Bishops “Protecting Marriage” and the ‘had it’ Catholics

As some Catholic bishops persist in attempts to impose their disordered ideas on sexual ethics and civil marriage on the rest of the population, they would do well to read and ponder deeply a post by Tom Roberts at NCR on the extent of disaffected Catholics, whom he calls the “had it” Catholics “who are leaving the church and either dropping out of organized religion altogether or finding refuge in other denominations.”

The phenomenon of declining numbers in all the major denominations is well-known, but Roberts refers to a Pew research report that show the Catholic church is especially hard hit.

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Another Bishop Calls For “Rethink” on Sexuality

Some conservative Catholics are aghast at remarks made by (retired) Bishop Francis A Quinn to “Inside Sacramento” magazine. To judge from the CCD report, you’d think the man was a rabid gay activist, getting an award for advancing the “gay agenda”. The CCD was especially  hysterical that he had once conducted a retreat at a centre which is also used on occasion by gay groups. This was particularly highlighted and emphasised – as if the activities of others using the retreat at entirely different times were anything to do with him. It is also true, that at the awards ceremony which prompted the interview, he was serenaded by the Gay Men’s Chorus, and his words on gay relationships were refreshingly sane – but that is not what the award was about.

To learn that, I had to go to the original source of the information, the interview in “Inside Sacramento”. In fact, the award  was to honour his long career  working with young people, as a teacher and later as a bishop taking special interest in providing services for the homeless, or helping to created affordable housing – and a retirement spent working equally hard on just the same things, as a volunteer. In other words, a lifetime doing precisely what any priest (or other Catholic) is called to do: devoting himself to service to others.

Bishop Francis Quinn


So what were the words that so offended the self-righteous readers at California Catholic Daily?

“Pointing to the dramatic changes made within the Catholic Church by Vatican II, Quinn asserts that it is time for a new council, this one dedicated to looking at human sexuality and its intersection with religion,” said Inside East Sacramento. “The new council, he says, should involve the entire Catholic community as well as people of other faiths.”

“So many of the issues that Catholics deal with — divorce, homosexuality, premarital sex — center around sexuality and affect how they connect with the church,” Bishop Quinn told the publication. “We need to move beyond this circular logic and look at what is really happening in people’s lives.”

Bishop Quinn doesn’t simply join Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna and  Portuguese military ordinary, Bishop     – he goes a great deal further than they have done, calling for Vatican III, to be devoted primarily to consideration of sexual ethics. The “Catholic Caveman” is horrified (are you surprised, with that self-description?) . I am thrilled. It will not surprise my regular readers that I am right behind him on this.

Whatever you do, don’t rely on the panicked, selective reports at the usual places. Go to the original interview at Inside Sacramento, and read what he actually said – he’s a far more orthodox Catholic than his detractors would like you to believe.

Do it Yourself Catholicism

Three posts I have seen online in the past couple of days have had in common observations about people of faith moving ahead without on religious matters without ecclesiastical sanction – Christians doing it themselves. At Open Tabernacle, Obie Holmen wrote about the expanding womenpriests movement in “Roman Catholic female ordination“. At Gay Mystic, Jayden Cameron cross-posted two pieces on the parishioners of St Mary’s Brisbane, who say they have been “Liberated with Joy from a Failing institution“, and on the Home Eucharist movement. Before we condemn these out of hand, it is worth giving some thought to history: to the early history of the Church, and also to some lessons from twentieth century secular history.

Some Prominent Women in the Early Church

In the very early Church, there was no distinct, set-apart clerical elite. Even as there emerged distinct roles for deacons and bishops, their roles were markedly different to those we know today. “Deacon” took their title from the Greek for “to serve”, while bishops were “overseers”, leading small local teams – with the emphasis on team work and leading. Worship was in small congregations, led by its own members, who were not professional clergy. Read the rest of this entry »

Irish Demand for Democracy – in Church.

The Irish Catholic Church, compared with other countries, has been notable for its belated response to the problem of clerical abuse.  Like other countries, for decades the bishops responded by cover-ups and denial.  Once finally forced out from cover, though, they have done more than any other country to finally deal appropriately with the problem.  the Ryan report, in its comprehensiveness and brutal honesty began the process.  That prompted a response from government, which launched a follow-up into the cover-ups by the bishops.  Teh public outcry, coupled with the firm resolve and frank apologies from the present Archbishop of Dublin, has led to more hand-wringing from Pope Benedict, who has promised a “pastoral letter” (as if that would help).  More usefully, four of the five bishops implicated in the Murphy report have been forced to resign, in what is for the church, a remarkable demonstration of accountability.(The fifth bishop insists he will not resign.  We shall see how long he can last, against the determination of archbishop Martin to scrub the barrel clean)

Equally impressive has been the response of the Irish public, who are finally beginning to ask the questions, and demand the responses, which really get to the real heart of the problem;  the fundamental causes.  Fr Timothy Radcliffe, in a recent address in Dublin, raised one issue:  that of the culture in the church obsessive control.  ow an opinon piece in the Irish Independent raises another, and proposes a remedy:  the church needs to introduce internal democracy.

Of course it should – as should church structures all around the world. (Not in the same form as parliamentary democracy,  not with equal votes for all:  but some form of democracy and shared decision taking is of crucial importance – just as it was for the early church at the very beginning.

Here is an extract from the piece in the Irish Independent, following the funeral of the former Primate of all-Ireland, Cardinal Daly.

Scandals must kickstart new era for Church

Observing the procession of aged men in their ceremonial robes, chatting among themselves as if at a clerical old boys’ reunion, I had an acute sense that the Catholic laity, be they of pious disposition or a la carte-minded, must mobilise to take control away from the ordained ministers who betrayed them and chart a new reform path for their Church.

The People of God, as the Church was defined by the Second Vatican Council, need to dismantle the clericalist pyramid of command structures that have dominated the mind-set since the First Vatican Council in 1870. That council lumbered the centralised system from Rome with the unverifiable dogma of papal infallibility and embedded a culture of unquestioning loyalty by a docile laity to a command system from the top down of Pope, cardinals, archbishops and bishops, not forgetting the Irish tradition of the infallibility of the parish priest.

The laity in Ireland must speak out now and demand a more democratic rather than medievalist church. Otherwise they will be expected to follow the paternalistic route which Pope Benedict plans to announce in his pre-Lenten pastoral letter to the Irish that will be interpreted as the mandate for church governance that is to be implemented by the two principal leaders of the Irish Church, Cardinal Brady and the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.

(Read more)

Hans Kung: 30 years. (“We Are Church” Media Release)

Media Release from “Wir Sind Kirche” (The sometimes odd translation is from their own website; the picture I added from  Wikimedia Commons):

30 years since revocation of the ecclesiastical right to teach of Hans Kueng (18 December 1979):

‘His persistence is encouragement, inspiration and incentive for all of us.’

Hans Kung

This 18 December 2009 will be the 30th anniversary of the day when Pope John Paul II revoked the ecclesiastical right to teach (missio canonica) of Prof. Dr. Hans Kung because of his proposals for reform in the Catholic church. In his book ‘Infallible? An inquiry’ published in 1970 after the Second Vatican Council (1962- 1965) and equally prompted by the encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae’ from 25 July 1968 Kung raised the question if the papal ministry is indeed infallible. With this Kung, like nobody else in our time, raised the question of truth in Christianity and kept it alive ever since. The world-famous Swiss theologian, appointed official adviser to the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII, contributed decisively to an ecumenical theology notwithstanding his later marginalization by the church. His doctoral thesis ‘Justification’ about the Swiss reformed theologian Karl Barth, finished in 1957, was praised at the time by Joseph Ratzinger, teaching colleague of Kung at the University of Tuebingen/Germany until 1968. Kung made major contributions to the agreement reached in 1999 between the Catholic church and the Lutheran Church with regard to the declaration of the doctrine of justification. His ‘Project world ethos’ ( started in 1990 grew into an important stimulator for the interreligious dialogue, today more necessary than ever in the face of our global problems. On 6 October 2009 he proclaimed his ‘Declaration to a global business ethos’ in front of the UN.

After the revocation of the ecclesiastical right to teach Kung did not retract his theologically well founded statements to the disputed dogma of infallibility of 1870. By doing so he showed that what we are being asked to do is not to obey but to resist the usurpations from Rome. In 1979 Kung was appointed to the chair for ecumenical theology that was created for him outside the Catholic faculty and which he occupied until 1997.

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Reaffirming Vatican II: We are the Shepherds

After writing earlier this week about Bishop Robinson’s book (” Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church “) on power and abuse in the church, with its reflections on the attempts at Vatican II to re-balance the power structures, I was interested to find in quick succession two items which between them shed some light on the problem.  And the answer, I suspect, lies not with ‘them’, but with  ‘us’.

First,the more seemingly frivolous item:  a report in New Catholic Times (sensus fidelium) on a novel, “Waiting for Mozart”, by Chuck Pilon, set in a Catholic parish 25 years after the conclusion of Vatican II. “Less than and somewhat more than” a review,  it is John Quinn’s reflections that I found particularly insightful.  Let me quote from  Quinn’s review /reflection:


“In Chapter 2 of Waiting for Mozart, Fr. Joe Burns is described thus:

A  fine priest…Ordained before Vatican II but known for aggressive application of its directives.

In those couple of sentences we have the story of Waiting for Mozart captured.

Ordained before Vatican II“, so socialized by a Catholic world-view radically different from that articulated by the council.

Joe was “known for aggressive application of its directives.” His was the responsibility of ‘applying” the directives of the council. This he would do “aggressively.

And it was “directives“, that is something given him to implement, to put into operation.


Quinn goes on to describe an incident from his own parish experience, in which parish priests would not ‘allow’ development & peace groups (a diocesan initiative). This led to a follow up where his own PP prevented him setting up a children’s liturgy for the parish – so he went elsewhere, and set up a children’s liturgy in a parish 25 minutes away.

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Maledict Does It Again!

I am so angry I am ready to spit.

This week marks the completion of one month blogging on this site – my first, very tiny milestone.  In the much bigger scheme of things, this week also marks the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.  For both of these reasons, I was anxious to return to the original spirit I promised in launching – to ‘celebrate’ our place in the church, and to focus on the Good News inherent in Scripture, and in the rest of the Christian tradition.

Indeed there is good news, and I will return to it the rest of the week – but for now, I have to express my anger at the latest affront from the Vatican.  (Until I have had time to calm down though, I will not attempt comment of my own – just present the bare facts, and link to flesh out the story. ) In the  week of the Vatican II anniversary, in a move clearly timed to coincide with it, Benedict has chosen to mark the occasion by reinstating 4 Lefevrist bishops, one of whom is so off-the-wall right wing it makes one’ s hair stand on end. Oh, and the timing gets better:  not only were the Vatican rebels welcomed back with open arms to co-incide with the 50th Anniversary, but the rehabilitation of the holocaust denier was done just days before the rest of the world remembers international Holocaust Memorial Day.

Lifting the ban on these wingnuts, whose original fall from grace was based on their opposition to Vatican II, follows hard on the heels of the silencing of more progressive voices:

There is a lot more I would like to say on both of these, but will wait until I have calmed down.

I hope to have more positive material later.