The letter of Fr J. Gerard Burkc, chairman of the National Conference of Priests (April 21) may just be a gambit in the process of pressurising and influencing while the hierarchy is preparing the National Pastoral Congress for 1980, but it is somewhat disturbing.
Fr Burke writes that his organisation "has a grave responsibility to monitor the developments in this call for a Congress". The imperative "must" appears in all the four points he makes, and he then writcs that if the nature of the Congress is essentially different from that envisaged in "A Time for Building" "Then we can begin to say that it will be a waste of time." One sad but inescapable fact that change has brought in the Church is the erosion of confidence in authority. I just don't know if the hierarchy will resist the imperative and pre-emptive methods of the radical renewalists, either while the Congress is being planned. or during its course. It is promising to see that two years have been allowed before it takes place, when the authors wanted a National Pastoral Conference to follow up "A Time for Building" as a matter of urgency in early 1978. The avoidance of haste is like a breath of fresh air for a change! I very much.hope that Fr Burke's pre-emptive attitude will prove to be counter-produccive. and that during the next two years the National Conference of Priests will become more representative of the predominantly very busy and nonradically militant clergy, rather than the present ardent activists who appear to quite unrepresentatively dominate it.
I hope that the theme, "The Spirituality and Mission of the Church" will not get talked round so that the. "Spirituality" of the Church is pushed in the homocentric direction advocated by "A.T.F.B.", which spoke extensively about man-to-man
relationships but was incredibly sparse on the subject of prayer, and that our "mission" will be to digest the spate of changes we have already got and rebuild order in the Church.
But I fear for the worst. It is the very human nature of Congresses, Councils and meetings to want to shine, to produce something impressive-seeming and to make "progress". A meeting predominantly aiming at review and consolidation would be too dull today, even if it would be massively sensible.
.1. C. Innam
Bury St Edmunds. Suffolk.