I was alarmed to read a recent report in The Irish Times dated the 12th June 2017 under the scary heading that Catholic Bishops tell of “ hostility “ and “persecution “ towards the Church. The bishops involved were Denis Brennan of Ferns and Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore. When the bishops use the word Church , do they mean the People of God or are they still unconsciously using the pre Vatican11 meaning of clerical hierarchy or Roman Control Group ? I do not think there is any hostility towards the People of God who continue to go about doing good. However, many people including most Catholics have lots of unanswered questions, frustrations and clear disagreement with the hierarchy on purely clerical teaching such as that on artificial contraception . That does not amount to hostility or persecution. Some time ago, a previous Garda Commissioner labelled whistleblowers who reported wrongdoing at senior management level as “disgusting “. Similarly, are bishops labelling prophets and lay people who raise valid questions as hostile persecutors ?
I was shocked at the reported advice given by Bishop Brennan at a recent ordination to a newly ordained priest . He seemed to be sending this good young priest out to regard decent parishioners as potential persecutors just because they may disagree with various non core clerical teachings which are way out of line with the mature consensus of the faithful. The correct course of action for all hierarchies is to listen humbly to the people, the whistleblowers and the prophets. They should admit or confess wrongdoing or outdated doctrines and practises. Their purpose of amendment should be to enact urgent reform and change for the good of all.
The Catholic people cling to their faith in the core Good News of Jesus Christ despite being haunted by reports in recent decades of patriarchal abuse and possible cover up. However, a huge gap has arisen in recent times in Ireland between the hierarchy and the majority consensus of Catholic people plus good pastoral priests on at least five very important issues. Those issues are as follows –
( 1 ) Equality for women in the ministry, governance and teaching office of our Catholic Church.-
(2 ) Artificial contraception .-
(3 ) The ongoing abuse which is mandatory celibacy leading to the tragic Eucharistic and pastoral care famine emerging in many Catholic countries .-
(4 ) Homosexuality and related sexual issues. –
(5 ) Roman opposition to collegiality and refusal to share power.
A combination of all those important issues serves to undermine the Catholic presentation of a credible pro-life and pro-justice position in the public square. If the clerical hierarchy refuse to listen to the people and refuse to proceed with much-needed change it is little wonder that there is severe unease, anger and distress as part of the growing Catholic crisis.
The Catholic people, religious and priests will continue to do massive good in their private and public lives. They will warmly welcome their priests among them. However, they will no longer be cowed into sheepish silence and reserve the right to speak honestly from their experience and to contribute their talent. The Catholic family worldwide needs to talk together, listen, dialogue and implement much change. The potential for good and the building up of the Kingdom is enormous. There is no need for the bishops or any elite holy group to lock themselves into a prison of paranoia or to continue any further with their false narrative that they are victims. There is no need to circle the wagons and retreat to a 19th century gulch !! The bishops have it in their power to encourage and lead us all in open, honest communication leading to consensus and change. This can be done in all parishes and diocesan synods in preparation for Vatican lll or, maybe Dublin l !!