Fr Billy Swan
The Irish Catholic Church has shifted from the center to the margins of public life in recent decades. Some lament this change as a loss of power and influence. Yet there is an opportunity today for the Church to reclaim her prophetic edge and voice. Instead of relying on a platform or status she no longer enjoys, the Church will be renewed in the measure that her members live their faith authentically, in a way that makes that faith credible and so gives rise to hope. In the words of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: ‘Personal integrity and holiness bear within them a striking strength that can be stronger than physical power’ (14th Nov. 2020). History has shown this to be true. When all other props have been stripped away and all that remained was the faith of Christians, the Church was at her best and her light shone brightest. For this reason, Irish Catholicism is being renewed by people who understand our collective vocation as a resistance movement that offers the world, not a combative faith but a revolutionary faith. Based on the Gospel, it is our conviction that the Church offers a broader, richer and more coherent vision of life than the many alternative narratives on offer today that are confusing, spiritually poor and morally bankrupt. Regarding specific issues of social justice, life issues, marriage, family, sexuality, care for the environment and others, this is not a time for the Church to be timid or retreat into private and hidden spheres. It is not a time for the Church to lose its identity by dissolving itself in the surrounding culture. She knows that accomodationism is simply a quicker route to obliteration. In the words of Pope Francis, she needs to ‘go forth’ and to ‘put out into the deep’, engaging courageously with modern culture in the market square. The Church does this knowing that she is the ‘ekk-lesia’ – the people called out of the world to be a sign and instrument of God’s saving work. As a prophetic community we are called, not to fit in but to stand out.