The visitation report’s criticism that some priests and lay people hold “theological opinions” at odds with the official teachings of the Church may refer to priests taking a more practical approach to their parish work than the Vatican would like, Catholic priests have suggested.
According to Fr Brendan Hoban, of the Association of Catholic Priests, it could be alluding to priests baptising the children of couples who are not married and priests not giving sermons against contraception.
“In reality, you’re preaching in a way that is accordance with your lived experience and there could be a resistance in the Vatican to that. There would be a freedom amongst priests to deal with local issues, but there can be a huge difference between the Magisterium and what we are dealing with every day.
“We know and recognise that we have to deal sensitively with people in painful situations. There are all sorts of shades of people out there,” he said.
Meanwhile the recently formed church reform group, We are Church Ireland, has welcomed the reports’ call for a “communion between pastors and lay persons” and a “new focus on the role of the laity.”
However, spokesman Brendan Butler warned that the laity are only allowed “minimal participation in church decision making under Canon Law”.
We are Church Ireland was set up last year and has about 200 members nationwide. Brendan Butler says there are also nuns amongst their members.
The group suggested that the report’s concerns about differing “theological opinions” relates to the more liberal and reform-minded members of the dioceses and religious.
“There is indeed a belief among laity and priests that the full participation of women in all ministries, a ban on compulsory celibacy, and the involvement of all the baptised in all decision making is necessary for the renewal of the Church.
“This is indeed a ‘serious situation’ which need immediate attention by the Magisterium to address and respond to in a positive way by relaxing the church rule on clerical celibacy and its anachronistic ban on women’s ordination.
“However, Rome is ignoring that. The report calls for a more rigid enforcement of the existing teachings, something that we have seen in some of the more recently ordained priests. They are being urged to step into the past rather than move forward.
“We see it in new brothers who will only wear sandals and priests who want to wear their clerical collar at all times. Many of the older priests and brothers had moved beyond that.”
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