Their disquiet is being made public as it emerges that the resignation of Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Jim Moriarty, is likely to be accepted by Pope Benedict today. According to the Irish Catholic, this is the first of a number of resignations that the Pontiff will accept in the coming weeks.
Fr Kevin McNamara, a curate in Killarney, has questioned the Vatican’s “rush to get the pastoral letter out that weekend,” believing it meant clergy had to convey Pope Benedict XVI’s message to congregations without having any time to reflect on the contents of the letter.
“The letter came on a Saturday evening and there was this urgency for it to be read out that evening and next morning. I was reading something hot off the fax machine, yet I needed more time. I’d have liked to speak to colleagues, friends, about it. Even since, there’s been no contact from Rome, asking how people are reacting, how we’re coping.”
Fr McNamara said one now gets a sense from the Vatican of “we’ve done our part”, but he said “doing our part” should involve something different.
“Our part is to try and listen and engage with people who are wounded, no matter how uncomfortable we find it. I have always found that staying with the uncomfortableness is where we discover a spirit of healing.”
The negative reaction the Church is experiencing at a local level was also noted by another priest who spoke to the Irish Examiner. He described feelings of isolation and vulnerability at having to defend a hierarchical structure from which ordinary people feel so distant.
“People find it easy to criticise an institution that has no real relevance for them, but as a priest you feel linked to that hierarchy. You’ve placed your life, your whole credibility, on that structure, so when it’s under attack you feel let down, isolated, vulnerable,” said Fermoy curate Fr Eugene Baker.
Meanwhile, an Augustinian priest based in Drogheda spoke of his sadness at what he sees as the Church’s “self-inflicted wounds”. Fr Iggy O’Donovan said one increasingly gets the sense that “Rome doesn’t get it”.
“The dean of the Vatican’s College of Cardinals denounced widespread charges of child sex abuse by priests as ‘idle chatter’. I feel this is inflicting dreadful wounds on us, making us look ridiculous, and the most disillusioning thing is one feels so powerless.”
It’s expected that Bishop Moriarty’s resignation will be accepted at 11am.
There was little criticism of Bishop Moriarty in the Murphy Report but, on December 23, the bishop said he was tendering his resignation as “I should have challenged the prevailing culture”.
Bishops Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field tendered their resignations the following day.