Mgr John Broadbent
11 November 2011
Renewal must always be the work of the Holy Spirit, Cardinal Tom Williams reminds us in his foreword to this interesting and stimulating book, and it must be impelled by the love of Christ. Both of these factors combine in renewal undertaken with joy and hope.
These elements run through every page of Openings to Renewal a slim collection of replies to some 20 letters which allow its author, Bishop Peter Cullinane, to sow different approaches to renewal in the church of today.
Bishop Peter grew up before Vatican II so knows the mindset of those Catholics from that era, and the euphoria of living through the council and its aftermath, trying as a priest and bishop to implement its decrees and to understand through meetings in Rome the Roman way of thinking. So he is writing for those ‘who hanker for a church they never knew, and who therefore do not know why the council needed to happen, and others who remember how it was and fear that we have “lost something” … and for those who need to know that continuity involves more than ecclesiastical traditions.
‘It is about being radically faithful to the Gospel, no matter what that costs the Church.’
Radical renewal is about ‘conversion, contemplation and compassion’ but the church is not well served by those who ‘brand all criticism as disloyalty’. Respectful dialogue in a healthy church requires transparency (p.2).
Renewal cannot happen unless it is grounded in the spiritual life of the individual.
The ‘letters’ span such topics as young children’s capacity for contemplation remembering with St Augustine that God is ‘closer to us than we are to ourselves’. Inculturation is promoted when Bishop Peter recalls one of the great insights of Pope Paul VI in his Evangelii Nuntiandi that the culture must be evangelised, rather than just the individuals. Bishop Peter comments, ‘Some of the difficulties and fears inhibiting inculturation derive from the church’s excessive euro-centrism’ (30).
Introducing Vatican II in letter seven, Bishop Peter says the council was ‘beyond doubt a special moment in God’s providence for the Church when it needed to better equip itself for evangelising in a very different world’ (p 31).
With great wisdom, Bishop Peter focuses on Vatican II in four letters, dwelling on John XXIII’s words at the opening of the council that the substance of the faith is one thing and this cannot change, the ways it is presented is another thing and these can (p.38). The documents need to be mediated by the local church under the guidance of its bishops, he says (p. 40).
Bishop Peter touches on collegiality during the Church’s first millennium and papal centrism in the second.
He discusses the need to reduce clericalism and looks at the historical context of paedophilia, making no excuses.
Homilies, private devotions, the Eucharist and the Mass including recent changes in liturgical language are all critiqued as are ecumenism, marriage, the pastoral care of separated and remarried spouses and women’s place in the church.
‘Where the Spirit Moves’ is a hope-filled final letter in which Bishop Peter lists many signs in today’s church for which to be grateful.
With Openings to Renewal Bishop Peter Cullinane has added lustre to this country’s Catholic canon.
Cullinane, Bishop Peter Openings to Renewal Publisher A T F Theology, Hindmarsh, South Australia 153pp including index.