US Bishops sought open discussion in the Church in 1995
With the disciplining of Fr. Brian D’Arcy (The Tablet 28th April), Ireland now has six priests asked to be silent on several issues. Early in 1995, a group of U.S. bishops submitted a document to the Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Mission and Structure. It appeared in ORIGINS (19/6/1995), a publication of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference:
‘The need to find ways to have more open discussion in a climate of trust is best illustrated by considering current issues in the church that seem not to be addressed openly. These include the priest shortage, priest morale, ecumenical issues, school funding, women and equality in the church, the relationships of youth, Hispanics in the church, better preaching, better liturgy, better relationships with the poor, the relationship of the conference with Rome, the public face of the church on abortion, the annulment process, the loss of Eucharist, alliance of the right wing with some fundamentalist leaders, contraception, sexual ethics, the kind of candidates being attracted to priesthood, anticatholic feeling surfacing in the United States, the ordination of married men, rumours of a high percentage of homosexual men in the seminaries and in the priesthood. In particular, the issue of paedophilia among priests continues to create a very serious credibility problem for the U.S. bishops because of our perceived unwillingness to fully address and explore the reasons for this terrible tragedy.’
These bishops were not silenced, and many of the issues have not gone away. In fact some of the issues have increased in urgency.
Desmond O’Donnell omi
It is amazing to read this, isn’t it? From the vantage of 17 years on it was really a “red flag” warning to the church. Those same 17 years have brought huge shifts in the leadership of the church here in the U.S.and I suspect that even if an ad hoc committee were thinking this way its members would choose to remain silent.
As Fr O’Donnell says, those American bishops were not silenced – but that was then; unfortunately this is now. I doubt if anyone could imagine a group of American (let alone Irish) bishops in 2012 submitting, and then publishing, a call to the Bishops’ Conference on “the need to find ways to have more open discussion in a climate of trust . . . by considering current issues in the church that seem not to be addressed openly.” Nearer home this weekend, look at the hyper-careful ‘on the one hand, on the other’ talk about truth and love Bishop Donal McKeown has to employ in tip-toeing around the two poles in today’s (Irish) Church. And that’s from one of the few bishops who ever says anything at all.
In early 1995 the US church still had Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in Chicago, though by June when that statement was published he was already undergoing surgery for terminal cancer and was dead within eighteen months. I would be surprised if the ‘Bernardin bloc’ of bishops were not the initiators of that call to open discussion. There must still have been a significant group of Vatican II inspired, Paul VI appointed, bishops in the States (Bernardin at 38 was an auxiliary by 1966).
What chance would a young Bernardin have in 2012 of being included in a ‘terna’, and if one did get that far by accident what chance would he have of getting the nod from the cardinals on the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishop-making, one eighth of whom currently are US cardinals Levada of the CDF, our good friends Raymond Burke and Bernard Law, and Edward Egan formerly of New York ?
And, finally, it’s probably not of any great comfort for a Dublin member of a religious order to know that the CDF’s supporting actor in the duo who reported on the US Leadership Conference of Women Religious was good ol’ Charlie Brown of Cabra and the Navan Road. Time for more than a silent vigil?
“alliance of the right wing with some fundamentalist leaders”
To which the reaction seems to have been a very enthusiastic, “we gotta get some of that!”
In the Catholic Church, the more things remain the same, the more they remain the same.