last evening (Wednesday) at the Stillorgan Park Hotel. On a very bad night about 130 people came, and from my point of view it was a very satisfying evening. After my talk there was, as usual, a very lively discussion.
A friend of mine, who is part of the reform movement in the US, recently asked me the following question: “What do people care about when you talk? What do they want to know more about? Are they angry, sad, hopeful, hungry?”
The people who are attending my talks around the country are largely people who are deeply committed to their faith, but who have serious questions about the Church. Some are still going to church, but many tell me they are finding it difficult to hang on; others have given up on Church, but certainly not on faith in Christ. I don’t detect too much anger. Where it has emerged tends to be about particular situations in local parishes and communities – like the woman who is a Eucharistic Minister, but was instructed by her parish priest not to give communion to her daughter because she is in an irregular relationship; or another person whose daughter is living with her same-sex partner, and she has had to listen to two different priests condemning homosexuality at their homily at Sunday Mass. There is a great deal of sadness. People are sad at what has happened to our Church in our lifetime – the reversal of the reforms of Vatican II, the lack of real leadership, the collapse in church attendance, the sex abuse scandals, and, maybe most of all, the fact that their children and grand-children have mostly lost faith, at least in the Church, but often also in the whole Christian message.
They are hungry for change. Most of all they believe that the structures of authority and governance in the Church are in drastic need of reform. The centralised, doctrinaire style that we have experienced is destructive of the faith. A new form of collegiality needs to be introduced, where peoples’ voices, and especially those of women, can be heard and taken seriously. They are impatient with the slow progress in this area.
There is hope. There is also a new sense of vitality and energy, due to the statements of Pope Francis, and in particular Evangelii Gaudium. But invariably, at each gathering, there are one or two voices who fear that all of this is an illusion, either that Francis talks the talk but will not walk the walk, or alternatively that those in power will stymie his best efforts.
Having said all that, I still think that the amount of invitations I am getting to talk on reform, and the response I am getting, convinces me that the groundswell for change is strong, and that it will be increasingly more difficult for Church authorities to ignore it.
Footnote: One of the loudest applauses of the evening was when my fellow Redemptorist, Sean Duggan, called on the Redemptorist authorities to immediately restore me to full priestly ministry without any conditions, and with an apology for the way in which I have been treated by Church authorities. I thank Sean for his support.