It is only fair and honest that we ask: does our church have a future and, if so, what must a future church look like?
The atheists at the office water cooler are all too happy to proclaim our church dead. What the doomsayer fails to grasp is that an institution that has survived for millennia, enduring the scandals of crusades, inquisitions, missionary colonialism, not to mention three papal Borgias--all the while entwining itself into diplomatic and global power structures like no other religion in history--has survival built into its dna. No matter how bad the current situation may seem, the truth is that the institutional church will bounce back.
There is, however, a fight underway for the soul of the church itself. Ultraconservative forces threaten to use the current crisis to undermine whatever mild force for good Pope Francis and his supporters have brought about. If they had their way, this powerful lobby would transport us back to the dark ages. Those of us who see our faith as a force for good, who want to live according to the social justice tradition, and who want a future church built on justice and hope for the world's poor, powerless and oppressed have a mammoth task ahead.
In this issue of Conscience, we ask what a future church should look like and begin to map out a route that will get us there. Abuse, clericalism, the role of women and the role of the laypeople in church governance all factor into the reproductive rights that Catholics for Choice so passionately pursues.
Tom Doyle, longtime friend of Conscience and Catholics for Choice, is an expert on sexual abuse in the church and was a brave early whistleblower despite grave personal risk and loss. His powerful article lays bare what the challenges are and what immediate actions are needed if we are to survive the sexual abuse crisis.
Conscience needed hope and we found it in the shantytowns of South Africa where a real church leader--Bishop Kevin Dowling--gave us an exclusive interview and shared his vision of a church built on the rock of his experience in service to the poor. We then look at women's leadership with Jamie Manson and Josepha Madigan. Minister Madigan, who led the Irish government's campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Irish constitution, gives us a glimpse of herself--a strong role model for women's leadership in the future church.
Finally, we present the second part of our comprehensive look at the future of HIV & aids. John Callaghan's piece delves deep into global HIV & aids policy and asks tough questions about what needs to be done to eliminate the disease in our lifetime.
Completing this issue is a bittersweet moment as I take leave of my job at Catholics for Choice. It has been a great few years and I have enjoyed making my mark and contributing to prochoice Catholic thought around the world. I am going to join the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health--an organization appropriately born out of an initiative housed in Catholics for Choice many years ago. So I will not be far away and still collaborating with all of you to create a world of justice and truth.