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A holy row

Michael McGuckian SJ moved from Ireland to Turkey at the beginning of this year, January 2020. He was asked to go and live with the Jesuits in Ankara. They are expanding their community, and young Jesuits from Asia and Africa are joining them.

In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications Michael talks about his work in Ankara and what it is like being a Christian in Turkey. He also updates her on the Covid-19 situation as the country emerges slowly from lockdown.

A substantial part of the interview concerns Michael’s latest book which he has just completed. The Charismatic Structure of the Church: Priesthood and Religious Life at Vatican II is the intriguing and mostly untold story about a serious dispute that arose during the Council regarding the status of religious life.

The argument centered around the issue of the call to holiness. Religious bishops and their theologians held fast to the traditional Church position that those in religious life were called to a special form of holiness that was different from and superior to the type of holiness required from secular clergy or bishops or the laity.

Michael has spent the last 12 years studying this serious rift and the unfortunate outcomes it has engendered. He argues that not only did it lead to a dilution of the understanding of Church in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, but it also influenced, for the worse, subsequent Church teaching from successive Popes.

In essence, says Michael, the ‘universal call to holiness’ of all the baptized despite their status, was undermined in this dispute and, contrary to popular belief, did not become the official teaching of the Church.

He argues that the current position on the call to holiness as a type of ‘helpful suggestion’ needs to be revisited and that the call must be incorporated into Church teaching. He believes the failure to do this may well be one of the key factors regarding the sorry state the Church finds itself in today.