Sean Fagan and the remaining CDF ‘restrictions’: Clarification

Mattie Long
The idea that all sanctions and restrictions were lifted from Sean Fagan before his death is being widely circulated, and also in some of the comments on this site.
Shamefully, for those who had the authority to do so, all the sanctions placed on Sean Fagan were not removed before his death. Those who knew him well report that they were a terrible burden for him to bear in his final years.
The partial lifting of threats made against Sean Fagan was reported on the ACP site on 02 April 2014 and was clarified by David  Corrigan sm as follows.

“Clarification from the Provincial of the Marists.

I note the Association of Catholic Priests statement on your website in relation to Fr.Sean Fagan and also the content of Fr Sean McDonagh’s interview on RTE on the 29th April 2014.   The impression given in both of these is that all restrictions imposed upon Fr Sean Fagan have now been lifted.  This is not the case.

For the purposes of accuracy, the possibility of further sanctions against Fr. Sean has been removed. These included the loss of priestly faculties and dismissal. This is to be welcomed.

The restrictions dealing with the circulation of Fr. Sean’s book, What Happened to Sin? remain and those forbidding Fr. Sean to publish or otherwise propagate material against the views of the Catholic Church as taught by the magisterium remain.

The Marist Fathers will continue to make every effort to deal fairly with these issues.

Thank you.
David  Corrigan sm”

The well known and respected journalist Justine McCarthy reported on this in The Sunday Times of 27 April 2014, as quoted below;

“The Vatican has withdrawn its threat to defrock an 86-year-old Irish priest if he spoke publicly about a church order forbidding him to express his opinions in public.

Fr Seán Fagan, a Marist theologian and author, was informed in 2010 that he was no longer allowed to write books or articles deemed contrary to church teaching. He was warned he would be “stripped of priestly faculties” if he talked to the media about the gagging order.

Fr John Hannan, the Irish-born superior-general of the Marists worldwide, said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in the Vatican decided “several months” ago to withdraw the threat to laicise Fagan.

Hannan said the decision was prompted by Fagan’s “demonstrable love for the church despite its weaknesses”, his compliance with the CDF’s sanctions since 2010, and out of compassion “in his advancing years”.

Hannan said he informed Fagan in writing of the CDF’s decision and that the wider Marist community has been informed.

The order forbidding Fagan to write for publication has not been revoked. A denunciation of his book, What Happened to Sin?, is still on the Marists’ website, warning that its contents “do not have the approval of or represent the [order’s] views”. The book is not available to buy in shops.

Hannan said he pleaded Fagan’s case with the CDF, after taking advice.

“The restrictions remain in force,” he said. “More importantly, the threat of further sanctions has been removed.”

After What Happened to Sin? was published by Columba Press in 2008, Fagan wrote a letter to The Irish Times advocating the ordination of women and married men. Subsequently, all unsold copies of the book were bought up by the Marist order.

In April 2012, The Sunday Times reported the silencing of Fagan, after he confided in friends. News that the CDF has lifted the laicisation threat was conveyed to his friends by Timothy Radcliffe, an English Dominican friar they had asked to intercede on his behalf. The friends also approached Diarmuid Martin, Dublin’s archbishop, Charles Browne, the papal nuncio, and Mary McAleese, the former Irish president now studying canon law in Rome.

A former secretary-general of the Marists in Rome, Fagan is partially blind and suffers chronic ill-health. He is one of five Irish priests who were silenced during Pope Benedict’s tenure. They are accused of disobedience for advocating liberal views on such issues as married priests, homosexuality and women’s ordination.

Other silenced priests are Fr Tony Flannery, a Redemptorist; Fr Brian D’Arcy, a Passionist; Fr Owen O’Sullivan, a Capuchin; Fr Gerard Moloney, also a Redemptorist.”

Following the death of Sean Fagan, and further inaccurate reports about the lifting of restrictions, Justine McCarthy again wrote in The Sunday Times of 24 July 2016 about the issue.
McCarty reported that;

“A Marist theologian, who had been silenced by the Vatican, transferred the copyright for his books to a female colleague before his death. Seán Fagan, who died 10 days ago aged 89, has vested rights to the books in Angela Hanley, co-editor of Quench not the Spirit, a volume of essays published in 2006 in the priest’s honour.

When asked whether she intended republishing Fagan’s banned books, Hanley, a midlands-based moral theologian, said: “I don’t wish to comment so soon after Seán’s death.”

In 2010, the Marist order bought up all unsold copies of What Happened to Sin?, Fagan’s third book. He never knew what became of them.

A former secretary-general of the Marists, an international congregation, Fagan had been ordered to stop writing articles and letters for newspapers, and to refuse all requests for interviews. He was told he would be stripped of his “priestly faculties” if he told the media what had happened, as The Sunday Times revealed in April 2012.

Fagan wrote critically about the church’s rules on celibacy, female ordination, homosexuality and its cover-up of child sexual abuse. In 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, instructed Ireland’s bishops to repudiate Fagan’s writings. A year later Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.

At Fagan’s funeral mass in Milltown, Dublin, on Tuesday, Declan Marmion, a fellow Marist, said: “His final years, unfortunately, were not easy. The sanctions he received from Rome as a result of his books, What Happened to Sin? and Does Morality Change?, hit him particularly hard.”

Recalling that one of the books sold on auction site eBay for $300 (€273), Marmion said Fagan joined “a long list of liturgical luminaries” in paying “a high price” for imagining “how things could be different”.

The Irish Times wrongly reported after Fagan’s death that the sanctions against him had been lifted in 2014. After a similar report by the newspaper two years ago, David Corrigan, the Marists’ Irish provincial, posted a clarification on the Association of Catholic Priests’ website.

It said: “The restrictions dealing with the circulation of Fr Seán’s book, What Happened to Sin?, remain and those forbidding [him] to publish or otherwise propagate material against the views of the Catholic church, as taught by the magisterium, remain.”

Among the mourners at Fagan’s funeral were Brian D’Arcy and Tony Flannery, who have also been the subject of Vatican restrictions.”


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