Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Not All Roads Lead to Rome: The Diverse Challenges of a Struggling World Need Local Solutions from a Flexible Church

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Not All Roads Lead to Rome: The Diverse Challenges of a Struggling World Need Local Solutions from a Flexible Church

Article excerpt

AMONG THE THEOLOGIANS OF THE SECOND VATICAN Council, the name of Dutch Dominican priest Edward Schillebeeckx is surely among the most well-known (and least pronounceable). His works on the church and ministry, such as the pithily titled Ministry and the more evocative The Church with a Human Face (both Crossroad), are marked both by their foresight and their pastoral sensitivity.

Though he is now quite elderly, Schillebeeckx's work continues to bear fruit, most recently among his Dutch Dominican brothers, who in the fall published a booklet titled "Church and Ministry," which argues that laypeople should preside at Eucharist if no priest is available. "Whether they are women or men, homo- or heterosexual, married or single, makes no difference. What is important is an infectious attitude of faith. Not surprisingly the U.K. Tablet judged the proposal "a radical recommendation."

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But surprising solutions are not arising only in this country known for liberalism. In October 2002 Bishop Fritz Lobinger of Aliwal North, South Africa, with Austrian theologian Paul Zulehner, proposed a new order of ministry for the priest-poor churches of the developing world. In their vision a council of "Corinthian priests would be ordained for a particular community to see to its sacramental needs and direct its ministry. These groups, made up of proven members of the community, would be supervised by "Pauline" priests, traditional celibates reporting to the bishop.

Though they offer different approaches to the same problem, what makes these ideas great is that they are local solutions created by people on the ground. Both might bring success, each in its own situation.

The problem, however, is that we Catholics are often beset by the attitude that all 1.1 billion of us have to be doing the same thing everywhere. But with so many cultures and countless different pastoral challenges--some of which have nothing to do with ordination--Catholicism fairly demands a variety of approaches to pressing problems. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the needs of God's people.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa is one case in point. The massive number of infections, and the efficacy of condoms as part of the strategy to prevent them, is why leaders such as Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa have argued for a change in the church's policy on condoms in relation to HIV. …

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