Fr Mark Patrick Hederman: Church ‘will die without evolution’

The Catholic Church has 10 years to “get its act together” or it will become little more than a museum piece, according to the former abbot of Glenstal Abbey.

Calling for a new set of ethics to be developed, including sexual ethics, Fr Mark Patrick Hederman said: “The Church is relying on a set of principles that are not relevant anymore.

“Now that we have legislated for gay marriage and accepted that sexuality does happen for reasons other than procreation, now that we recognise that some of the most heinous sexual crimes have been perpetrated within the ‘sanctity’ of marriage, it is surely time to take a more comprehensive approach to the ethics of sexual behaviour,” he said.

“As the Amish community has done in the United States, any community can build barricades against change but then they become an irrelevancy… looking at them becomes like looking at a monkey in a zoo.”

He said the Church, like wider society, needs to empower “the feminine” in its wider philosophy and ethics.

“As a people, we are all a combination of the masculine and feminine,” he said. “Yet, for 4,000 years, the masculine has dominated via the patriarchy and the advance of the feminine has been suppressed.”

In his new book, The Opal and the Pearl, which takes its title from a letter from James Joyce to Nora Barnacle in 1909, Fr Hederman said that, in and outside the Catholic Church, women’s sexual, political, and individual needs have been disregarded and subjugated.

“Sexuality is now a brutal male prerogative,” he said. 

“There is never any attempt to show the sexual need or desire of a woman: It is all about the man’s need and how the woman should respond to that and it has worsened in recent times. Our generation is obsessed with sex as little more than two people rutting.”

Describing US president Donald Trump as “the last bastion of male supremacy, the poster boy of hyper-masculinity” he said the “masculine and feminine” need to live in more harmony in people and in society.

“All along, we have been terrified of the more feminine half of ourselves and the world, most men are terrified of the feminine side and it doesn’t have to be like this,” he said. 

“The trick is to bring the feminine and the masculine into union rather than having one side dominating.”

Fr Hederman was also critical of the pro-life movement, saying it is driven by a “hyper masculine” approach to politics.

“We can’t have a debate on abortion in this country,” he said. 

“Instead we get a lecture and more dogma from the pro-life groups, it’s aggressive and more of the hyper masculine.”

Referring to rise of extreme politics, he said: “We are all living in a storm and this needs to be realised so we can work towards some kind of solution. There has been a complete breakdown of customs and ethics”.

Yet he believes there “is still room for the Christian model as, deep down, most people still want a set of values to live their lives by but it depends on how the Christian story is told”.

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