Brendan Hoban,an Irish priest and author of 40 years standing wrote an article on the website of the Irish priests http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie entitled “The Church should listen to its priests”. Well, yes you might say this makes infinite sense—until you understand the unbelievable dysfunctionality of the institutional church virtually worldwide.
It is difficult to grasp that the supposed leaders (bishops) are refusing to meet with their pastors, the ones presently struggling to revive the “old faith” in the most Catholic country of all, Ireland.
The Association now comprising 1,000 priests was formed two years ago, I presume, for the simple reason that bishops can easily pick off anybody they term a “dissident” if he stands alone.Well the priests are smart.They know as the old saw says, “You either hang together or you’ll hang alone.
Well the priests are raising issues that the Yes men imposed from Rome, the local ordinaries (in this case Diarmuid Martin who spent most of his priestly life as a diplomat) prefer not to hear. As Hoban says “priests know (or if they don’t know, believe) that what a bishop usually wants is not a discussion but agreement with an established position. It’s hard to blame priests for this.”
Martin does not want to face the music of the real issues bedevelling Rome—a new sexual ethic, celibacy, the role of women, church governance etc. These issues according to the archbishop are “negative polemics.”
Hoban rightly dismisses Martin’s comments
Leaving aside the fact that the right and the responsibility of priests and people to bring matters of serious pastoral concern to the attention of church leaders is enshrined in church law – Canon 212, No. 3: ‘the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church’ –is Archbishop Martin seriously suggesting that surfacing these issues is more damaging to the Irish priesthood than not discussing them?
A few years ago Martin criticized the silence of the episcopacy when the sexual abuse which roiled through the Irish church was covered up. Hoban asks:
Is he now suggesting that Irish priests should be silent even though they can see what’s happening in parishes and dioceses all over Ireland? If bishops were wrong to be silent, why are priests being ‘negative’ and ‘polemical’ if they speak out as church law demands? Or was it a case of, that was then, this is now?
Hoban states the obvious:
So Irish priests need to be actively encouraged to name our truth, not encouraged to keep our silence. We need to be given space to say our piece, to communicate that bit of wisdom that is the result of mature and prayerful reflection on our long experience of and love for the Irish Church.
Brendan Hoban speaks courageously for the right of Irish priests to be heard,consulted and listened to. What of the 99% of the Church who are lay and studiously ignored in major see after major see? This is a mjor stumbling block for the universal Catholic church—the failure to hear the Spirit speaking in the people the clerics are sworn to serve.
Part 2 tomorrow,