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Re-balancing authority in the abusive Church


Can I Stay in the Catholic Church? by Brian LennonOrganisers had initially expected 200 to turn up at the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) meeting in Dublin this month. In fact over 1000 showed up.

The size of the crowd in part was a response to the recent silencing of Irish priests.

One of those silenced, Fr Tony Flannery, was part of the leadership team of the ACP. A second, Fr Brian D'Arcy, was a weekly columnist in tabloid newspaper, The Sunday World. It turned out that someone in the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith had been trawling through decades of the paper to check D'Arcy's articles.

Two other stories provided a backdrop to the meeting. One was a TV program which revealed that in 1975 when he was a bishop's secretary, Cardinal Sean Brady, now Primate of Ireland, was given the names of some boys abused by Fr Brendan Smyth during a canonical investigation, and failed to report this either to the parents or to the police. Smyth, the abuser being investigated, continued to prey on children for a further 18 years.

In fact the Cardinal had passed all the information up to his bishop and was devastated when he learnt that Smyth had not been stopped. He rejected calls for his resignation. Several commentators pointed out that had he called for a discussion on women priests the Vatican would have promptly given him his marching orders, as Bishop Morris in Australia found to his cost.

A second story concerned Fr Kevin Reynolds. RTE, the national broadcaster, had accused him in a program of fathering a child by an underage woman in Africa. Reynolds denied the charge and offered to take a paternity test in advance of the program. This was refused. Eventually, RTE was forced to publish an abject apology, pay an undisclosed sum for libel, and was subjected to a withering public report. Several staff resigned.

There is a pattern in all this: the terrible suffering of children who have been abused, the humiliation they experience — which many describe as a second abuse — when they look for truth from the Church, some false accusations against priests, the Vatican seeking to impose uniformity of doctrine throughout the world, groups of priests and/or lay people organising to resist this, and conservative groups in turn opposing the reformers.

The ACP conference was a great day because it gave so many people hope, and hope is something we need.

In my own case I have been deeply disturbed by the abuse revelations and wondered how I could remain on in a church with so much corruption. This drove me to write a book on the issue, primarily for myself. But doing this gave me hope. It showed me that the way forward is through repentance. That means not only saying sorry and meaning it, but also changing what was wrong about our behaviour.

Catholic Church structures are riddled with patriarchy, clericalism and deference and these were at the very centre of the abuse problem itself. Repentance therefore means changing these.

The ACP, which wants Vatican II implemented, faces a major problem: we will not achieve this by conferences or articles. Walking away from the Church, or being silenced, will also achieve nothing: the powers that be seem content with a smaller church in their own image.

To be the Church of Christ, the Church has to be diverse. This means including people with opposing views. To do that we need dialogue. We also need a teaching authority because this is part of Catholic teaching. As well, we need a strong, central authority to oversee child protection in the Church throughout the world.

We cannot get any of this without a re-balancing of authority in the Church. The Body of Christ cannot have a voice if only the head speaks. It is akin, in human terms, to ignoring our physical or emotional reality. The outcome is a disaster.

The issue for the ACP, and for similar groups in Australia and elsewhere is: how can we make this happen? Perhaps lay people in particular, who are less subject to Vatican strictures, need to bring to the table their skills and knowledge of change in secular organisations.

Brian LennonBrian Lennon is a Jesuit working on peace issues and with prisoners in Northern Ireland. He is author of So You Can't Forgive? Moving Towards Freedom and Can I Stay in the Catholic Church?, both published by Columba. 

Topic tags: Brian Lennon, Catholic Church, Ireland, clergy sex abuse



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Existing comments

Were there any lay people at the ACP meeting? if not, perhaps an interesting strategy might be to in future invite lay people as well as clergy to the ACP meetings- not merely as observers, but as genuine participants in the the dialogue. What a potential force this might be! It might, to paraphrase Brian Lennon's words, be one demonstration of the Church of Christ in its diversity.

Marea Donovan | 18 May 2012  

Our Holy Mother,the Church is holy, beautiful and perfect and our guide to Heaven. It is the men and women that make up the body of our religious orders and the laity who are not abiding by the Teachings of our Catholic Church that are wrecking our Faith. To denigrate the Church is to to denigrate the Blessed Trinity. The selection process of men and women to perform the duties of the religious has failed badly. Many men who became "priests" were unfit for the priesthood because of their non acceptance of Church Teachings and acceptance of homosexuality and have caused the crisis in the Catholic world today. We are all subject to authority and obedience if we are to remain Catholic in good standing. Many liberal left-leaning progressives priests, nuns and laity won't submit to the Authority of the Church. They want a new democratic 'church' and wish to impose new doctrines or even no doctrine at all. These are the people who have brought the Faith to it's knees. Some of our very highest religious authorities have failed badly in teaching the Truths of our Catholic Church and have white-anted the One True Faith with their poisonous heresies and novelties. They don't care about the loss of souls, many of them not believing in the Incarnation, Ressurection or transubstantion etc. A good Church leader should do all they can to save as many souls to Heaven as is possible, instead of denigrating Our Holy Mother, the Church and it's infallible teachings. Authority and obedience to the unchanging truths of the Church are absolutely necessary to save our souls

Trent | 18 May 2012  

The title of the article is rather exagerrated and unjust. I don't feel that we live in an abusive church, but in a church where abuses occur. First fact. Second fact: if you are tempted to walk away from this church where abuses have occurred, which society are you going to choose, since more abuses are occurring (statistical evidence)in western civilised societies than in the Church?

Tony | 18 May 2012  

As I read Trent from time to time I wonder whether he/she (but I suspect "He") is a real person or a mythological person to reassure the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that all shall be well.

Brian Poidevin | 18 May 2012  

Thank you for a most interesting article. It restores faith in the willingness of thinking people within the Church to think through the much needed changes within it if it is to survive. Then I read Trent's comments and I see the blind obedience that has led to so much unhappiness among those who have been abused.

Frank Golding | 18 May 2012  

Trent, the church is not perfect - it is God's instrument on earth, therefore human and frail. The failings of priests does not wreck faith in God, but perhaps faith in the human institution of the church, understandably. Sex abuse has nothing to do with homosexuality - the acts abuses are both heterosexual and homosexual. The Catholic Church teaches us to accept homosexuality, so you yourself have contradicted the church's teaching. It is only the acting out of homosexual acts that the church has issue with and priests have made a free choice to live a life of celibacy. I don't think Trent's reasoning and moral viewpoints would pass muster with the Congregation of the Faith. Nowhere in the church's teachings does it claim that it's teachings are infallible. There are only a handful of dogma that can rightly be regarded as infallible teachings. Morality is not a matter of left or right leaning, it's a matter of justice and truth. Whatever the failings of humans, whether religious or lay, nothing can "bring our faith to it's knees". Faith comes from God.

AURELIUS | 18 May 2012  

Lay people have zero tolerance for pedophiles. Lay people want the church to act on behalf of the innocent rather than stick its head in the sand to protect the guilty. It is quite simple really but your whole piece never mentioned the word pedophile.

Greig Williams | 18 May 2012  

I think it is sad that the Trent comment was printed at all. His is not a rational debate. Pedophiles are not homosexuals. There is a growing body of research that believes that homosexuality is inherent in a child at birth. One of the down sides of Catholicism as Trent writes it is that we are to remain children forever, not questioning, not growing in understanding but judging without compassion those who don"t fit the rules. I believe in Christ"s time they were called the Pharisees.

Vineta | 18 May 2012  

Brian Lennon has provided us a rational and sensible summary of the problems facing the Catholic Church. I am always grateful for the insight that he and his fellow Jesuits provide through their many works and writings. I respect Trent’s view however I just can’t agree with it. The Church has, and always will be a human creation. With that come all the frailties of humanity which have been demonstrated with regularity over the centuries. As Catholic Christians are focus is and always must be our God made man through Jesus Christ. He has left us a rich template for human behaviour through the scriptures, at the centre of which, is love and forgiveness of our fellow man. Some of us including myself should reflect the true essence of our faith in our secular behaviour which includes posts on this site. Again many thanks Brian!

Andrew Teece | 18 May 2012  

What do I do to make you love me What have I got to do to be heard What do I do when lightning strikes me What have I got to do What have I got to do When sorry seems to be the hardest word

Myra | 18 May 2012  

Thank you, Brian, that was a most insightful article. Paedophilia in the Church is always an explosive issue. The abuse scandal worldwide has devastated it. Hopefully it and its administrators have, very painfully, learnt something and that will change their future behaviour. Patriarchal, authoritarian societies are as destructive of genuine masculinity as they are of genuine femininity. Clericalism is an outcome of this sort of culture. It has taken a very long time for the Catholic Church to be brought to its knees. You are quite correct, leaving the Church, because you are scandalised by the actions of some priests and some in its hierarchy, is no solution. One of the keys to moving forward is the hierarchy need to realise they preside in a spirit of love and responsibility, both to God and people. This does not entail a change in essential doctrine but the spirit in which it is administered. All the great Church renewers: St Benedict; St Francis of Assisi; St Catherine of Sienna and St Ignatius of Loyola, amongst others, saw through to what was white anting the Church of their day. Their vision to see that and the grace to change it were, I believe, gifts of the Spirit. We need to refind that deep well of Grace. God bless you. You are a real priest and a credit to your order.

Edward F | 18 May 2012  

Re Vineta ...homosexuality is inherent in a child at birth...'Sexing the brain' by Lesley Rogers, a leading researcher in neuroscience and animal behaviour shows how, in recent history, scientific claims about sex and gender differences have reflected the culture of the time. Although the conviction that genetics can explain everything is now widespread, the author demonstrates the interaction of culture and environment in the formation of behavioural traits.

Myra | 18 May 2012  

No doubt Trent is correct in distinguishing between the Church and some clerics within it and this applies particularly to politics. But when it mattered, the political activities of the secretive Santamaria 'Movement' were supported by many priests and bishops in Australia, particularly in Victoria. Catholics who opposed it were denigrated, even from the pulpit. Arthur Calwell was a notable victim. Now that the truth about the dubious tactics of the Movement have been exposed and its critics have been vindicated, perhaps it is time that Church leaders offered an apology - better late than never!

Bob Corcoran | 18 May 2012  

Tony: I don't feel that we live in an abusive church, but in a church where abuses occur....if you are tempted to walk away from this church where abuses have occurred, which society are you going to choose, ********************** It seems God designed all Life, even the Church, to evolve. Inception, Growth, Decline, hopefully produce a bigger and better model, and finally, in Decay, provide the ingredients for the growth of the newer and better model. We are ALL God's Children, and the many divisions need to move towards a Unity, probably firstly through a Federation, until we recognise that each of the parts represent only particular cultural and traditional view-points, and are not the complete package. Like the limbs and organs of our body, when each one combines for the good of the whole, each and every part and the Whole, all benefits.

Robert Liddy | 18 May 2012  

I struggle to believe that Trent can argue that the Church is 'beautiful and perfect'. It is made up of broken and flawed human beings who have acted in ways that are anything but beautiful and perfect. And the senior leaders in the Church ignored this behaviour at the cost of the spiritual and emotional lives of far too many children around the world. Is that what Jesus would want? I think not.

Angela Allen | 18 May 2012  

"The ACP, which wants Vatican II implemented, faces a major problem:" This has to be the crux of the matter. The major problem is that very few of the laity have had any education in what Vat II actually taught. This is the greatest failing of those responsible for the pastoral care of the Church. The laity is lost between the views Trent and those who have made their own uninformed opinions, based largely on personal philosophies. Such can only lead to dissent, disillusionment and division with fragmentation of the Church. That is obvious for all to see in the massive exodus from Holy Orders, the religious life and the practice of the Faith. Time for the hierarchy to get off their comfortable butts, abandon their useless flamin' talk festivals and to start teaching their flocks (assuming of course, that they have read the Vat II documents!)

john frawley | 18 May 2012  

Call me crazy, but I'd say that the sin of sexual immorality and the sin of benign tolerance of it were at the very centre of the abuse problem itself. Repentance therefore means changing these. Patriarchy and deference to the authority of one's superior hierarch in the Catholic Church (which you call "clericalism") were instituted by Christ and cannot be changed, and will not be changed no matter how much you rant about them and try to bully the Church into changing them, she could not possibly do so even if she tried to.

PETER KENNEDY | 18 May 2012  

Many thanks, Brian, for what I see as a treatment of the topic that gets to the core of things. I know there are many who hold views like those of Trent, but in my opinion tthose views are full of misunderstandiongs , not only of the status of doctrine (as even the Church uitself teaches it, but often in the practice acts to the contrary of its own teachings) but also of science where homosexual otientation is not merely a moral issuse, although the related practice is. but getting back to Brian's point about lay pewople bringing their skills to the table - I agree, and have long held that in secular society (for all the faults it also has) there are many areas where its standards of morality are higher than those practiosed by the church hierarchy. Note I say hierarchy, not simply "the church". I refer to many other matters besides dealing with pedophiles, but some that underly the way that tratment has too often occurred. For example, natural justice ion dealing with so-called deviation from doctrine or church policy by priests and bishops, natural justice for the victims of abuse, tolerance for diverse views, oppenness in so-called disciplinary proceedings, and so on. And my biggest problem- where is the table to which we lay people can bring not only our views but also our skills and experience from the secular worlsd to deal with these issues? If even bishops can be denied basic justice, how can the lay person (or even a group of lay persons)hope even for a hraing, let alone consideration? This aspect of church is a far cry from what Jesus founded, and even from the early church, when it is recorded in the Acts that Paul and Peter could have "robust discussions and disagreement" without Paul being ousted.

Dennis Green | 18 May 2012  

We need a robust and mature debate about the role of authority in the Catholic Church. The present authority which is conservative, hierarchical, patriarchal, anti-feminist and bureaucratic is not working. The Church has lost respect in the community because of it's handling of sexual abuse cases, the inhumane treatment of homosexual people, policies opposing artificial contraception and family planning, opposition to abortion, requirements for priests to be celibate and opposition to women priests. Unfortunately our society is becoming divided between the extremes of conservative fundamentalist religious people and the secular materialist people who only live for the moment of consumerism. Both groups see life in absolute terms. I believe that both these groups of people represent the minority, but seem to generate a disproportiate amount of publicity in the media, especially the mainstream nanny state ABC radio and TV stations such as 774, TV1 and TV24. Our government, business and media institutions have become less tolerant of marginalised people such as aboriginal people living in remote areas, refugees, immigrants, people with a disability and poor people, especially those living in parts of South Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East and Africa. I believe that our society needs a greater amount of reading, learning, teaching and discussing of philosophy, theology, spritualism, the different religions and cultures around the world, history, literature, cinema and the visual and performing arts.

Mark Doyle | 18 May 2012  

What is most distressing about Church leadership at the moment for me, is not only that it is Stalinist in style, but that it is stifling the Holy Spirit in the thoughts, aspirations, words and deeds of laity, priests and Bishops. Whatever happened to the concept of Pilgrim People, all of us moving forward in respect together, that once so enthused my generation?

Eugene | 18 May 2012  

Angela, of course the church is made up of flawed human beings - however, I think what Trent is referring to is the church in the mystical sense. Christ did not say to Peter - call up some groups, have a consensus, do what you feel is right and I'll always be with you. He spoke of the Peter as the head of the church which was to be the visible sign of the Christ's presence here on earth. Of course people understand this different ways - they think that if priests abuse young children, then the church is flawed. No - taking the abusive priest as an example - the flawed behaviour stems from a lack of adherence from the truths Christ taught and and which the church, in Christ's name, has taught. Human beings are so very fallible - that is why the only guarantee of truth is that which comes from Christ - and he gave the greatest guarantee possible with knowing the truth of how to live. No other claim can match it.

Skye | 18 May 2012  

I agree with Dennis Green.There is no table for us to come to. The only reason that lay people are less subject to Vatican reprisal is that we have no power whatsoever in the structure. Lay people have been talking about these matters for at least 25 years that I am aware of, and we might as well cry into the wind. If we are willing to be 'clones' of the hierarchy, publicly upholding predetermined positions, we might be allowed to appear to be part of the decision making - but try disagreeing and see what happens! Basically we are not actually necessary other than to be the 'done to'. Our knowledge and opinions - and we ourselves - don't really matter when it comes down to the wire. For all its faults and inherent weightings, the Anglican Synods do at least give the lay people the franchise.

Pauline | 18 May 2012  

With out wanting to justify paedophilia in the Church- or anywhere for that matter. From what I may have deduced, though perhaps there is a psychiatrist who may answer more accurately. In regards to the article -The shock machine- and the second comment by Brain : Numerous anecdotes exist to show that religious superiors are capable of inflicting much psychic pain on inferiors, even Bishops, vowed to obey them if they themselves through their own Vows are subjected to coercion from above to act against them. Stanley Milgram, without pretending to act in the name of God, had something to teach all those who choose to take a Vow of Obedience and those who in obedience must enforce that Vow-- Perhaps it's the Vow of obedience that should been placed under the microscope. - permitting us to understand how this may possibly breed paedophilia in the Church. If it is true that behavioural traits can be formed by the environment / culture we are exposed to.These 'priests' having been psychologically abused may be reacting to their altered states of stress by inflicting in such same manner- degrading treatment and punishment on innocent children, and vulnerable teens.- Maybe paedophilia, is a by-product of abnormal chemical reactions in the brain - caused by altered states of anxiety and stress.

Myra | 18 May 2012  

Brian Lennon S.J. asserts that in 1975 the then Father Sean Brady,Bishop's secretary, failed to report abuse accusation re fr Brenden Smyth to police. Lennon fails to mention, for example, that mandatory reporting was not required by law then in Eire and many other countries till much later! The New York Times reported: "He[Mr Long] noted that the Irish church had adopted a policy of mandatory reporting of all cases of child sexual abuse to the civil authorities in 1996, and said the policy had been progressively strengthened since then, despite the fact that mandatory reporting in such cases was not required by law in the Irish Republic.' Also common policy eg in USA was to follow now well-dated discredited psychiatric opinion, viz, that pedophilia was curable . Thus past hierarchy sent offending clergy for counseling. Psychiatrists oft recommended recycling of 'cured'. Any psychiatrists been through trial by media etc on this? May I further add that the Holy See jn traditional justice demanded stronger certitude re accused than in common law[thus Vatican reminded Irish bishops that allegations be more watertight than common law; for if bishops apply for laicisation of convicted priest-bishops could be embarrassed. Frankly Lennons article leans heavily on anecdotes [eg beside his anecdotes and gratuitous assertion Lennon offers no scientific researched surveys re eg global? hierarchy riddled with patriarchy.He needs to sharpen his scope,subjecting the raw data to normal analysis[eg dependent and independent variables[eg legal jurisprudential milieu etc.Such sourcing would lend some credibility to generalisations. In this vein,I was appalled for example that therapist Richard Sipe's methodology on priestly sexuality relied not on broad based research of USA priests,rather he used clinical patho anecdotes.[FEEDING MEDIA BIASES] The above indicates,I submit, the Achilles-heel of Leonard's article

Father John Michael George | 19 May 2012  

What can we hope for? Do I believe that the Holy Spirit moves in and through the Church? It is hard to hold to that is it not?

graham patison | 19 May 2012  

The response by Father George Michael presents the epitome of the moral breakdown of the church - it falls back on the letter of the law when it's convenient (ie mandatory reporting) but cries out for moral virtues to be heard on issues that don't affect men in robes living in celibate castles (ie abortion) It's sickening that a church would not go beyond what's required by law to protect children from a few perverted sick priests who were too gutless to hand themselves in. They should either be in prison or mental institutions.

AURELIUS | 19 May 2012  

Trent, The real question for you to condider is whether the Church is a school for sinners (which makes it inclusive), OR it is a Museum for Saints (which shuts most of us out)? If it is to be a school, then this suggests that the Church's chief function is to encourage, guide and help all of us as we stumble through life, and the clergy function is to be part of that process (which also includes them too -- they are also human beings) . . . But If you see the church as a museum, then only the already perfect are welcome, and the clergy role (which needs to be superior) is to be judge, jury and executioner or, if you prefer, museum directors! I don't believe Jesus envisaged the latter, and the Gospels make it clear that He spent most of his time with the sinners, rather than with the hierarchy of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Robert Rennick | 19 May 2012  

Myra, I know nothing about paedophellia or the by product of abnormal chemical reactions in the brain in relation to it, but I do know of the the reaction to the brain of shock treatment. The friar I referred to in the article of 'shock machine', reverted back to the spiritual state of the child during his formation to the priesthood at junior seminary level entering at the age of 13. He was absolutely exploited. It took years for him to mature and the enviroment of miracles et al, which every body clamoured for certainly didn't help him. " Poor father", was the quiet comment of religious while he was making a fool of himself and the coffers were rolling in for the Order at the expense of the vulnerable laity.

L Newington | 19 May 2012  

I agree with Robert Rennick with the concept of a school for sinners, but I have seen this philosophy being used to justify sexually abusive behaviour towards several of my fellow schoolmates by a Christian Brother. In religion classes the said brother would explain the mercy of God by using the saints as an example, pointing out that sexual indiscretions were a minor matter considering Saint Paul had commited murder prior to his conversion. All the while this brother was sexually molesting students. The damage this caused was not just the direct and obvious scars to his victims, but the atmosphere of moral ambiguity and the shattering of trust among students and teachers who knew something was going on. We are all sinners - but whether or not we are enrolled in any school for change is up to us.

AURELIUS | 19 May 2012  

While Aurelius talks up"mental institutions" the Church manages sin and sinner using the example of Christ,viz while in External Forum He professed the Decalogue against sexual sins and many others etc while,in the Internal Forum He displayed mercy and forgiveness. No one could doubt the Churches External Forum castigation of abortion,pedophilia and other sexual aberrations, etc ;the Church's Internal Forum [eg confession] displays Christs mercy and forgiveness and entreaty to conversion["sin no more"] Furthermore, traditional Confessional 'vademecum' Manuals urged psychiatric help for sexual recidivists[a tenet of older psychiatric wisdom also]. And as noted in earlier above post, bishops in 'extra'-confessional Internal Forum practiced prevailing psychiatric wisdom and sent alleged abusers to psychiatrists who oft counseled recycling Bishops were hamstrung with canon law process that demanded a stringent justice for the defence with higher degrees of certitude for charges than in common law. Of course canonical judicial process terminates if the alleged is proven insane and not responsible. The now dated psychiatric 'secular Internal Forum' solution, still stands in eg USA Government institutions; in Public Schools pedophiles are merely passed from school to school -such is now still so enshrined that unions threaten strikes if judges attempt to subpoena alleged offenders files.

Father John Michael George | 19 May 2012  

Unfortunately the only way the hierarchy are going to change from being a conservative institution obsessed with authority and power and closed in on itself is by a new generation of clergy coming into those positions of power over time, and bringing with them a new, open and compassionate attitude towards their flock and a strict adherence, not to the letter of the law, but to the Gospel virtue of charity, but an insistence on purity of morality in those who they invest with power over children. This is going to take a long time but it seems to me that the hierarchy at present is deaf to the views of bodies of priests like ACP or concerned lay people. This leaves us with no choice but to take the long term view, or, like so many young people, leave the Church, which does not help.

Tony Santospirito | 19 May 2012  

It is the human structure of the church that needs to be addressed. In the case against Monsignor Lynn, the Cardinal, had he lived could have also found himself on trial. "It was all about the good of Mother Church," Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington argued to the trial judge Thursday. "It's not only criminal, it's outrageously criminal." http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/cardinals-presence-felt-at-1441003.html The Church continues to fail to address the root cause, not only of abuse, but of the deep dishonesty surrounding the abuse.

Malcolm McPherson | 20 May 2012  

Perhaps we could refer as 'beautiful and holy' the ''true'' teachings, and ideals of the Catholic Church. Remembering Jesus words, guiding us through grace, is perhaps the only reason to stay. Jesus began an institution, giving us a glimpse of true peace. How difficult sometimes, to follow Him, as we are pulled in the opposite direction, by our worldly society. Perhaps the 'laity ' needs to throw off this mantle of servility towards the clergy , and treat them as equally flawed human beings. This may allow some clergy , less stress in trying to be other than they are, giving them a chance to relate and dialogue with parishioners more freely. If we listen to Vatican 11, the laity needs to have a voice within our Church. A valuable voice. A voice that needs to be respected. A voice that is also inspired by the Holy Spirit, with much to offer the Church, as it attempts to enter into, and bring Christ to the world. enter

bernie introna | 20 May 2012  

Yes, Father Geroge Michael we are all sinners and reliant on God's mercy but we all also must bear the consequences of our actions and when it involves serious crime like predatory sexual behaviour, the consequences involved imprisonment in order to protect the community. Forigiveness comes from God but the offender must still pay a price. But if it's a matter of mental illness, then it might not be a matter of sin at all, which is why I mentioned psychiatric internment. It seems to me there are many people with mental illness who still have the ability to control their impulses and not inflict their pain onto others. Sociopaths are not easily cured.

AURELIUS | 21 May 2012  

If I understood John Frawley correctly, and I hope I did, he seemed to be saying that one of the problems the Catholic Church faces today is a religiously illiterate laity, who do not understand what Vatican II was really about. They thus need the episcopate to teach them that, if the bishops themselves have read and understood the relevant Council documents. This is, in many ways, a fair criticism. I think the hierarchy need to go even further back to the origins of the Church and its development over the centuries through various Councils, including the First Seven Ecumenical Councils which really enunciated the full basic and incontestable doctrines of a then undivided Church, before it split into East and West. This is quite a daunting task. At the moment, in Australia, there is much extremely simplistic, watered down, plain incorrect theology being taught by many clergy and spouted by many laypeople, both groups being unfit to do what they are. Some of the worst are the self-styled "orthodox" Catholics who seem to make their own scruples doctrine. I'm talking of "scruples" as theologically defined. For myself I find much of what is written in "Eureka Street" to be in the correct spirit of Vatican II and all the Church teaches from a very deep level of understanding. The problem is when theologically illiterate clergy and laity attempt to "critique" it without the knowledge and certainly without the Spirit.

Edward F | 21 May 2012  

As for Eureka Street being the true face of Vatican 2 you must be joking again.[With a professional face lift it might at the best mimic a traumatized ant bed of theological disarray].

Father John Michael George | 21 May 2012  

I gather JMG disagrees with my last post.

Edward F | 21 May 2012  

Furthermore Eddy F your suggestion that ES 'ant bed' is crawling with 'the unscrupulous'! Well even I regard that as gratuitous [eat ya heart out Al Capone].

Father John Michael George | 22 May 2012  

While I appreciated this article, it's clear It's clear that Fr. Lennon has never tried to bring anything to the table. THERE IS NO TABLE, NO DIALOGUE AND NO HOPE OF DIALOGUE. What is needed is open adult-to-adult dialogue. The basis of re-balancing is mutual acceptance of Vatican II and it's clear that's not happening.

Richard Neumann | 22 May 2012  

I think, JMG, if you carefully reread my post, you will see that I make no reference to Eureka Street either being an "ant bed"(your accusation) nor did I suggest it was "crawling with the 'unscrupulous'". In the second case I think you misconstrue my post.

Edward F | 22 May 2012  

Our worship tells us lots about ourselves and the people we want to be. May I quote from our Anglican Australian Prayerbook: Near the start of the Holy Communion second order service we pray "Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith confident in God's forgiveness." We respond "Merciful God our maker and our judge we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed and in what we have failed to do we have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves; we repent and are sorry for all our sins, Father forgive us.Strengthen us to love and obey you in newness of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." Despite our prayer we seem to forget that we are a church of both saints and sinners. Therefore, even the paedophiles are members of our church.

Gerry Costigan 17/65 Wittenoom Street East Perth | 23 May 2012  

What these dissenters are seeking to do is to change the Church teachings from within. A complete waste of time because it's not going to happen. "Priests" like Fr Flannery can beat their gums for all they're worth, but it's not going, no women priests, no married priests, no homosexuality and no abortion ... yes, the Church will become smaller and purer, because the young priests coming out of the seminaries are rejecting the views of "priests" like Fr Flannery ... they are a dying breed - 10 years and they'll be gone ... thanks be to God

Freda | 24 May 2012  

I think, if you look at the overall situation as regards authority in the Church, Richard Neumann, you might reconsider what you said about Brian's article. As an individual priest on the periphery of the circle (Ireland) it would be difficult, if not impossible, for him to enter into an equal dialogue with Rome. Whatever else it is, the Vatican is, bureaucratically, the Central Office of Church Administration. Brian is just an individual priest, however able and insightful. That is the tragedy of the individual questioning a large organisation from within it. Is it worth their while considering him or her or should they tough it out? Of course, the Church is not just a large transnational organisation but the living, breathing Body of Christ. It is sometimes hard for ecclesiastical administrators to realise this. I think the entire Vatican bureaucracy, from the Pope down, need to realise we are currently very much a Pilgrim Church. They need to be able to come down to our level and see what is happening on the periphery. Can they? I suspect they can. Would they have the humility? I suspect they well might.

Edward F | 25 May 2012  

Freda - no homosexuality? Are you suggesting a holocaust to exterminate 5-10% of the world's population?

AURELIUS | 30 May 2012  

To be the Church of Christ, the Church has to be diverse. This means including people with opposing views...We cannot get any of this without a re-balancing of authority in the Church. The Body of Christ cannot have a voice if only the head speaks." umm.... what balance was there to begin with. As long as it's a testosterone-only club, there can be neither balance nor anything but the head of a penis deciding still how the rest of us should live? Heaven help us. Please. excuse me while I throw up, yet again.

disgusted | 07 June 2012  

Much of this makes sense but I worry about a person, particularly an ordained person who can wonder whether they can 'remain in a church which....etc." this is the language of the secular press which sees the Church as merely a human institution and a corrupt one at that, which ought to be brought down for the good of the secular ideal. To a Catholic Christian, our centre is Jesus, to whom we are united through the sacraments and all our fellow Catholics are branches of the vine, whether their human failings distress us or let us down, as ours distress and let down others and above all Jesus who died for our sins. I could no more 'leave' the Church than stop breathing the air around me. Your fellow priests and even the annoying bureaucrats in the Vatican are your brothers in Christ. And do not let us think that lay people running the show would do any better, because they too or should I say, we too, are subject to the same human faults and failings. The Church has withstood worse crises than this and will endure because it has Christ's own promise. It does not depend on our frantic activity, however sincere or well-meant. So yes, critical and vigorous dialogue is great, and sometimes we will feel angry and hurt at being rebuffed, but to give up and walk away is a form of pride and a sin against hope.

ann | 13 June 2012  

AURELIUS, no, the Church teaches that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and that teaching can never change because apart from being immoral it is against nature and is condemned in the Bible.

Freda | 14 June 2012  

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