When I opened the National Council of Priests' Discussion Paper (May 2005), I was reminded of that old toy called a Jack in the Box. Out popped, not a head on a spring, but a full liberal Catholic manifesto, as follows.
* Baptism brings us into communion with God and each other. We are not so much the Church Militant as the Church Picnic. There is really no great need for any of the sacraments after Baptism, while the Eucharist is simply a celebration of our togetherness. There is not even a need for an ordained Presider, since we are all priests by virtue of our Baptism.
* By the same token, we, the congregation, are the Church and should decide matters of faith and morals, design our own liturgies and not have to put up with arcane, alien and foreign structures imposed on us by an outside authority. Our church services will thus be inspiring, welcoming, consumer-friendly, Father Feelgood type gatherings.
* If we don't get this, the faithful will leave in droves and take their spiritual custom elsewhere. So there.
* All those lapsed Catholics are baptised and hence still Church members. We should accommodate them by dropping all "divisive" doctrines and practices.
* We should have a radical concern for the poor and marginalised, make them part of our communion, and drop any further awkward beliefs and practices left behind by the lapsed Catholics.
* The Vatican is simply another agent of globalisation, of colonisation. We need, instead, a kind of religious regionalism, like Welsh nationalism.
By being all things to all men, however, we will have nothing to offer but colourful ceremonies, good cheer, and lots of tea and biscuits.
No wonder our churches are emptying. Would that they be spared some of these troublesome priests.
PETER GILET (DR)