Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Bishop O'Donoghue attacks "conspiracy of silence"

A correspondent has just sent me a link to the text of three talks given by Bishop O'Donoghue last month to the clergy of Northampton Diocese on retreat at Ars. (See: Rich in Christ, rich in love

Some of what Bishop O'Donoghue says is quite controversial so I think it is important to say first of all that the talks cover a wide range of topics related to the priesthood and are balanced and sensible - though quite hard-hitting at times. I did like this comment on the Curé of Ars:
He didn’t court popularity, he didn’t engage in person-centred, non-judgemental, positive regard, instead he was afire with the imperative that each person was struggling with a fundamental split in their nature – called to beatitude but wounded by sin.
The saintly Curé obviously hadn't read "I'm OK, You're OK." ;-)

The second talk is a thoughtful and prayerful analysis of what it means for the priest to make Christ present in the Church, looking at the power of grace working through human limitations, the priest's commitment to the confessional and meditating on the various ways in which Christ was stripped of his dignity as God and as man, and how we must imitate him in our priestly life. The third talks focusses especially on the missionary dimension of the priesthood, and the fourth ponders the different ways in which the priest is called to be immersed in Christ.

In the first talk, His Lordship looks at the positive and negative developments for the priesthood since Vatican II. One of the negative developments:
Dissent and disobedience. We are living in an unprecedented period in the life of the Church when countless individual priests, and laity, even bishops, believe they are free to decide what it means to be Catholic for themselves. For example, we have witnessed a wholesale rejection of the Church’s perennial teaching against contraception. This is the litmus test of the acceptance of obedience in the Church. How many priests support Gaudium et Spes’ crystal clear rejection of contraception, upheld by successive Popes – Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI? If we reject their teaching on this matter we are saying, as priests, that we know better than the successor to Peter! Is this tenable in a priest?
And then this passage which made me nearly fall off my chair:
Conspiracy of silence. This cocktail of dissent, disobedience and disloyalty has resulted in what I call a ‘conspiracy of silence’ amongst groups in the Church. There is no real dialogue or willingness to talk openly and honestly about our differences. For example, I don’t know why my Fit for Mission? documents hit a wall of silence among the bishops in this country. All I did was re-iterate the teaching of the Church, but this has been treated as unacceptable and unspeakable. Why?
Good question.
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