The Association of Catholic Priests has said the Vatican should remember that “it is not a totalitarian state dealing with dissidents” but a Church that needs to re-find its way.
Fr Brendan Hoban’s comments come after it emerged that all copies of a theology book written by a leading Marist, 84-year-old Fr Sean Fagan, were bought up by his religious order after an anonymous complaint was made to Rome.
Fr Fagan, who is now partially blind and seriously ill, was also told two years ago not to write or deal with the media anymore or else he would be defrocked. He had advocated ordaining women and married men.
News of the silencing of Fr Fagan comes less than 10 days after it emerged ACP founding member Fr Tony Flannery was ordered to stop writing by the Vatican and advised to attend a monastery for a period of prayer and reflection. He was also told to dissociate himself from ACP.
His editor at Reality magazine, Fr Gerard Moloney, was also informed that content running contrary to the Church’s teachings must not to be commissioned.
Fr Hoban has said he hopes ACP members are not seen as “collateral damage” in attempts by the Vatican “to be seen to be doing something” to rebuild the Church in Ireland.
“There is a perception in this country that the Roman Catholic Church has lost its way. We would be very disturbed if we were to be targeted as a way of being seen to be doing something to rebuild the Church, with the effect the we could be seen as collateral damage,” he said. “This is not a totalitarian state dealing with dissidents”.
Fr Hoban said he does not believe he is a dissident.
“I said Mass this morning. I have no problem professing my faith. We are not asking for change next Thursday. All we have asked is to be allowed to discuss our opinions. The association was established to give a voice to priests, to help their morale at a time when it was battered. At the time, a lot of us felt vulnerable.”
Meanwhile, Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore spoke on RTÉ radio yesterday about the ACP survey which last week found that the majority of Catholics would like to see an end to the enforced celibacy of priests.
Bishop McAreavey defended the Church’s stance on celibacy saying Rome “values the witness of someone who is prepared to make a massive sacrifice for the sake of the gospel”.
“Priesthood has become a very demanding role and I think many priests find it stressful and difficult without the support of partner. Yet the Church has traditionally believed a priest not being married allowed him to give himself 100% to his vocation, it was a way to follow Christ and commit 100% to the service of the people”.
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