Brian McDonough, in charge of social work in the Archdiocese of Montreal, gave a wonderful application of Lonergan to pastoral ministry yesterday. He showed us how he handles parish groups in conflict situations. He makes use of the social principles of the church, makes people reflect on how these might be applied in the concrete situation, and, most interestingly, he makes them reflect on and bring to light what is happening to them as they try to use these principles. I found that the most interesting thing: are they thinking, or are they taking short cuts to application without much thinking? are they suffering from personal, or group, or general bias? And so on. Most enlightening. And of course the whole exercise begins and ends in prayer.
And a nice comment by Brian: parishioners may be led to choose a certain messiness.
In the situation he presented - a parish letting a group of single women use a room free of rent for a common kitchen, and then finding out that these women were violating church law and practice in various ways - great opportunities arose for learning and teaching. And, I was thinking, not only for the parish councillors and finance committee members and clergy, but also for the women involved, many of whom might not in any way be frequenting the church.
The point is: do we handle it by law, or do we handle it pastorally?