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CDF’s secretive behaviour is a disgrace to the Church

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Silencing: The Truth Obscured.
Archbishop Brown stated on RTE’s Drive Time programme (15/03/13), that the while the CDF could become involved in silencing issues, they have no reason to do so because it is a matter for the priest’s immediate superior.
Why then is the procedure carried out as follows?

  • Writings of a priest are denounced, often anonymously, to the CDF.
  • The CDF appoints an anonymous consulter to investigate.
  • The head of the order is commanded to appear before the CDF and renunciation of the accused’s work is demanded.
  • On non-compliance, the superior is ordered to impose sanctions on the accused, ranging from censoring of their work, to threats of the removal of their rights to exercise priestly faculties.

In the particular case of Sean Fagan, a letter signed by the then prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger, was sent to the Archbishop Brady in 2004.  In it he demanded, after referring to asking for four years, that ‘Your Grace publish a ‘Notification’ on Fr. Fagan’s book ‘Does Morality Change?’.
This letter ‘with full deliberation’, authorised the Primate of Ireland to instruct Fr. Fagan’s superiors to obtain a public declaration that, inter alia, in vitro fertilisation and contraception are intrinsic evils.
As this was not forthcoming, the Notification on Recent Developments in Moral Theology and their Implication for Church and Society’ was published on their website by the Irish Bishops Conference in July 2004, on the specific orders of the CDF.
This is incontrovertible proof that the CDF control the issue of silencing.  They pull the strings from the first often anonymous denunciation, to the policing of the Order to enforce sanctions.
In keeping with the secret nature of this Congregation, the public face of this procedure is firmly located in the immediate superiors.  Thus when faced with any questions in relation to silencing/censoring/ threats, Vatican representatives trot out the disingenuous, ‘it is a matter for their superiors’ line.
The behaviour of the CDF is shameful and a disgrace to the Church.  It is so unbelievable and cruel that is has to be kept secret.  The culture of spying, secrecy, denouncing and condemning a human being, goes against all social justice systems in modern society.
It would be a positive sign, at this time of new beginnings in the Catholic Church, if the Irish bishops,  heed the request of the ACP to meet with the silenced and censored Irish priests to address the basic issue of fairness and justice for all concerned.  The compassionate Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ cannot continue to be dragged into disrepute by secretive  and unaccountable Roman bureaucracy.

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  1. Soline Humbert says:

    The CDF is so far removed from the openness and truth-telling, love and respect of the Gospel that it is a real scandal to the faith. CONGREGATION FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF THE FAITH is a more fitting name for it: It is a counter-witness to evangelisation.

  2. Mary O Vallely says:

    Well said, Mary C and Jo O’S I share your frustrations, anger, bewilderment and huge disappointment about the lack of our own priests’ signatures on the Resolution. I cannot fathom their reasons. It is, however, so easy to jump to conclusions and to make assumptions. Is it a case of the heavy barometric pressure affecting them all, I wonder? (Of course I jest.) I also notice many names missing of those who write regularly on this forum so is it a case of objecting to the actual wording?
    The previous petition for Tony Flannery reached 2,200 signatures and was despatched to Rome. This one needs to get at least that number and as soon as possible. May I suggest that we each persuade our friends, family, and parishoners to sign and that we just work that bit harder?
    Next week is the anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a man who was not afraid to speak out against injustice. He died for it but then so did the man he was following. Who are we following, eh??

  3. I’d agree with you on this Mary.
    Just as this newly elected Pope Francis humbly called the people to him, speaking a language homely and familiar to all there, and indeed to all watching around. Then he engaged them, asking for prayer in which all willingly took part and prayed, for individuals, Pope Emeritus Benedict, the present Pope Francis and all of us – the Church.
    So too, the Bishops could as easily and graciously meet with the priests of ACP, especially those unjustly accused/silenced; and pray together, speak, hear and listen to each other – and come to an agreed and peaceful solution for all.
    Pope Francis has often mentioned trust – and a Church like any true foundation upon which people build, needs trust.
    So if there are any bishops looking in here. Do that of which the Pope speaks and follow one of his namesakes, Francis of Assisi to make that mark. Get to rebuilding the Church – Christ’s Church, by rebuilding those foundations shattered in so many ways for all of us – foundation/s of trust.
    To begin to think to achieve that, then there can be no fear. In faith, in hope, in love and trust – cast it out, any and all mistrust and fear and meet your brothers, talk, reconcile and choose again to ‘go re build’ Christ’s ‘Church’.
    Don’t let these new beginning pass, please. Such a gift we have all been given. Let’s not waste it. Lead the people now – in being what you are called to be, ‘servants of the servants of Christ’.
    Put away mistrust, put away fear and come together in real fraternal love and seeking ways that call, allow all the people of God, as living stones – to come together as loving sacrifices lived day by day, renewing the face of the Earth and truly becoming a fitting ‘Bride of Christ.’
    Please bishops, any of you ‘out there’ who may be watching, listening, or hearing from a third party – just give it a chance.
    There is so much that you all do agree upon, share and can and should start with that.
    Keeping hope forever alive – and faith and love will take their courses.
    I hope so. Pray so. I sincerely pray you hear and listen and cast out fear. That you will truly seek ways to truly in trust, faith and hope – allow and help us all re build our Church.
    God bless all.

  4. Brendan Cafferty says:

    Well done Mary. The nuncio interview did not get to the core of the problem at all, and RTE interviewer should have done better. I suspect though that there are a lot of his types who are rather apprehensive now after the election of Francis, and while it may be too early to say,I suspect that the nonsense of silencing good priests will stop and be rescinded, especially at a time of great shortage. What worries me is that there are a lot of moral police from the right around, and its too bad they have had a willing listener in the CDF to their grudges and guerilla tactics,and they can remain anonymous.New Pope has a sort of last chance saloon to improve matters.

  5. Jo O'Sullivan says:

    Thank you for stating the situation so clearly Mary. It beggers belief that Charles Browne should even imagine we’d swallow his “It wasn’t ME, sir!” fairytale.
    But, if we don’t ALL stand up now and be counted – by demanding that our leaders show some backbone, we’ll be ignored yet again. So, I’m copying and pasting a comment I made on the ACP Meath Meeting thread (it didn’t belong there anyway!)
    Like a comment made by Eddie Finnegan on the same thread, this is a direct plea to priests who are not happy with the current situation re the silencing of their brothers, to do something about it.
    Why don’t people sign?
    Eddie Finnegan has asked why the petition to request the Bishops’ Conference to dialogue with the priests who have been silenced, seems to be pottering out of steam, stuck around the thousand mark, when ACP members alone should have ensured that it would fly past such a milestone.
    I too have been watching the agonisingly slow addition of signatures and wondering why so few have signed. And this is not the first time I’ve been truly disappointed by the seeming lack of care as to what happens within our church.
    I have no difficulty whatsoever understanding that my family and friends aren’t interested in signing such a petition. They no longer feel that what happens within Catholicism has anything to do with them. They have walked away and are finding their own moral compasses outside of any religious doctrine.
    I have no difficulty in understanding that people who believe in, and support the actions of the CDF (or the priests’ religious superiors, if we’re to believe Charles Browne), don’t sign. Of course they don’t support this petition and I respect them for their views. (Although I still question their acceptance of the METHOD by which priests are “invited to reflect” on their views.)
    What I find so soul-destroying is the seeming unwillingness of people who say they’re disgusted with the treatment of Tony Flannery et al (Sorry, Tony, you’ve become the “poster boy” for silenced priests!) and yet don’t add their names to the petition.
    Why don’t such people take the opportunity to DO something about the situation rather than whistle down the wind? I know adding a name to a petition isn’t exactly tearing down the Berlin Wall or anything, but it IS adding another wee flicker of light to help brighten the darkness.
    Can it be that they just don’t really care one way or the other? That frightens me and causes me to lose heart.
    But what causes me to lose heart and hope even more is the lack of signatures of priests.
    I know quite a number of priests by name, I have spoken with quite a few who admit to disagreeing (that’s putting it as mildly as I can!) with the treatment of priests who put their heads above the parapet. And yet, I don’t see their names on this petition.
    What really saddens and upsets me is that these are men whom I would have brought my cares and concerns to in the past – my questioning of what God might want from me. These are men I have respected and whose views and opinions I have sought when troubled by questions of faith/doubt. They are men I believed to be living lives of integrity and principle – actually following the path I could only tread on now and again because I was often so caught up in secular matters.
    Why have you not added your names to a petition which simply asks that our bishops dialogue with your “brothers in Christ” so that a solution to the present intolerable situation can be found?
    Could it be that it’s just not of much importance to you? You’ve just never got around to adding your names as it’s too much effort to do so? That would tend to suggest that you’re quite happy with the current situation – or, if not exactly happy, not too bothered. That troubles me.
    Could it be that, secretly, you actually support those who have treated your brothers this way and that you only pretend to the likes of me that you find it intolerable? In which case, I find your hypocrisy very hard to stomach. That troubles me even more.
    Or is it that you’re not willing/afraid to put your own heads above the parapet? Is it that you’re afraid you’ll alienate the more right-wing members of your parishes/communities (I hate that terminology but I can’t describe people in any their way without going around the houses interminably!) if you’re seen to speak out against the hierarchy? Or could it be that you’ve an eye to the security of your own position and your own prospects of advancement?
    If such is the case, then I’m afraid I’ve lost all respect for you, guys. How could I ever again come to you for counsel if you can’t even stand up for your own beliefs?
    So I’m asking you now. Why don’t you sign this petition if you agree that the treatment that has been meted out to Tony Flannery, Gerry Moloney, Owen O’Sullivan, Seán Fagan, Brian D’Arcy et al is unjust and cannot be allowed to go unchallenged?
    I have found, in the past, when I’ve asked awkward questions on this site that they go unanswered. I don’t expect that any of you guys, who haven’t signed this petition, will speak now and say why you’re silent. But know that the consequences of so doing are that I continue to lose respect for you. Not that that will cause you sleepless nights, but how many more people are there who might be feeling the way I do?

  6. There is a possibility that Pope Francis will appoint someone else to the leadership of the CDF, who will not need a petition to convince him, that justice needs to be served for Father Tony Flannery, in a way, that reflects, the compassion and integrity of Christ. Let us hope and pray!

  7. DR, HENRY says:

    Dear Bothers in Christ, I hope that you will eventually request Pope Francis to change the entire staff of the CDF. It would be a very good thing to have an Irish priest scholar on that team. Father Flannery would be an ideal candidate. God Bless you all. Thousands of Irish priests have done great work for Christ around the world. Keep the fire of Christ burning in the hearth and in your parish churches. Form new prayer groups and fellowship groups.

  8. Peter Shore says:

    I simply don’t get it. All these people wishing that the Catholic Church believed something other than what it actually believes. Do the commenters here not know what the Church teaches? If they know it, why are they asking for “dialogue” about unchangeable doctrines of the faith? Why are they asserting that the Church’s refusal to change to suit their whims — to abandon its constant teaching of two thousand years — is a “lack of compassion”?

  9. Joe O'Leary says:

    The CDF has impeded mature Catholic theology in dialogue with the realities of our time for the last 40 years. Will this change in the new pontificate? Does Francis appreciate the terrific damage that the CDF has done to Catholic intellectual life?

  10. Jo, thank you for your excellent piece @5. Mary, the invitation to sign the new petition/resolution at the top of the home page did not register with me until you mentioned it. I have now signerd it and I was pleased to see there is a few names from Raphoe.
    Has anyone yet heard what Hans Kung thinks of Francis?

  11. Thank you Jo @5. I fully agree and believe in all that you have written.To all those reluctant to stand up and be counted I say remember Jesus’ words “I am with you always”. (My God) “What need I fear, when Thou art near …. more safe am I within Thy hand, than if a host did round me stand” (hymn Morning Prayer) or again ” I have carved you on the palm of my hand” (Isaiah). So please, if you agree that the treatment of our priests is disgraceful and unchristian, lend your support: they need it and deserve it. It can be hard at times to have the courage of one’s convictions, but that is not an excuse.

  12. Paddy Ferry, you have an interesting question: Has Hans Kung said anything regarding Pope Francis? Add a different, but also, interesting question: What does Pope Francis think about Hans Kung?………And yet, another really different question….but made in reference to the CDF…….What does Pope Francis think about the CDF? Another question: Should all persons sanctioned or repremanded, or excommunicated by the CDF……prepare for a meeting with the Pope? How accessible is Pope Francis to the sons and daughters of the Church who have been censored or worse? Perhaps, if he’s not accessible, all interested parties should prepare some kind of class action law suit? I mean, action has to be followed by the many words of disgust spoken here.

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