This is a defining moment for the Irish Church as we struggle to respond to the enormity of the Ryan Report. We must do much more than lip service to the Gospel message and its challenge.mayfield

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared on 2 June 2009

In many ways this is a defining moment for the Irish Church as we struggle to respond to the enormity of the Ryan Report. I find myself frustrated and somewhat lost in terms of a lack of vision and indeed guidance offered to us by those entrusted with this task. Often as Church we just respond and react to major crisis when it is much too late. I also believe that this is a real opportunity as Church to embrace the centrality of the Gospel vision which should be at the center of our considerations. This vision is much more challenging than a mere optic PR response, where apologies and extra monies are given to victims of such tragedy.

Every crisis is an opportunity to begin in a new way. For so long as Church we have dealt poorly to scandal and crisis. We are always the last to get our message out and often playing a tune in the hope its melody will appease those who are most critical. How can we make the message of the Gospel relevant and indeed necessary to enhance all our lives. As long as we hold on to the old baggage and maintain a clerical hierarchical institutional church I believe such a Church will continue to die and simply at best be irrelevant in peoples lives. We must do much more than lip service to the Gospel message and its challenge. One of the great themes of the Christian vision is that of solidarity. This is a time for healing. A time when we go beyond the norm and trust in the Holy Spirit that blesses us with creativity and vision. A time to be bold, in a genuine effort to embrace our wounded past before we dare to put our step forward.

Surely every Church must now offer prayer services for victims. Victims are real people often committed parishioners living in every parish in our Country. Every public house of Worship should have a solidarity book where we all could express and get out on paper our thoughts and prayers. The vast majority of victims belonged to working class Ireland. Here perhaps is our greatest challenge and opportunity as Church. Not just to embrace but to live amongst and with the most disadvantaged. Our Institutional Church has sinfully imbibed middle and upper class culture. We are for so many in our society, out of touch. I ask myself, how relevant our Church is to the good men and women on the Dole queues. This must be our mission in a time of recession and upheaval.

Finally what would Jesus do what would he say? I know from the depth of my heart that he too would weep. He would go outside of the establishment to the crossroads and bring the most bruised and broken to his table to taste his love. A love, that radically made him a victim, who also died in such a humiliating and brutal fashion.  This is a crisis, now is the time to embrace its opportunity.