Recently, a cardinal known for his opposition to changes in the structure of the Church surprised friend and foe with a plea to put the sacrificial nature of Jesus Christ as an example
above all else. This is a suggestion very different from the Church's own efforts to place power, authoriy and self-preservation above all else. It opens a window to look at double care, the
earliest form of Christianity and its subsquent development. In view of the the present crisis of the Church, the time seems ripe for the Church to return to the roots of
Joining the ranks of the Christians was initially very attractive. According to the Greek historian Plutarch, the first Christians among the Romans were known for their care of each other and of the poor. Paul writes that these Christians did indeed gather on Sundays to share a sumptuous meal with everyone present. They took the time to hear from each other who needed support and how they could help the poor. This double care brought people from very different backgrounds together.
Unfortunately, this custom only lasted for a short time. Wherever too many people wanted to come together in one place, things went wrong . There were abuses but also no time to listen to
everyone's experiences. The full meal was replaced by handing out pieces of bread. On another day of the week, food was offered to those who needed it. Individuals took care of the needy. These
caring Christians often later joined together in monastic orders. In many countries this meritorious work has been partially taken over by institutions with paid staff. Well-to-do citizens
continued to meet on Sundays and listen to old stories an exhortations. Theorists supplemented the exortations with a contempory philosophy. They formed a church with laws and strict
theological principles. The Church did . however, soon offer moral support to anyone who wanted to defend its power and priciples with fire and sword. Many monarchs made eagerly use of this
Fortunately, the slaughter of dissidents is no longer defended by the Church. But the Church still punishes, in a subtle way, theologians within its own ranks who stick to their own
opinion. Through the internet many citizins have learned of these punishments and of the chuich's other ills such as excessive luxery, corruption, misagony, clericalism, the covering up of sex
scandals, the lack of independent judges, the rejection of rationalism and of scientific progress. This is how the Church has now entered a fatal crisis.
Yet some critical Catholics think that something in the Church can still be saved. The principle of care for one another and for the poor is still seen as the way Jesus Christ wanted his people to go. The question arises whether and how the Church can recover the spirit of that sparkling beginning. In April 2021, the idea of caring for one another and especially for the poor was presented to independent Catholic activists. All responded enthusiastically. But some noted that no bishop would be willing to apply this form of community in his diocese. On reflection, this is a misplaced remark. It is not to propose that form of community in his diocese. On refection, this is a misplaced remark. It is not compatible with Pope Francis' upside-down pyramid. The initiative to align a small community with double care should be taken by lay people themselves, without asking permission from a bishop. Later on, a bishop or priest who wants to cooperate, can volunteer to act as an old-fashened episcopalian,a supervisor and an inspirer. Lay people start founding Christian small double care communities on their own.
Excellent opportunities to promote the idea are presentations at synods organised by lay people. There it can be made clear that such communities can move beyond the ills of the past. Without discussion, there will be room in Christian double care small communities for
-Listening to each person's personal story
- Concern for one another
- Special care for the poor and other needy
- Equal rights for women
- Equal rights for LGBT people
- Equal rights for (re)married people
- Marriage optional for ministers
- Participation of every attendee in decision-making
- Accountability and transparency
- Referring crimes to civil authorities
- Entrusting decisions in family matters to married couples
- Support for an independent judicial process
- Synods of represetatives from all ranks
- Meals with people of different persuasion
-Commitment to saving nature
- Election of caring leaders by the community
- Break-up once a community is too large
A synod organised by lay people can also decide to find like-minded people through a survey. In this way it would become clear in which places a sufficient number of potential participants live. There a first meeting could be called to find out what form participants would like to give to their community. A theologian from Mumbai has already stressed that three elements are indispensable to work out the shape of such a community:
- a listening attitude
- involvement and
- full co-responsibility of all;
This means that
- Each participant should be able to be heard separately,
- There are ideally six to 12 people involved
- who gather regularly but not necessarily every week,
- that they are not necessarily tied to the traditional liturgy
- they are not subordinate to a parish
- they can choose a bishop or priest as their supervisor
Proposal of Christian Double Care
As an idealist I like to see the R.C. Church to become the worldwide focal point of communities, open for all who care for another and especially for the poor.
Town and country
Organization or community
Peter-Mbuchi Methu, Nairobi Kenia, Interfaith Africa
Paul Huang, Incheon City, Korea,Woori Theology Institute (WTI) in Seoul
Ed Schreurs, Best Nederland, Visie van Gelovigen
The core of the gospel has taken on an unprecedented form in our time.
Statistics show that many people feel appealed as soon as they can clearly help in an emergency situation. Within days, millions of Euros are pledged in support. Informal care is a regular phenomenon. In the Netherlands, a high percentage of the population does volunteer work. Many people are involved in unpaid relief work. Who wants to know details, should read the book by Rutger Bregman < De meeste mensen deugen>.
A small percentage of the do-gooders are churchgoers. This seems to be an indication that many people are naturally charitable. Jesus' message thus appealed to a natural disposition. That disposition can be repressed by a thirst for control. This desire can be found in domestic violence, street riots, politicians and church leaders. Christianity, after its scintillating beginnings, has succumbed to the pressure of this same desire, but now it seems to want to recover from it. By turning synods into charitable support structures for small groups of people who help each other and those in need, it is coming closer to the ideal that Jesus had in mind.
Those who hold an official position in the church have been forced to follow a pattern of behavior appropriate to exercising authority over compliant believers. It is inconceivable that those who have followed this lifestyle for 50 years could radically change this pattern upon request. Yet that is what Pope Francis would want with the inverted Pyramid.
With respect for the personal problem of bishops, the constituency can try to expose the dilemma. Those who see that the handed-down relationship of authority is the cause of the crisis in the Church, search together for an alternative that is consistent with the core of the Gospel and that is able to attract people of today
During some international synodal talks where 15 to 30 people were allowed to say something, there appeared to be a need to recount own bad experiences with bishops and priests.
The same result can be expected from conversations based on ten themes at the intersection of Church and society. Those who eventually will have been able to open their hearts, will be satisfied. The general conclusion after such a conversation is that some bishops and some pastors should learn to practice charity as a matter of urgency. When Synod 23 brings that proposal to the table, it will receive support without dissenting votes. Francis' opponents can also be satisfied.
The world of the hiërarchy
The world of common sense
When baptizied people put reasoning aside and listen in a godly attitude to what the holy spirit gives them to do, they will inspire others to become members of the church. The structure of the Church itself is able to have this happen
The millions of people who already practice charity on a regular basis, would look up to a church that radiates charity, to a church for which everyone is equal and which rejoices for everyone without distinction who wants to follow the same path.
We should make baptized people more aware that they are co-responsible for the church. This awareness of co-responsability will make them strive to expand the church.
Co-responsibility arises from the sharing of authority. Entrust the financial management of the Church to experts appointed by a body of representatives from all ranks of the Church.
We should have baptized people realize that Jesus called all his followers to carry the good message of charityto the end of the world
Once the church becomes the mother of small communities where people care for each other and for the poor, it acts as a magnet to all people of good will.