January 05, 2005

The need for dialogue in the church

The Tidings

By Father Richard P. McBrien

Nothing is more important to a healthy relationship and to a vibrant community than the capacity to dialogue. People have to be able to speak the truth to others without unnecessarily hurting them, and they must, in turn, be disposed to listen to others, even when the message they receive is unpleasant.

Dialogue is especially important when personal relationships and communities are in a crisis of one kind or another. That is surely the case today with the Roman Catholic Church, which is still dealing with what is probably the worst crisis it has faced since the 16th century Reformation.

The sexual-abuse scandal, which exploded with unprecedented fury just three years ago this week, pointed a dagger at the church's priesthood and, in the process, put at risk the spiritual health and vitality of the church's most precious asset, its sacramental life.

At times like these effective leadership is of greatest urgency. The church needs men and women who have a theologically-informed vision, the ability to articulate it clearly and meaningfully to others, but always in a dialogical manner, and the capacity to motivate others to embrace that vision and to work together to realize it.

Leadership is exercised at many levels in the church. To be sure, the Bishop of Rome is, by reason of his office, the most important leader in the Body of Christ. A healthy, vigorous, and visionary pope who truly listens to his people is one of the greatest gifts that God could bestow upon the church.

Diocesan bishops and pastors are also crucially important church leaders. But leadership is not only exercised by the clergy. The church is the whole People of God. It is composed of all the baptized, laity as well as clergy and religious.

Posted by kshaw at January 5, 2005 03:18 PM