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C21 Resources A S E R V I C E in this issue Renewal of the Church: the Road Ahead T hose with long memories may recall Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, a staunch defender of the status quo in the days before the Second Vatican Council, whose episcopal coat of arms proclaimed Semper Idem, “always the same.” But an earlier and more famous cardinal, John Henry Newman, had written: “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” And Vatican II itself, after some debate, wrote in its Decree on Ecumenism, “In its pilgrimage on earth, Christ summons the Church to that continual reformation of which it is always in need.” This fourth issue of C21 Resources focuses on the Church of the future in the U.S. and what kind of change, renewal, or reform is needed in order to get from here to there. The articles reprinted here propose different ways the Church might undertake Newman’s challenge without violating Ottaviani’s sense of its changeless truth. When BC undertook two years ago the initiative that came to be called The Church in the 21st Century, it sought to respond as a university to the shocking disclosures about sexual misconduct by priests and the inadequate responses of bishops. What re s o u rces did we have in scripture, tradition, theology, and other intellectual disciplines to help us understand O F B O S T O N A Plea for Dialogue Pope, there is no contradiction between legitimate authority and care f u l consultation. Consultation, listening, and dialogue only enhance true authority, because they issue from a lived trust and they serve to increase trust. If I were to sum up my final plea to you, it would be: “dialogue, dialogue, dialogue!” I do not mean this as a facile or pious slogan, for I am only too aware of its cost and conditions. It is for this reason, I think, that the Pope places dialogue within the context of an entire theological and spiritual vision and practice. In his Letter, the Holy Father advocates a “theology and spirituality of communion,” for they “encourage a fru i tful dialogue between pastors and faithful” (ibid). Indeed, does not the living out of such a spirituality of communion re q u i re dialogue as its v e ry life-breath: the dialogue of prayer with Jesus Christ, the dialogue of mutual building up on the part of the members of Christ? A spirituality of communion and dialogue is as demanding in its asceticism as the spirituality of desert or cloister. Like them, it re q u i res its own s t ru c t u res. The Catholic tradition knows well that spirituality and structure are not opposed. Here, as elsew h e re, it affirms the “both/and” of charism and institution, invisible grace and visible embodiment. Both are essential, though only one is e t e rnal. We can ill aff o rd to be less Catholic than the Pope himself who insists: “The spirituality of communion, by prompting a trust and openness wholly in accord with the dignity and responsibility of every member of the People of God, supplies institutional reality with a soul.” For more than 20 years I have been blessed by working with many of you. I know that many have sought diligently to consult and communicate with your priests and people alike. A Dying Priest’s Appeal to the Bishops Two days before his death in August 2003, Re v. Msgr. Philip F. Murnion, founder of the National Pastoral Life Center, sent the following letter to each bishop in the United States. To My Brother in Christ: In his final public address on October 24, 1996, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin spoke these moving words. “A dying person does not have time for the peripheral or the accidental. He or she is drawn to the essential, the important—yes, the eternal. And what is important, my friends, is that we find that unity with the Lord and within the community of faith for which Jesus prayed so fervently on the night before he died.” Now, in God’s Providence, I too write this reflection as a dying person, with no time for the peripheral or fall 2004 C O L L E G E accidental. In many ways the crisis in the Church and the ensuing polarization...have only grown more acute. Your own credibility and ability to guide God’s people have been severe l y compromised, sometimes because of negligence and lack of wise leadership, sometimes because of factors beyond your direct responsibility. It is time for bold initiatives. I do not presume to know all the dimensions of such undertakings. But I am convinced they must emerge from the deepest discernment of God’s will and the widest consultation of God’s people. In his apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, the Holy stro n g l y u rges practice of “the ancient pastoral wisdom which, without prejudice of their authority, encouraged pastors to listen more widely to the entire People of God.” Thus, in the mind of the Continued on Page 2 Continued on Page 2 BOSTON COLLEGE | C21 RESOURCES | FALL 2004 1

2004 Fall, A Plea for Dialogue

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