Whatever Happened to ‘Share the Good News?’

Jan 7, 2021 | 4 comments

Launched 2011 – Present Status Unknown

By January 5th 2021 there had been thousands of outraged phone calls to RTE about a satirical New Year sketch referring to God the Father as worthy of imprisonment for forcing himself upon a young woman.

On January 7th the Irish Catholic weekly reported that several Catholic priests were calling for a boycott of the ‘National Broadcaster’ for this ‘outrage’.

How many were outraged by a far more deplorable issue on January 5th, 2021 – the 10th Anniversary of a Ten Year Plan to ‘Share the Good News’, launched with huge fanfare on January 5th, 2011 –  but shamefully  abandoned within just a few years?

Not even in 2013, when Pope France launched his first encyclical ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ were our Irish clergy ready to ‘Share the good News’ joyfully – and to discuss with their parishioners how the Apostles and the Nicene Creed were still Good News for Ireland.

Instead, in October of that year, 2013, the same Irish Catholic was reporting that this Ten Year Plan had ‘stalled’.

Church renewal plan hit by delays by Mags Gargan - Irish Catholic, October 17, 2013
Just two years into the implementation of Share the Good News, progress has hit a barrier due to resource allocation.
A 10-year national plan to renew the Church in Ireland has come to a standstill, sources close to the process have told The Irish Catholic.
Just two years into the implementation of Share the Good News: the National Directory for Catechesis (SGN), progress has hit a barrier at national level due to a delay by the hierarchy in allocating resources.

The last findable reference to ‘Share the Good News’ on the website of the Irish Bishops Conference is dated May 2013.

So who is to blame if a hapless RTE scriptwriter in search of cheap laughs in 2020 fastens on the Christmas story for a New Year 2021 send-up?

And how many of those outraged priests are ready, right now, to discuss with their parishioners – school goers especially – what ‘conceived by the Holy Spirit‘ might mean, in relation to a teenage girl in the ancient world? (The Annunciation story in Luke’s Gospel is a total contrast to the coupling tales of e.g. Zeus and Poseidon in Graeco-Roman mythology and points up the sheer illiteracy of the RTE New Year 2021 slur.)

How many of the outraged callers to RTE have EVER participated in an adult discussion of the meaning of the Creeds with their parish clergy – to enable them to discuss with their own teenage children how the Creeds are to be understood, and cherished, in 21st Century Ireland?

How many times in those years have they stood for the Nicene Creed at a Sunday or Vigil Mass – to recite the Creeds without ever experiencing the ADULT FAITH FORMATION that ‘Share the Good News‘ was designed to put front and centre in every parish – nowadays with even their own adult children and grandchildren too often no longer at their sides?

Boggled and Baffled by Sceptical Scripture Scholars?

If a burnt-out cathedral can be restored in five years in Ireland, at a cost of €30 million, who can believe that the financial resources to implement ‘Share the Good News’ could not have been found, if our Irish bishops, collectively, had the will to implement it?

So why is that will now lacking?

Have too many of our bishops been intimidated by scripture scholars whose ‘take’ on the ‘historical Jesus’ is that everything ‘miraculous’ in the scriptures – from virgin births to the Resurrection is ‘make believe’. Have they come to believe wrongly that adult faith formation cannot do anything other than subvert the Creeds?

Are too many of them better trained in canon law than in an apologetics, and an interpretation of scripture, that can deal with scepticism of that kind?

There is a very straight and simple answer to that scepticism. Had the earliest Christians not had the very best of reasons for believing in the Resurrection of Jesus there never would have been a Christian tradition, or a fifteen-year-old called Patrick praying on an Irish hillside four centuries later – or an Irish Catholic Bishops Conference either – or an Irish Catechetical Ten Year Plan called ‘Share the Good News‘ in 2011!

The Creeds were NOT the product of a Roman Constantinian Imperial edict in the 300s.  Their core insistence on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the core of the Gospels also, completed by around 100 CE.  They follow logically from Jesus’s own profession of faith, known to all Jews as the Shema – the faith that allowed him to withstand the scorn of the very best pundits of his own time, to unveil an always better kingdom of God, and then to die without condemning even his torturers.

The Great Commandments and the Shema - Jesus's Creed
Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one, only Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ (Mark 12: 29-31)

As to ‘conceived by the Holy Spirit’, that was included simply to raise Jesus above all of the humans-conceived-by-Gods of the ancient world – for example Theseus of Athens – said to have been conceived by the Greek God of the Sea, Poseidon. No one needs to balk at that, given the complete and hair-raising mystery that Jesus was – from birth to death.

The Apostles Creed was proof tested in the most appalling tortures inflicted on the early church – from being torn to shreds by lions in amphiteatres to being impaled, tarred and set alight on the streets of Rome and other cities.

It was the Christians who believed the Apostles Creed who grew their church in spite of far worse trials than a New Year TV sketch – to a point where Constantine chose this Creed in the 320s – to ‘tweak’ just a little into the Nicene Creed – in order to rule an empire – with Theseus now just another dead Greek hero.

To ‘cut to the chase’, in 1943 – the year I was born – it sustained Sophie and Hans Scholl and Frans Jagerstätter – in dying lonely deaths in the face of the ghastly white supremacism of Adolf Hitler.

It can therefore withstand easily a few sceptical scripture scholars  – now that it sustains all Christians who can recite it, daily, in solidarity with that early church and with those who now give their lives in imitation of Him.

Where is the sceptical scholar who can explain how Jesus – if he was just another man – was capable of such self-giving, at such a cost, and with such loving effect on so many others  – if his faith was truly unavailing? 

As for RTE scriptwriters who want to depict God the Father as in need of locking up for awhile – does Our Abba not have far more serious problems to worry about?

Including, especially,  twenty-six Irish bishops who adopt a terrific ten-year-plan to ‘Share the Good News’, launch it with fanfare in 2011 – and then lock it in a drawer in 2013 –  for lack of ‘resourcing’! 

4 Comments

  1. AIDAN HART

    A great article, asking key and penetrating questions.
    I suspect Irish laity will never be given an honest answer by our bishops to the key question as to why Share The Good News has not happened in most dioceses and parishes and why it has now been abandoned. Bishops seem always able to find or raise money for what they consider important so why could they not raise an appeal for money from every parish to sustain the development and spread into every parish in Ireland of this vitally important programme. Mass stipends alone could have made a major contribution to resourcing the programme.

    Reply
  2. Anthony Neville

    Share the Good News was the theme of the National Pastoral Conference 2011, held in Athlone. I attended the conference and was surprised at the few bishops in attendance, three if my memory serves me correctly. I was impressed by the parish priest who brought his parish pastoral council to the conference. Unfortunately I cannot remember the parish to give due credit. I enquired how many people attended from Dublin, apart from me, three people from a diocese of 199 parishes. I have never heard the Share the Good News publication mentioned at Mass or in a parish.
    I’m not sure anyone waited until 2013 to put it in a drawer.

    Reply
    • soconaill

      ‘Share the Good News’ was again featured at the last National Pastoral Conference of 2014, Anthony – again in Athlone.

      See: https://acireland.ie/struggling-orchestra-in-search-of-a-maestro/

      Notice, however, that my report on that event mentions frustration at the failure (i.e. of the ICBC) to appoint a ‘national co-ordinator’ for the plan – as well as frustration over the canonical status and weakness of parish pastoral councils.

      We could call that a valedictory event for STGN, I suppose. Yet there was never an official funeral. Strictly speaking it is still Ireland’s ‘National Directory for Catechesis’, I think.

      Reply
  3. Kevin Walters

    I believe that the problem for the Church today is a spiritual one, but sadly the church cannot give us a solution, because in doing so it would have to confront itself in ‘Truth’ Which it refuses to do. So

    Here is a spiritual message from the *Hopi Elders

    “You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.
    Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour.
    Here are the things that must be considered:
    What are you doing?
    What are your relationships?
    Are you in right relation?
    Where is your water?
    Know our garden.
    It is time to speak your Truth.
    Create your community.
    Be good to each other.
    And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
    This could be a good time!
    There is a river flowing now very fast.
    It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
    They will try to hold on to the shore.
    They will feel like they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.
    Know the river has its destination.
    The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off toward the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.
    See who is there with you and celebrate.
    At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves!
    For the moment we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
    The time of the lonely wolf is over.
    Gather yourselves!
    Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary.
    All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration
    We are the ones we have been waiting for.

    My understanding as a Christian of this Hopi spiritual message.

    The eleventh hour is always an ongoing time of crisis. So in whatever time/world you are living in presently, now is the hour to leave and let go of the safe institution (shore) and step into quickening water of Life/Grace, as now is the time to speak the ‘Truth’.
    Create your spiritual community. Be good to each other and do not look outside yourself for the ‘Light’/leader. Leave the dead to bury their dead on the shore do not be afraid as you know that the river of His grace has its destination. Keep your eyes (Hearts) open, see the grace in the water of life (Christ), see who is with you and rejoice. Walk His ‘Way’ of Truth; do not struggle, as all that you do now must be done in a sacred manner (Trust)

    Are you one the ones, He has been waiting for?

    A further statement from the Hopi Elders, that relate to the state of world today; it is full of wisdom.
    “The forces we must face are formidable, but the only alternative is annihilation. Still the man-made system cannot be corrected by any means that requires one’s will to be forced upon another, for that is the source of the problem. If people are to correct themselves and their leaders, the gulf between the two must disappear. To accomplish this one can only rely on the energy of ‘TRUTH’ itself.

    And that energy rests within Christ our King, The Holy Spirit.

    Venerate the true Divine Mercy Image an Image of Broken Man as we reflect the Lords heart the best we can. Father! we only have to turn to you and always you give the morning dew, your own Heart is nailed to a tree so that we dance free when we bend our knee

    “Jesus, I Trust in thee”

    *The Hopi are mainly agricultural people who live in the American Southwest, mainly in Arizona where today their Hopi reservation covers a land area of over 2,500 sq mi. They cultivate dozens of varieties of corn, beans, pumpkins

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

    Reply

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