Canadians Told Church Is Not a Walled City

Article excerpt

TORONTO -- A controversial national conference promoting church reform was held May 1-2 despite an attempt to have it banned from a Catholic high school.

School board trustee Doreen Hare had claimed the fourth annual conference of the Coalition of Concerned Canadian Catholics would be openly disloyal to the teachings of the church and should not be allowed on church property. But she failed to persuade other trustees to revoke the permit for the conference, which featured American authors Virginia Hoffman and Father Michael Crosby.

The coalition, with a membership of 1,500, has criticized the church's teachings on celibacy, the ordination of women and its handling of sexual abuse complaints involving clergy. It supports the reforms of Vatican II.

Hoffman told the gathering of about 350 that the church is operating out of a "faulty image" of a walled city where only its "friends" are on the inside. Anyone who questions the church is considered to be a foe and is on the outside, she said.

We've got a dysfunctional church," said Hoffman, a teacher at Loyola University in Chicago and author of The Co-Dependent Church. "It's a permanent parent-child arrangement, but we're not children, we're adults."

A different model for an adult church is needed, said Hoffman. "When Jesus said, |When two or more are gathered in my name, I am there with them,' that's exactly what he meant." She added, however, that many still believe that Jesus is with the two or more people gathered in his name "provided that one is wearing a Roman collar."

Hoffman said some Catholics fear that by disagreeing with the institutional church they risk losing the sacraments and becoming "disconnected' from the church. But, she said, we lost the sacraments a long time ago" and Jesus' life was filled with sacramental moments in which he shared with others.

The church has tried to put the sacraments in cages and boxes and as a controlled substance," she said. "And you can't get at them unless you go through certain parties who have the ability to reach them," Hoffman said. "Nobody owns sacrament. God owns sacrament."

Everyone in the church is controlled by power, said the author, noting that even bishops such as former Seattle Bishop Raymond Hunthausen cannot speak out on issues without having their power "taken away from them."

Hoffman, who also wrote the book Birthing a Living Church, said that what is needed is to "let Jesus" teachings, that blew people out of their complacency in the first century, blow us out of ours and wake us up to where God is present, all the time, all around us."

If that happens, she said, "we will be church in a much healthier, more positive, more real way, and we will be handing on that kind of church to our children."

Crosby, a Capuchin Franciscan priest from Milwaukee, said child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is only "the tip of the iceberg" that is hiding other church abuses of power. The church's patriarchal system, he said, is 'at the heart of the problems that are finding more and more people unable to trust what is going on in this |family.' "

Crosby, author of The Dysfunctional Church, said Catholics need to find ways of being free of 'the ideological justification for patriarchal clericalism " which is at the heart of abuse in the church. …