A senior Irish cleric has launched a broadside at Pope Benedict XVI and his senior advisers, accusing them of attempting to row back on Catholic Church reforms initiated in the 1960s by Vatican II.
He said the Pope and his governing body, the Curia, was far too insistent on demanding unswerving obedience to the Holy See while stifling dialogue among the laity and the ministry.
“It is a bit like Walmart, where you have the CEO in Rome and his people there decide on policy and then insist that the bishops, as branch managers, implement that policy,” said Fr Sean McDonagh, a founder of the 800-strong Association of Catholic Priests, which was set up two years ago to give a voice to priests within the Irish Church.
“If Rome says ‘jump’ are we simply expected to say, ‘how high?’ Operating like a multinational where the number one requirement is obedience is at total variance with the Church of Jesus,” said Fr McDonagh.
He was speaking in advance of a survey published today that shows a widening gap between the views of practising Catholics in Ireland and the Vatican.
Referring to growing support among the laity to allow women be ordained to the priesthood, Fr McDonagh said the ban on women priests in the early Church was understandable within the cultural framework that existed then, but had little relevance now.
“In the first century, it was possible to articulate the message of Jesus and not have females in leadership roles because the culture of the time would not allow it and there was a very dark perception of what women were. But, now, in the 21st century, the Church must discern where the Holy Spirit is leading it, and the Vatican should not be leading it backwards.”
Fr McDonagh contrasted the Pope’s visit to Cuba, when the Pontiff lectured Fidel Castro on human rights, with his stifling of freedom of speech in the Church as evidenced by the Vatican’s silencing of fellow ACP founder Fr Tony Flannery through a ban on him writing an opinion column for the Redemptorist magazine, Reality. Fr Flannery is under investigation by the Vatican for his liberal views, in particular his opposition to the Church’s ban on artificial birth control and his support for the ordination of women. He has been ordered to spend six weeks in a monastery for “prayer and reflection”.
“Freedom of speech does not operate here when, in fact, the Church should be an example in that respect to others,” said Fr McDonagh.
Objecting to the “diktat culture of obedience to authority”, he also took issue with the recent translation into English of the Catholic Missal. “It violates two basic principles of modern linguists: Firstly, that every language is understandable on its own terms, and, secondly, that you do not translate word for word but instead do a dynamic equivalent. The translation is appalling.”
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