Catholic Priests Have Now 'Earned the Right' to Speak out

By Marie O'Halloran
Irish Times
May 8, 2012

'VISION' SESSION: CATHOLIC priests have "earned the right" to speak out, having been through so much in the past number of years, the conference organised by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) heard.

Fr Tony Butler SMA, Blackrock, Co Cork, said people speak out at times of crisis when they might not otherwise do, and Catholic priests were in a similar situation and could speak out and "say what we want". He told the more than 1,000 people at the conference: "We have earned the right."

Fr Butler said "no word of God is God's last word" but because of fear that "non-conforming thought" was growing internationally, the church had reacted with a "colonial instinct for retribution" that was "well oiled".

During a session at the conference entitled Vision, he said "believing that all things worth knowing are already known in life, church and society, creates a cultured ignorance which guarantees that mediocrity becomes a virtue".

Catholicism would evolve as it had done for thousands of years and would be more humble, multilingual and polycentric and would not claim to be a "triumphalist, all seeing church".

He said fear in the church had created "the principle of dangerous precedent: nothing should be done for the first time".

Theologian Cathy Molloy said many in the media were unaware of the distinction between "dogma and discipline" and she believed that church leaders should have clarified it.

Some "unchallenged presentations have contributed to a kind of ritual public humiliation of some of our good priests" who she believed "have not rejected any dogma of the church" but sought to respond to concerns about "disciplinary matters such as celibacy and priesthood".

"Uninformed reporting added to the confusion and serious letting down of some of our most dedicated priests."

She also said "the consigning of each woman born and every woman born and all women born, to a merely consultative role in the church is surely untenable in the communion described by Pope John Paul".

She believed the handling by the hierarchy in the Vatican, as much as in individual countries, of a number of scandals questioned the "credibility of the church as authentic communion".

They included the scandal of sexual abuse and the "perceived and often very real, harsh treatment of people in second unions after marriage breakdown".

It also included "gay and lesbian Catholics treated as objects of pastoral concern rather than subjects, active in the church", the refusal of public discussion on the ordination of women and the hurts in the area of ecumenism.

"The refusal to dialogue is in some instances itself a form of violence and brings our church into disrepute."

Parish pastoral worker Aoife McGrath said there were many people baptised in the Catholic Church who did not feel they belonged and that included people "who go to Mass weekly or even daily and perform essential tasks within their parish communities".

Ms McGrath, who studied theology and is based in the diocese of Waterford Lismore, said people believed the word "church" meant priests and religious. But "by virtue of their baptism" people "are" church.


Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.