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Something is rotten in the state of ………… Time for CDF to be stood aside and properly investigated.

My heartbreak at the hands of medieval Vatican practices

My life changed forever on a sunny afternoon in late May 2011. I was about to head out on a walk when I happened to run into my religious superior, who asked me if he could talk to me for a minute. No problem there. But what he proceeded to tell me left me flabbergasted.
He said that a discussion had been ongoing for some time about my role as editor of Reality magazine, the monthly publication of the Irish Redemptorists. He said that people in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the chief enforcer of orthodoxy in the Vatican, were not happy with some of the content of the magazine, and that the Redemptorist superior general in Rome had been instructed to inform the superior in Ireland that I was to be removed from my position as editor with a month’s notice.
I tried to take all this in but was dumbfounded. It couldn’t be true. It sounded like a joke.
My superior went on to say that both he and the Redemptorist head in Rome had lobbied hard on my behalf and that they had been able to hammer out a compromise. I could remain as editor subject to five conditions: I could not publish anything that was
1) supportive of the ordination of women,
2) critical of mandatory celibacy,
3) in favour of general absolution,
4) opposed to the church’s stance on homosexuality, and
5) could be seen as disrespectful of the person of the Holy Father. Furthermore, the content of every issue would have to be approved by a censor prior to publication.
I was told that all of this had been hammered out in talks at the highest level over the previous several weeks, and that I was being informed of it now because the Redemptorist head in Rome was coming to see me in two days’ time. A cover story would be invented to explain the sudden appearance in Dublin of the superior general of the Redemptorists.
I was also told that I had to keep this information to myself, that it was highly confidential, and that I shouldn’t talk about it even to my family and friends.
And that was it. I went on my walk with my head spinning.
The superior general did visit for a couple of days and he told me the story from scratch, how one day a file appeared on his desk from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) with a list of allegations/findings against me and a demand that I be removed from office. The superior general could not have been nicer to me during that visit, and expressed amazement time and again at the shoddy case that the CDF had put together against me. He had met several times with Cardinal Levada, head of the CDF, and the best compromise they could reach was to leave me in office but under the restrictions outlined above.
Again the importance of secrecy was emphasized. I was not to talk to anyone about it. It was not a matter for public consumption.
And that was it.
During those first few days, I felt numb. I was bombarded with so much information that was shocking to me, but it was almost as if they were talking about someone else, not me. I couldn’t understand why people in the Vatican would be getting their knickers in a twist about a small magazine published on the periphery of Europe. I couldn’t believe that people would spend time trawling through back issues looking for evidence to build or substantiate a case against me. I couldn’t believe that the head of the CDF would himself become personally involved. And, most of all, I couldn’t believe that my case had been discussed for weeks or months without anyone talking to me about it. I was allowed to go about my daily business totally oblivious to what was happening.
It took a while for the enormity and injustice of what happened to me to sink in. I grant that there was a small bit of me that was chuffed that the Vatican had noticed our magazine and got themselves in a lather over it. But then I began to feel angry and betrayed. I was angry not so much that self-appointed defenders of the faith had reported me to the Vatican but that faceless bureaucracts had taken these delators so seriously. I was angry that they would begin a process against me without ever letting me know I was being investigated.
How can you defend yourself if you don’t know you are on trial? How can you defend yourself if you don’t know who your accusers are? How can you defend yourself when your fate has been decided even before you discover you have been on trial? It is an utterly unjust and unchristian system.
I couldn’t believe that I had been walking around for weeks, doing my work in the office and in the parish, while all the while my loyalty and my future was being discussed behind my back. I met my superior and the others on his leadership team many times during those weeks, at meals, on the corridors, out and about, and none said a word to me about what was going on. I know that they were in a difficult situation too and they were were not allowed to talk about it but it just goes to show how flawed and unjust the CDF process is. One is tried, found guilty and sentenced, before you even know you were on trial. And yet next Sunday’s gospel will tell us that people will “know we are Christians by our love.”
I felt angry and hurt that this is how the church would treat me after I had devoted my whole life to it. The powers that be in Rome would accept the word of (anonymous) delators against my solid record of a quarter century of loving service of the church. It took a few weeks before I started to cry whenever I thought about it. Tears of anger, shock, self-pity and betrayal. I had given my life to the church, and this is how I had been repaid. Any criticism I had made of the church was out of love, and they didn’t even have the decency either to ignore the delations or give me a chance to reply to them before they handed down sentence. They didn’t give me the chance to defend myself, privately or publicly.
All communication was through my superiors. The CDF people never communicate directly with the person under investigation. They knew my address, they knew my email, they could find my phone number, but they always go through higher channels. They never dignify the culprit with a direct and personal response. I don’t think it’s how Jesus would have done it. Something is rotten in the state of the CDF, and while the current people and processes remain in place, nothing will change. Priests, sisters and brothers will continue to be treated as less than human, and will have their lives hurt or broken.
It’s been almost two years since I woke up with chronic lower back pain that has never gone away. I wonder how much of it is due to the way I was treated by the CDF? I think the stress that experience caused me is one of the main reasons why today I am broken in body as well as in spirit. Stress takes a toll, injustice has a price, and I am paying it every day.
Today a group of 15 people who have fallen foul of the CDF have published a letter we sent to Rome asking for reform of the system. The letter was sent about seven weeks ago. As one would expect, there has been no formal acknowledgement or reply. I won’t hold my breath.

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  1. I had submitted a comment, on another thread, the one that spoke of the tattered flag,… and that comment did not appear on this website….however….I had said…that… and I’m paraphrasing…unfortunately, there remains forms of oppression and suppression in the Church….I wholeheartedly concur that this kind of Ministry?….on the part of the CDF is indeed, for all intents and purposes….unnecessary and unchristian….Now…Is the Pope likely to ignore this letter too?…Probably….and so..he also must contend with his own clericalism. In my foolishness, I do expect him to respond and to respond with integrity…but..alas…I know from personal experience…that no one really seems to care about the oppression, suppression, and injustice that is handed out by the Church powers that be….It is a source of much frustration and sorrow for myself and I’m sure for Gerard Maloney and everyone who signed the letter.

  2. The sacking of Toby Spence at the US BIshops in response to pressure from Michael Voris of Church Militant and others is another example of this institutional insanity.
    1) supportive of the ordination of women,
    2) critical of mandatory celibacy,
    3) in favour of general absolution,
    4) opposed to the church’s stance on homosexuality, and
    5) could be seen as disrespectful of the person of the Holy Father.
    This could describe any liberal or even commonsensical Catholic. What planet is the CDF living on?

  3. Mary Cunningham says:

    Thank you, Gerard for writing about your experience with the CDF.
    As I read your moving words, and also the letter sent to this Congregation, I thought sorrowfully of Sean Fagan. Was Sean the only one who was threatened to be stripped of his priesthood, for the rest of his life, if the public got to know about the Vatican’s treatment of him?
    Sean has just returned from a holiday in Co. Cork. He thoroughly enjoyed a week in the home of our mutual friend, Helen O’Grady. Helen read articles to him about Amoris Laetitia. The spirit and sentiment of Sean’s writings ‘just jumped out at me’ from Pope Francis’ words, Helen said today. She showed Sean his own books. He took up ‘What Happened to Sin’ and started reading from it. ‘This is not half bad’ he said, ‘it is such a pity the people can’t see it.
    Sean has written that the most devastating experience of his life was the treatment of him by the CDF. The loss of his books continues to distress him.
    Although the threat to remove Sean’s priestly faculties was withdrawn in April 2014, the order forbidding the publication of his writings has not been revoked.
    Sean will be 89 years of age in June. His spirit has been broken deep down by the CDF. We try to assure him that his work will one day be made available.
    Sean was so proud the evening he was presented with the beautiful crystal chalice at the ACP meeting in October 2011.
    He finished his acceptance speech with these words;
    ‘We must take seriously the call of Vatican II to return to the gospel and to see that our Church, like Jesus, is meant to be a light to the world.’
    Mary Cunningham

  4. Ned Quinn says:

    I suggest we write another letter to the papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown. After all, he is our main link with Rome. And who better to hold the CDF to account. He did spend 17 years in the said institution.

  5. Peter Shore says:

    @Joe #2, you are right that liberal Catholics are likely to support those points. But I don’t see how you (or Fr. Maloney) can blame the CDF or the magisterium for sticking to positions that were uncontroversial with the majority of Catholics in the relatively recent past. It is the liberal viewpoint that is divergent.
    While I’d be amazed if the CDF ever contacted me about my personal views — how could they know them? — I don’t understand Fr. Maloney’s surprise. He was the editor of a magazine that styles itself as “probably Ireland’s leading popular Catholic publication”. It’s not like it was all a big misunderstanding and none of those liberal viewpoints had ever been published in “Reality” magazine. One of its columnists, Fr. Flannery, not only wrote about them but refused to dissent from them when challenged by the CDF.
    The magisterium of the Church has been completely consistent on several of these issues over a period of decades, and has adamantly reiterated its teachings many times. Surely the time must eventually come for liberals to stop calling for “dialogue” and “plurality” on matters that are long since closed, and stop feigning surprise at the CDF’s reaction to such protestant voices?

  6. Joe oleary says:

    I recall the adage, to be a good Catholic you must be a Protestant, and vice versa.

  7. Peter Shore#5. The comments that Joe O’Leary made are very mainstream in my parish, the local retreat house, and my work place. Even my uncle Sean (who is well over eighty, Jesuit educated, ex headmaster and definitely not a charismatic happy clappy) holds the same views, which I believe are moderate. In Lancashire the church will collapse over the next few years if there is no change.

  8. Donal Dorr says:

    Thank you very much, Gerard, for this moving and shocking account.

    1. Mattie Long says:

      Donal, I agree that the account by Gerard is indeed truly shocking.
      Sadly, it’s not surprising as something coming from the Vatican where the on-going organisational dysfunction, and disconnect from Gospel values, is again evident in the current shambles, high level squabbling, and prevarication about oversight of the Vatican Bank and finances.
      What we need to focus on for the moment is the process, or complete lack of it, in the practices and behaviours of people in the CDF. This cannot and should not be deflected from, intentionally or otherwise, by introducing debate about contested issues.
      In their treatment of Gerry Moloney, Tony Flannery, Sean Fagan and others the CDF has acted in a way that is at odds with basic human rights, legal practice in civilised society, and fundamental Christian principles.
      The former leader of the CDF, Cardinal William Levada was in charge when many of the actions in question were taken. In the unlikely event that he was unaware of proper due process, at least he should be now familiar with such procedures following his own brush with the law on Hawaii.
      He will now know that an accused person has to be informed of his / her rights before any action can be taken against them, has to be afforded time to prepare a defence, have legal representation of their own choosing to give advice and be present during hearings, has to have the opportunity to confront and cross question an accuser, has the right to verify that correct process and procedure were followed at all times in the collection of evidence, and has the right to have a public hearing where all evidence and accusations can be openly and transparently examined.
      Following such process an accused still has the right to appeal a decision to a different court and judge.
      None of these processes seem to apply to the CDF and so it rightly stands accused of the abuse of the rights of members of the faithful.
      In 1987 U.S. President Reagan made a speech in front of the Berlin Wall where he called on the Soviet leader to “tear down this wall”. It struck a note with the citizens of Berlin, many who opposed most of Reagan’s policies.
      Wouldn’t it be great if some Cardinal or bishop, preferably one who is not retired, stood in front of the Palace of the Holy Office and called on Pope Francis to, “disband this Inquisition”. Perhaps it might strike a note with all members of the faithful, irrespective of where they stand on contested issues.

  9. According to the Catholic Herald one third of the parishes in Wales are going. Some in a matter of weeks.

  10. Peter Shore says:

    @sara #7, I realise that these views are widespread. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean they are in accord with Catholic principles. If the Church were a popularity contest perhaps it could change its perennial teaching to win support, but surely that would make it a laughing stock!
    @Mattie #10, I disagree that this is a matter of human rights and legal principle. Let’s take an analogy in which a pharmacist decides off his own bat to dish out homeopathic medicine instead of antibiotics. He tells his customers this is the real deal. Later, his boss notices what’s going on and tells him to either dish out antibiotics or stop dispensing altogether. Should the pharmacist be given a leisurely opportunity to make a case for homeopathic medicine, including bringing his own ‘experts’ to represent him and cross-examine the boss? Or should the boss — whose immediate duty of care is to his needy customers, not his errant employee — remove him from his post? After all, the dispensing procedures are written down in an easily accessible manual, so it’s not like there’s much of an argument to be had.

  11. Willie Herlihy says:

    Peter Shore  @5, from the point of view, of the self styled, defenders of orthodoxy,your defence of the Curia is admirable.
    The faithful people who continue to practice their religion, are left wringing their hands.
    They see, their children and grand children abandoning the Church,the law of diminishing returns now applies,we are on our way to extinction.
    While the Curia continue to be, the love-less, un-Christ like organisation,who wield all power in Rome.
    Pope Francis ‘exhortation’, The Joy of Love, is just so many beautiful words.
    Until the Pope gets the courage, to disband that medieval organisation and govern the church in communion with the Bishops we are doomed.

  12. Peter@5 & 11, I have failed to find any similarities between the actions of the CDF and Jesus’ actions in the Gospels. Perhaps you could supply the relevant references please.
    Their actions are neither human nor Christian and that is scary. It is unbelievable that the CDF think and act as though they had the right to ride rough shod over those who dare to act on Pope Francis’ directive when he calls on all priests to speak their minds and not just to say what the CDF wants to hear.

  13. The cold construct of legalism that has edges so sharp that they cut if you brush against them, has no place in a Christian faith whose roots are deep and secure in well-watered ground. Our understanding of each other is dependent on respect for new shoots that draw their sustenance from a deeper, hidden history of life, and are allowed to flourish. It is about time that the CDF realises the consequences of their actions in the lives of honest men and women who seek the fulfilment of their Christian faith in honest exploration

  14. This week, Pope Francis commented on the Gospel passage that describes the behaviour of the sinful woman who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and perfume.
    Between the Pharisee and the sinful woman, Jesus aligns Himself with the woman.
    He said: “All of us are sinners but we often fall into “the temptation of hypocrisy, of believing ourselves better than others and we say: “Look at your sin …” Instead, we should all look at our sin, our falls, our mistakes and look at the Lord.
    “The attitude described by the Pope is a discriminatory one. So often, in many “righteous” speeches that proclaim truth and doctrine one does not perceive the difference between sin (which should always be called such) and the sinner (that should be approached, embraced and healed)”.
    “One antidote is offered by Bruce Marshall in a beautiful excerpt of his novel “The World, the Flesh, and Father Smith” (AKA All Glorious Within), which describes the teaching a Scottish priest received from his mother who dies.”
    “Even now, when he thought about her, he felt humble and when he was overcome by the temptation of spiritual pride, he resists, following the method that she had taught him and which she had been taught – so she had told him – by an Irish Benedictine.
    “Always remember,” she would tell him, “that you cannot look into other people’s souls but you can look inside yours; therefore, insofar as you have been given the ability to know with certainty, there is no other creature that is more evil and more ungrateful towards the Lord that you.”
    Perhaps CDF should take note, but particularly, follow the advice given by Francis

  15. Pascal O'Dea says:

    Pope Francis’s nuanced statements are a source of hope and I support Gerard and his fellow signatories in their call to Francis to dispense with the CDF.

  16. Peter Shore says:

    Deirdre #13, many references are available. Matthew 10 and John 8 spring to mind. Jesus shuns legalism, but very much declares the tenets of the gospel to be non-negotiable. The fact of the matter is that many priests today are activists who want to renegotiate Church teaching. The general modus operandi is to call for “open and honest dialogue” as an indicator of their supposed reasonableness. When the Church responds — always as a last resort — by merely reaffirming what every minister of the Church must already know, there is no reason to be surprised let alone to call for the disbandment of its doctrinal authority.

  17. declan cooney says:

    Thank God for the CDF and especially for the great grace Jesus gave to the Church and the World to have had Fr. J. Ratzinger (our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict) as its Prefect for many years. I respect those who hold opposite views to my own but ACP writers are quite often very disrespectful (former writers of the Tablet, likewise). Heresy must be tackled and respectful dialogue must be encouraged.

  18. Mattie Long says:

    Peter, # 17, unintentionally or otherwise, you are missing the point and are deflecting from what is at issue, namely the processes and procedures used by those who staff the CDF.
    All those who have staffed the CDF over the years may have thought that they had to act to safeguard some absolute purity of doctrine and prevent heresy.
    That is irrelevant.
    The end never justifies the means.
    Even the worst of serial killers must have a fair trial and due process.
    The absolute lack of due process for those ‘accused’ and the procedures used by the staff of the CDF, as outlined by so many of their victims, show a system being operated that is inhumane, that rides roughshod over legal and human rights, that is un-Christian; in short a system that should have no place in a Christian church and is unconscionable.
    How pertinent is the Gospel of tomorrow, the 5th Sunday of Easter;
    “you must also love one another.
    By this love you have for one another,
    everyone will know that you are my disciples”.

  19. Peter @ 17. Thank you for the references. However, there is nothing in them giving any man the right to treat another in the manner in which Frs. Tony, Gerard, Brian, Sean,to mention a few,have been treated. These great priests and shepherds,in the true meaning of that word, who have cared for their flocks as Jesus did, have clearly been let down by those who should known better. Love has been eclipsed by scandal.
    Tomorrow’s Gospel has the main message of Jesus’ life and death “love one another as I have loved you. By this love shall everyone know that you are my disciples” We know from the story of the Good Samaritan and many other stories that love has no bounds, it is limitless. This was the love that Jesus proclaimed would make us his disciples and others would know that He lives. Lord may we walk in your paths.

  20. Richard O'Donnell says:

    The CDF will continue to do what it does for as long as Catholics accept its ways. If a substantial number of those in ordained ministry ignore the CDF, then in a very short time, the CDF will become irrelevant: as indeed it is to most lay Roman Catholics.
    If, for example, Fr. Moloney, with the support of the Redemptorists worldwide, continued as editor of Reality, then the CDF would have to move against the Redemptorists worldwide. If, then, the supporters of the Redemptorists continued to support them, the Pope-who talks a lot about mercy-would be forced to intervene. Until such an international move happens, little will change.
    On another note, all Irish citizens, are entitled to the protections enshrined in the Irish Constitution. The actions of the CDF here are clearly in breach of these protections. There is much that could be achieved here, by taking an action in the Irish courts, which would have, in my view, profound positive international implications for the rights of those who are particularly vulnerable to the actions of the CDF. Such action would be novel in Irish Constitutional law. But we now live in a very post Roman Catholic Ireland and in a much more Christian one.
    It matters very little to me what happens in the Roman Catholic Church. But it matters to very many sincere, good and holy people, who, for whatever their reasons, remain members of this Church. It is for them that I write this. Sadly, we cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs.

  21. Joe O'Leary says:

    Peter Shore wrongly tries to make the points in dispute articles by which the Church stands or falls. But female ordination was only recently declared a doctrinal issue, celibacy has never been more than disciplinary, sexual ethics are hortatory rather than doctrinal, and have been subject to much alteration, and general absolution is an honoured form of the sacrament, its wider UDR only blocked by canon law.

  22. Peter Shore says:

    Mattie, #19, I don’t believe I am missing the point. Let us presume (since it is true) that those things the CDF found objectionable in Reality magazine did actually appear there. Fr. Moloney accepts that he has been critical of the Church, but says he did it “out of love”. Did he consult the Church before he contradicted its teachings? Did he consult the ordinary people — struggling to be faithful against a tidal wave of anti-Church rhetoric — before publishing these dissenting views? Were those people not entitled to be supported in their faith by a magazine which claims to be Ireland’s leading popular Catholic publication?
    From this viewpoint, the CDF acted out of love for ordinary Catholics in not allowing them to be led astray. It was a remedial action, in accord with the CDF’s proper function as I understand it (which I was able to easily find online). It wasn’t a matter of impugning Fr. Moloney’s motives or his service, or of putting him on trial. It is possible for him to act out of love, and still be wrong. Therefore I do not see that the question of “due process” arises. (That said, I am not a lawyer).
    Let’s be frank. Those who think Fr. Moloney has been treated heavy handedly probably agree with him on the disputed points of doctrine. Those who think the CDF did the right thing probably disagree with him. I don’t see how “due process” gets us anywhere… unless you think the Church can and should be cajoled into doing a u-turn on its consistent teaching.

  23. April 24th, 2016 at 1:49 pm
    Let’s take just one issue from the list that CDF objected to, celibacy of our priests.
    It is not a doctrine, it is a discipline only formally accepted at the Second Council of the Lateran in 1139. It could be changed tomorrow without affecting matters of faith in any way. Yes, there would be practical problems but nothing that should give rise to the CDF censoring discussion.
    What about the many who would support the views of Gerard Moloney,
    where do we stand?
    Let’s wake up and smell the coffee.
    Chris McDonnell
    Secretary Movement for Married Clergy UK
    (In case someone wishes to pass on my views to the CDF, I can be reached at : chris@mcdonnell83.freeserve.co.uk. Membership forms for MMaC by return)

  24. Bob Hayes says:

    The desire to conform the Church and her teachings to the modern world (e.g. in relation to ‘reproductive rights’, ‘gender politics’ or the LGBT agenda) is what underpins much of the so-called ‘progressive’ agenda. Earlier this month Pope Francis spoke about the dangers of conforming to this world in characteristically forthright terms:
    There is, however, also “another kind of persecution that is not often spoken about”, Francis noted. The first form of persecution “is due to confessing the name of Christ” and it is thus “a clear, explicit type of persecution”. The other kind of persecution is “disguised as culture, disguised as modernity, disguised as progress: it is a kind of — I would say somewhat ironically — polite persecution”. You can recognize “when someone is persecuted not for confessing Christ’s name, but for wanting to demonstrate the values of the Son of God”. Thus, it is a kind of “persecution against God the Creator in the person of his children”.
    In this way “we see every day that the powerful make laws that force people to take this path, and a nation that does not follow this modern collection of laws, or at least that does not want to have them in its legislation, is accused, is politely persecuted”. This is a form of “persecution that takes away man’s freedom”, and even the right to “conscientious objection! God made us free, but this kind of persecution takes away freedom!”. Thus, “if you don’t do this, you will be punished: you’ll lose your job and many things or you’ll be set aside”.
    “This is the persecution of the world”, the Pontiff continued. And “this persecution even has a leader”. In the persecution of Stephen, “the leaders were the scribes, doctors of the law, the high priests”. On the other hand, “Jesus named the leader of polite persecution: the prince of this world”. We see him “when the powerful want to impose attitudes, laws against the dignity of the children of God, persecute them and oppose God the Creator: it is the great apostasy”. Thus, “Christian life continues with these two kinds of persecution”, but also with the certainty that “the Lord promised not to distance himself from us: ‘Be careful, be careful! Don’t fall into the worldly spirit. Be careful! But go forward, I will be with you”.
    So, there we have it straight from the Pope’s lips, much of what is disguised today as culture, modernity and progress is the work of the prince of this world – Satan.

  25. How can you defend yourself if you don’t know you are on trial? How can you defend yourself if you don’t know who your accusers are? How can you defend yourself when your fate has been decided even before you discover you have been on trial? It is an utterly unjust and unchristian system.
    Gerard begins his contribution with the above questions, and a sentence giving his opinion, based on his experience. I sympathise, and share the reaction that supports his right to ask the questions

  26. Oh my goodness, Bob Hayes @ 25. That is some aligning you’ve done there. Pope Francis was clearly speaking about how nations decide through unconstitutional declarations (e.g. in the U.S., more than 50% of taxes paid go to military expenditures) how to not only fleece the general population but to divert this investment to the work of the earthly prince.
    Now if you, for example were to go against this work, well you would be punished. Jesus would never stand for this and some might argue that this was his failure on the cross. Taxation was firmly established and it was the polite persecution which was keeping the wealthy in their positions of power. The freedom that you are speaking of (reproductive rights, gender politics, LGBT agenda) is not forced on people when a choice is given by society. It is not your job to decide what’s good for someone else – only for what’s good for you, right?
    The statement : We see him “when the powerful want to impose attitudes, laws against the dignity of the children of God, persecute them and oppose God the Creator: it is the great apostasy”.
    This statement doesn’t exist in your world Bob if “love one another” does not co-exist. Conforming the Church’s teachings to a progressive agenda is what happens when people persecute others in God’s name. What should be happening is first, understanding, and if need be, forgiveness. The church has conformed its laws to govern over natural law and not the opposite (which would account for it being totalitarian) which is a silent persecution that the Church inflicts (for the time being) on its faithful.
    Bob, it seems to me that you are a “divine law” first kind of guy and “natural law” second. Never allow anyone to decide what is best for you first – that is the Golden Rule because if we don’t have our free will, then we’ve become slaves. That is Christianity’s doctrine – one King who gave us free will which will eventually always set us free.
    The Pope identifies the culprit – the many false God’s we support through a system we are subjected to. He is not lacking in the courage department and through his writings, he has clearly identified the prince that we should all be focusing on. Alas, not all of us appear to have that courage but a resistance is growing. I’m afraid that without an aggressive timeline, the real clean-up that needs to take place won’t happen before the tides arrive.

  27. Bob Hayes says:

    Lloyd (no. 27), like you I share deep concern about the functioning of the US’s military-industrial complex and its take of tax revenue. I imagine the Holy Father is similarly concerned.
    Regarding free will, God gave us free will in order that we may choose to embrace – or reject – a loving relationship with Him. God does not compel us to believe. He did not give us free will in order that we – as individuals – may decide what is good and what is evil. That is not freedom. It is a form of rational individualism.
    In ‘The Cost of Discipleship’, Dietrich Bonhoeffer ably summed-up the consequences for the Church:
    “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, Absolution without personal Confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
    It is worth remembering that rational individualism is the ideology that underpins libertarian economics and unfettered capitalism; that rejects communitarian and co-operative social models; that champions the strong over the weak.

  28. Maureen - New York City says:

    I was deeply sadden after I read this article. Father Moloney’s experience seems unjust. Though I realize the Vatican is not a democracy, it does not excuse the lack of respect shown to Father Moloney. Father Moloney deserved to know that he was under investigation. Why wouldn’t the CDF call Father Moloney, and the superior general of the Redemptorists, to Rome and inform them that Father Moloney was on “thin ice.” Even in a soccer game they do as much; you are given a yellow card before you are removed from the game.

  29. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Bob, @ 27, he bestowed us with free will so that we could decide what was good for us or not good for us. We don’t choose to embrace or reject a relationship with God; God embraces us all whether we choose it or not. He/She doesn’t have to compel us to do anything except decide for ourselves. Of all the points you listed (reproductive rights, gender politics, LGBT agenda), you think these are even worth mentioning considering the state of the world right now.
    If you think the Pope is addressing these issues in the clips you posted, you are wrong. Here is one : Persecution, the Pope noted, “is one of the characteristics, one of the traits of Church, which pervades her entire history”.
    So who has the Church persecuted? Care to name a few. The list goes on but Francis is stepping back from this because he understands it’s Natural Law first and Divine Law second (“Who am I to judge?”).
    It is most worthwhile to remember that it is very difficult to determine what God has in store for us and what he gave us to set us apart on this earth. Cheap grace is a term I’m not familiar with because it seem oxy-moronic but maybe that was the intent; an attempt to belittle those who may feel church is something more than a place they occupy and perhaps not a community that exists without walls and borders.
    Free will not intersecting with a personal decision on what is good and evil – I find that to be a very terrifying place. What if the true good and evil were to be lost in the admiration of the false gods of our time? Oh right, that’s what the Pope is talking about in your article – somewhat less terrified now.

  30. Bob Hayes says:

    Lloyd, I do recommend Bonhoeffer’s ‘The Cost of Discipleship’. His Lutheran perspective gives the Catholic Church no privileged position. His exposition of the dangers of cheap grace – ‘the grace we bestow on ourselves’ – is incisive.

  31. Bob, I appreciate the gesture but I don’t read a lot and there are very few authors I rely on for information. I let my intuition guide me based on my own experiences in anamnesis (fueled by being a civilly disobedient environmental/war activist 17 years running) but in the early stages, found great inspiration from the works of Jean Baudrillard, especially Simulacra and Simulation. The trick for me is to not concentrate on the confines of religion – the phenomena taking place in the Catholic church is not unique to the Catholic church. The world is trying desperately to overthrow the 1% through different means however, within the confines of the Church, the Pope is the first world leader to wave the white flag. It remains to be seen how aggressive he will become but based on the article you provided, he has clearly set his sights on them (and the Papacy through decentralization of power).

    1. Sean O'Conaill says:

      Just out of hospital – a dangerous respiratory infection – I have been reading Fr Gerry Moloney’s account of his treatment by the CDF, and the ensuing commentary. As someone who contributed regularly to Reality in the years leading up to the CDF’s intervention I feel very strongly on his behalf – especially in response to comments to the effect that Catholic publications must adhere strictly to every minute position of the central magisterium.
      This is to deny completely what Pope Francis insisted upon just recently – that Catholic truth is not a closed verbal system but centred on a living person, Jesus – who always remains both mysterious and attractive. Until and unless we become intrigued by this person at the deepest personal level we will never explore this mystery with the love that drew the original followers of the Lord. Their response was to ask him questions – which he always treated with respect. Never did he say: “This will all be written down in a Catechism eventually, for everyone to learn off”. As the greatest teacher ever he knew that all insight always begins with a question that is asked by one person of another, not with 700 pages of fixed answers.
      The trouble with fixing things in complex print is that this can become a barrier to confident dialogical learning. The truth can cease to be a person, becoming instead a verbal rolling-pin for ecclesiastical bullies – something to quote against any kind of questioning, with a view to regimentation and centralised control. The result is entirely predictable: the death of confident dialogue, the reign of intolerance and the locking up of Jesus in the tabernacle. That will serve as a brief description of the noose that has been slowly strangling the Irish church since 1968 – with the support of some unfortunate Irish people who have been taught, and remain driven by, fear rather than faith.
      As Sean Fagan has so eloquently explained, no teaching ever occurs until something has been learned. To learn something is to have one’s own questions answered, not to have those questions pre-empted by an Encyclopaedia of answers to someone else’s questions. Learning stops when the assigned teachers become so terrified of being reported to their invigilators that they cease providing opportunities for questions to be freely raised – and this is exactly what happened in Ireland in the decades after 1968. Ireland became a playground for the ecclesiastical Stasi encouraged by a view of truth – of Jesus – as already completely printified, petrified and concluded – buried in the tomb of the Catechism. Adult faith development in the wake of Vatican II was strangled at birth.
      The great priests who were censured by the CDF in 2012 – as scapegoats to divert attention for the magisterial mishandling of clerical child abuse – were never intimidated in that way. Fr Gerry Moloney seemed to know that if Reality mistreated the Truth – Jesus – as a closed verbal system, the magazine would lose all contact with Reality, and – separated from the true vine – wither and die. And so this Rosary-saying Catholic always found him open to my own historical approach on, for example the issue of Atonement, the challenge of secularism and the reasons our school-centred faith formation system is failing.
      As Joe O’Leary tells us, none of the matters for which Gerry was censored is central to the Creeds. Almost all those issues exemplify magisterial obsession with the sixth commandment. Jesus was never that way obsessed. His claim was to have ‘overcome the world’ – that is, to have overcome the shaming of the weak by the powerful. So why do we get from the magisterium the same shaming of the weak by the powerful, and Jesus entombed in the Catechism?
      Once the truth becomes an instrument for control rather than liberation it ceases to be the person of Jesus the Redeemer. As Vatican II insists (Declaration on Religious Freedom, 1) the truth can convey itself only by virtue of its own truth, never by compulsion. Gerry Moloney understands this and needs to be restored to the editorship of Reality as soon as he is fit – monitored only by a CDF that has ceased to be a disgrace to the global church, a deadly prison for our Irish church and a noose around the neck of Jesus himself.
      It is time for the magisterium to recognise that the Christendom church – the church allied with political establishments for almost seventeen centuries – censored itself in regard to Jesus’ critique of all elites. That is why our moral theology became fixated on the sixth commandment and why the church is increasingly regarded as irrelevant in Ireland. A wholly different way of addressing the vast inequalities and injustices of modern society has been revealed by the church’s greatest teachers – including Hans Küng, Richard Rohr, René Girard and Sean Fagan.
      Courageously our six censured Irish priests have been preparing the ground for the release of Jesus the liberator from a textified tomb. Their names are imperishable, while the fearful delators are forever disgraced by their own anonymity.

  32. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Sean @ 33, Amen to all that. I’m not sure the magisterium will ever recognize those authors who scratch the surface of the plan to eliminate the need for the global elite we’ve all inherited – lucky us. The Pope is leading the charge and he is the only person we need right now. Bring forth ideas and they can surely be moulded into solutions.

  33. It is tragic that the RC Church, in terms of its physical organization, is no different from a powerful corporation or the government. All the decisions are made at the top and everyone below must follow orders or else. Although, we can vote…when it comes to government leadership. ..Well…the struggle with the powers that be…particularly…at the Vatican…is unfortunately, old, old, news…that never dies….What is the solution?….

  34. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    The Roman Catholic Church is the epitome of a triangular organization but how do you flip this triangle on its head and become an organization that is run from the bottom up? First, the conditions for this type of transfer of power are unlikely because organizations normally have a built in self-protection that prevents this from happening but that doesn’t matter because although someone helping at the top is a God send, the vigilance of the bottom of the pyramid is always the determiner. Luckily Francis is a leader who doesn’t want to be the be all, end all of decision making so he has opened the doorway. Second, if the importance of “human dignity” finds its way into the corporate verbiage at any stage, this can become a catalyst for change. Preventing births from within a group is dangerous territory. You might find yourself in a shortage at some stage. Gender discrimination is also morally unconscionable. So a priest is a triangle in Rome fitting into triangular spots but in the real world he is trying to fit into a square. The controversy of birth control and discrimination is nothing new for the church but when and where is it appropriate is the question? Again, if Canon law adhered to Natural law first and Divine Law second, we wouldn’t be having this issue. That in my mind has always been the solution. Demand that Canon law pass the rigours of Natural law. The Pope wants the world to fall into a more natural, balanced state but is he willing to take the plunge himself? From what I can read, he’d be willing to sacrifice the current and all future Papacies for it.

  35. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    It’s not often that you can hear a collective “eye roll” across the water but from the outside looking in, what document other than Aquinas’s take on natural law does the ACP/PI/USACP/Church have to bolster the chances of reform. Is it the greatest document at this stage? St. Thomas tells us of a doorway that is propped open when the natural law (individual conscience) is denied. Don’t the issues in the current church form the basis of this argument? On the topic of infallibility, would it be so wrong for the Church to come out and say St. Thomas was right? Was he to have been nailed upon the cross as a gesture of his commitment to a thought so radical for his time? If there were a saint before you who felt your reforms embodied a rational Catholicism, wouldn’t it be St. Thomas? If not, whom? If the Roman Catholic Church has adopted the teachings of St. Thomas as her own, what do they say about their appearance of a now totalitarian state (if you listen closely to Francis, he is very Thomistic in nature). I’ve not had one person deny the Natural Law case. Strong minded Catholic women could never have allowed this to happen. Strong minded Catholic women will be the way that his moves forward. Do men’s strong sense of protectionism prevent a natural transition to the rational? Perhaps.

  36. Lloyd, as one Canadian Catholic to another, I must tell you that I do not place very much confidence in Thomas Aquinas. I’m glad you said that…”natural law” was individual conscience, as I was not understanding that from your entries. I haven’t evaluated what role my conscience plays in doing theology. The theology I do, is inductive…and is inspired principally, by my lived experience with Jesus Christ. I experience all that I am, including my conscience and intellect, as being first of all natural, but wholly taken up into Christ. So, if Christ has an issue with what happens in the day-to-day business of the Church, then, I probably do too, and visa-versa. Hopefully, I offer a “prophetic voice” to encourage positive change, which might come “naturally”, but is also trustingly, inspired by Christ.

  37. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Well Darlene, you don’t have to put any confidence in St. Thomas – the church did so by considering his teachings as their own; Canon Law manuals usually start off with a general definition of law according to Aquinas.
    This is the conflict. If you look at the reform points and search the religion for its supporters, who best to focus on? The ACP/PI/AUSCP have a very narrow scope for their reform and what it ends up being is a battle between Natural Law and Canon Law. The reformers have to historically find their allies.
    If Canon Law (human law) were to be judged on its adherence to Natural Law, the Church would look less like a totalitarian state and exactly like what everyone on this site wants it to be. So does that make Aquinas’s thoughts on natural law a silent supporter for the reform we search? It remains to be seen. Is something perfect when it does what it is supposed to do, naturally? This site makes me question this at times.
    To embrace a rational interpretation of Natural Law is all that is needed for a solution. God created human beings in his own image so that they can creatively shape their world. By their intelligence they can discern what is right or wrong [=Natural Law]. Any law that doesn’t allow this to happen is against God’s will. The Church (yet not its theologians) teaches that the centre point of Natural Law is physical in nature. The reformers believe that it is human intelligence and this is the Truth. The Pope can’t deny it so if he can’t deny it, he can fine tooth comb the details in the Canons that do not hold true to rational natural law and strike them down with the power that every Pope before him had the capacity to do. If you don’t ask him how he feels about it, then there is no urgency to act.
    So all the associations are looking for is a rational interpretation of natural law (St. Thomas’s interpretation) be applied to Canon Law or any tradition that the Church formally holds. Is it as pragmatic as that?
    Well a quick internet search tells me that I may not be too far off. The whois domain registry for the website is (Creation Date: 22-mar-2015) but it appears this institute has been chugging along in Rickmansworth, Herts for a while. Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research – anyone ever hear of them?

  38. The Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research? Yes, I have heard of them! In fact, I helped set it up. We have existed since 1984 under the name ‘Housetop’. In view of the expansion of our work, we adopted the new name. You will find more information about us here: http://www.wijngaardsinstitute.com/
    Allow me to make a few observations about this whole discussion.
    The suppression of free research and free expression in the Catholic Church is a true disaster. Not only does it unjustly affect individuals (I experienced the same myself), it also deeply wounds the whole Church because without fresh research and frank discussion the Church cannot keep up with new discoveries and new challenges in an ever-changing world.
    The suppression of free research and free expression also damages institutes such as our Wijngaards Institute because we cannot get financial support from sources directly or indirectly controlled by the Church. We have supported the ordination of women since I resigned from the priestly ministry in 1998 (I had already outlined my views through DID CHRIST RULE OUT WOMEN PRIESTS? in 1977). We support reform of Church rules on LGTB. We launched the Catholic Scholars Declaration on Authority in the Church in 2012 which was signed by academics from 100 Catholic universities. We are almost bankrupt, dependent as we are on the goodwill of individual reform-minded Catholics.
    As to Natural Law, yes we did research on that. You will find the solution spelled out on a website dedicated to this topic. Just Google for ‘natural law and conscience’. Thomas Aquinas and new interpretations: it’s all there! If only people in the Vatican had an open mind!

  39. Dear All,
    Just to add to the exchange between Darlene and Lloyd, let me add what we at the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research have produced in our draft collaborative research report on the ethics of contraception.
    It is quite wonkish, long and academically heavy, but it does illuminate the fundamental misunderstanding at the basis of the Vatican’s appeal to Natural Law, namely, their failure to grasp the role of human beings (and their rationality/discernment/conscience) in acting within the created order. Here’s the lengthy quote from that report, which is still unfinished but whose draft is available on our website https://www.wijngaardsinstitute.com/wiki/contraception:
    “[2] HV’s [Humanae Vitae’s] conclusion is further unwarranted because it assumes a mistaken understanding of the role and agency of human beings vis-à-vis the created order. It affirms that human beings are not allowed to do violence to the biological laws themselves by interfering with the intrinsic relationship of intercourse to procreation.
    However, this assumes that “biological laws” have a mind and intentionality of their own, which humans’ intentionality must obey without possibility of interfering with them. This “non-intervention” argument, positing a sort of “let nature take its course” principle, is a fundamentally mistaken interpretation of both the created world and of humans’ role in it.
    Significantly, already the 1966 “Schema” had regarded “a better perception of the responsibility of man for humanising the gifts of nature and using them to bring the life of man to greater perfection” as arguably the most important reason for changing the previous teaching on the intrinsically evil nature of using contraceptives.
    The relationship between human agency and the created order can be summarised as follows.
    First, the order of creation and its natural laws seem, at their most fundamental level of quantum mechanics, to have an essentially probabilistic basis. At the physical, chemical, and biological levels, the created order is a complex system of cycles of recurrence, all of which – including the most apparently stable – are subject to conditions which all have their probabilities of occurring and perduring. This also applies to the biological laws of human reproduction.
    Secondly “just as there are schedules of probability within natural cycles, which set the conditions for other natural occurrences, so natural cycles set conditions for human choices, and human actions, or lack thereof, set conditions for the emergence of natural phenomena.”
    As a consequence, and thirdly, “the fact that humans are agents of reason, and therefore have an autonomy that other portions of the created order do not have, means that humans have a unique role in affecting probabilities.” In effect, “[E]ach set of causal relationships [in nature] is subject to a set of probabilities. Human choices and human norms involve choosing how to affect probabilities, not merely choosing not to intervene in natural processes.” For example, any medical intervention generally affects probabilities – of healing, survival, death, etc.
    More to the point, for human beings to choose not to intervene in natural processes also affects the latter probabilities, just as choosing to intervene does.
    Human beings always “interfere” with natural processes, whether by deciding to “tamper” with them or by “letting nature take its course.”
    Given the above, then, “the moral questions are not whether to interrupt nature’s course or not, but which actions are in accord with the meaning of human life and dignity and which contravene these….” For a religious believer,
    Doing the right thing involves discerning, with an acceptance of the limitations of one’s foresight, how God might want me/us to affect the future conditions of the world. God’s will, rather than being a matter of conforming to an already established pattern in the world, involves creating patterns as part of a web of conditioning probabilities. The moral task involves not conforming to nature but transforming it.
    To the degree that natural law demands that one be attentive to the created order, the moral theologian must take stock of the manifolds of non-intelligent schemes of recurrence that condition human being. Thus knowledge of the natural world—reproductive processes, ecological systems, medical diagnoses—is an imperative for responsible ethics.
    Responsible moral discernment, then, will often require
    attend[ing] to chemical, biological, and zoological schemes of recurrence as conditioning factors in human existence, both within the human subject and between that subject and her environment, without seeking to derive moral norms directly from these natural processes. It will take as an important task, not defining ways in which persons should conform to nature, but clarifying the values implicit in interventions in nature, and stipulating which transformations are ultimately conducive to human flourishing and which are not.
    In conclusion, not only it is impossible to infer from the (statistical) relationship between sexual intercourse and conception an absolute evaluation of the morality of contraception. It is also impossible to argue that, with regard to the specific case of the biological laws of human reproduction, human beings should not exercise the natural capacity they have to influence the essentially statistical basis of the laws of nature.”
    The above highlights the failure of the way Natural Law has been used by the Vatican to argue against a whole host of issues, of which contraception and homosexuality are the most well-known. The key quotations come from the very good article by Cynthia Crysdale, “Revisioning Natural Law: From the Classicist Paradigm to Emergent Probability,” Theological Studies 56, no. 3 (1995): 464–84, which is freely accessible online.
    I’d be very interested in your thoughts!
    Incidentally, the Wijngaards Institute has collaborated with ACP in the past. Last September, the ACP became one of the movements endorsing our “Documented Appeal to Pope Francis for the Reinstatement of Women Deacons”, also available on our website.
    Kindest regards,

  40. Well that’s interesting isn’t it. Luca, that was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise unjust world.
    Just want to make it clear that I had never heard of the the Institute before this and had no idea of “Housetop” either during the time I’ve been preaching about Natural Law here on this site. My history on the topic was born with Pope Benedict’s speech on Natural Law (Aquinas) found on Youtube here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRPwvYArETA – June 16th, 2010.
    It was at this time I was emailing my lawyer regarding how a class action lawsuit against a diocese could turn into a class action against the Vatican based on this statement from the Pope “that divine grace does not destroy but builds upon and perfects human nature”. This email led me to eventually speak with Jeff Anderson, a well known attorney on abuse cases in the US. He thought I was a little off center (especially where I felt that no one is on trial at the Vatican but Canon Law) and he might be right to a certain degree however, he was the one trying to find a way to sue the Vatican to begin with.
    To this day, I still believe that the key to reform is a redacted Canon and was a firm believer at some stage that this redaction could be legally put in force if a psychological assessment of celibate priests was conducted, showing that years of celibacy has proven not only mentally anguishing but also in extreme cases, morally degrading. When I realized that there were reform groups starting to scatter across the globe who wanted the same reform, I was delighted and that’s why I’ve returned pretty much daily to see everything unfold. It culminated with the gift of Francis’s papacy.
    This is what I believe deep down; my intuition is all that was ever bestowed on me by God.
    So our Pope (our environmentalist, progressive rock music Pope) needs help navigating through the reform he wants (but is very careful not to directly say but is clear in his silent support for all efforts) but to do so, the very foundations of the Church will need to be rocked once more (the current Pope gets the credit with the first earthquake called Laudato si).
    The next move is up to the world wide reform groups. How is it you are going to scratch out these important parts of the Canons? Do you all play host for a psychological assessment regarding celibacy and the lack of female ordination/advancement conducted by a third party? Is the current seminary screening adequate? Would you become witnesses to someone who might have the chutzpah to start an action against the Vatican with Canon Law as the only culprit and everyone else innocent – current past and future?
    This is the way 1% of the world works now. When you firmly believe in something, a lawyer is usually called. If you don’t see this as an actionable item, I completely understand. If you feel that there is a more sensible, less aggressive way forward, you have my complete respect.

  41. Here is my short version.
    The ban on artificial contraception( HV ) is based on the idea that every act of intercourse between a couple should be open to the creation of human life.
    In reality what this means is that by practising NFP every time the couple make love there is the nagging worry that another unplanned pregnancy may have begun.
    Therefore this constant worry interferes with the joy of love making and is damaging to the relationship between the couple.

  42. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Darlene@42, relax – you’re probably not the only one. Your best buddy, Christ@38, spoke no Greek either and probably had never even heard of Aristotle of Stagira, never mind Thomas of Aquino.

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