Dr Tom O’Laughlin Talks to ACI – July 22nd, 2021

Jul 10, 2021 | 2 comments

Synodality – a Call to Everyone

ACI Zoom discussion – July 22nd 2021, 8.00 p.m. – led by:


As the priestly manpower crisis deepens in Ireland, the call for ‘more vocations‘  becomes ever more plaintive.

But what does synodality mean in our Catholic understanding of ‘vocation’?  Is that still too often all about clergy and religious – when all of the baptised faithful are now called to become ‘first responders’ in an era of crisis?

Might the ‘priest crisis‘ itself be a result of an unbalanced theology of Priesthood, Ordination and Baptism?

Is every baptised person now being called equally to missionto help keep hope and faith alive among those we love and meet?

Dr Tom O’Loughlin’s profound understanding of the history of Catholic Theology is in high demand by all who study the problem of Catholic Church renewal today.

To listen to the complete talk – explaining the Roman imperial origins of a time-limited ‘clerical’ system that is now ‘winding down’ – click here.


  1. Mary Vallely

    Really enjoyed Tom’s Talk this evening. He’s a very engaging and entertaining speaker and I found it both informative and disturbing. Will listen again once it is posted here.
    Some thoughts to mull over for me:-

    “Deep within us is a vision of inequality yet we preach God’s equality! “
    “Baptism is the great leveller. “
    “We still use the language of Roman power.”
    “Christ is not a hierarchical figure.”
    “ We need a community where we share our skills. What gifts has the Holy Spirit given to you.. and to you..for the benefit of the community?”

    I did a lot of chuckling throughout at some of Tom’s descriptions though the future of our Church is no laughing matter but requires all of us to come together in prayer and conversation and with a sincere desire to try harder to actually put following Christ into action.

  2. soconaill

    Yes, Mary, Tom did a great job in unpacking historically terms such as cleric, clergy, ordination, sagart etc. – to explain the lay / clergy ‘apartheid’ of today.

    However, let no one take away from that the impression that Tom is unaware also of the plus side of the imperial obsession with rules and uniformity. On another occasion he might look at the plusses of the Roman system – in particular the preservation of biblical texts that are now read in identical selections in Catholic churches on all continents daily – the Missal. Without those texts we would not be able to ‘deconstruct’ the Roman imperial shell of the diocesan clerical system, and see the ever-glowing ember of the Gospel story within.

    So even the Latin mass communicated much more than the ideas of clerical superiority and separation. Someone once compared the RCC to a hermit crab – a soft-bodied creature that needs to find a hard shell to protect itself. That was the Roman state and the idea of a uniformly ordered upper tier – but the soft body remains, and just now, that soft body is a bit ‘out of order’ as it looks for a new ‘shell’.

    It’s clear also that the Gospel story that was captured and retold in the missal was absorbed by outstanding individuals in different ways in different eras – ways that were life-enhancing and even defiant of imperial authoritarianism and hierarchical pretension. Richard Rohr OFM bears witness to that in his recovery of the contemplative tradition, beginning with Anthony of the Desert and his followers in the Constantinian era, and later St Benedict and St Francis of Assisi. There was much more to monasticism than simply providing a refuge for a ‘square peg’ minority, as again I am certain Tom would agree

    And here we are now in 2021, discussing synodality globally, because Franciscan oddity eventually made it to the summit of the imperial system at a time of extreme crisis!

    The imperial obsession with rules and uniformity has nearly strangled Catholicism, but there is now also an upside to all that that needs recognition for the benefit of those who did tune in on the 22nd, who may have mistakenly taken away that Tom was being merely destructive rather than reconstructive. He was simply following our brief faithfully and did not have time to cover the ‘plusses’ of imperial ‘order’. In his eloquent insistence on the Holy Spirit always being ‘in our midst’ he was conveying a truth carried to him – almost in spite of itself – by the ‘fortress clerical church’ that preceded Vatican II and is now collapsing around us.


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