Editorial - The opportunity for change

Periods of great change can be difficult and unsettling but they also provide opportunities.

This is certainly the case with the Catholic Church at the moment.

The Church is facing changes all over the world, from the changes introduced at the highest level by Pope Francis; the forthcoming changes to the hierarchy in Ireland; the expectation of a new bishop for Derry; to the clerical changes at a local level in the diocese.

The thing all of these changes have in common is necessity.

While the church may have been forced into a position where it had no choice but to introduce changes, the situation always comes with the opportunity to follow a new direction.

There is no doubt that the stock of the church is at an all-time low after two-decades of scandal and out-dated thinking.

Stop-gap solutions and managed decline will not turn that around.

Real and radical change is required to improve the fortunes of the church, particularly in Ireland.

Often, those voicing concerns about the church are regarded as critics out to attack the institution. But many are acting not out of malice, but because they have a genuine concern.

Instead of rushing to defend the institution every time someone voices a critical opinion, perhaps the church authorities should listen to those concerns and take them on board.

The kind of sweeping changes which may be required will involve controversial issues such as celibacy, changes to the modern family, same sex relationships and contraception.

These are serious issues and will have to be dealt with sensitively. Change will not happen overnight but the process needs to begin and must involve the lay community - on an equal basis with the clergy - if it is to have the desired impact.