Monday, December 28, 2009

'Mentioned in the Murphy Report'

This news report is worth reading. It deals with the pressure on Bishop Martin Drennan to resign. The key sentence - to my mind - is:
The bishop has been under mounting media pressure since four of his colleagues mentioned in the Murphy report on how allegations of child sex abuse were handled in the Dublin archdiocese have tendered resignations.
Firstly, the 'story' here is about media pressure. This pressure which the media applies is one which doesn't come under near enough scrutiny. What is the motivation behind this pressure and who sees that it is applied responsibly?

Secondly, it seems to me that the only accusation leveled against Bishop Drennan is that he is 'mentioned in the Murphy Report'. This phrase seems to have taken on a voodoo-like power. It portends all kinds of wrong-doing and suggests imminent disaster for the one 'mentioned'.

What worries me in this case is that Bishop Drennan is merely 'mentioned' in the Murphy Report. He's not criticised in the Murphy Report. His behaviour wasn't found to be inadequate or harmful in the Murphy Report. No, he was 'mentioned' in the Murphy Report, and therefore there is 'Media Pressure' for him to resign. What is this? Some form of McCarthyism? What if one were to point out that Archbishop Martin is also 'mentioned' in the Murphy Report? Will there be media pressure for his resignation? Indeed, TV and Radio personality Gay Byrne is, if you want to be technical about it, also 'mentioned' in the Report. I guess he's lucky that he's already retired or he might have to face pressure as well.

To my mind, the targeting of Bishop Drennan shows that the line has been crossed between the media acting in the public interest and the media stoking up a witch hunt. Bishop Drennan has been accused of no crime or negligence. He was made Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997 - at a time when it seems that the handling of abuse cases was being put right. Anyone who has taken the time to actually read and digest the Murphy Report will find nothing even mildly critical of him.

What then is his crime? Guilt-by-association with Cardinal Connell? Being in the wrong place several years after the wrong time? Or is it simply the case of someone wanting an episcopal scalp?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

On the Dublin Report

I'm not sure what can fittingly be said about the Dublin Report. I guess that I'd suggest reading the report itself rather than relying on media accounts or analysis. It's a fair report. It lays blame justly without having an axe to grind. The details of the abuse - and the realisation that much of it could have been prevented had senior clergymen acted decisively and with spine is sickening.
A Humbler Church?
There have been calls for a 'humbler' Church. I'm a young man. I don't have any real memory of a time when the Church 'ran' everything in society, so some of those calls don't make a whole lot of sense to me. They seem to be aimed at the realities of an Ireland which is almost dead. Likewise, the cliché of rich senior prelates living the high-life and a culture of unquestioning obedience doesn't really relate to anything I've seen in modern Ireland. Yes, our Bishops may live in historic buildings, but the few bishops I know live very modestly behind those walls. I freely admit that no priest in Ireland is going to be living on the breadline, but many of the priests I know gave up very prestigious careers and livelihoods in the secular arena for a life which pays significantly less and brings its own demands and pressures. They're not asking applause for that. However, I think that they do, however, deserve the presumption of sincerity.
Whose humility?
If there needs to be a humbler Church, it seems to me that we need to strive for a holy humility. It sometimes seems to me that when people talk about a 'humbler Church', they really mean a Church who doesn't really believe in anything any more and a faith which doesn't make any moral demands. I sometimes suspect that what is being asked for is a Church which dispenses spirituality, affirmation and pretty ceremonies without upsetting anyone by actually preaching the Gospel. That's not the kind of humility we need. Reading about the abuse, one has to wonder whether the men who did had any kind of belief in Christ or judgement or perdition or charity or kindness?
I think we need to look towards the holy and zealous humility of St Francis of Assisi and St John Vianney. We clergy have a particular responsibility within the Church. We need to be humble before the teaching of the Church and do our best to teach it by word and example. We need to believe and preach more fervently. We need to cleave more firmly to the Truth who is Christ. Our humility can't be a going quietly into the night, but a growing submission to the demands of our priesthood. "Holiness rather than peace, " as Newman used to say. The unholiness uncovered by the Dublin Report can only be atoned for by a holy humility. That holy humility must also include a burning zeal for justice. The laxity which led senior clerics to hurt so many people by not dealing firmly and aggressively with abuse can never be repeated. We mustn't be afraid to hold ourselves to the highest standards of probity in all matters. We should not resent the idea of bishops having a bit of spine in dealing with priests who step out of line.
Continuing to be a Priest
Despite the report, I'm still happy to be a priest. Indeed, because it's a fair and just report, I'm somewhat relieved that it's finally out there. Anyone who's been following the news for the past few years would have known what kind of horrors were going to be published, and no one within the Church can object to an uncovering of the truth an a fair judgement. Having read the report, I know that what's in it has made it much more difficult to be a priest in Ireland. However, it's also made it so very clear how much the Church and the World need Christ. He is the only one who can bring healing, reconciliation, liberation and salvation. If I didn't believe that, I'd be as well off hanging up my collar. That's not to say that I can proffer Him as an easy answer. Using Him as a glib slogan is not an option. That path toward healing isn't going to be an easy one for our society and it's not at all clear how it's going to come about. It's going to place huge demands on all sincere Catholics, and on clergy in particular. There may be times when it may seem as though the game mightn't be worth the candle, but as we approach the end of one Church year and face into the hopeful penitence of Advent, we should remind ourselves that He is with us always, even until the end of time.

(Incidentally, Seraphic posts with her usual common sense and compassion.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Priest in Love?

There's been quite an amount of coverage of the case of an Irish priest who announced at Mass this weekend that he's leaving ministry because of "loving, beautiful and life-giving relationship" with a woman. Needless to say, the spin that the media are putting on it is aimed at abolishing clerical celibacy. The Irish Independent headlines its account with Church cheers as priest admits that he's in love. This is - I think - the only media account which speaks about cheering. I can believe a popular priest receiving a round of applause in recognition of his work following a decision to leave the ministy, but the thought of a congregation cheering him in such circumstances strikes me as grotesque and implausible.

Now, the priest in question has been lauded for his honesty. After all, he told his congregation that because celibacy was "integral to the priesthood" he could no longer remain a priest. Fair enough. Stepping down was a more honourable action than leading the kind of double-life which has brought shame and disgrace to the ministry.

However, this doesn't change the fact that this priest is having a relationship with a married mother of two. And so, whilst he did the right thing in resigning the ministry, the truly honourable thing would have been to admit peccavi - I have sinned - rather than talking about a "loving, beautiful and life-giving relationship". Now, my heart goes out to this man. He's fallen into an adulterous relationship, a situation of serious sin. Sin being what it is, he may well be able to justify this situation to himself. Romantic love can cloud the thinking part of our brains. He may well believe that this is something postive and good in his life. Our prayers should be with him. He deserves our pity.

Less deserving of our pity, however, are those who are trying to make him some kind of poster-boy argument in favour of abolishing priestly celibacy. He is no such thing. He's an unfortunate man who proved unfaithful to the promise he took at ordination, and who failed to respect the marriage vows of his new partner. Such sin isn't an argument in favour of anything. The fact that men and women commit adultery isn't an argument in favour of making marriage a more 'open' and less permanent relationship. Would we cheer and applaud a married clergyman who was unfaithful to his wife?

This is a sad, sad, situation. But this is a time for the Church to speak clearly about the meaning of marriage and celibacy. Fidelity to marriage vows and promises of celibacy have an especial value these days. Normally, I think that situations like Fr McKenna's should be passed over with a discreet and charitable silence. Self-righteousness is ugly and none of us are without our own sins. However, when his case is being used disingenuously to undermine the value of priestly celibacy, I think that it's only right to say bluntly what is really happening.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

New Motu Proprio

The Holy Father has issued a new motu proprio dealing with the whole SSPX situation. It's called Ecclesiae Unitatem (The Unity of the Church) and has been issued in Latin and Italian.

What does it say? The meat of the letter is the transfer of the Commission Ecclesia Dei from the Congregation of Divine Worship to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. This commission used to have as its ambit the usage of the 1962 Missal in the Church. Now, however, its remit has a more theological aspect. The President of the Commission will henceforth be the prefect of the CDF and will focus on securing agreement with the SSPX on points of doctrine. This is a very significant step in the direction of reconciling the SSPX.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Newman Miracle Approved

There have been whispers about this for months, but the Bolletino finally announces:
- un miracolo, attribuito all'intercessione del Venerabile Servo di Dio Giovanni Enrico Newman, Cardinale e Fondatore degli Oratori di San Filippo Neri in Inghilterra; nato a Londra (Inghilterra) il 21 aprile 1801 e morto a Edgbaston (Inghilterra) l'11 agosto 1890;
- a miracle, attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God John Henry Newman, Cardinal and Founder of the Oratories of St Philip Neri in England; born in London (England) 21 April 1801 and died in Edgebaston (England) 11 August 1890
Followers of the 'blog will know that I have a devotion to Newman and am delighted that his beatification is imminent.
The big question is - will it be held in England or in Rome? Pope Benedict has had a policy of not celebrating beatification ceremonies himself, but rather delegating them and having them celebrated in the local Churches or countries of the Beati. However, Newman has been a significant influence on Pope Benedict and, given his historical and theological stature, the beatification may happen in Rome. We'll wait and see.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Apostolic Visitation of the Legion

Via Zenit (itself a Legionary operation) the text of a letter from Cardinal Bertone:
The Holy Father is aware of the noble ideals that inspire you and the fortitude and prayerful spirit with which you are facing the current vicissitudes, and he encourages you to continue seeking the good of the Church and society by means of your own distinctive initiatives and institutions. In this regard, you can always count on the help of the Holy See, so that with truth and transparency, in a climate of fraternal and constructive dialogue, you will overcome the present difficulties. In this respect, the Holy Father has decided to carry out an Apostolic Visitation to the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ through a team of Prelates.

The Legion webpage shows that the letter was sent on the 10th of March. The General Director of the Legionaries has written a letter - available at the same webpage - and there's a rather coy FAQ:
Why is this Apostolic Visitation taking place?
The Holy Father has decided to help us to overcome our difficulties through an Apostolic Visitation.
Father Álvaro Corcuera has been in constant dialogue with the Holy See, asking for help and guidance.

Coyness aside, at least the rhetoric of the Legion is more palatable than the ranting of Sr Sandra Schneiders who is less than pleased at the fact that American female religious are also receiving a visitation.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Check it out!

The ever-interesting Cnytr has started blogging again. Lots of St Jospehy goodness posted today... check it out!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Amy has Moved

I should have blogged about this some time ago. Amy Welborn's blog has moved to
Don't forget to update your bookmarks and rss feeds.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

SSPX Bishops - No Longer Excommunicate

From the Vatican's Bolletino I read that the Holy Father has lifted the excommunications imposed on Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta. This is geared towards the reconciliation of their community with the Church.
The Congregation of Bishops explains that this is aimed at strengthening relationships with the Society and is intended to lead to a regularization of their relationship with the Holy See.

Personally, I think that this is a very generous act of the Holy Father, and I hope that no one would doubt his good will and sincerity. It will attract criticism, no doubt, but it's important to understand precisely what this gesture means. It's a gesture of mercy because the excommunications were justly imposed. It's a concrete sign that the Holy Father wants to bring the Society back into communion. However, my understanding of this (and I admit that I'm not a canonist) is that this is simply a starting point. Bishops Fellay et al still lack jurisdiction within the Church and the Society cannot be said to have been restored into full communion. Bishop Fellay and the clergy of the Society are still canonically irregular and do not have faculties to exercise their ministry. Whilst not excommunicate because of their irregular consecration, the Bishops of the Society are not properly members of the Catholic Hierarchy. Membership of the College of Bishops depends, not only on valid episcopal consecration, but also on hierarchal communion with the Bishop of Rome and the other Bishops.

It should also be noted that there is a lot of theological ground which needs to be covered, especially in the area of religious liberty, the authority of the Second Vatican Council and the newer liturgy. The clergy of the SSPX will need to undergo a severe examination of conscience regarding some of the things they have said over the past few years. However, with charity and the work of the Holy Spirit, wounds can be healed.

Edited to add: Amy Welborn does a wonderful job of gathering the commentary on this event together and explaining what's going on. She's also kind enough to link to me. ;)