Bishops not equipped to pronounce on family life

Feb 24, 2015 | 35 comments

Frank Gregg

Frank Gregg, Newbridge, Co Kildare

I am a lifetime-involved Christian member of 70 years of age in our Church.  I recall my awe of God as early as Communion and from the example of love from my parents. I grew up with my three sisters, and mum and dad in this way. Love was everywhere surrounding me.

It seems that I was lucky, because many of my colleagues and friends have lost interest in our church for a long time. Maybe they were smarter than me, or maybe their home life was less fortunate, but the general rule from religious and teachers throughout my formative years was one of repression, compulsion, sin avoidance at all costs – with mortal sins behind every door. I am sure that I was affected by this but my homelife saved me.

My personal faith experience of an awareness of the Lord was gloriously enhanced through association with the Charismatic Renewal in 1979, even before it became Catholic.  However, once it became so, the fizz or spiritual energy left it –  due, some say, to the controlling influence of the clerical Catholic Church.

I relished, with my late wife, all the lay ministries in our church, but I was incrementally shocked by the succession of child sexual abuse scandals and the worse cover ups which hold to this very day due to the obdurate way in which Seán Brady refused to stand down in the face of egregious wrongs, and almost without a whimper from the church – clerical or lay, which extended to my own parish of Newbridge in Kildare.  (The only exceptions were members of the organisation Voice of the Faithful, which I joined.)

I am ashamed of my parish for its silence on this issue, even though I am a sinner too. Many parishioners have left our parish, our choirs, our ministries because of this SILENCE.

To this day the Child Safeguarding Board for Children cannot enter a diocese without the approval of the bishop, and the religious orders have paid only about a quarter of the agreed amount to the State since 2002. This is a disgrace to our claim to be Christian.

The taxpayer, either Christian or otherewise, pays the shortfall.

This is a scandal compounded on a scandal.

So, the bishops want to know what we, the laity should advise them in their recommendations to Pope Francis on the Family in Rome!!!!

Their ciudas, or credibility, is so low nationally, that I find it hard to take them seriously on any issue.

Is it not incongruous that male celibate clerics of mostly advanced years should consider themselves equipped to pronounce on Family Life as advisors to the pope? They have no felt experience on what it is to marry and to rear a family in this scientific and electronic age, or in any age.

Is it not reasonable to question whether the Magisterium (as a private self-appointed club) as now constituted has the capacity to be fully open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit???

Just consider for a moment if the laity pronounced as a representative body exactly how the ordained members should conduct their priestly vocations.  Sounds rather ludicrous does it not??

Yet this is the priestly blind spot, due to the cult of clericalism which has plagued our church since the time of Emperor Constantine in the 4th century.  It has proffered powers and position to ordained males at the complete expense of the laity. This was understandable, I suppose, in Roman and Medieval times, but is a complete anachronistic model of government in the more enlightened age of democracy and high academic attainment of the masses today. But the protection of clerical power and position has been found in Tribunals to take precedence over the welfare of the church’s weakest members.

As a general rule power is hardly ever surrendered by those who have it, just like the secular world around us, but we say that we are unlike the world and that we live by the Gospel!  How the secular judicial powers have brought us to our knees in the Ryan Report, the Murphy Report, and in the Cloyne investigation!

The Gospel states that God has no favourites, and that all members are part of the “royal priesthood”- the only election we are aware of was to replace Judas and this was done by ballot!

The first act of the bishops should be to make a commitment to the abandonment of clericalism, as John Morgan, Chairman of the Board for the Protection of Children said some years back.

Lay families need to enter into their calling to be participators and co-decision makers in the running of our church and not merely advisors, in accord with Vatican II.

My contemporaries lost interest in the church, as did my own children because of a lack of relevance in the church to their lives, and any relevance and news there was in the past twenty years has been negatively explosive.

They just walked away.

How can we start again??? – I do not know !!!.

Accountability and repentance (Lent could be the time)by all those responsible must become the norm. A National Synod of the Catholic Church which is representative of all elements in our society with power to contribute to the overall conclusions of the Synod must take place before the Synod on the Family.

Consultation in the selection of bishops, as promised by Benedict did not happen.  Why?

A major undertaking of evangelisation is necessary for the lapsed members to gain reentry, but this must be driven by the laity.

Existing active lay members must be empowered and trained to take on the role of passing on the faith, rather than in the schools where the teachers are lapsed in many cases, and young Christians exit their faith at Confirmation, instead of being energised with the promised gifts of the Spirit.

My own impression is that there will be little done here and the Irish Church will seek to ride on the coat tails of Pope Francis without undertaking the huge structural shifts which are necessary here.
This leaves me pessimistic I must admit, and courage is a scarce commodity in clericalist circles for a long, long time

The bishops in the Lineamenta chose to elevate the quality of married love which is lived by those practising natural birth control methods which are inherently well proven to be unreliable, and will lead to large poor families again where the mothers are confined to the home and are denied access to the universal field of the lay professions.

The implied lesser quality of love in couples who choose responsible planned parenthood is unfortunate to say the least.

How, in God’s name would they know ??

Is it not reasonable to suggest that the birth control intention on the natural methods is the same for artificial methods? It seems that the majority of responsible parenting Christians have taken this decision decades ago!!!!

Finally, I believe that many, if not most, homosexuals have been given a very raw deal by our church, and it appears quite clear now that most have that sexual proclivity from birth. Surely, if God created them in love, He is not going to deny them love in their natural state, considering that our sexual/love drive is our second strongest one.

So, my suggestion is that we have a synod here first on our church where we might learn to crawl before we offer our opinions for our octogenarian male celibates in Rome to advise what is best for us !

The Scriptures tell us: live justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God.

Frank Gregg
Co. Kildare


  1. Mary Vallely

    I know Frank and he is an honest man who speaks with passion and the sense of frustration and anger is palpable here. There isn’t much I’d disagree with and I do heartily agree that lay people MUST “enter into their calling to be participators and co-decision makers in the running of our church and not merely advisors, in accord with Vatican II.”
    This is why the ACI is so important as it is giving hope, sustenance and a big nudge to us all to rise up out of our apathy, our shrugging of shoulders and wringing of hands in a “sure, what can we do?” attitude and in our coming together to demand that our voices be heard.
    I don’t think there is time to organise a Synod before the big event in Rome in October. I’d love to hear others’ views on this or for Frank to expand on what form this Synod might take and how it might be conducted. Even if a Synod were to be organised are there enough people willing to support it? I think we need to do a lot of ground work first in our own parishes in educating people in their faith and in affirming their right to speak as committed followers of Christ. There is still, I believe, a genuine non sum dignus/digna attitude in so many Catholics who do not carry in their hearts that knowledge of God’s overwhelming love for them. Maybe when that is realised we will have a more powerful force to work with in the battle against injustice and the realisation of the reign of God into hearts and souls.

  2. soconaill

    Our faith has the potential to make us more fully alive – Frank obviously discovered this through the Charismatic Renewal movement. Too often that potential fails to come across in our ‘routine’ liturgies.

    I am convinced that the reason for this is a failure to grasp what Jesus meant when he said ‘I have overcome the world’, and ‘I have made all things new’. There is a failure to ‘map’ the Gospel world onto the world of today, and therefore a failure to see what is constant about the world: its tendency to deprive us of a complete sense of our own value, to make us unequal and to bring us into conflict.

    The key failing that Frank pinpoints – that clericalist fear of open, honest dialogue – has grossly retarded the development of a deeper, vital, adult understanding of the faith – reducing it to pat answers to Catechism questions, and boredom.

    Mary is right – ACI must find its role in helping to change all of this.

    • Teresa Mee

      Mary, you say,’I don’t think there is time to organise a Synod before the big event in Rome in October’.
      Actually we’re already in local Church Synod through the conversations on this and other blogs, through our local ACI Dublin and Wicklow monthly meetings and the meetings of other ACI groups across Ireland. The most recently launched, that of Belfast has already got off to an impressive start.
      And of course we’re working in tandem with several other reform and renewal groups on family renewal.

      Our ACI National Congress planned for 21st March in the Regency Hotel, Dublin promises to be a crowning experience.

      • Aidan Hart

        Frank, many years ago, when doing an undergraduate course in Sociology I came across an interesting study of a number of Japanese companies inviting worker-representatives onto their Boards of Management.

        The result was a time of frustration for the Boards as the worker-representatives vented their own frustrations, anger and unanswered concerns,built up over many decades, and by elderly workers over a life time.The workers argued a lot among themselves and didn’t always agree as to the problems or the solutions.

        Some companies reacted to the negativity by stopping the experiment and returned to the old hierarchical model of control from the top. Other companies persevered, listening to the complaints and inviting the workers to work closely with ‘management’ to address their problems effectively. After a few years and many ups and downs,these companies reported a fall in the number of staff leaving, a significant increase in worker satisfaction and a significant increase in productivity.

        From this we can learn perhaps that lay involvement at all levels in the Catholic Church will need time and space to vent its anger and frustration. These need to be heard by those currently in control and co-cooperatively acted upon.Progress may be frustratingly slow at first but, with perseverance and prayer (essential) a fruitful partnership between clergy and laity will evolve.

        Compulsive negativity by some and compulsive positiveness by others will eventually give way to an honest critique of issues and possible solutions. All that is required by Pope, bishops and parish priests is the decision to start the process (some have already), to persevere with it in spite of ups and downs and to be open to the Spirit and perhaps radical solutions to long term problems. We are all part of the Magisterium and our sacred Tradition is a living and evolving Tradition.So let us move forward together, clergy and laity working for the greater glory of God and the future of His Church.

        • Frank Gregg

          I empathise completely with you comments Aidan, and I do hope that positivity will be the leitmotif for the future.

          Experience of the Spirit is always the forerunner of dogma. However, I travel in a lonely boat of hope in my local circumstance, trying to survive within a silent non reactive community.

          There is plenty of precedence for that in our scriptural history.

          Engagement with the problematic structures of our present church seem to quite a distance away to me – we have not even reached the point of assessing our problems.



        • Martin Murray

          Well said Aidan. The processes we use are just as important as the outcomes we are trying to achieve. Or to put it another way, as a pilgrim people, the journey is as important as the destination.

          I was also reminded of words of Fr William Bausch in his book ‘Partnership in Parish’ that “how a church organises itself says much more about what it actually believes than what it says it believes”. To take just one example; if a church believes that men and women are equal, it will reflect that in its structures.

          Your comment also reminded me of Pope Francis’s address to the thousands of pilgrims attending the World Youth Day on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 where he told them he wanted to see ‘messiness’ in the church. Healthy families and healthy communities are by their nature messy and noisy. If things are too rigid; too quiet they are probably dysfunctional. I believe many would prefer no debate; a feigned consensus; the silence of the graveyard.

          • Aidan Hart

            Thank you Martin. I love your quote from Fr William Bausch’s book ‘Partnership in Parish’ (so relevant) and from Pope Francis’ address in South America. Pope Francis is making us all think more radically about our ‘traditional’ faith.

  3. Prodigal Son

    We must never forget child abuse. Pope Benedict’s letter showed us how to remember the victims.

    I, a lay person, find the rest of the article unconvincing. Resorting to Vatican II is credible only when one cites chapter and verse. The article would benefit from a reading of Lumen G, 12 and 22 at least.

    In relation to “power”, recent Dail legislation weakens the article’s argument. Catholic legislators have legalised abortion, and are about to inflict life experiences on children, selected by chance, depriving them of the basic rights of a maternal and paternal presence in their formative years. How can it be argued that transferring power to the laity within the Church would result in anything different? So much the wisdom of modern democracy.

    The Magisterium was set up originally by Christ among the Apostles and derives from the Apostolic Succession. (Read LG)

    Ruling by Majoritism among the laity ultimately results in cutting deals rather than pursuing Divine Truth. Observe the divisions among the 40,000+ protestant-based denominations (millions of holy people) worldwide on foot of majoritism.

    Regarding marriage, The Church never interferes except to teach from the clearest teachings in the Gospel, those regarding indissolubility, faithfulness (adultery), and contraception; the latter enjoys the support of all Popes including Pope Francis. There isn’t sufficient instruction on how the reception of the Sacrament provides the grace for marriages to surmount problems and grow in love.

    A synod is not a parliament. In the recent one in Rome some used it so and tried to rig it to the extent of Cardinal Baldisseri preventing copies of the book “Remaining in the Truth of Christ” reaching the participants. Whither an Irish version???

    The assertion on natural family planning doesn’t stand up.

    It’s not a matter of starting again. We continue to pray, do good works, repent and keep the commandments, follow the Catechism. Does restart = found one’s own?

    • soconaill

      Most unfortunately, the record clearly shows that the episcopal magisterium in Ireland was taking out insurance against liability for damages caused by clerical child sexual abuse as early as 1987 – while the phenomenon was still invisible to the wider church at that time, including to the huge majority of parents – to the gross endangerment of their children.

      Seven years later in 1994 it was the unilateral action of the Irish parental magisterium that brought the issue into the Irish public domain for the first time. Only the following year did Irish bishops get busy – for the first time – devising guidelines for child safeguarding.

      What action of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger precipitated this sequence of events? Where in the world did any Catholic bishop reveal the phenomenon of clerical child abuse to Catholic parents before that phenomenon had first been thrust into the public domain by outraged Catholic parents?

      And when did Cardinal Ratzinger first become aware of this problem – the possibility of lifetime damage to a child by clerical behaviour recorded in the church in the earliest centuries?

      The insufficiency of the episcopal magisterium was made patent also by the history of the Arian controversy in the fourth century, as Cardinal John Henry Newman clearly showed.

      I do not doubt the insufficiency of the parental magisterium either, of course. But the insufficiency of the episcopal magisterium was implicitly admitted by the Irish Bishops Conference in Dec 2009 when it apologised for the culture of secrecy that had led to the events recorded in the Murphy report.

      That shadow will not disappear until the structures of the church make bishops automatically accountable on this administrative issue – as Cardinal Sean O’Malley has recently admitted.

      Failure to consult Catholic parents far earlier on the issue of youth exodus from practice has also had disastrous consequences. The ultimate test of any magisterium is the question: Who in the end has been taught?

    • soconaill

      On the issue of Lumen Gentium, this Catholic took very seriously article 37 – on the right and obligation of lay people to make their pastoral needs known to their pastors ‘through the institutions established by the Church for that purpose’.

      Had such structures been put in place in Ireland by, say, 1975 why should the disastrous events of 1994 to the present have happened, and why should so many have been alienated since 1968 by a magisterium so determined NOT to listen.

      To say a synod is not a parliament is to raise even more eloquently the question of why even synods were totally eschewed in Ireland until the past few years.

      And now, when the clerical church is on the verge of disappearance, Catholic lay people still hold back from service on pastoral councils. The reason is their knowledge that as late as March 2015 nothing they attempt has any guaranteed permanence, by virtue of those canons that still allow clergy to ignore, or even dismiss, any pastoral council at a whim.

      It is not the parental magisterium that is responsible for this state of affairs. To exonerate the episcopal magisterium is, for me, impossible.

      Finally, there has always been far more to Protestantism than fragmentation – and it was only the fragmented state of Christianity in the US – and the separation of church and state that arose from it – that allowed the phenomenon of clerical child sexual abuse to be thrust for the first time into the public domain. Catholic majoritarian countries came sadly trailing in this matter.

      What more proof do we need that power does indeed corrupt, and that it is the imbalance of power in our church that has most to do with its most serious problems?

      Pope Francis’ denial of his competence to solve all problems for all Catholic jurisdictions – in Evangelii Gaudium – is surely also a confirmation of that.

      Prodigal Son is still not listening. He hasn’t heard Frank Gregg tell him of the clerical alienation of so many of his, and my generation.

      • Aidan Hart

        Prodigal Son, you talk about democracy as if it only existed in the sinful, secular world, where deals are done, and therefore has no place in a spiritual Church. In the Acts of the Apostles a democratic vote was used to replace Judas with Matthias (1:26). You perhaps forget that Popes have long been elected democratically by the College of Cardinals, that Church Councils’ definitions of dogmas have been decided by the democratic votes of the bishops and cardinals present and that the decision on which books to include in the Bible was only finally agreed and defined as a dogma of faith in the 16th century Council of Trent by a democratic vote of those bishops and cardinals present.

        Yes, those democratic votes had to be finally accepted by the reigning pope but several current secular democracies have that type of safeguard built into their systems of democracy. However, I’m not aware of any pope having refused to accept the final democratic vote of a Church Council. Yes, that democratic vote of Trent confirmed the Canon professed by the earlier Councils of Florence, Carthage and Rome and many synods. However, in spite of all the study, debate, prayerful reflection and decisions of previous Councils and synods of the Church the democratic vote at the Council of Trent to establish the official Canon of the Bible was far from unanimous; 24 in favour, 15 against and 16 abstentions. So a majority failed to support the Canon of the Bible we currently have, either by voting against or by abstaining!

        When clerics talk about the oversight and guidance of the Holy Spirit in Church matters they perhaps fail to do justice to that divine oversight and guidance being able to operate through a democratic process, of which there are many forms. Currently they fail to trust the Holy Spirit to work through a form of democracy that would include the laity (men and women). The guidance of the Holy Spirit should never be a substitute for human endeavour and the collective wisdom of the whole Church, lay and clerical (sensus fidelium).

        The way the Church, from its earliest Councils and synods, has identified the wisdom of its living Tradition has been mostly through its form of clerical-collegiate democracy, where, no doubt, “deals are cut” among the clerics present. We saw that recently in the voting of the synod on the family under Pope Francis and in various conclaves to elect the pope. In history, powerful kings and emperors, with their armies, manipulated some Church Councils and the democratic collegial voting for popes. Pope Paul 6th manipulated the membership of the committee set up by the former pope to advise him about what to do over the fraught issue of contraception, ensuring that he got the result he wanted. So “cutting deals” and manipulation are not limited to lay forms of democracy.

        I believe the Holy Spirit can work through that aspect of human frailty, as through all other human aspects. After all, the Holy Spirit inspired the composition of the Bible, while at the same time respecting and successfully using the frail humanity of its many human authors, making that sacred Book one of the pillars of the Catholic Church which contains the self-revelations of God to humanity.

    • Martin Murray

      “The Magisterium was set up originally by Christ ” has to be a bit of a stretch, even if its in LG. I took your advice and spent some time with Lumen Gentium. Needless to say some good stuff here, but being honest I was disappointed by excessive sense of self-importance with which it was imbued, and particularly clerical self-importance. It seems as a church we have nothing to learn and everything to teach. In that maybe LG is a document of its time. Hopefully some 50 years later we are a humbler church; more focused on service and open to recognising, celebrating and calling forth the risen Christ in everyone and everything.

  4. Prodigal Son

    There is not an Irish Magisterium because the Pope is not included. The Magisterium has to do with Church teaching. The behaviour of bishops is a different thing and is subject to criticism. Cardinal O’Malley is correct on accountability.

    There have been significant challenges to Bl J Henry N’s theory on the Arians which space does not permit to deal with here.

    Declining levels of faith are the principal cause of exodus from Catholicism. It’s been a feature since the late 1960’s. In the late 1970’s I observed significant anti-clericalism among Irish personnel on contracts overseas. Its primary form was objections to Church influence on State affairs, but at a parish level many individuals were still prepared to help with funding etc. The internal wellbeing of Catholicism didn’t feature. The church is now marginalised. The priests are no longer the targets but lay people such as David Quinn and Breda O’Brien.

    I was reared in a “rosary” home in a local environment where Catholicism was part of the culture, and, figuratively speaking, part of the air one breathed. In some instances when people visited each other’s homes, criticism of priests was common for reasons to do with money. But, people seemed able to distinguish between the man and his priesthood, and the anticlericalism was accompanied by obvious relatively deep levels of belief and high levels of practice.

    Today, anticlericalism in an internal matter, and far more complex. There are some who seek to clericalise the laity, and dumb down the nature and purpose of the Catholic priesthood. Some priests pursue this. There are issues related to Church teaching. One priest in the last two years criticised what he termed “elite Catholics,” just one example of the divisions within.

    At work I’ve had a lot of contact with the 20 and 30 somethings. No anti clericalism there, just a lack of perceived need for religion, plenty of cultural Catholicism and a lack of knowledge of Church teaching.

  5. Prodigal Son

    I offer the following:
    In Dec 2013 Pope Francis described the sensus fidelium as a “kind of ‘spiritual instinct’ which allows [Catholics] to sentire cum ecclesia, to discern what conforms to the Apostolic Faith and to the spirit of the Gospel… it is clear that the sensus fidelium must not be confused with the sociological reality of majority opinion.”

    In Donum Veritatis 1990 The CDF wrote: “not all the ideas that circulate among the People of God are compatible with faith…. People can be swayed by public opinion influenced by modern communications media.

    Hierarchy and laity harmonise each other’s ministries in the Holy Spirit. LG 35 says that Christ fulfils His prophetic office through the Hierarchy who teach in His name with His authority and “through the laity whom He made His witnesses and to whom He gave understanding of the faith (sensus fidei) and an attractiveness in speech so that the power of the gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life.”

    All democratic activity on earth is done by sinners. Attempted manipulation is stranger to none. (But Bl Paul 6 ?? hardly!) The principal difference between places like the Dail and a Synod involving the Pope, is the Pope – the rock with the keys, confirming us in the deposit of faith, the figure of unity. In Luke: 22, 31-32, we see that the Pope as successor of Peter is a constant target of Satan and is constantly being prayed for by Christ to the Father.

    Bl Paul 6 did not cut any deals on Humanae Vitae. He declined the majority decision of the committee, took 2 years to consult the bishops of the world and wrote HV.

    The Holy Sp works often through human frailty. In terms of our Catholic responsibilities the Holy Spirit should not be a substitute for human endeavour. But the very sinful behaviours of 12 or 13 Popes suggest that the Holy Sp may have had to do just that. It’s strange that none of them tampered with the deposit of faith as would have suited their lifestyles.

    • Aidan Hart

      Prodigal Son, I totally agree with your opening comment. ‘Sensus fidei’ (sense of faith) through the ‘sensus fidelium’ (sense of the faithful) does not depend on ‘majority opinion’. It comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is present and operative throughout the whole community of faith

      I believe it is a long and slow process of discernment and prayer by the whole Church over many decades, if not centuries. That point about the ‘whole’ Church was stressed by blessed Cardinal Newman. The hierarchy used to consider it their sole prerogative (sensus hierarchia!!), and no doubt some still do, but many theologians and bishops today would see it as belonging to the whole Church. It eventually becomes part of the Church’s sacred, living and evolving Tradition, as it did among the Jews in Old Testament times (Jewish Scriptures). It was from that Jewish ‘sensus fidelium’ over several centuries BC that the Christian Church received its Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament) and many of our ideas about God, prayer and worship. That ‘sense of the Jewish faithful’ was not confined solely to Rabbis or to the earlier Jewish priesthood. Lay and married prophets, such as Isaiah , Hosea etc. as well as married priest prophets (e.g. Ezekiel),had a central role in its formation. It contributed to, and helped form, their sacred and living Jewish Tradition, much of which eventually became part of the Christian Tradition.

      Last year Pope Francis told the ‘America’ magazine “The faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief.” He added significantly “This church … is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people.” Pope Francis was only repeating what was decreed by the Second Vatican Council when it said “The whole body of the faithful who have an anointing that comes from the holy one (cf 1.Jn2:20 & 27) cannot err in matters of belief.” (Lumen Gentium Par.12) What a fantastic statement and reiteration of Catholic sacred Tradition which had become cloaked in clericalism for centuries!

      Magisterium comes from the Latin word ‘magister’ meaning teacher. Aspects of that fallible teaching role have developed or been rescinded over the centuries (eg. lending money for profit being absolutely forbidden by Canon Law in the Middle Ages, especially by clerics; Vatican Bank!). Other aspects, and they are relatively few in number, have gone on to be infallibly pronounced by the Pope as having been revealed by God (through the ‘sensus fidelium’ and not contrary to Holy Scripture) and are now an integral part of the fundamental faith of the Catholic Church.

      I believe the Catholic Church has a legitimate and necessary role in authoritative teaching. But that role must be built on collegiality and subsidiary, on listening to the laity (who can also teach the hierarchy about many issues, including marriage) as well as teaching them. Obedience must be informed and matched by the compassion of the ‘teacher’. We must also keep in mind the wise canonical doctrine of reception which asserts that for a law or rule to be effective for the building up of the believing community it must be accepted by that community (first developed by John Gratian in the 12th century and now embedded in Catholic Church teaching).

      So Prodigal Son, you and I and Frank, and those of the far right and those of the far left, as well as the majority scattered about in between, are all part of God’s People and are all on their pilgrim journey of faith struggling to do the best we can to respond to God’s unconditional love, through prayer and worship and passing that unconditional love on to others.

  6. Frank Gregg

    Prodigal Son,
    Thanks for your comments on my article which by definition is subject to the limitations on total truth by virtue of our human condition.

    Not forgetting child abuse is not enough however- what we need is a means by which, like the Shoah, that this will never happen again, and as much as you seem to dislike the secular world , it was left to that same category of society to disclose ,despite the sternest obstructions from our clericalist church government, the criminal clerical sexual abuse and cover up by those in superior orders.
    The recommendations for the empowerment of the laity under V2 were ignored by John Charles as we all know
    I never recommended transferring power – rather sharing it , if you check my letter.

    Surely you are not suggesting that the Holy Spirit is inactive in the multitude of Protestant denominations?

    I am unaware of any reference to contraception in the Gospels – are you ?

    A synod is a means of opening discussion and mutual listening in an attempt to better understand the many perspectives of all in the ” royal priesthood” of the faithful.

    I would welcome a comment on your assertion that my opinion on natural birth control is faulty.

    I do not recommend starting again as my final Scriptural comment states.

    I hope that this may clarify some of the questions you raise about my letter.


    Frank Gregg

  7. Prodigal Son

    Frank re my 1st reply:
    I don’t dislike the secular world but wouldn’t settle for it. We are required to love everybody. The secular world has many joys – rugby, theatre, wine et al.

    My parish, as requested by Pope Benedict, has adoration every Friday for the intentions abuse victims. Abuse will occur again spasmodically despite any safeguards. Satan never rests.

    As to power sharing, refer to my reply to Aidan above.

    As said in first reply above there are millions of holy people among the Protestant denominations, ergo the Holy Spirit.

    In relation to contraception:
    1. LG 35 says that Christ fulfils His prophetic office through the Hierarchy who teach in His name with His authority – “Whatever you shall bind upon earth …” There is no mention of religious orders in the Gospel. There doesn’t have to be. Similarly with contraception.

    2. That said, St. Paul to the Galatians (5:19-21) uses a certain Greek word: pharmakeia. It can be translated as “sorcery” which included mixing of various potions for secret purposes, and it is known that potions were mixed in the first century A.D. to prevent or stop a pregnancy. Pharmakeia appears in a catalogue of sins that Paul condemns. (See Sex and the Marriage Covenant, John F. Kippley)

    In relation to natural birth control several references abound, for example

    Synods as your reference to the Lineamenta shows do not satisfy everybody or bring about unity. That is why we have a Pope. The Limerick Synod assumes the acceptance of Church teaching.

    Your suggestion to live justly to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God as per Catechism 898 is spot on, but difficult.

    People of same sex attraction who are baptised are part of the Church. All (in my view) have a special vocation which they exercise by seeking, like heterosexuals, to live by Church teaching. Many avail of the Courage ministry to pursue this. The causes of same sex attraction are not known.

  8. Frank Gregg

    Prodigal Son,
    We seem to be missing each other’s points in our correspondence.

    The good news we share is that Jesus, our personal Saviour has all the answers – we in our limited human intellect have not, as we struggle through a glass darkly to envision our ultimate destiny.

    So, I must be loving and kind to you and to all others in my travelling along the road – the road less travelled , as someone said.

    I wish you you well in all things, and may the splendour of the Lord infuse your soul.



  9. Prodigal Son




  10. Prodigal Son

    Aidan, we both accept, indeed celebrate LG!

    The problem I have with your quote from LG 12 is what it omits, to wit, “… discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God.”

    Pope Francis’ statement “The faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief” is based on yours and mine quotation.

    Christ bequeathed the “sacred teaching authority” to the world in Matthew 18:18; in Matthew 16:17-19. All, (=all), the actions and pronouncements of Christ were acts of mercy. I don’t think that John Gratian’s theory is now embedded in Catholic teaching. In John 6, when the multitudes rejected the teaching on the Eucharist, Christ didn’t pursue them and say “Come back, I’ll change it.” I’m not sure how John Gratian would have answered Christ’s immediate question to the apostles, but the immediate dialogue between Christ and Peter hardly bears Gratian out.

    The “Gratian” problem arises in the recent assertion of “We are Church” (Ireland) that Christ supports gay marriage, an assertion grounded, I’m sure, on compassion. It raises questions regarding the phrase “it must be accepted by that community.” By which community and by how many in that community?”

    There are areas of life where the hierarchy learn from the laity, indeed put themselves under the recommendations of the laity, e.g., administration with regard to child protection. But as LG 35 shows, teaching is the ministry of the Magisterium.

    What can the laity teach the Magisterium about marriage that Christ hasn’t taught?

    As regards Collegiality, as I understand it, it doesn’t apply outside the context of the Pope and the Bishops.

    Apart from left, right, etc, would that I could live up to the sentiments expressed in your last paragraph!!! Way to go!

    • soconaill

      “But as LG 35 shows, teaching is the ministry of the Magisterium.”

      With respect, if you mean EITHER that the episcopal magisterium ALWAYS effectively teaches the most important truth about God (that God is love) OR that no non-member of the episcopal magisterium can do so, you cannot be taken seriously.

      For example, Augustine of Hippo taught that Luke 14:23 justified the church in sanctioning the use of coercion for heresy. That complete misuse of ‘compel them to come in’ was subsequently used for centuries to justify the most outrageous and blasphemous violence – by the episcopal magisterium – and it lies at the root of the secularist case against Christianity today. It was implicitly repudiated by the Vatican II declaration on religious freedom, but that was of absolutely no service to e.g. Jan Huss. (Maybe you could visit Prague some day to measure the ongoing effect of that?)

      I was taught that God is love far more effectively by Vatican II-minded clergy and by my parents. That truth was never more seriously challenged than BY the episcopal magisterium, in the matter summarised above and in the matter of clerical child sexual abuse.

      My guess is that you prioritise and privilege VERBAL DEFINITIONS of truth, and this is what you mean by ‘teaching’. Can you explain why you do that, if, as history teaches, the non-prioritisation of loving ACTION actually teaches that God is NOT love, betraying the Gospel?

      I repeat – the test of any teaching magisterium is not adherence to verbal formulae but the degree to which anyone is TAUGHT. You simply refuse to see that anyone could be taught – by the ACTIONS of the episcopal magisterium – to avoid Catholicism, and Christianity, like the plague. There is very serious blindness there.

      • Aidan Hart

        Prodigal Son, thank you for your final comments and for your thoughtful response. It is great that this ACI website gives us all the opportunity to listen to each other, to reflect on what has been written and to respond with the graciousness and thoughtfulness that you and others are showing.

        We can all learn from each other, no matter how much we might differ in our theology and spirituality. Our different personalities, upbringing, education and life experiences will bring us, almost inevitably, to different points or routes in our journey to God. That doesn’t necessarily make one right and the other wrong, perhaps just different. I say ‘perhaps’ because I’m not denying the existence of ‘right and wrong’, of objective truth, of divinely revealed truth or the legitimate teaching roles of Popes, bishops, priests and laity.

        We all, of course, have the right and duty to share our concerns with each other and to do so honestly and graciously. That is the beauty of this Catholic website to which all have access. The sharing shows that we all love God, care about His Church and are striving to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth.

        No matter how hurt or ignored one might feel or how justifiably angry at the terrible damage done to many of God’s children by the awful moral lapse of some of His priests and the cover-up by some of the hierarchy and members of the Vatican – who should have acted from a higher moral standard than the protection of the human side of the Church – we are determined, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to persevere.

        I’m arguing for a position of mutual listening and learning by all of us in this divinely created ecclesial community of ours, a community that is sick and suffering in important aspects of its human personnel, structures and processes as well as doing some wonderful things for the glory of God. Only God has the fullness of Truth, the rest of us, I believe, understand and prophesy only in part and that part through the myopic lens of who we are as flawed human beings.

        Where you and I differ perhaps, Prodigal Son, is in our understanding of Church dogmas. I believe that there is a hierarchy of dogmas and that those in the lower end of that hierarchical spectrum evolve and develop, as language and culture change and our human understanding of those issues develops. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to believe that all dogmas are of equal provenance and that their wording and understanding can never be improved upon.

        I thought that the Gratian principle of the need for acceptance of dogmas by the whole Church was generally accepted and followed on from LG and from what Pope Francis said; ‘The faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief.” I will certainly learn from your hesitancy and, if I have overstated my case, I’ll correct it. Perhaps other contributors can help us out on this issue.

        We also seem to differ in our thinking about whether or not the structures and processes of the Church should reflect its teachings on justice and equality and other important virtues. Martin Murray has made a valuable contribution on this in his Response. I consider the way some priests have been treated by the Vatican would be considered by most fair minded people as unjust. I also think the way the nuns were treated recently in America by the Vatican was unjust. The treatment of women overall in the Catholic Church is lacking in justice and equality. You seem to feel all is well within the hierarchy and Vatican side of the Church. I feel the hierarchy and Vatican still have to say clearly to the whole Church what it is within Church structures and processes that enabled the scandal of clerical paedophilia and sexual activity among a number of gay priests (who were supposed to be celibate) to go on for so long without being identified and stopped. Pope Emeritus Benedict towards the end of his pontificate started that process of identification and Pope Francis is continuing it. He admitted before Christmas to being shocked by the corruption within the Curia and spelt it out clearly. Hopefully it will lead to serious reform.

        The corruption of Mass stipends, moral laxity among clergy and laity and the selling of indulgences (among other things) led substantially, but not solely, to the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. This time round the Church is not so much splitting as going into serious decline over unreformed corruption, at a time when the world is much in need of its divine wisdom and the powerful witness of living out the Gospel of Jesus the Christ. Without serious reform that decline will continue and at an ever increasing rate.

      • Aidan Hart

        Soconaill, you make an excellent and totally logical point.

        While training as a teacher a long time ago I was repeatedly told by lecturers that if the pupils were not learning I was not teaching but merely talking to myself. So it follows that if the laity in large numbers over a long period of time are not learning by accepting and putting into practice a particular teaching of the Magisterium, then the Magisterium is not in effect teaching on that issue but merely talking to itself.

  11. Prodigal Son

    The Magisterium defines Church teaching. No group outside the Pope or of the Pope in union with the bishops can so define Church teaching.

    (Dei Verbum # 10): “The task of authoritatively interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on [Scripture or Tradition], has been entrusted exclusively to the living Magisterium of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.”

    I have taught these teachings but not defined them.

    Scandalous behaviour of bishops is a different matter. Scandal often obstructs teaching being received or accepted. It can convey the impression that God is not love. But it does not render the teaching invalid. The scandals related to personnel within the Church throughout history were never part of the Deposit of Faith, and not the product of the Magisterium. They were the product of sin.

    It is true of course that millions have seen past the sins and the tarnishing of love such as occurred in the issue of child abuse and still find meaning and truth in the teachings of the Catholic Church. 60,000 or so new converts joint he Catholic Church in the USA each Easter.
    Adherence to Church teaching and seeking to understand the love of God go hand in hand. This is how we become friends with God and live in harmony with our neighbour.

    There are different levels of dogma, but each is expected to be believed. At the lower levels, teaching can be improved, developed, clarified, but not changed in substance. Any new development has to be in line with the Deposit of Faith.

    Over the past 50 years the Popes have never tired of teaching the faithful. But the teaching has not trickled down to the pews. This constitutes a failure of aspects of the traditional means of conveying the teaching to the faithful. Some dioceses and religious orders in the developed world have not so failed over the years, and they are benefitting accordingly in terms of vocations.

    • soconaill

      The Great Commandment is not ‘Thou shalt define’ but ‘Thou shalt love…’

      Was Augustine’s exegesis of Luke 14:23 never part of the ‘deposit of faith’? If not, the episcopal magisteriun can err, grievously, over a period of about 1400 years, with disastrous consequences.

      If it was, then the Vatican II declaration on religious freedom is in error.

      Face it: the notion of an unchanging, infallible, verbal ‘deposit of faith’ cannot be sustained.

      You give a figure of 60,000 converts to Catholicism in the US every year, but none for those exiting. Why is that? (My understanding is that former Catholics constitute the second largest religious grouping there, after Catholics. Is that not so?)

      Finally, if verbal definitions of truth are at the summit of the hierarchy of Christian obligations, why did Jesus never say, ‘Thou shalt define…’?

    • Aidan Hart

      Prodigal Son, I am interested in knowing exactly which ‘dioceses and religious orders in the developed world have not so failed over the years, and they are benefitting accordingly in terms of vocations.’

      I have worked for several years with a number of male and female religious Orders and they are all in serious decline of vocations from the developed northern hemisphere, some now relying almost exclusively on vocations from the developing world. One Order of nuns I worked with is down to its last few members as they refuse to recruit in that way, regarding it as inappropriate. Many or most Orders don’t regard it as inappropriate, although the Vatican asked enclosed communities of nuns to stop recruiting from the developing world for convents in the developed world. The Vatican, I understand, thought that inappropriate as the postulants and novices were reduced to looking after a community of ageing and sick nuns.

      The issue is; Does your comment include Orders which are recruiting substantially from the developing world (which would undermine your argument as you are talking about ‘the developed world’) or to the substantial number of vocations in Orders recruited solely from within the developed world (for which I request your examples and accept that such a substantial number, if they exist, would support your argument)?

  12. Prodigal Son

    Firstly in general, the great commandment of Love sources the authority vested in the Church by Christ Himself, who gave Peter the power of the Keys; who gave the power to bind and loose to all the apostles with Peter; who asserted that He who hears them hears Him; who told Peter He had prayed for him that his faith might not fail, so that he in turn could confirm his brothers; and who promised to be with His Church until the end of time — by this authority of the very Word of God, the Magisterium speaks with the same inspiration of the Holy Spirit as does Scripture.

    These promises of Christ, if one believes them, guarantee that two teachings of the Church will not clash, for if they did, at least one of them would have to be wrong, and then His promises would have failed.

    It is not uncommon to find two statements in Scripture that appear to contradict each other. Jesus said “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34), should we contend that Our Lord contradicted Himself when he later stated, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27)? No, we simply assume we have some work to do, that we must deepen our understanding to see how all of Our Lord’s statements on a given issue are fully, equally and absolutely true at the same time. So it is also with Magisterial teaching.

    Thus Humanae Dignitas #1 states that it “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.”

    Elsewhere it states that “Over and above all this, the council intends to develop the doctrine of recent popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and the constitutional order of society.”

    It would help if written evidence supporting the claim that the Church committed itself to Augustine’s theory were produced.

    Par 2 teaches that, “within due limits”, no one may be prevented from acting publicly in accord with their conscience in religious matters.


    • soconaill

      This gives you the original letter of Augustine arguing for the use of Luke 14:23 as justification for ‘compelling’ the Donatists.

      If (using the quote marks) you Google [ “compel them to come in” Inquisition Augustine pope ] you will find conclusive evidence that this argument was indeed used by popes to justify the Inquisition. A Dominican priest once checked this for me, and confirmed it.

      As some such justification must indeed have been used, you would need to find evidence to the contrary to prove the Inquisition’s provenance in some other source.

      Augustine’s argument really rests upon the fourth century adoption by the empire of Christianity as the established religion. He saw this as God’s intention. Now that we know that God has (for very good reasons) given up on that church-state relationship we need to think again.

      Do our disagreements really arise in the end from the ambiguity of the word ‘teach’. The Oxford dictionary declares that it can mean EITHER merely to declare something to be true, OR in addition to convince others that something is true.

      I do not question the authority of bishops to teach in that first sense. They must be the primary teachers in that first sense. However, they have seriously failed to teach in that second sense – and must acknowledge the primary role of lay people to teach in that sense. By ‘primary’ here, I mean in the sense that our first contact with the beautiful story of the Creeds is almost always through parents or other close lay people.

      That is also a ‘magisterium’, in the basic meaning of that word, and cannot be dispensed with. The huge tragedy of the church in the wake of Vatican II is that the defining magisterium and the ‘contact’ magisterium have not been in routine and honest dialogue – as the council intended.

      You are certainly dogged – but I am now not really sure that I am in fundamental disagreement with you. That reference to the ‘rod’ puts you on very slippery ground, as any resort to physical chastisement puts a person of a certain weak psychology – and any child he may have to deal with – in the most serious danger, Far better to take ‘rod’ as a metaphor for strong admonishment, than to suppose there is ever any good reason for the infliction of physical pain on anyone – especially a child.

    • soconaill

      This gives you the original letter of Augustine arguing for the use of Luke 14:23 as justification for ‘compelling’ the Donatists.

      If (using the quote marks) you Google [ “compel them to come in” Inquisition Augustine pope ] you will find conclusive evidence that this argument was indeed used by popes to justify the Inquisition. A Dominican priest once checked this for me, and confirmed it.

      As some such justification must indeed have been used, you would need to find evidence to the contrary to prove the Inquisition’s provenance in some other source.

      Augustine’s argument really rests upon the fourth century adoption by the empire of Christianity as the established religion. He saw this as God’s intention. Now that we know that God has (for very good reasons) given up on that church-state relationship we need to think again.

      Do our disagreements really arise in the end from the ambiguity of the word ‘teach’. The Oxford dictionary declares that it can mean EITHER merely to declare something to be true, OR in addition to convince others that something is true.

      I do not question the authority of bishops to teach in that first sense. They must be the primary teachers in that first sense. However, they have seriously failed to teach in that second sense – and must acknowledge the primary role of lay people to teach in that sense. By ‘primary’ here, I mean in the sense that our first contact with the beautiful story of the Creeds is almost always through parents or other close lay people.

      That is also a ‘magisterium’, in the basic meaning of that word, and cannot be dispensed with. The huge tragedy of the church in the wake of Vatican II is that the defining magisterium and the ‘contact’ magisterium have not been in routine and honest dialogue – as the council intended.

      You are certainly dogged – but I am now not really sure that I am in fundamental disagreement with you. That reference to the ‘rod’ puts you on very slippery ground, as any resort to physical chastisement puts a person of a certain weak psychology – and any child he may have to deal with – in the most serious danger, Far better to take ‘rod’ as a metaphor for strong admonishment, than to suppose there is ever any good reason for the infliction of physical pain on anyone – especially a child.

  13. Prodigal Son

    Those “due limits” are elaborated in par 7, as follows:

    It is unjust for human authority (Catholic or non-Catholic) to prevent people from publicly acting in accord with their conscience in religious matters, unless such action violates legal norms, based on the objective moral order, that are necessary for safeguarding: (a) the rights of all citizens; (b) public peace; and (c) public morality. (DH defines “public order” in terms of these 3).

    A parallel can be drawn with the Church’s developing position on capital punishment. She continues to teach that it is not intrinsically (always and everywhere) unjust; but she now makes the prudential judgment that it can rarely if ever be justified under modern circumstances (CCC #2267). Similarly, Vatican II does not teach that it is or was intrinsically (always and everywhere) unjust for a Catholic State to repress all public manifestations of non-Catholic religions as being per se a danger to fundamental elements of “a just public order.” But the Council does clearly imply, by what it says and what it significantly fails to say, the prudential judgment that under modern circumstances, such repression would, in any country, violate the natural right to religious freedom of those concerned.

    When the highest Church authorities in former times urged the State repression of public non-Catholic religious activity as such, they certainly judged that the propagation of such errors constituted threats to at least one, and often all three, of the social values which DH #7 says must be legally protected against abuses of religious freedom.

    It is important to distinguish between the deposit of faith (doctrine) the one hand and prudential policy judgment, or norms of ecclesiastical public law on the other.

    DH is not a revision of doctrine but of prudential judgement.

    Internally, Popes still believe that “The use of the rod can actually be a service of love” for the baptized, who do have obligations of fidelity to her.

  14. Prodigal Son


    Diocese include: Lincoln Nebraska, Lansing Michigan, St Paul Minnieapolis (had to extend seminary building), Frejus France and I think Chigago

    The parish of Fowler in Lansing diocese is interesting. Look up “Called to the Collar” CNN documentary by Lisa Ling. There was a full film but now only a trailer. eg

    You can see a transcript on
    Well worth a read.

    Religious Orders

    Nashville Dominicans, Sisters for Life, New York, Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Institute of Christ Sovereign King, Franciscans of the Immaculate, Fathers of Mercy, One or two Dominican (male) provinces in the US, Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, Hanceville, Alabama,

    • Aidan Hart

      Prodigal Son, thank you for your response and for all the examples you listed. I have to say, very impressive and a point well supported with facts.

      A very interesting CNN interview which supports your point. Only the transcript is now available online.

      Without taking away from all of the examples you kindly supplied and from the CNN interview with two very impressive young priests (twin brothers), growing up and working in an almost completely Catholic farming community in rural America, I would have a few reservations which I’ll share.

      One was about the older Fr. Mathias saying “God is calling everybody. He’s not just calling the people that prayed in their room the whole lives, who don’t have friends, who didn’t have a lot of experience dating. He calls a lot of people. And I just happened to have the Grace to respond.” God calling everybody, every man and every woman, to be priests or, for the women, nuns! Surely you don’t believe that? Also, why would “everybody” or “a lot of people” be called to be priests and then some not also be given “the Grace to respond.” If both ‘call’ and ‘response’ are fully in God’s hands where is free will? Why would God ‘call’ and then refuse His ‘grace to respond’? Its bad theology and a wrong interpretation of Matthew 22:14. It smacks of predestination, which the Catholic Church has always refuted, even as an interpretation (although a wrong interpretation) of Ephesians 1:4-6 & Romans 8:28-30.

      When one of the young priests said “I was about seven or 8-years-old when I first felt the call. Gary, if you want to go to heaven, you should be a priest.” I said to myself “ Waow! Who taught him to think like that? Where did that awful theology come from – local priests, Bishop, seminary staff, parents, Catholic school? It reflects the contribution from Fr. Mathias above. It almost sounds like brainwashing in a somewhat enclosed Catholic community at a very impressionable age, a bit like what went on in many rural Irish Catholic homes before Vatican 2. Vocations were then often described as ‘their mother’s vocation’! However, I did find most of what the two young priests contributed to the interview to be uplifting and none of my few reservations take away from that.

      I would make one last point with which I’m sure you would agree. The issue here is not just about the numbers of vocations going through to ordination but, more importantly, about their motivation and spiritual quality.

      One Irish vocations director told me several years ago that he had reservations about the pre-Vatican 2 thinking of many of those coming forward and being ordained. Dom Aidan Bellenger, former Abbot of Downside Abbey, makes a similar point in this week’s Tablet (P.14) about monastic vocations; “A decline in the number of vocations has combined with the ageing of the communities, and a tendency to middle-class stagnation, strangulation by comfort and gerontocracy….the issue of sexuality, and homosexuality in particular, remains a complex and sensitive area.”

      I visited an overflowing junior seminary in Kenya several years ago, about which a number of local European missionary priests had strong reservations, and could understand why. I attended an outdoor ordination of 7 African priests. While the celebratory singing and dancing, speech making and rows of on-stage, colourfully vested priests and bishops were impressive, I could see the effect on many young boys around me, dressed in rags and mostly under nourished, when seven brand new 4×4 vehicles were driven into the arena and presented as presents to the newly ordained priests by their Bishop. Afterwards the newly ordained were carried shoulder high around the large football stadium, like former African tribal chiefs, to loud hand-clapping and singing. Then they sat at top table with all the other clergy for a sumptuous feast and were presented with many more expensive gifts and envelopes of money. The packed congregation were given very ordinary fare while sitting on the ground. During the following weeks each of the newly ordained priests was driven around all the parishes in the diocese, wearing new suits, to say a ‘first Mass’ in each and receive more gifts of money from members of the congregation, raised by selling an animal from their meagre herds. Each priest was also presented with a newly built two storey house, lavishly furnished compared to the mud huts of their parents and siblings, and each with a cook, house cleaner and gardener. In a land of degrading poverty, lack of employment and early death by untreated diseases, such a lavish life style, more in keeping with former colonialism, was an obvious draw to many young boys living in poverty. And how would they cope with celibacy? A local parish priest told me that his Bishop had discretely asked his local clergy to keep their wives or girlfriends well away from their local parish to avoid scandal! Many of the African priests I met spent much of their day running private businesses.

      I’ll say no more. I gladly acknowledge that there are a large number of holy and hard working priests doing their utmost to serve God and their parish communities faithfully in all countries. I have had the privilege of meeting and working closely with many of them. But there are also important issues about the spiritual quality and motivation of many vocations, active homosexuality, clerical lifestyles and clerical culture to be admitted and tackled in both the developed and developing world.

      However, Prodigal Son, none of that takes away from the many examples you gave to support your point, which I acknowledge and for which I express my gratitude.

  15. Prodigal Son


    It takes two!

    We know what each believes. Time to put swords (entirely metaphorical!!) into scabbards

    Best wishes for now.

    • Aidan Hart

      Thank you Prodigal Son, and may we both continue to work for God’s Kingdom. I enjoyed our robust exchange of ideas as we challenged each other’s pre-conceptions. That is healthy, even if it did keep me up late into the night and I enjoyed the challenge.

      Sincere searching for the truth is what both of us, and others, are about on this excellent ACI website.

      I look forward to ‘crossing swords’ with you again on other issues.
      best wishes,

      • Aidan Hart

        Thank you soconiall. I learn a lot from both your articles and your challenges.
        Best wishes,


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