For me, this is writer and our Bishop, Bridget Mary Meehan, speak about the major issue the Woman Priest Movement. First, it is not about direct anger toward hierarchs who are governing the church, rather it is about their choices to save themselves at the expense of those we are called to serve. These actions, although hidden for years, are being brought into the open. They are immoral, unjust and wreak havoc on the entire Church. Most faithful understand this without full knowledge and move away. Women Priests are doing the opposite. We are moving toward these boulders, hoping to bring about a new Spring steeped in justice and equality.
An Irish Prophet from the rocks out in County Mayo, in self-imposed exile…….somewhere in America.
Tis no secret over to home in Ireland---nor in the whole world for that matter----that the Irish Church is in a heap of trouble, mostly brought about by the scandal of the sexual abuse by Irish clergy. This in itself proved to be a terrible curse; but what made it even worse was the fact that some of the Irish bishops back in the late 1980’s and early 90’s failed to handle the problem properly, even aided and abetted this crime by refusing to report it to civil authorities, and continued to pass the offending clerics from parish to parish, motivated by the need to protect the ‘good name’ of the priest, and the reputation of the Church, and thus keep their jobs. Well, in the 1990’s the offending bishops either resigned or left the country, and the bishops in 1996 did try to establish some better, just, moral guidelines to deal with this problem in the clergy. Nonetheless, the problem remains; the scars are still apparent, and will be…until some drastic changes are made, and…..
I am absolutely certain some BIG, nearly IMPOSSIBLE changes are in the wind. And, of course, tis only God who can pull off the impossible ones….which I sense God is fixin’ to do. But even though this problem has been with us for quite a few years, and even though the ‘critical mass’ is there and ripe for ‘the explosion’ of change, God often waits till the right catalyst comes along to ignite the ‘explosion.’ Well, glory be to God, the catalyst has arrived…in the form of an RTE video report, Would You Believe, January 17, 2011, an incisive report shown on Irish TV, done by investigative journalist, Mick Peelo, in which he shines the spotlight of the Holy Spirit on the very root of this horrible curse poisoning our beloved Church there, once God’s pride and joy…..and now has Jesus in tears.
This well done, comprehensive report not only underscores the underlying cause of this gigantic problem, but, as a result thereof, also clearly shows where the one, the only one possible solution lies. The chain of horrors starts with some members of the clergy abusing minors. Then we saw some bishops ignoring, transferring the offender, with minimal or no punishment, and no reporting to the authorities, and even covering up the offences, and giving no consideration to the victims, in order to protect the reputation of the Church and the position of the priest, and insure their own positions in the Church. Next, after some of these bishops resigned, the remaining lads of the Irish Catholic Bishops conference did try to put things right, and in 1996, published a little green booklet of guidelines for better handling the problem, reporting the cases to the civil authorities and ordering a Church tribunal to deal with the offender, and did attempt to offer some help to the victims.
Sounds well and good, and might have ‘ended’ the problem., right? But no. The Vatican stepped in and, as Peelo’s report discovered, one Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, then head of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, in 1997 sent a letter to the Irish bishops negating their guidelines and demanding they NOT report clergy offense cases to authorities, and that the Church should handle them internally. To their credit the bishops were incensed, and there followed in, I think 1998, a heated meeting with Hoyos in Sligo in which the Irish bishops became terribly angry with this ruling which they knew was wrong for the victims and wrong for the Irish Church, and even pounded on the table, and shouted at Hoyos. Nonetheless, and sadly, they capitulated, and, instead of following their consciences and what they well knew was what the Irish people and the Church needed, and clearly what God would want, and for reasons unbeknownst to most of us, they gave in, and continue to sheepishly follow the demands of Hoyos and wishes of Rome. (This same Cardinal Hoyos in 2001 wrote to a French bishop, “delighted,” and….”.I congratulate you on not having spoken out to civil authorities against a priest," wrote Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who at the time was prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.”
This sad state of affairs could have gone on, with the Church continuing to sink deeper and deeper, but for the 2011 appearance, by the Grace of God and heads-up reporting by RTE, the video report by Mick Peelo, God’s “Catalyst.” The report points squarely to the ultimate, the underlying cause: hierarchical culture and the demands of the Vatican that all their ‘officers,’ the bishops and cardinals, continue to follow, unquestioningly, the man-made rules and Canon Laws, however unjust and harmful they may be to the faithful and to the Church. And therefore, that points to the obvious, one, AND ONLY ONE POSSIBLE SOLUTION to this problem, this curse plaguing our beloved Church and Irish citizens. THIS HORRIBLE EVIL WILL BE WITH US DRAGGING US, THE IRISH CHURCH AND THE IRISH PEOPLE, FOREVER DOWNWARD….AS LONG AS OUR LEADERS, OUR BISHOPS CONTINUE TO TRY TO FOLLOW ROME’S UNJUST DEMANDS. THEY MUST SAY: “NO! NO MORE! NEVER AGAIN!”
Unless they take this brave, bold, righteous, costly step, and remove themselves and our Church out from under the oppressive, suffocating guidance of the Vatican, we are done! Our bishops must be unanimous in this, and then write a polite letter to the Pope, the Roman Curia, the Vatican, and tell them that, under the direction of our consciences and the Holy Spirit, we can no longer abide by several of the Vatican’s unjust rules:
1.) We will report all cases of clergy abuse to the civil authorities, and have them deal with and handle them as appropriate. These crimes are felonies, and, even though Rome may demand it, we can no longer be part of aiding and abetting these felonies.
2.) We realize that the main reason for the high number of abuse cases stems from the archaic and dysfunctional culture we have been following in choosing and ordaining our ministers. We therefore will no longer limit ordination to the priesthood to only celibate males, and will open the priesthood to married men and women, and even invite our married priests who may wish to do so, to ‘come back to work.’ By having a clergy made up of women and men, married or single, as they may choose, we predict a substantial drop in the number of abuse cases, close to “0” ZERO, in the not too distant future.
3.) We will choose, elect, and appoint our own bishops to guide and support our faithful, without any direction from Rome. We believe no congregation should be forced to have a leader they do not want. The various local congregations will ultimately be choosing the women and men they want to lead and guide them as bishops.
4.) We are Catholic, and, of course, will continue to be fully Catholic. That cannot be changed. We will continue with the same worship systems, devotions, education, shrines and sacred places throughout the land, but try to achieve inclusiveness, collegiality, and transparency, in all matters. The essence of our relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit would remain unchanged, and we all, the people of God, will strive to go forward and relate as a community of equals before our God.
5.) . We wish to maintain a cordial relationship with the Pope and Vatican as brothers in Christ, but we, as sisters and brothers in Christ, will be responsible for governing the Irish Church----with, of course, input from all the members of the Body of Christ on our island.
6.) We would welcome the Papal Nuncio as a visitor, but are not interested in any dictates he may bring to try to direct our running Church affairs, nor personnel appointments from Rome. That is OUR job.
All these new approaches can be the foundation of a better way to run the Church…as opposed to ru-I-n. ( Put “I” in there and “run” does become “ruin,” does it not?) This vision of a renewed Church was shared with us by an American woman originally from Ireland, now a validly ordained Roman Catholic Womenpriest, when she spoke at a conference out in Castlebar last summer, arranged by some influential folks and journalists who are most interested in saving our Church.
Thanks to Peelo’s report, it becomes apparent to any observer---as assuredly it must now be to all the present Irish bishops----that the necessary steps to cure this horrible evil must be taken, by these bishops, and must be done NOW! Of course, these bold courageous steps should have been taken back in 1997-98 when our bishops saw the handwriting on the wall. We do, however, realize that, back then, the hierarchical culture in which they evolved and rose, demanded they follow unquestioningly the directives from “headquarters.” To do otherwise was unthinkable. Now, 13 years later, however, with much time to ponder the problem and with fresh insights, we---and they too---- clearly realize that they were guilty of not acting appropriately at that time when they were presented with the opportunity, in the form of the letter and demands of Cardinal Hoyos. Well, I suppose the bishops could be forgiven, if, and only if…….THEY ACT NOW!
Doubtless, this new approach will be a terribly difficult and painful change…..at first. It will mean forsaking the lifeline which fed them throughout their climb up the Episcopal ladder, and it will probably cost them a loss of status, position, authority, power, wealth. However, this change toward renewal will offer them immeasurable, infinite, outstanding blessings, the likes of which “…..Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, man cannot imagine ……” what God has in store for those who love and follow God’s ways. (And, it should be added, the dictates of the Second Vatican Council.)
Well now, like it or not, it seems as though history has placed our good bishops right squarely at a very critical crossroads in the history of the Irish Catholic Church—actually the whole Church throughout the world. God is calling on them to make a big, difficult decision. One could almost hear the Voice of God saying these men: “I set before you two choices: LIFE or DEATH. I say to you---CHOOSE LIFE.”
If they now do what is right, what our Church needs, what God truly wants, our Church will again shine, the worldwide Church will take notice of this bright example for renewal, and Jesus will again be smiling at His beloved Irish Church. The appointed place is clearly, the country of Ireland. The chosen ‘changers’ are clearly the Catholic bishops of Ireland. The appointed time is clearly……NOW!!!!
IF NOT IRELAND…………THEN WHERE?
IF NOT THE IRISH BISHOPS………..THEN WHO?
IF NOT NOW………….THEN WHEN?
Finbar Sean M., formerly of Co Mayo
AFTERTHOUGHT: One is given cause to wonder, if it mightn’t be a wee bit possible that over here in the States, the a few of the lads of the US Catholic Bishops could be hearing the Holy Spirit placing similar ‘wild’ courageous ideas on their hearts---if their hearts are up to listenin’ to such messages. Seems like they have the same problems here as we do over to home-----only, more, bigger, worse. Hmmm! I wonder??
Bridget Mary's Reflection:
Brava for this Irish Priest Prophet, who is challenging the clerical model from within, and who is speaking truth to power. The Spirit is moving and more and more believers are calling for married priests, women priests and an empowered people of God. I admire the Irish Priests Association who has publically stated that unless the church reforms in Ireland, it is heading over the precipice! The church is called to follow Jesus example of justice and equality. Visionary priests like this Irish priest-exile, the Irish Priests Association and Fr. Roy Bourgeois in the United States are shaking up the hierarchy by predicting the demise of the entire clerical house of cards. They are standing in solidarity with women priests.
I rejoice that Irish priests, including this prophet, are speaking our for justice and equality in the church. Women Priests stand in solidarity with you too!
Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP