Declericalisation – a challenge for the Latin American Church

A Sister in Chile reflects on the present moment with its many challenges. We need to urgently advance in new ways to dismantle the clericalization that affects us all. Perhaps the great challenge is to return to the call of Jesus to be faithful disciples in order to bring about the Kingdom.


A Church in distress


This challenge cries out with urgency today for the voices of so many who feel defrauded, disappointed, hurt and dubious. It means returning to the source, to the message of the “Good News” of Jesus of Nazareth which calls us to be faithful in living out our lives. It means putting Him and His message and not the Church as an institution, at the centre of ecclesial community life.


The « Good News » that he taught with deeds and words, humanized the life of his countrymen and women and gave them hope. That is what we need in order to save us today.


Call to the fidelity of the Kingdom


What Jesus intended and was able to set in motion was a movement encouraged by a vital message of renewal within Israel, in fidelity to the prophets and the wisdom of the people. He announced that the Kingdom of God was near and the need to enter into its dynamic. However, over the centuries, this movement became a religion that gradually displaced Jesus’ project – the Kingdom. And so the institution became central.

We placed Jesus at the centre of worship, something he never wanted. Heaven remained the goal of life and not the Kingdom that he preached and promised would be established here and now on earth. For Jesus, the Kingdom had to become concrete in history, in human existence. The Gospels are full of moments, of scenes, in which Jesus acts to change life, to liberate it in favour of the women, men and children of his time.


This deviation from the original direction that Jesus indicated has cost us dearly. Despite singular movements of renewal, led by persons of integrity and saints throughout history, to this day we have not been able to free ourselves from the weight of a style of ecclesial life, of organization, of doctrines, of practices, and of rites. All of which are far removed from the proximity of the message of powerlessness, of love and mercy that Jesus preached and the concern that He and His disciples showed for all the suffering, forgotten and marginalized in society.


The simplicity of the original project


Jesus did not come to teach a religion, but to change the ways of living of the people, both personal and as a society: economy, politics, culture, their entire life, from what they ate to the use of natural resources. He proposed a new way of living, a new life; Go to the temple and announce to the people this new way of life (Acts 20); Do not be conformed to this world, but continuously be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is—what is proper, pleasing, and perfect. “ (Rom 12:2). As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4,20).


They are centuries that weigh us down with a monarchical structure, androcentric in its power, separating us into hierarchy and faithful, clergy and laity, men and women instead of uniting us all as brothers and sisters, equal in dignity, all capable of thinking and of contributing to the changes that our societies are crying out for. This is what Jesus taught, that the Kingdom is justice for the poor, well-being, dignified life for all the children of God here, today, in our lands. The abuses of power and conscience that we regret today are the fruits of a structure far removed from the Gospel.


The writings that should preferably be our bedside reading are the Gospels; we can take the texts of Matthew 25:31-46 and John 13:34-35 as the yardstick of our commitment. The message of Jesus was and still is, this simple message but to bring it to life requires much love, wisdom, courage, humility, integrity, and dedication on our part. It will be our personal and community contribution to the changes that we all yearn for and will be possible with our new life. Far from discouraging us in our present situation, let us enliven our faith and hope of “those on the way “, the way of Jesus. (Acts 19, 23. Acts 22, 4).


Sr Margaret Westwood dj


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