FIRST SESSION Naming the Reality: Joe Mulvaney

My name is Joe Mulvaney and I was born in 1945 in County Sligo. I grew up in a traditional Catholic rural area.  I still cherish the fundamentals of the Christian faith, hope and love which I received from my parents, family, teachers and parish. However the reality of my life today as a practising Catholic in Dublin is troubled, worried and deeply concerned about certain aspects of the institution, ethos and governance of the Catholic Church. It is troubling to read all the reports over the past 80 years in holy Catholic Ireland – Corrigan, SAVI, Ryan and others – about the high levels of child abuse and violence towards women. 96% of this awful abuse of power and perverted sexuality is perpetrated by Catholic laymen imbued with a patriarchal ethos and negative attitudes about women and sexuality. I became alarmed over the past years to read about the disappeared theologians and the silenced priests who had dared to discuss the root problems within the Catholic system which led to so much abuse by Catholic men. It was profoundly depressing over the past few weeks to note that the Roman Inquisition has not gone away and that obedience plus omerta rules OK. The new Roman liturgy was imposed on us last year and has damaged our celebration of Eucharist. Good liturgists and theologians became whistle-blowers and have revealed that the whole process was flawed and excessively controlled by Rome. It is deeply worrying that the Roman Control Group in our Catholic Church continues to abuse power and to act ultra vires. Sometimes, I share the despair and anguish as outlined in recent interviews by Marie Collins and Breda O’Brien. Rome does appear irreformable and absolutely determined to lead a chosen few back to medieval monarchy. I cherish the fundamentals of our Catholic religion. However, I want no more abuse. I do not wish to collude or be obedient to any more abuse of children, power, women or priests.
I entered the seminary in 1963 and was deeply influenced by the warm, pastoral presence of Pope John XXIII and the joy and hope of Vatican II. I like the idea of “opening up the windows”, updating and aggiornamento as an ongoing strategy. I still cherish the Vatican II goals of reform, renewal and reunion of the Christian family. Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants clearly need to work together to celebrate the Good News and presence of the Risen Christ. However, a senior Irish cleric informed Irish Catholics after the Council that there was no change. The Council was never fully promoted, promulgated or fleshed out into effective, collegial structures within which national hierarchies could best serve the differing pastoral needs in various countries. The vote on all 16 Council documents was in the range of 2100 vs. 150 (approx.). In the years since the mid-sixties, the minority group appears to have clawed back control and the “no change” Humanae Vitae encyclical was their first victory. The seeds of the current crisis or disease within Roman Catholicism appear to have been sown in 1870 with the Declaration of Papal Infallibility. Vatican II was a belated attempt to correct the imbalance caused by excessive Papal power. However, over the past 40 years, the Roman Control Group has inexorably asserted complete control and centralisation to the detriment of Catholic people worldwide and a growing Eucharistic Famine. The Irish Cardinal and bishops are locked into loyal obedience to the absolute monarch and his group.
I was ordained in 1970 and ministered in Texas for some years. I married in 1977 and have been active in various roles within my local parish of St. Attracta’s, Meadowbrook, Dundrum, Dublin since 1978. I am currently a member of our Parish Council. Simultaneously, I have been active with various Catholic Reform Groups such as Leaven and We Are Church. We have sought the implementation of Vatican II and an end to the abuse which is mandatory celibacy. Like more than 100,000 other priests who have left the clerical state over the past 40 years, I saw that mandatory celibacy was unjust, abusive and dangerous. Likewise, it became impossible for me to preach justice when there clearly remains inequality and apartheid for women within the governance and ministry of our Catholic Church. Like many other priests, I was unable to preach homophobia and exclusion of divorced/separated persons from the Lord’s Supper.
Today, the reality is that official Catholic figures worldwide mean little. As a Parish Council member, I am concerned at the huge gap between our official census figure of approximately 4000, and the actual Sunday attendance of about 800. I am concerned at the accelerated drop in numbers and financial contribution over the past 2 years. As a Catholic parent, I am deeply concerned that the Good News of Jesus Christ is not accessible to our sons and daughters in language, concepts, systems and structures that make sense to people today. It is not possible to evangelise free people today in the language of inequality, dictatorship, apartheid, exclusion and Inquisition.
Quite logically, many Catholic people have walked away over the past 40 years from clerical nonsense and Roman refusal to share power. It appears that the Control Group and its collaborators want us questioning Catholics to go away too. No, we won’t go away. There has been more than enough splitting and sundering. We, Irish Catholics, are proud democrats and will resist all oppression whether religious or otherwise. We will continue to volunteer and serve within our local parishes. Our hope is in the People of God. There are wonderful Catholic people in every parish worldwide – caring and sharing and praying. There are wonderful dedicated priests, religious and laity worldwide doing good. The potential for society and God’s Kingdom of a reformed, renewed and reunified Christian Church is immense. The issues involved in relation to women, equality and democracy are hugely important. We, questioning Catholics, will not join in with old boys clubs or witch doctors in a global war against women. Our clerical brothers in Rome and Armagh state that they were not aware decades ago of the seriousness of child abuse and that they were on a learning curve about various abuses. We, Catholic people, have to take a stand now and convince the slow learners that abuse of children, power, women and priests is totally wrong.
The reality is that there are wonderful Catholic People of God worldwide. There are great priests and leaders in the Association of Catholic Priests. There are over a thousand of you here today. We can all dialogue and pray together in our parishes and dioceses towards a National Assembly in 2016 and Vatican III in 2020.
Joe Mulvaney

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