Catholic social teaching finds church leadership lacking

Following is a talk by Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa. Dowling told NCR in a telephone interview today that he gave the talk June 1 to a group of "influential lay Catholics" who meet periodically for lunch in Cape Town. The group, Dowling said, had asked him to speak "on how I view the current state of the church."

"In subsequent conversations, it became clear to me that the group of well-informed Catholic lay leaders wanted an analysis that would be open and very honest," Dowling said July 8. "Given the fact that it would be a select group with no media present, I decided I would be open and honest in my views to initiate debate and discussion."

A reporter, however, was present and what Dowling meant as an "off the record" conversation with lay leaders became local news. Dowling subsequently sent copies of his talk to his fellow South African bishops. NCR received a copy of the document and contacted Dowling to verify its authenticity.

Dowling sent NCR an original copy of the talk and gave us permission to post it online. Following is the text of Dowling's June 1 talk to lay Catholic leaders in South Africa.

Bishop: 'Schneiders' analysis inspiring, challenging'

As a religious, who happens to be called to ministry and service as a bishop in the church and world, I have reflected with attention on the five articles of Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Sandra Schneiders, my sister in religious life. I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for her courageous, faith-filled and insightful analysis and reflection upon crucial issues which are at the heart of the prophetic call and mission of religious in the church and world of today.

She raises difficult questions and shares her viewpoint with what I believe is integrity and honesty, and whether one agrees with her or not, the essential invitation in what she has written is to reflect prayerfully and in a discerning spirit upon what God may be saying to each of us who reads her reflections.

Even if we disagree with her, we still need to ask with honesty: what value, what gospel value, is she trying to express in what she writes? Even if one has a different opinion to hers, one can try to understand her articulation of what she believes is in accord with the gospel of Jesus. Perhaps I can then grow in my own calling – and that, in the end, is what really matters.