This week's Irish Catholic includes letters from two members of the Irish Chesterton Society, Colm Culleton and Maolsheachlann O Ceallaigh.
They're both on the same subject and appear one after the other. The subject is the sacking of Bishop William Morris in Australia, who was disciplined for his support for the ordination of women and married priests. The article which prompted the correspondence (an editorial reproduced from the National Catholic Reporter) can be found here.
The readers' letters in the Irish Catholic are not published on their website, so I've typed them out myself.
Regarding the article of 1 May (re-published from the Catholic National Reporter) about the dismissal of Bishop William Morris, the article called his suggestions “structural changes” and therefore much less revolutionary than protecting paedophile priests.
On the contrary, the suggestions are far from being mere structural changes, they are fundamental ones. They undermine some of the Church’s most sacred and fundamental laws, while protecting paedophile priests is only a sin. Sins can be forgiven and their damage repaired; but the loss of essentials is fatal. The article’s argument is akin to abolishing democracy because some politicans tell lies; or abolishing banks because some bankers are corrupt; or abolishing newspapers because sometimes they get things wrong.
Ex-bishop Morris wants to throw the baby out with the bath-water, for which he was correctly corrected.
It was depressing to read the Irish Catholic reproduce a Church-bashing editorial from the National Catholic Reporter, on the subject of Bishop William Morris's sacking.
The Catechism tells us that the faithful "have the duty of observing the constitutions and decrees conveyed by the legitimate authority of the Church. Even if they concern disciplinary matters, these determinations call for docility in charity." The article contained lines like "the trampling of human rights and professed values of decency by our Church's prelates, in this case including, sad to say, Benedict himself". Is that the tone of filial and docile questioning?
If the Catholic Church ordained married and/or women priests, the consequences seem pretty predictable. There would (perhaps) be a short-lived surge of new vocations, and maybe (though this seems less likely) a temporary growth in congregations. Liberals would write patronisingly complimentary opinion pieces, praising this as a "good start". And the real, deep-seated respect which secular and modern culture holds for the Catholic Church-- the respect that is often manifested as bitter hostility or abuse, but which in fact recognizes the Church as the one force in today's world which refuses to compromise its doctrine, or even its discipline-- would be lost. If salt loses its saltiness, wherewith will it be salted?
The advance of secularism is not a time for weakness, but for witness. Watering down the demands of the priesthood is not an answer to the vocations crisis. The Pope is quite right to protect his flock from the misperception that is, even if it involves disciplinary action towards misguided bishops and priests. We have enough Church-bashing in the secular press-- can we perhaps be given a break from in in the pages of the Irish Catholic?
Maolsheachlann O Ceallaigh