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Brendan Hoban on Apostolic Visitation findings

Rome has spoken. Or as Olli Rehn might say in his impeccable Latin, Roma locuta est. After the visit of the high-powered Vatican delegation to investigate the Catholic Church in Ireland, in the wake of the child abuse scandal, a summary of their findings was published last Tuesday. It was, of course, a summary so it is difficult to predict what’s going to happen now. It isn’t clear when or indeed if the detail will emerge. There are suggestions that the reports will be kept secret. I hope that doesn’t happen because if we’ve learnt anything at all from the last few decades it is that ‘the culture of secrecy’ – as one senior churchman described it – has served the Catholic Church very badly, not least in the last few decades.
One of the problems with secrecy is that it gives conspiracy theorists a field-day and no matter how bizarre the construction they put on things they can’t be contradicted. It’s understandable that every institution needs it’s ‘in camera’ moments but if people are to buy into the wisdom that’s offered that wisdom has to stand its ground in public. In the modern world there’s no way around that. Sometimes we might prefer if things were different. But there it is.
The clear Vatican endorsement of the child abuse guidelines and protocols is to be welcomed as is the clear recommendation that protocols around the ‘stepping down’ of priests should continue to be refined. This has been a concern for some time as the guidelines and protocols surrounding the ‘stepping down’ of priests after an allegation is made have led to much confusion, hurt and anger.
The unease wasn’t just that the guidelines were being unevenly implemented from diocese to diocese but that they were too blunt an instrument for the specific circumstances surrounding individual cases. It’s generally accepted now that the blunt one-size-fits-all response to every allegation is not fit for purpose. While, of course, child protection standards have to be the highest possible, it’s important that everyone caught in the slipstream of an abuse allegation should be treated fairly, as the Vatican document says ‘for the good of all concerned.’
As a member of the leadership team of the Association of Catholic Priests, we’re very happy with this focus. We asked for a meeting with the Vatican Visitors in each province to impress on them, along with other issues, the concern of priests about current ‘stepping down’ practices. We told them about our concerns in three areas: (i) priests who were accused but the Director of Public Prosecutions had decided not to proceed against them and they ended up in a limbo situation, effectively in a state of permanent suspension;  (ii) priests who had been falsely accused but not returned to ministry; and (iii) priests who were guilty of abuse but who were effectively pushed out of priesthood, even though dioceses had a duty of care for them and a responsibility – in terms of ongoing child protection – to continue monitoring them.
Our main point to the four archbishops was that every case where an allegation of abuse had been made against a priest should be examined on its merits. Child protection is, of course, a priority and can’t be compromised under any circumstances but accused priests have rights too and those rights, in law and in justice, should be respected. We told the archbishops that we were unhappy with the way protocols for the stepping down of priests were being implemented in some dioceses and that we felt the protocols themselves needed to be refined.
It was encouraging that the Vatican report accepted our three points and asked that the Irish bishops, Religious Superiors and the National Board for Safeguarding Children should continue to ‘examine and update’ the current protocols.
As an association we were less happy with the recommendations about ‘reforming’ seminaries. While it is not clear what exactly is envisaged, the widely expressed fear is that an effort is being made to separate seminarians from their peers, even possibly to attempt to replicate the closed-in, traditional seminaries of the 1950s. I don¹t think that’s the case on the basis that it is hard to see what sense it makes to ‘form’ student priests in a monastic style life and spirituality if they are to work in parishes later on. Much has been made of the famous new door in Maynooth which was widely believed to reflect this new approach but in fairness to Maynooth and other seminaries, student-priests need their privacy too. ‘Unworldly’ can mean different things to different people.
Towards the end of the document there is a sentence that has caused some comment. It describes ‘a certain tendency among priests, Religious and laity to hold theological opinions at variance with the teachings’ of the Church’. This the document, suggests ‘requires particular attention, directed principally towards improved theological formation.’ While ongoing theological formation is obviously important, some people have wondered what the word ‘principally’ in the last sentence might mean. The media have latched on to it and suggested that there might be criticism of ‘dissident’ priests, Religious and lay-people. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin responded to a question about this at the Maynooth press conference by saying that this didn¹t mean that Rome was going to get involved in what he called ‘heresy-hunting.’ That makes a lot of sense.
I must say I don’t know of any ‘dissident’ priests, Religious or laity. I know a lot of them who have reflected on the wisdom accumulated  over lifetimes of service of their Church and who have opinions that they feel compelled to express. That’s not the result of dissidence but loyalty. Confusing the two will only serve to damage the ‘Communion’ that the Vatican document says is needed ‘at a point in (Irish) history marked by rapid cultural and social transformation.’
John Allen, the well-known Vatican correspondent, once commented that part of the problem with church authorities in the past was that if all you had was a hammer, often all you can see is a nail. Times have changed since Karl Rahner, Yves Congar and so many others who became central figures in the Second Vatican Council were disciplined for their perceived ‘heretical’ leanings. I think we¹ve learned enough from our history to know that going back to those days would be a recipe for disaster.
Spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ in today’s Ireland is a difficult and nuanced exercise. We need to respect that complexity. Simple solutions can cause more problems than they solve.

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  1. Seminarian says:

    Brendan, finally someone has arrived at the conclusion that the doors in Maynooth are geared towards privacy. In an ever-expanding campus it is a great addition to be able to go to one’s own quarters and enjoy some peace and quiet. Seminarians, like priests and everyone else are human too. We do not come from ‘Seminaria’ as one visitor to the college remarked upon seeing a sign for ‘seminarian students’. The creation of a private space (that only locks after 9pm) will not in anyway stunt our formation, or worse still turn us into an introverted clerical caste. We must not allow that to happen, it would be foolishness – but we must be aware of our limits and enjoy our own space. We may come and go – within reason. We are up before many lights go on in houses along the Moyglare Road – so a good night’s sleep is essential. You say it as it is. Well done!
    I agree, heretics (dissenters being in parlance today) are hard to find – they are far too cute. There are many of course who question the status quo, and rightly so. If questions are not asked we become static, and the Church has razed those bastions a long time ago. Fifty years ago the Second Vatican Council was convened. Fifty years prior to that Pope St. Pius X was hunting in heretics and holy men to swear an oath of fidelity, the oath against modernism. The Church was meeting head-on with thought systems, so complex it took years to understand them. At a time of great change, and history proves this; novelty may not be the best course – fidelity is. Now we are called, all of us without exception, to be faithful to the real teachings of Vatican II. Fifty years is a good interval to assess our starting points and our goals. What did the Council really say? Let us read the documents and make up our own minds. Without ‘dissenters’ our bearings on this road would have disappeared into the undergrowth of blind acceptance of and conformity to the desires of commentators . There are many who stepped aside from the race and took stock of where they were going – some rejoined and lived the reforms, others broke away.
    ‘Spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ in today’s Ireland is a difficult and nuanced exercise’, you say. It seems to me that the complexities you speak of have their origins in a false understanding of ‘Communion’. When this is misunderstood – flawed ecclesiologies and false expectations are born. This is the origin of the nuances that we perceive today.

  2. Joe O'Leary says:

    Vatican II was a total event and its pallid documents, read without reference to context, cannot convey its full meaning. The world was ressured by Gaudium et Spes and all it stood for as it never had been in the preceding centuries. Now once again the Church is turning in on itself and failing to convey a clear Gospel to the world.

  3. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Good to see everyone agrees that the inhabitants of Seminarialand have a right to a front door like the rest of us and that they don’t have to leave it on the latch all night. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, a cartoon must be worth ten thousand. Martyn Turner’s depiction on Wednesday of a foot-thick Holy Door of vaticanised steel about to be slammed for seven years on a few scraggy not-so-young hopefuls calls for a riposte. Where is today’s Maynooth cartoonist, successor to James Cassin of the 1920s or Joe Dunn of the 1950s? Patsy McGarry might put the ‘Rite & Reason’ space at your disposal – well, it couldn’t be any worse than some of the stuff he lets in there.
    ‘Seminarian’ (Comment 1) has confused me. “I agree,” he says to Brendan, “heretics (dissenters being in parlance today) are hard to find – they are far too cute.” Brendan had actually said “dissidents” in quotes – it’s not his choice of word.
    In the part of the country I come from, Dissenters are an honourable profession, as they have been for at least 250 years. They think for themselves and, therefore, think differently from any Established church. They are part of who we are.
    Yet, halfway through that paragraph, ‘Seminarian’ makes what Michael D might call a paradigm shift whereby ‘dissenters’ are no longer cute but may actually be on the side of the guardian angels, guarding us from “blind acceptance of and conformity to the desires of commentators.” Or are these latter dissenters actually “dissenters from the dissent” allied to “reformers of the reform” and “continuers of the continuity”?

  4. Seminarian says:

    Joe, I agree the Council was a ‘total’ event. But to suggest the interpretation of the documents through the well fogged lens of culture is restrictive. The Council was an event of the Church Universal, not of any one ‘local’ church. I bring to the discussion the theme of the Eucharistic Congress – ‘Communion with Christ and with one another’ which captures the bigger picture. Surely the implications of this is truly the Church opened up to the world. Pope Benedict XVI, speaking of Cardinal Frings of Cologne related some sense of his joy at the fact that the preparatory commissions took on board the concerns of the bishops worldwide. The universal dimension of the Church was also present in the Council deliberations. So why water it down – that is an action that is closing the ‘church’ in on itself. The notion of communion, fidelity or indeed dissent is not determined culturally; how can they? Either they are what they are or they are not! How can we put human constructs on the mystery of the divine life – that which is willed by the Father for all and that towards which all are invited to attend. The Church is to be a beacon of this in the world. Could you elaborate on your comment a bit further, and explain the context of your closed reading of the Council documents? I ask you to consider the bigger picture – that which we are all proud to be a part of.

  5. “The world was ressured by Gaudium et Spes and all it stood for”
    And that is precisely the problem with Gaudium et Spes, “and all it stood for”. The Gospel is not supposed to ‘reassure’ the world – quite the opposite.

  6. Hierophilos says:

    We must understand what dissent is before we accuse. The judgements of dissent that are handed down at the court of neo-con orthodoxy are fundamentally mis-informed, and these distract from the real problems that are at hand. The lack of faith, the decline in religious practice and the obliteration of religion to the realms of symbolism and feeling are encroaching more and more. The theology of soft accommodating compassion will not stop the ebbing tide, it has been attempting to do that for some time – but to no avail. There is a need today for realism. There is a need for speaking the truth with love – and the time has come. “Dissenters from the dissent” is a good coinage, Eddie. It captures the essence of the problem. Unfortunately the dissent is going in two directions – backwards and forwards, the end of the road, nowhere! The future of faith and the future of the Church depends on a balance being struck. Have we the ability to rise above the narrowness and pettiness that is so cumbersome to the truth and ‘dissent’ from teachings of our own making for truths sake?

  7. Seminarian II says:

    Fr Brendan claims, “I must say I don’t know of any ‘dissident’ priests, Religious or laity. I know a lot of them who have reflected on the wisdom accumulated over lifetimes of service of their Church and who have opinions that they feel compelled to express. That’s not the result of dissidence but loyalty.”
    I agree with the analysis of my colleague “Seminarian” – but he has ascended into the Platonic realms.
    Dissent means to refuse to acknowledge or accept the authority of Christ, of his mind, or of his will which is present in the Church. It is to refuse communion with Christ.
    Theologians (and others) can propose their views as hypotheses to be considered and tested by other theologians and ultimately to be judged by those who have, within the Church, the solemn obligation of settling disputes and speaking the mind of Christ. But these often spiral into alternative magisteria which pull down and destroy the communion spoken about above. This is the dissent that the ‘report’ refers to, and it is not as uncommon as we might think.

  8. Joe O'Leary says:

    “The Gospel is not supposed to ‘reassure’ the world – quite the opposite”. Yet what is more reassuring than “God so loved the world” (Jn 3:16) — which the world had not been hearing, properly hearing, from the Roman Catholic fortress for a long time; and is not hearing today either, alas.

  9. Seminarian II says:

    Joe – You have a eloquent way with words! ” “God so loved the world” (Jn 3:16) — which the world had not been hearing, properly hearing, from the Roman Catholic fortress for a long time; and is not hearing today either, alas.” You give the impression of very á la carte reading of the Gospel. If we read it as a whole, with the Church we will see that the Gospel presents us with a challenge, one facet of which is to speak the truth, another to love our neighbour.

  10. Of course Sem II, those facets are part of the one diamond. There is of course no contradiction or conflict between loving our neighbour and sharing with him the truth. It is false compassion that winks at sin and dupes our neighbour into thinking that his lifestyle choices and his actions are pleasing to God.
    Hierophilos: Do you call dogmas of the faith and the teachings of Holy Mother Church ‘teachings of our own making’?
    Come out into the light and make your true thoughts known.

  11. Eddie Finnegan says:

    “Then the Lord appointed also other seventy and sent them two by two before his face, into every city and townland whither he himself was about to come.” – Luke, 10. And I suppose into every virtual global village such as the ACP website.
    I’m glad to see two of the Maynooth Seventy have made it this far and hope you don’t find the inhabitants or their guests and hangers-on too set in their ways. I hope your report back to the Lord conveys some of the neophyte enthusiasm of the original Seventy, but go easy on the miracles and let’s not have any of this wiping-the-dust-off-your-sandals caper if you occasionally meet with some mild “dissent” (dare one use the word in the new dispensation?). I hope, too, that after putting up with the burden of the long hot vineyard days for forty or fifty years (like Brendan, Tony, Sean, Pádraig, Joe, Des Wilson and others on here – Kevin’s not an aficianado of vineyards on the far west coast), your passion for absolute truth will be tempered by compassion for the neighbour who may not be so absolutely certain. Sorry about my “a la carte” use of Luke but I think he’d understand that sometimes a la carte’s not so bad when the table d’hote doesn’t do much for a sheep’s appetite.

  12. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Martin, I’m sure you’re misinterpreting Hierophilos. What was that Elizabeth Tudor said about not “making windows into men’s hearts”? Maybe we should be content to be no more visitatorial than the vatican visitators themselves tried to be.

  13. Hierophilos says:

    Martin, I do not call the dogmas of the faith and the teachings of Holy Mother Church ‘teachings of our own making’. What I seek to challenge are those voices (the alternative magisterium) that do so much to undermine and destroy the Catholic faith by diluting her doctrines and sweetening what is often hard to take. The Church is enduring enough of a storm these days without those who act in her name weakening the hull from within – and throw what makes us distintively Catholic (Unity) into disarray. This is not limited to the ACP or to Ireland; it is, unfortunately, a worldwide phenomenon that must be stemmed before it is too late. The salvation of many souls is at stake if we continue on the road to perdition that we have made very accessible.
    I think you will agree!

  14. Kevin Walters says:

    The Truth (sets us free) teaches us to see ourselves as we really are (I speak of myself here): sinful, broken and riddled with frailties. When we truly carry this image in our hearts we are humbled. And in humility we cannot help but feel compassion for our neighbour because in him we see ourselves.
    In Christ

  15. Jo O'Sullivan says:

    “Theologians (and others) can propose their views as hypotheses to be considered and tested by other theologians and ultimately to be judged by those who have, within the Church, the solemn obligation of settling disputes and speaking the mind of Christ” (See Comment 7 above from ‘Seminarian II’)
    Am I the only person who’s terrified that some human beings think that others can speak the mind of Christ – no room for a ‘to the best of their ability’, or ‘with all the understanding that is currently available to them’? I acknowledge that my education in matters theological is limited. As Martin would point out, I’m not fully catechized and initiated into the life of Christ (why does that have a ring of indoctrination into a cult?). But from my life experience I can claim that I just can’t believe that any human being has the absolute and definitive truth – for now and for all time. And when we talk about an institution whose leadership will not even allow honest and open dialogue on certain issues and only engages in a meaningful way with people who actually share its general world view, I truly can’t accept that they ‘speak the mind of Christ’.
    It scares me that my church is structured in such a way that an acceptance that its leadership KNOWS the mind of Christ appears to be a prerequisite of membership. Maybe I shouldn’t be a Catholic – I have to have freedom to think for myself.
    I’m not trying to be smart or clever here. I genuinely need to hear how others have reacted to the comment from Seminarian II.

  16. Eddie Finnegan says:

    No, Jo, you’re not the only person to be occasionally gobsmacked by the certitudes of our future priests and of not a few of the catechezing, knuckle-rapping young laity. Maybe the best response is: Thank God Christ was never a Christian, and not even a 30-33 year-old Irish Catholic – though as a twelve-year old in the Temple he did display some precocious tendencies.
    ‘Ach mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí’ (Praise youth and it’ll make headway) though someone else said that irony, like youth, is wasted on the young. Still, before rushing to judgement, I’d like to wait till we hear from the remaining 68 of the Maynooth Seventy. I don’t know whether they’ll view the ACP 800+ as a foreign missionary field ripe for the harvest or just a happy heresy hunting ground.

  17. Jo,I think I now just try and ignore most what the seminarians have to say on this ACP site. It is all so predictable and depressing. We first heard from them , I think, when we became aware of the new plans for locked doors and isolation at Maynooth. I first became aware of this from one of Fr.Brendan’s articles and we then had a response from the students. You know I have been so uplifted and inspired by so much of the contributions I have read since I discovered the ACP site last year; from clergy and laity alike and men and women. But the views posted by the seminarians fill me with despair. If this is the future of our Church, then God help us. Compare the views of these lads with the open, honest and enlightened views elsewhere on this site of someone who was a seminarian, I suppose 40 years ago, Seamus Ahearne OSA. No wonder I am depressed.

  18. Sean (Derry) says:

    The most frightening aspect of all this is the fact that most ‘dissenters’ are so poorly catechized that they don’t even recognise their own dissent. When they don’t understand the most basic beliefs and dogmas of the Church then it follows that many really believe that the Catholic Church is or can be anything they wish it to be. This is made all the worse when, those responsible for saving souls, instead, encourage and fuel dissent under the cloak of ‘tolerance’ and ‘acceptance’. Personal choice becomes paramount in all matters. No longer is anything sinful or to be avoided but instead the Church must change its teachings and become more ‘accommodating.’ If a teaching is a bit awkward or difficult then it must be ignored, rewritten or redefined so as we don’t feel upset or victimised by the big bad uncaring Catholic Church.
    We therefore must be careful not to forget our responsibilities, for when it comes to our Catholic faith there is only one truth which remains constant whether we like it or not.
    “Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter”. (Isaiah 5:20)

  19. Soline Humbert says:

    For some reason all this talk of dissent brings to my mind a woman who was once described by the papal nuncio in these rather unflattering terms:
    ” A restless gadabout, a disobedient and contumacious woman who invents wicked doctrines and devotions and leaving her cloister against the mandate of the council of Trent is going about to teach others as if she were a “maestra” in contradiction to the teaching of St Paul who had forbidden women to teach”
    Well,that (obviously poorly-catechised) woman was Teresa of Jesus (Avila) and she is now a doctor of the church. As for the poor papal nuncio, his name is better forgotten, for the sake of charity……….

  20. Seminarian II says:

    The mandate to preach does not include‘to the best of their ability’, or ‘with all the understanding that is currently available to them’. It simply says, ‘Go out into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mk 16,15). Today there is a growing confusion about the Church’s missionary mandate. Some think that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom, suggesting that it is enough to invite people “to act according to their consciences”, or to become more human or more faithful to their own religion, or to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity, without aiming at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith. This is scary when one considers the acclaimation of St. Paul “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel”.
    I do not think any seminarian sees the 800+ strong ACP as “as a foreign missionary field ripe for the harvest or just a happy heresy hunting ground”. In truth, I see a valid role for the ACP in Ireland, if and only if they rise above their anti-Rome bias.
    Also, your interpretation of scripture is interesting to say the least. You are correct, Christ was not a Christian nor an Irish Catholic but he did step on many toes and prickled many in the process. His message is as challenging today, as it was then. In the Temple he spoke the truth.There is nothing precocious about that.Your comment is obscure and maybe you will further unpack the fruit of your eisegesis.
    Paddy, even if our comments are “predictable and depressing”, is our engagment in these dabates not to be encouraged. Is it better if we while away the days in an incense filled cocoon and find ourselves at sea in a very complex world as the cacophony of opinon informs us!

  21. Soline, Teresa was a bit of a gadabout before she was converted. She admitted that she wasted a lot of time in the convent faffing about before she got the true meaning of Christianity and then became a great saint. Maybe the nuncio was acting on old information.
    ”Saint Teresa of Avila once had a terrifying vision in which she saw the horrible place the devils had already prepared for her in hell (The Book of Her Life, ch. 32, nos. 1-7). As she herself says, she hadn’t committed any egregious sins; until that time in her life, she had simply filled herself with vain gossip and friendships. What was missing from her life, then? Only love. In fact, she spent 20 years in religious life before she even began to understand the real love that is a necessity for salvation.”
    Source: http://www.chastitysf.com/q_strict.htm
    Anyhow, I agree with Sean (Derry) and the seminarians. I don’t feel all this doom and gloom. The Church is forever young and I place all my hope and trust in the LORD Jesus Christ Who heals and reveals and forgives even poor wretched sinners like me. Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever!
    ”Behold! I make all things new!”

  22. I wonder what we might make of Felipe Sega’s views of Teresa were we only to have a summary report instead of his actual letters…

  23. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Well now, there’s thanks for you! You go out of your way to encourage the current crop of offspring of your old almissima mater to join in the chat here, and all they can do is call you names. My dear Sem 2: ‘dissenter’ is fine with me; ‘heretic’, no problem – it suggests choice and free will and all manner of goodies; ‘mountebank’ or ‘charlatan’, not an insult; ‘dabbler’ or ‘syncretist’ or even ‘spoiled priest’, all water off a duck’s back. But never, ever, stoop so low as to call me an ‘eisegete’.
    So, my “interpretation of scripture is interesting to say the least”? I can see the sarcasm dripping off that like wax off a leaning candle. And as for, “maybe you will further unpack the fruit of your eisegesis”, oh my solar plexus! That’s like the smirk of some bilious Scripture prof, too comfortable in the objectivity of his own exegesis. It doesn’t become you, Sem2.
    But, since you ask, let me be subjective in my eisegesis. If we really believe in the Incarnation, and if we lend any credence to the generally accepted stages of childhood and pre-adolescent development, then, yes, Jesus as a lad of twelve, a good year or more before his barmitzvah, was nearly as precocious as, say, Mozart at six performing for Empress Maria Theresa. Alright, maybe the first flutterings of his Messianic vocation there among the canon lawyers – but what I’d like to know is what Mary really said to him when they found him, and whether Joseph felt like giving him a good clip on the ear.
    If Mary couldn’t get into the mind of her young son at twelve, but kept wondering about these things for the next eighteen or twenty years, and probably for decades or millennia afterwards, then we’re back with Jo’s sincere question which got no answer: “Am I the only person who’s terrified that some human beings think that (they or) others can speak the mind of Christ . .?”

  24. Yes, Seminarian II, I do think it is good that you engage in these debates. And, by the way, I wish I could address you properly — even a first name would do. However, be that as it may, it must be good that you are aware what others, who care just as deeply about our Church as you seem to do, think and feel. I cannot understand why virtually all our young priests and seminarians are now ultra- conservative. Kevin Hegarty’s description is that of a mindset being “rigidly pious and theologically conservative ” Michael Commane’s comment about there being a surfeit of “piousity” was spot-on — a really brilliant word “piousity”. While I cannot understand why you all have this rigidly rightwing mentality, what I do understand perfectly is that your outlook and philosophy and vision or, more correctly, lack of vision offers our Church no future at all . And that is what really depresses me. The really big question for me is why is it that it is only a certain type of young Catholic man who now feels drawn to our prieshood. And this is a phenomenon that is not exclusive to Ireland. like Eddie, I too would be interested in hearing the views of the other students. However, I would not hold out too much hope. When you, Seminarian, read what Kevin Hegarty has to say further up the page, or Seamus Ahearne or others like the American priest Donald Cozzens or the former auxilliary bishop of Sidney, Bishop Robinson who is currently on a speaking tour of the US, or Kevin Patrick Dowling CSsR, the South African bishop — what do you think? That they are all wrong, misguided, disloyal to the Church. You also, surely, cannot have much time for the Association of Catholic Priests of Ireland or for those of us who support it and admire especially the priests who had the courage and the conviction to bring it about. The other big question that continues to nag me is where is the Holy Spirit when we need Him/Her most. Goodnight, Seminarian and God bless you.

  25. Seminarian II says:

    I return to Jo’s question: “Am I the only person who’s terrified that some human beings think that (they or) others can speak the mind of Christ . .?” The point I wish to make is that, the authoritative, definitively held, and infalliblly proposed teachings of the magisterium, on matters of faith and morals are to be regarded by all Catholics as expressions of the mind of Christ, and are to be accepted as true. If we fail to grasp this, our profession of the faith is meaningless. What did Jesus say to those who adhered to a distorted version of the law?

  26. Theodore Fink says:

    Seminarian II, you are asking: “What did Jesus say to those who adhered to a distorted version of the law?”
    I must have missed that. What was it? And what law are you talking about?

  27. Paddy, I think you have to look at what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church. After your generation comes a crop of new priests which you call ultra-conservative. I call them faithful. Not all of them, but many of them. That is a good sign and is to be welcomed and encouraged. They want to ‘be Church’ with the Pope and in communion with him and their bishops and they want to teach the faith of the Church as it is presented in the Catechism to all the people. This is good news and nothing at all to be gloomy about.

  28. Neil (English Seminarian) says:

    Paddy you said; I cannot understand why virtually all our young priests and seminarians are now ultra- conservative. Kevin Hegarty’s description is that of a mind-set being “rigidly pious and theologically conservative ”
    I am sure that the seminarians in Ireland would be similar to us across the sea and I don’t think that most seminarians are ultra conservative. They may seem ultra conservative in comparison to those brought up in the mind-set of the 60’s but I actually think most seminarians are middle of the road (from my experience anyway).
    People appear to be concerned about the type of men applying for the priesthood but I think we must always remember that it is God who is calling these people! I think for priests being ordained today they face a challenge that has always been around – bridging the gap between the young members and the not so young (though I am sure still young at heart).
    We may appear ultra conservative and pious for wanting beautiful churches, devotions like adoration and rosary but it’s where we are! It is where some young people are finding God, as seen at WYD young people are seeking the Lord and appear to be finding him in the silence.
    After Vatican II some of these pious devotions were neglected, everyone knew them so let’s try different things. The sad reality is so many Catholics today don’t have experience of these once common devotions and so can become a little over the top when they do stumble across them and angry for being deprived of them.
    It is important that we all unite, as the common enemy of secularism is becoming stronger. Not all that was thrown out after Vatican II should have been thrown away; just as things from the last 50 years should not all be thrown away. We need to meet in the middle and it is in my opinion under the guidance of the current Holy Father that the happy medium will be found. The happier medium can be found in the true interpretation of the Vatican II documents and what better man than Pope Benedict to lead us?
    Everything before Vatican II was not bad and not everything after it has been great and vice versa. Instead of infighting let us unite together and in doing so bring the Good News to the ends of the earth. I pray that the Eucharistic Congress is the start of a new evangelisation in Ireland, as a strong Catholic Ireland can only be good for the Church and especially your nearest neighbours.

  29. Martin, Neil, thank you both for taking the time to respond to the anguish I feel at so many of our young priests and seminarians being ultra-conservative and, in my opinion, offering our Church a very bleak future as a result. Neil, I can sense the sincerity in what you have said to me and I wish you every success with your studies. Also,I really hope that you are right in what you say about many of our seminarians being middle of the road. However, if only those young men with extreme right wing tendencies were only concerned with having beautiful churches and saying the rosary, then we could cope with that. But, sadly , there is often much more to it than that. It is the pious self-rightousness, often with a surface layer of arrogance, that is so unattractive and is a mentality that is totally useless in pursuit of the great goal of evangelisation — which currently seems to be Rome’s main project. Also, Neil, I have to disagree with you when you say that it is always God calling these people. I have read a lot about our priesthood in the last number of years– mainly trying to understand the causes of the sex-abuse scandal –and why young and sometimes not so young Catholic men become priests and I have discovered that it is such a deeply complex area. I was of the same mind-set as you when, as a young fella at secondary school, I was seriously contemplating that I might, indeed, have had a vocation. I was convinced in some not- very well- thought- out kind of way that it all came from God. I was very innocent and full of naiveté. However, in the words of Thomas Hood (I Remember, I Remember ) “It was a childish ignorance, But now ’tis little joy, To know I’m farther off from heaven, Than when I was a boy”
    Goodnight, Neil, and God bless you.

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