"Crises are not to be feared"

In December, Timothy Radcliffe, OP, addressed the clergy of the diocese of Dublin, now reeling from the latest revelations of sexual abuse and duplicity among the hierarchy. "Child abuse is a terrible crisis for the Church," he said. "But I am convinced that it is through crisis that we may grow closer to God. It is a crisis caused by our own failures as a Church, but God can make it a blessing."The Tablet published the text of the talk in two parts. The first section, "Our Burden to Be Shared," appeared in the December 19/26 issue (and is available to subscribers online). In it Radcliffe spoke frankly about the sources of anger directed at the clergy and the Church by scandalized people, and the need for a humbler, "friendship"-based approach to authority and moral teaching.

What we have to say only makes sense in the context of friendship. If we want to speak on questions like abortion, or divorce and remarriage, or the gay issues, then we must be seen to be the friends of these people.

The second half of Radcliffe's talk, "Towards a Humble Church," was published in the January 2 Tablet and is free for all to read online. I found his reflections on how a crisis can bring about renewal especially inspiring:

Crises are not to be feared. It is through repeated crises that God drew closer to his people. Israels worst crisis was the destruction of the Temple and the monarchy, and exile to Babylon Israel lost everything that gave her identity: her worship, her nationhood. Then she discovered God closer to her than ever before. God was present in the law, in their mouths and hearts, wherever they were, however far from Jerusalem. They lost God only to receive him more closely than they could have imagined.Then that difficult cross-grained man, Jesus, turned up, breaking the beloved law, eating on the Sabbath, touching the unclean, hanging out with prostitutes. He seemed to smash all that they loved, the very way that God was present in their lives. But that was only because God wished to be present even more intimately, as one of us, with a human face. And at every Eucharist, we remember how we had to lose him on the Cross, but again only to receive him more closely, not as a man among us but as our very life.

Mollie Wilson O’​Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

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