Page 5, 25th December 1964

25th December 1964
Page 5
Page 5, 25th December 1964 — Relations between bishops and people

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People: I. Ian Linden
Locations: London


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Relations between bishops and people

Sim-1n the perfect hierarchical structure of the Church we have a body pre-adapted to function, continually to bear Christ to the world. The life of our hierarchy is to lead and teach us ; the lay apostolate is not a substitute for this apostolate ; it is its extension.

We run the risk of a strange "lop-sided" renewal if we do not see this renewal touching the entire Church in England, priests and lay people. Out of respect for our bishops we lose the fruits of an open, positive criticism in a spirit of truth and charity. We tend to apply coats of whitewash to past failures instead of learning from them without fear.

In practice, this means that our Hierarchy does receive criticism, backstage, childish and unproductive instead of a healthy open treatment to which the least of the•people of God is entitled.

It is utterly fallacious to think that the Church will split apart at the seams if we discuss the faults of authority openly with a firm conviction that the understanding of defects is a way to perfection.

Why are we always so frightened to admit we are wrong?—we have the Holy Spirit. Why must charity mean glossing over mistakes?— our bishops represent us, the mistakes are ours as well.

I want to enumerate what I have never seen publicly voiced yet seems to be widely thought. The five points that follow can be vital to a proper renewal of the Church when understood in the loving relationship of Christians in the Body of Christ.

I. The pastoral solicitude of our bishops had become claustrophobic. reactionary to development and change (what person in authority, a mother or father has not known this?). We could have missed the flood of new life, liturgical, ecumenical, catechetical, beginning to flow on the Continent.

2. The treatment of the laity, pastoral letters, canon law restrictions, a rather patriarchal approach in general, had tended to stultify a' widespread spiritual growth in parishes and accentuate a childish minimalism.

3. Extemalia had begun to assume an obsessive importance:—the number of converts and a zealous. brick and mortar building without the true spiritual building making much impression on the life of the parish.

4. A reticence to lead. How often does one hear! ."If you can convert the bishop it will be fine—otherwise STOP." The lack of communication between bishop and parish has left many lay and religious crying in the wilderness.

5. A reticence to teach so that the teaching office had become the weapon of a wrong Sort of conservatism, killing a lot of initiative at root, making "charismatic" the equivalent of "crank" and leaving 95 per

cent of the population thinking the Church a sanctuary for neurotics and old women.

We can learn from this. Our bishops in their love for their flocks need not be so anxious in the future. The weight of the Church is shared and not on their shoulders alone. Their desire to conserve must take fully into account the rapid changes of society, the love of the separated brethren and a growth not only in numbers. Development and progress is the necessary environment of conservatism.

London, W.I.

Ian Linden.

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