Faithful Obedience, or Collaboration in Heresy?

At Enlightened Catholicism, Colleen has posted a powerful piece from Australia, after Pope Benedict’s visit there and expressions of regret and sorrow over Australian clerical abuse.  The author, Tom Doyle, writes of his experiences and reflections on the church, after appearing as an expert witness at several trials over abuse claims, concluding with his suggestions for what Benedict could and should have done – but didn’t, and won’t.

Colleen makes some important points about the comparison with the current reports out of Ireland, which hardly show any more appropriate response from the ecclesiastical authorities. Read Tom Doyle’s thoughts, and Colleen’s response, at “Two Views of Meaningful Vatican Responses for the Abuse Crisis.”

(Jayden Cameron at Mystic Gay sees in this  an improbable sign of hope:

My own feeling, which may seem pessimistic to some, but not to me, is that the Spirit is simply moving us away from dependence on these large institutional religious structures. We are being forced into the catacombs and onto the desert margins where the wild Spirit blows, and from this marginalization with come the radical restructuring of the tradition, burned free of it’s deadened, ossified structures. Spiritual seekers will simply begin looking elsewhere for their spiritual transformation, in smaller, independent religious communities whose primary obligation at this point in history is to offer a light in the wilderness….except it isn’t a wilderness at the moment. There is an extraordinary explosion of spiritual consciousness taking place at the moment, much of it chaotic, much of it highly creative, and quite a bit of it deeply inspiring. But it is not taking place, for the most part, within the major religious institutions of conservative Christianity, which have more or less lost their way. So be it.

What caught my eye, though was an observation at the end of Doyle’s article on our response.  Making the point that the church is unlikely to do the things he has suggested, and which it quite clearly needs to do, where does that leave us?  Do we simply wring our hands, express regret, and continue as before? Doyle sees the challenge for us in rather more bracing, even shocking, terms:

I think we all know that all of the above have no chance of happening. Perhaps the most realistic thing we can hope for is an awakening by isolated bishops here and there. We can also continue to hope that lay Catholics, who persist in looking at the hierarchical system through rose-colored glasses, will start to grow up, get past their denial and see reality for what it is. The recent popes and the hierarchy have enabled the most horrendous spiritual and emotional destruction of vulnerable people in a thousand years. Thus far they are doing precious little to make it right.

Those who continue to bow and scrape at the medieval ecclesiastical court are not faithful Catholics but enablers of evil. The heresy here is that the pope and the bishops seem to have no real clue that the plunder of the bodies and souls of the vulnerable…..boys, girls, men and women is evil that is perpetrated by clerics and religious men and women whose lives are supposed to combat evil rather than cause it.

This is strong stuff, but needs to be considered very seriously.  The widespread scandal of clerical abuse has not just been the result of individual weakness and a failure of governance, but has been deeply ingrained in the entire institutional structure of the church.  By paying lip service to their remorse while failing to address the real problems in any meaningful way, the hierarchical system is indeed continuing to inflict real evil on the entire church.  Is heresy too strong a word?

The rest of us, outside the system, are accustomed to being told that we should defer to the “wisdom” of the (self) appointed leaders of the church and their teaching.  But in accepting our subservient status, we are aiding and abetting the evil. We have a clear choice here:  to participate in the ongoing heresy of denial, or to stand in vocal and prophetic witness against it.

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5 Responses to “Faithful Obedience, or Collaboration in Heresy?”

  1. Rev Dr John J McNeill Says:

    I have written extensively on the Teology of Fallibility. We need fallible leaders in order to mature spititual and learn to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us from within our experinces. Through the failures of church hierarchiacal authorities tha Church is being transformed into the Church of the Holy Spirit. This is God’s doing and no human political force can stop it. Confer my book Sex As God Intended, the epilogue entitled Objective Disorder

    • Terence@queerchurch Says:

      Thanks for this reminder. I have written before about Dr McNeill’s book, and his thesis that we could well be in a “Kairos moment,” but this is probably a good time to have another look at the whole question – it is a theme that several other writers have been picking up on recently

  2. Mark from PA Says:

    I read this and also Tom Doyle’s thoughts and Colleen’s response. This is powerful stuff. I wonder if the Pope has ever spoken with Father Doyle. He surely should. This is heartbreaking and painful. Every time I read about the attitude of the bishops and their lawyers and how they treat the victims it just makes me all the more upset. It seems to me that so many don’t care about the victims. There were excellent suggestions but I wonder if any in the hierarchy are truly listening. A lot of what was said here is right on target.

  3. Jayden Cameron Says:

    Wonderful comment from John McNeill which I’ve quoted over at GayMystic. Thanks for the posting, Terry, and for your wonderful expression: heresy of denial. right on

    • Terence@queerchurch Says:

      Your comment was most useful. It led to John McNeill’s response, as you know – and that in turn has led me to a whole new train of reasoning, starting with an edited re-post of the Dignity address, which I think is now more relevant than ever. Back in 2005, it was prescient. now, I think it can be read as a foundation document fro what so many of us are saying.

      Coming up will be something for the German group “Wir sind Kirche”,llaong much the same lines, but without the KGBT siginificance.

      As we’ve all said before, it is extraordinary where these comments can lead, and how productive they can be.


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