OVER the last three weeks, we have endeavoured to bring to your attention areas of the Church and Catholic life that have too often in the past been swept under the carpet as at best problematic, and at worst positively unedifying. There has been no suggestion that the three issues covered in our series "Back row of the pews" homosexuality, divorce and alcoholism are in any way cquatable, or even similar except in that each case those involved are by and large shunned by their parish community.
Jesus' example, in this as in other matters, should be our guiding light. He concentrated His ministry not on those who packed the front row of the pews, but on those who stood at the back of the Temple, all too aware of their sinfulness and fearful of coming forward to hear His words lest the Pharisees rejected them. It was for these Mary Magdalens that Jesus showed His all-inspiring love.
The pain and the hurt and the exclusion felt by many homosexuals and separated and divorced Catholics at their treatment by Christ's Church have been catalogued in the past two weeks. Accompanying each personal testimony we have tried to show how the Church itself is developing its attitudes, ridding itself of past prejudices, moving on to a greater compassion and love that not only, in that well worn phase, rejects the sin and not the sinner, but also examines whether personal circumstances can be usefully or constructively tackled in the light of current teaching.
This week, on the adjoining page, we hear of alcoholism and its ravages in our priesthood and our families. The Church, through the expertise of the Servants of the Paraclete order at Our Lady of Victories in Stroud, is attempting to meet this issue head on. But many congregations arc being kept in the dark when their parish priest disappears to Stroud for several weeks or even months with no explanation. Surely if we are to confront these dilemmas as a Catholic community at parish, diocesan and national level, there must be more openess, more willingness to treat the laity as adults able to face up to alcoholism both in their own lives and in that of their pastor. There might also be an examination of how at least part of the rehabilitation of the alcoholic priest might be undertaken near his parish perhaps in a local NHS centre so that the prayers and support of his congregation might be accompanied by practical measures.
These are difficult and pastorally sensitive problems for the modern Church to face up to. Jesus' words should be our guidelines, and His example our model.