Richard Gaillardetz is reimagining the church

Joseph Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College, Dr Richard Gaillardetz, made a flying visit to the diocese on Friday and despite his lecture notes not accompanying him, managed to provoke and challenge an appreciative audience.

The generous time slot (4-7pm) allowed for table conversation as well as ‘Q&A’, following Richard’s naming of the factors contributing to today’s exodus from the church. In his view, these are

  • Scandal and institutional mistrust
  • Suspicion of doctrine
  • Fragilisation of religious identity
  • A pre-Vatican II vision of the church still has currency.

In terms of the latter, the church is still seen by some “as a quasi-exclusive repository of grace and truth”.

The vision of Pope Francis, expounded in so many addresses and statements, is critical to Richard’s response to the challenge of reimagining the church. Francis is recovering one of the most radical teachings of Vatican II, the church as the pilgrim people of God, always journeying. According to Francis, if one has the answers to all the questions, this is proof that God is not with you.

Francis advocates for a messy, vulnerable church, a church with a place for everyone, a church that asks, not ‘what would Jesus do?’ but rather, ‘what would Jesus see?’ 

Through his passionate words, Richard’s deep faith in Jesus and commitment to the church were apparent. 

Richard’s latest book is Go into the streets! The Welcoming Church of Pope Francis Paulist Press, 2016. 

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Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is the editor of Aurora Magazine, the official magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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