I have found my own blog very useful, and I am grateful to all the people who visit it every now and again. For me it has two specific uses.
The first one is that I have always found that writing something down is a great way of clarifying my ideas and thoughts, and of course the blog helps to spread my ideas, for whatever they are worth.
The second use is therapeutic, a way of looking at what is going on at a deeper level inside me and bringing it out so that I can look at it — getting it off my chest, as we say. This post probably comes under the latter category.
It is now seven years since some of my writings were examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican, and, as a result I was “withdrawn” from ministry by my own congregation, the Redemptorists — in other words they made an order that I was no longer fit to exercise my ministry as a priest. They said at the time they were under orders from the CDF, and had no choice. But of course in life there are always choices.
That all seems such a long time ago now; much has happened, and my life has changed greatly. As I have said in other posts on this site, viewing Church and ministry from my newly enforced position has changed my attitudes toward, and my beliefs in, many aspects of Church, and even faith.
In many ways I have enjoyed these years, appreciating the freedom of thought I have experienced, and also the range of new people I have met through my involvement with Church reform, particularly the international dimension of it.
I know it would be difficult for me to come back into active ministry now, and, if truth be told, and allowing for my age, my desire to do so has waned. And yet, and yet, there is a hurt, a sense of grievance, bubbling away inside me that I thought I had left behind. The process that was followed by both the CDF and the Redemptorists in deciding to ‘withdraw’ me was wrong, unjust, and should be rectified.
During the years since Francis became pope I have seen a lot change in the Church, and especially in the Vatican, and specifically in relation to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is no longer the domineering, all-powerful body it was seven years ago. A perfect example of that is the latest document from Pope Francis, Praedicate Evangelium, on the reform of the Roman Curia.
The theologian, Richard Gaillardetz, summarises what it says about the change that is needed in the CDF.
“The constitution does address the dicastery’s proper role in safeguarding doctrine, but it links this task with “the courage to seek new answers to new questions. “Regarding situations when the dicastery is called upon to give “authorization for teaching in the Church,” it is explicitly instructed to apply the principle of subsidiarity. (Curial bodies will no longer be known as congregations, but as dicasteries):
This may be a response to past instances when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had refused to grant a nihil obstat to certain professors requiring such ecclesiastical authorization.
The new constitution acknowledges the dicastery’s responsibility to consider potentially problematic “writings” and “opinions,” but in that context it explicitly calls for “dialogue” with those whose work is under consideration.”
This is not the first time Francis has expressed these views; he has greatly reduced the power of that body, and removed Cardinal Muller from his position as head of the CDF. The message he has spelt out in this latest document has clearly been his policy for some time.
In view of this I had requested my Redemptorist superiors, since they had taken the action to withdraw me from ministry in the first place, to restore me to ministry, and simply inform the CDF that they were doing so. They didn’t do as I requested but instead suggested that they would go to the CDF and appeal for clemency towards me. I had no interest in that, because by that action they would be restoring to the CDF the very power that Francis is clearly seeking to take from that body. I can only conclude that either my superiors were lacking in courage, or maybe they weren’t particularly interested in lifting the sanctions they had imposed on me in the first place. It leaves me feeling a bit alienated from the congregation.
I am aware that this post could be interpreted as self pity and I don’t want to indulge in the futile exercise of moaning for whatever time is left to me.
I know, as the song says, that I will survive; but I want to live, not just survive.