>>> Moving towards Vatican III 

Personal Note Theology Today Pastoral Implications Forty Years in the Desert Digesting Vatican II Preparing for Vatican III Eucharistic Starvation


"Can the church become more people friendly?"

Ignatius Desmond Sullivan (Oxford, England)


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Eucharistic Starvation

For many, many years missionaries in the third world have striven to establish a native clergy to take over pastoral care of the young churches, hoping to bring their church and people to maturity. Thousands of new converts still flock to the Catholic Church and undergo a three year catechumenate. Yet in vast areas across Africa, Asia and America, they are starved of access to the Eucharist and the sacrifice of the Mass that they have learnt is the life of the Church.

This grave situation has been known to Rome for over a century!

Yet the central authority has insisted on a pattern and system of access to the priest based on a particular model of priesthood. This is simply a misunderstanding of the needs of the young churches, of the priority of pastoral care and of the essential nature of priesthood.

When we look at this disastrous Eucharistic famine in the young churches in these missionary countries, under the strict control of the Papacy we see an acute case of "authority bemused by its own Roman arrogance". Unwittingly it has created a kind of "Ecclesial Colonialism".

By every right in scripture, in tradition and in geography, these young churches, growing as they are to maturity, look to the decrees of Vatican II for authentic development in spiritual maturity as churches. Rome stops this growth. Significant growth in numbers has been at the expense of the Mass!

The Catholic Church under the office of Peter has two or three kinds of priesthood. In the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome, the local conference of bishops (the Patriarchal Synod) decides pastoral priorities according to the cultural and spiritual needs of their own people. The office of Peter does not mandate the imposition of a Roman style of priesthood over the rest of the church. In actual fact Pope Paul VI created a different formula: he gave thousands of "no-fault" dispensations to thousands of priests and thus created a class all over the world of "lay priests"! By a stroke of the pen permission could be given to these priests to say Mass as lay priests. There are thousands of married men who would tomorrow become lay priests within their own village, community or group. Under the jurisdiction of a cadre of clerical priests to do the business of church such a body of lay priests could still be under the Vatican's control. But the Mass could still be alive in each community having its own priest, from its own community.

Just as they have "bare-foot doctors" in China, and there were peasant priests in the middle ages in medieval agricultural Europe so a renewed priesthood could make even the remotest churches of today into newly alive true Catholic Churches. Authentic priests today do not need soft garments and flowing robes, nor the big car, the grand house and the posh education. What wins hearts is a wholeness, holiness, an integrity that is devoted to bringing Christ by celebrating the Eucharist among his own people. One sadness of Vatican II was the over-emphasis of the role of the missionary on economic development.

Let the present Pope give such authority back to the local church (the Episcopal conferences) as is enjoyed by the mature older churches of the East (see Vatican II the decree on the East Churches para 9 and Ad Gentes para 20), and let the next synod of bishops freely co-ordinate and implement this devolution of authority ready for the Third Vatican Council so that it could become a real Council of missionary Renewal.