Pope Francis’ rebuke of the Curia for its “inappropriate behaviour” in the censuring of priests, his wish that issues of discipline be dealt with at local church level, and his dramatic re-definition of the phrase ‘sentire cum ecclesiae’ have created a new landscape for dealing with people who have been, in various ways, punished for what the CDF has previously considered ‘unorthodox’ views.
It may, or may not, be a coincidence that the six priests whom we know to have felt the ire of the CDF here in Ireland are all members of religious congregations. And the Irish bishops have made it clear to the Association of Catholic Priests that they do not wish to have any involvement in this matter. That does not surprise me, since I do not tend to expect courageous action from our hierarchy.
But religious congregations have traditionally seen themselves as being positioned more to the edge of the Church, with something of a prophetic role. I am suggesting that the particular congregations whose members are included among these ‘censored’ priests have now got a great opportunity to act prophetically.
I don’t think any reasonable person would regard Eoin O’Sullivan, Iggy O’Donovan, Gerry Moloney, Brian D’Arcy or Sean Fagan as remotely heretical or a danger to the faith, and even less a cause of scandal. (I will leave my own case to be judged by others). It surely makes no sense to have censors appointed to monitor the writings of Eoin, Brian and Gerry. And surely it is also time that these ‘censors’ stopped co-operating with oppressive power structures and refused to accept the role.
So I call on the five congregations, the Augustinians, the Capuchins, the Passionists, the Marists and the Redemptorists to come together and to lift all restrictions on the six of us.
This would be a truly prophetic act, and it would have repercussions right around the world, giving courage and hope to people everywhere, and signalling powerfully that the awful era of fear and repression which we have lived through in the Church had come to an end.
The worst that could happen is that the CDF would object. Then it would be up to Francis to clearly illustrate if his statements are mere words, or something much more powerful.
Fr Tony Flannery