If any grace can come out of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDF) investigation of Fr Brian D’Arcy, it’s that someone in the Vatican has at least read what he has to say.
Sadly, the Vatican’s failure to engage with the Vatican II-inspired movement within the Catholic Church – in which D’Arcy is prominent in Ireland – is less about its ignorance of it than its rejection of it.
- how the Vatican dealt with the issue of women priests;
- why US Catholics were leaving the church;
- why the church must take responsibility for clerical child sex abuse;
- and homosexuality.
D’Arcy remains a ‘priest in good standing,’ but now ‘in instances where he addresses matters of faith and morals in his writings or broadcasts, he must first submit these to a third party for clearance.’
Of course, the Vatican readers have examined D’Arcy’s writings with a view to censorship, not with a view to genuinely listening to or engaging with his perspectives –perspectives shared by the majority, it seems, in the Irish church (at least according to the recent survey commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests).
D’Arcy has not commented on the matter, but an article in today’s Irish Times quotes from his column in last week’s Sunday World:
Writing in the Sunday World last week, Fr D’Arcy said there were those in the church who believed that “priests like me, for example, should have ‘the party whip withdrawn from them’ as one prominent Catholic woman so smugly put it on a radio programme recently.
“Sadly in our church now, it has become impossible to be open and honest about what good people are convinced of. It’s as if merely stating unpalatable facts is in itself disloyal. For years I’ve tried to point out the perils of the growing disconnect between church leaders and the ordinary people.”
Yes, it seems to be too much to hope that those who have assumed power for themselves in the church hierarchy can be moved by the plight of the Christians whose faith they seem intent on crushing and moulding to their own image.
Their image of Church seems to me to be an increasingly draconian and even, at times, un-Christian one.
By draconian I mean that dissent and debate within the church, features of the lives of the faithful apparent in even in the earliest Christian writings, are being quashed. Vatican II was supposed to give the Holy Spirit more breathing room; the CDF seems intent on suffocating it.
By un-Christian I would include (to name just a few):
- the censoring of dissent,
- the appalling manner in which the hierarchy has handled the clerical child sexual abuse scandals, including the inability to repent and seek forgiveness in a way that does not offend and re-traumatise victims, and
- the rebuking of women Religious of the United States, summed up by the journal.ie’s headline: ‘Vatican Says Nuns’ Group Spends Too Much Time on Social Justice.’