Fr Brian D’Arcy reviews Joe Mulvaney’s excellent book

Fr Brian D’Arcy reviews Joe Mulvaney’s excellent book

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Layman’s Brave Portrayal of what Church could be is a Blueprint for Real Redemption: Mulvaney Offers Critical Insight

 Father Brian D’Arcy, Sunday World, February 10, 2019

 I OFTEN JOKE THAT that priests should have a pres­ervation order placed upon them as they are in danger of extinction. Perhaps, like corncrakes, you should get a grant for protecting us. I also believe that there is NOT a shortage of vocations to the priesthood – it’s just a shortage of male celibates. When I began writing about how unrealistic compulsory celibacy for priesthood is, there were many who questioned the validity of what I was saying.

Now the vast majority of decent people, Catholics, ex-Catholics, men, women and younger people with no interest in religion at all, agree that while chosen celibacy is a gift, compulsory celibacy is sim­ply unworkable in today’s world. An extremely competent and dedicated reformer, Joe Mul­vaney, would surely agree.

Joe sent me his new book: Speak Out for Reform in the Catholic Church: A Call to Action. It is a compelling account of his journey in life, leading to a valua­ble critique of the clerical church and a brave vision of what the Church could be if we could only wrestle it from the hands of career clerics.

Joe was born in Co. Sligo and is typical of our generation. He en­tered the seminary to train for the priesthood as a bright enthusiastic teenager. After seven years study and careful assessment, he was or­dained in 1970. In common with his All Hallows College confreres he was sent to an American Diocese – in his case, Corpus Christi in Texas. There were 25 Irish priests in that diocese in the 1970s.

Life as priest was a struggle for Joe, for two main reasons. He simply couldn’t accept the strict demands made on honest, hard-working lay people by the clerical privileged class; and he soon recognised that a life of enforced celibacy would never be a fulfilled life for him. “The celibate life is not one in which I could continue. I think it is cruel and unfair on men who are called by God to serve as priests, but who do not have the stoic ability to live out their lives in service as celibate men,” he writes.

His mind was made up on St Pat­rick’s Day 1975 when he met Maureen Leonard in Corpus Christi. She left Mountbellew in Galway to become a nun in Texas. She was now the Prin­cipal of a Catholic school there and she, too, was beginning to struggle with her vocation. They fell in love and both were dispensed from their vows to marry each other in 1977. They returned to Ireland, took up residence in St Attracta’s parish in Meadowbrook, Dundrum in Dublin, where they have been active in the parish and community since. They have three grown children, are now grandpar­ents, and recently celebrated 40 years of marriage.

You need those details to under­stand the value of Joe’s vision of what the Catholic Church could be. In reality, he sees a church in crisis. “Clericalism has diminished us all and it produces abuse… Priests are in short supply, overburdened and restricted by clerical rules and traditions. “Parishes will wither away if the hi­erarchy persists in refusing to heed the wisdom of lay people who now favour Eucharistic celebration by male or female priests whether married or single…”.

Joe’s book is one response by a parent and practising Catholic who, crucially, offers a vision for reform and action. It is an invitation to Catholics who still have an interest in their faith to become involved by taking back their Church, as Pope Francis constantly encourages us to do. “He (Francis) has repeatedly asked for our opinions and ac­tive participation in serious Church reform. Irish archbishops now agree that the hierarchy must listen to the voices and opinions of the people.”

It would be wrong to summarise the second half of the book, which is a well-constructed layman’s view of what could and should happen NOW in the Church. For example, we all know that there are married priests already in the Catholic Church, but Joe has a whole chapter on ordained women priests and bishops already active in the Church.

This is a must-have book. Joe and his family have gifted us with an ex­cellent blueprint. Almost everything he suggests has been proposed many times here in recent years, but no­body listens. Since it comes from a dedicated lay person hopefully will make a difference.

You can purchase a copy from Joe Mulvaney, 10 Sycamore Drive, Dundrum, Dublin 16, for €14 within Ireland and €17 outside Ireland post and packaging included. Or contact