Church in need of 'deep transformation' says Catholic professor.

February 2, 2016

Dr. Chris Hrynkow, left, and Jason Brennan of St. Paul’s College, Winnipeg.

By James Buchok

Wouldn’t it be great if the Vatican divested itself of fossil fuels? And how about if the Catholic Church allowed priestly ordination for women?

“I’m a loyal Catholic, but because I care about the church I believe there is value in expressing these concerns,” said Dr. Chris Hrynkow, an assistant professor of religion and culture at St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan. “I think Pope Francis is opening up space for some of these thoughts,” he added.

Hrynkow was speaking Jan. 29 at one of a series of noon hour Brown Bag Lectures at the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace & Justice at St. Paul’s College at the University of Manitoba. The lectures are free and open to the public.

Hrynkow presented a paper entitled Caring for our Common Home in a Substantively Peaceful Manner: Pope Francis’ Laudato Si and Nonviolence from a Transformative Perspective. In it, he states; “dichotomous view of male and female roles limits the prospect for gender justice and autonomy within the institutional Catholic Church ... it becomes clear that principled nonviolence and positive peace combine to require much transformation of Catholicism in this world.”

Hrynkow continues; “The associated values and practices of principled nonviolence and positive peace as defined by peace studies theorists clearly call the institutional Roman Catholic Church toward deep transformation in terms of areas like its governance, wealth and differential gender roles.”

In the preamble, Hrynkow posits that both prior to and after the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si last June, much of the publicity around the document focused on its implications for addressing global climate change. However, according to Hrynkow, “the encyclical’s scope is much wider than a single environmental issue and offers an integral framework for transformative responses to several contemporary challenges, including that of climate change, but also violence.”

Laudato Si is the first encyclical addressed to everybody (not only Catholics),” and it contains several important ecumenical implications, Hrynkow said. In the encyclical Francis mentions Islam and refers by name to the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I, “with whom,” Francis writes, “we share the hope for full union.”

Hrynkow writes that in Laudato Si, Francis “emphasizes that dominant techno-economic cultural models encourage the adoption of unsustainable ways of being in the world. As a result of their hyper-consumerist character, they also reinforce what Francis names as ‘an economy of exclusion and inequality’ because they are obtainable by only a small percentage of the world’s population. For example, to cite a fact commonly named by ecological activists, if every person on the planet consumed at the same level as the U.S. national average, it would take the resources of five planets to maintain that standard of living.”

Hrynkow said Francis’ first encyclical Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si are two documents of Catholic social teaching containing ideas that are “wonderful but not always effectively used in the life of the church.”

Hrynkow suggested that the documents be read “through a transformative lens. What would it mean if the words of Francis were applied to the life of the church? There is something that needs to change in terms of the structure.”

“Francis is transformative in his approach,” Hrynkow said. “He is so pastoral, he invites people in. How he is being received is evident and that changes hearts. It’s a moment of change that calls us to ecological transformation.”

Hrynkow, who is originally from Winnipeg and a St. Paul’s College alumnus, believes banning fossil fuels goes far beyond the Vatican as he and colleagues at St. Thomas More College are working to have that institution do the same.

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