I cannot help wondering if the current implosion of ecclesiastical credibility over clergy sex abuse has the potential to create a new moment of grace, one that breaks down outmoded governance models and creates new ones better suited for our times.
We may already have a road map — thanks to liberation theologian Leonardo Boff.
While completing my master's studies in theology in 1992, I was smitten by Boff's prophetic book Church: Charism and Power. At the time that the book was published in 1981, Boff was a Franciscan priest and theologian based in Brazil. There, he experienced the gifts of the Spirit (charisms) at work in the vibrant base Christian communities of Latin America. His book emerged from a milieu wherein poor campesinos found courage and grace to love one another while confronting systemic injustices that kept them poor.
For Boff, the church is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit, and since the Spirit is given to all of the people of God, one could ask what organizational or jurisdictional structures function best for releasing the Spirit's gifts on behalf of the reign of God?
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