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The Future of Our Church

Fr. Robert J. Carr

We have lived forty years since Vatican II. Catholics in some sense suffered through a time of confusion and a time of exploration as we walked through the desert of the latter half of the Twentieth Century. Now, in the aftermath of the priest abuse crisis, the fog clears and we are starting to see our way as Church.

Many have declared Vatican II as calling for the change in our discipline. Women, they say, should be ordained now. Priests should marry and the Church should be more rooted in the world around us. It is becoming clear that those ideas are part of the desert experience that we need to leave behind. Yet, what is ahead of us? The model of the Church for the Third Millenium. That model is now easier to see.

Pope John XXIII called for us to get back to the roots of Christianity in Vatican II. If we want to see our future we can see those roots in the early days of the Church especially the Gospels. If we want to cite the model of the Church for the future then look no further than the story of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. (John 4:4-42)

Remember the story, Jesus speaking to the woman reveals that he knows more about her than she knows about herself. He so changes her heart and her life that she excitedly goes out into the village and tells all about this man she met named Jesus. She leads the villagers back to him and they find out for themselves what changed this scorned woman. This is our future.

The role of priest is to help the laity go out into the world and preach the gospel. The role of laity is to lead the world back to Christ. Thus has it always been, thus will it always be. Therefore, the future of our Church is to become more and more like the post-Jesus Samaritan woman. We need to minister to each other and minister to the world in such a way that we recognize just how much our life is changed because we met and know Jesus.

The Church in the United States is just now getting the message that Catholics in other parts of the world have understood for many years. Indeed, here in Boston when newspapers cite theologians calling for Vatican II to be put in place, I explain that it is alive and well below the US/Mexican Border. The people of good faith in the Central and South American church have long known how to live Vatican II. They are beginning to teach us here.

As one who ministers more in Spanish than I do in English, I have found the dichotomy between Catholicism in the United States and in the other parts of the Americas fascinating. As is common to the US culture, structure is key. Yet, south of our border, community is the defining point. Both are important in our Church but too much of one or the other puts the Church out of balance. Presently, there is such a focus on structure that Catholic Universities define Vatican II strictly in terms of a change in that structure. Yet, the sons and daughters of Spanish and Portuguese Catholicism find that a community rooted in a deep relationship with Christ is what defines our faith. Our solution is when we have the proper balance of South and North American Catholicism. Our Church is meaningless if we are not first Christ centered.

No story reveals a more Christ centered experience in the bible than that of the Samaritan woman. She goes from being slave to the sins of the flesh to the liberation of the Kingdom of God. Our vocation is to not only to experience the same thing in our lives but to facilitate it in the lives of others. As priest, I teach the laity and the laity goes out and teaches the world. Yet, I also know from my experience in ministry that this works in reverse as well. The laity teach me as I teach them and together we become more and more centered on Christ. This is the Vatican II church.

It is unfortunate, that some theologians do not understand that dynamic and instead define Vatican II by women's ordination. There is no Christianity in their teaching, only human centered theology. You and I are part of a way of being Catholic that is so old, it is new. Indeed, it comes to us from a Samaritan woman who discovered living water at Jacob's well two thousand years ago. The world has not been the same since.


Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Parochial Vicar, 617 542-5682



Vatican II, Catholicism, Women's Ordination

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