"Mutinous Rumblings"?

I was just wandering around the ABC’s Religion and Ethics website, which has had quite a makeover recently, and is a very interesting source of news from about the place – not just downloadable audio, but a lot of commentary and articles that has not been published elsewhere.

I clicked on this article which was posted today “The necessity of reform in the Catholic Church” by Geraldine Doogue just to see what she was on about now, and in her article found a link to this report by Noel Debien from a few weeks ago, entitled “Mutinous rumblings among senior Australian Catholic clergy”.

Apparently, Ms Doogue gave her paper at something called the “2010 gathering of the Australian National Council of Catholic Priests in Parramatta, NSW” held in mid-July. Other speakers included the American priest, Donald Cozzens, who was recently hosted here by John Garratt Bookstores, and our own Bishop Geoffrey Robinson. The latter is quoted by Debien as saying:

“Everyone in this room knows very well that George Pell was transferred from Melbourne so he could get the red hat so he would become an elector of the pope. And that was the sole reason … Most bishops would be in favour of the bishops electing the cardinals … What happens at the moment is the pope appoints the cardinals who then elect the pope who then appoints more cardinals and on and on it goes. So it’s a vicious circle. And it is deliberately designed to ensure we do not have another Pope John XXIII.”

Riiiiiight… A conspiracy theory by anyone’s definition, but apparently these words were greeted by “sustained and loud applause”, so he doesn’t appear to be the only one who believes it. Apparently Bishop Robinson received “a 5 minute long ovation from the priests when his arrival was noted”. A popular conspiracy theory then.

The NCCP gathering was, according to Debien, attended by “250 or so priests and bishops”. He describes them as “senior” – a word that could have at least two meanings. As for “mutinous rumblings”, Debien described the atmosphere as something like “pre-revolutionary Paris of 1789”. He writes:

If there had been any pulling of punches early on in this week’s conference, the gloves were well and truly off by the third day. Though I have heard much of what was said before in other places, I have never heard it all said in front of 250 Catholic clergy and five Australian bishops. I have never heard it said so strongly or clearly.

I heard calls for a third Vatican Council, married priests, discussion of women priests, warnings of church implosion, calls for cardinals to be elected by bishops, as well as public criticism of Cardinal Pell’s appointment to Sydney. That was just for starters, and all coinciding with this week’s strong condemnation of women’s ordination by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. At one point I leant over to a bishop – not noted as a progressive radical – and asked if I could check his pulse. He had the good grace to laugh, though I am not all that sure he was feeling all that jocular. It was pretty strong stuff.

In Australia, there are two organisations for Catholic Clergy. One is the National Council of Catholic Priests, which ran this event. The other is the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, who would not, I think, invite Ms Doogue, Bishop Robinson or Father Cozzens to one of their parties in a blue fit. One comparison is instructive: the average age of ACCC membership is about twenty years younger than the average age of NCCP membership (but I guess that would mean that the ACCC is less important than the NCCP because that would make them “junior” in comparison to the NCCP’s “senior”). The ACCC is actually a leading light for the world wide Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, and a large number of their group went to Rome recently in answer to the Holy Father’s invitation for priests to gather with him for the closing of te Year for Priests.

Debien finishes his report by saying:

I am still ruminating over what I heard. The real test will be discerning whether this is all just steam being let off by grumpy clergy, or whether it is the enormous glacier of the Catholic church loudly cracking.

What was it that Marie Antoinette said about cake?

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145 Responses to "Mutinous Rumblings"?

  1. Joshua says:

    Anglicanism has synodical government – these men would make excellent mainstream Anglicans.

    Catholicism has hierarchical government – these men can complain all they like, their fantasies will not come true. Blind Freddy knows that the Holy See is not going to accede to their wish-list.

    Hence the Catholic problem of bitter old priests.

    Why couldn’t they just join the Anglicans?

    • Brian Coyne says:

      Yes, see my post below. You would believe they should “join the Anglicans” — all 1100 members of the NCP and leave the Catholic Church with a working priesthood of around 200 diocesan priests in this country. That tells us all we want to know of the sort of Catholicism you advocate and want to bring about. It is not wonder the vast majority of the baptised want to vamoose out the door in this country when the sort of logic you promote is taken seriously by a similar small minority of bishops.

      • Gareth says:

        ITS THE xxxx AGAIN!!!

        Putting his nose into Catholic discussion forums and other people’s blogs when he is not wanted.


        • Schütz says:

          Gareth, some manners please. Brian has been sitting quietly at this table all along sipping his port while we have been holding forth on other matters. He is at the table by my invitation. If a blog comment appears on this blog it is only because I have approved the commentator as a commentator, OK? So Brian is here BY MY INVITATION, and don’t you dare tell any guest of mine that they are not welcome on MY BLOG. Grrr.

          • Gareth says:

            So its ok that he insults one of my friends for no legitimate reason??

            For no legitimate reason, he told a poster that they are responsible for the ‘downslide’ of the church and to form a remant.

            I am not going to remain calm in this situation, I would rather stand by my mates.

            When are people going to learn that Brian Coyne is a troublemaker and his presence on Catholic discussion boards is mostly negative and seems to serve no other purpose than to insult other posters with names??

            A constant theme of any board that he posts at is that good Catholics who formerly have no issue, suddenly become irate and the whole place turns into a turmoil.

            Its your port table, but learn from people that know, it is at the tables peril.

            • Tony says:


              Both Joshua and Brian have ‘raised the temperature’ of this string, yet David has them both to his table.

              The bottom line here is that you’re lecturing the host about how to run his show as if he was some sort of Johnny-come-lately on the scene.

              If David want’s to share his port with the likes of Brian and Joshua, who are you to put a cork in it?

            • Schütz says:

              Thank you, Tony. That is precisely the point. My table is a place where, rather like in the vision of Isaiah, the Joshuas will sit down with the Brians, and the Gareths will drink port with the Tonys etc. Besides my well known motto “I’m not fussy, I’ll talk to anyone”, I generally find that you are in a whole lot better position to convince folk of your opinion and to benefit from the wisdom or otherwise of theirs if you start of by being nice to them. I admit this philosophy is terribly naive, but there it is. It’s my table. NOW BE NICE!

            • jules says:

              David, such subtle wisdom just seems to glide off the backs of many in the church who prefer not to ‘get the hint’ and stop throwing their stones at their hosts or destroy such a nice table (aka, pope, bishops, faithful clergy, the church).
              And Joshua, ‘ a zealous adversary’ can be and is verrrrryyy misguided by the progressive liberal/disgruntled Catholics.
              And pere, the wishful thinkers of the church are the ones that usually set up their own ‘magisterium’ It is intellectually dishonest to ignore the abuse, divisiveness and misguided beliefs that these personal magisterium set in motion.
              And Peter, you’re so right ‘ bad theology bears no fruit.’

              So drink David’s wine but don’t abuse the table.

        • Joshua says:

          Gareth, don’t worry: Coyne once upset me, but you have to understand he’s one of those old people who’s got trapped in a 70’s timewarp, and God loves him too. While he and I have diametrically opposite viewpoints, I have enough of a bad temper to understand where he’s coming from, and at least he is honest about his own views, and cares enough about them to advocate for them. I respect a zealous adversary.

      • Joshua says:

        Well, if they went, then presumably all the laity would believed likewise would do the same. It would be a valuable infusion of new blood (well, fairly aged blood) into the C. of E. here in Oz.

        Wouldn’t that be true ecumenism?

        Everyone who actually believes in the Catholic Faith could stay, and no longer have to put up with whining dissenters.

        Everyone who holds sincerely to other, alien beliefs that accord with the modern world’s views of morality could be Anglicans, and have married, lady, gay, lesbian and other such ministers, plus whatever degree of licence they like. And they could learn from their new friends to sing nicely.

        It would be happy all round.

    • Peregrinus says:

      Catholicism has hierarchical government – these men can complain all they like, their fantasies will not come true. Blind Freddy knows that the Holy See is not going to accede to their wish-list.

      Mmm. That may be true, but it doesn’t really solve the problem, does it?

      Hence the Catholic problem of bitter old priests.

      Well, there you go. Far from solving the problem, on your own evidence it creates a second problem.

      Why couldn’t they just join the Anglicans?

      O the basis of the figures Brian offers, the church would have a still bigger problem if they did, wouldn’t it?

      The reason why they don’t join the Anglicans is that – surprise, surprise – they are Catholics. They don’t hold to a basically Protestant ecclesiology in which the church that’s Right For You is the one that best fits your personal beliefs and preferences.

      • Gareth says:

        Pere: The reason why they don’t join the Anglicans is that – surprise, surprise – they are Catholics.

        They THINK they are Catholics, but a deep analysis of their beliefs would firmly establish that they have little or nothing in common with the Catholic Church and it is only being NICE and charitable to point towards this fact, instead of sugar-coating things.

        C’mon Pere, their personal beliefs and preferences suggest the opposite of much of what the Catholic Church teaches, even its basic tentants.

        • Tony says:

          … but a deep analysis of their beliefs would firmly establish that they have …

          … their personal beliefs and preferences suggest the opposite of …

          No comment.

        • Peregrinus says:

          Pots, kettles. Here you are, complaining that they are professing and practising a Catholic ecclesiology, and urging a Protestant ecclesiology on them.

          No offence, Gareth, but your assessment of someone else’s catholicity is not one by which I set great store.

          • Gareth says:

            I don’t urge anythink on anyone.

            People’s beliefs and views speak for themselves.

            You are either with us or against us.

    • Tony says:

      Blimey! First cab off the rank! What was I saying about Godwin’s Law?

  2. Brian Coyne says:

    David, your naivety astounds me at times. Is it deliberately feigned for political ends? This story was news some weeks ago at the time of the Conference and significantly discussed within the Church. The National Council of Priests is the largest organisation representing priests in this country. The broad cross section of priests — yes, they’re the one’s who publish the National Directory of the Church in Australia on behalf of the ACBC. The NCP has a paid up membership of around 1100 priests from memory and there are about 1300 diocesan priests in his country. I submit they represent a better cross-section of the opinion of the broad working priesthood in this country than any other organisation — there are at least two other organisations representing priests and they both have tiny memberships and would seem to represent the sort of opinions you would seem to support as being broadly representative of Catholicism in this country.

    • Schütz says:

      Was it a news story? I’m sorry, I mustn’t have been listening. No rumbles felt down here in Melbourne, so perhaps it was a Sydney thing.

      I am under no illusion that the ACCC represents “opinions [that are] broadly representative of Catholicism in this country” – and in fact you may be quite right that the NCCP does represent such opinions much more accurately. However, if the Catholic Church were under obligation to recreate herself in the image of the “broadly representative opinions” of her constituents, she would indeed be a very different creature from that which our Lord Jesus Christ himself created her to be.

      IOW, “broadly representative opinions” do not define or direct the Catholic Church. Therein lies Bishop Robinson’s (et al) misconception and hence his source of frustration.

      • Brian Coyne says:

        I increasingly have the sense, David, that you do not have your “ear to the ground” very well at all as to what is going on in the Church in this country. This episode is perhaps one of the best yet. You have your “ear to ground” certainly as to what is going on in that small sector that isn’t listening to the conversations going on in the broad mainstream of the institution in this country. The one thing I will concede is that up until recently the minority which you have attracted to has exercised a “power of veto” of everyone else in the Church in this country. That situation seems to be in some state of flux at the moment (thank God at long last).

      • Brian Coyne says:

        And, by the way, David since when was it part of Catholic thinking or dogma that the “truth” was only discernible by the small, unrepresentative minority?

        • Peter says:

          Since Christ’s ‘opinion’ matter more than all 12 of his disciples, and the popular consensus of ‘senior’ religious figures, or anyone else for that matter :P

          The average age of the NCP priests means that we will soon need our ‘ear to the ground’ to hear them. So the ACCC will be almost 100% representation of those left.

          Why? Because bad theology bears no fruit.

          Welcome to the new world.

          • Tony says:

            Since Christ’s ‘opinion’ matter more than all 12 of his disciples, and the popular consensus of ‘senior’ religious figures, or anyone else for that matter

            Yet, he washed their feet.

            • Schütz says:

              NOT because they demanded it as their RIGHT. On the contary, Peter himself declared that he had no right to be served in such a way by his Lord. The attitude of the ‘new apostles’ is quite different from those of the twelve.

            • Tony says:

              NOT because they demanded it as their RIGHT.

              Not sure about the relevance of that comment from 2 points of view, David.

              Firstly, ‘demanding it as their right’ is your slant on a conference you didn’t attend. It may have been that strong opinions were expressed, but ‘demands’? ‘Rights’?

              Secondly, the state of mind of the people in the room at the Last Supper would probably have ranged from devotion to treachery. It was pretty clear that none of them really ‘got it’.

              Yet, he washed their feet.

        • Gareth says:

          since when you opened your mouth.

          The truth just got a bit clearer to everyone then.

    • Schütz says:

      Actually, you might want to check your figures, Brian. According to the latest NCP Directory (which I have right here on my desk) there are 1940 Diocesan priests in Australia and another 1125 Religious. That means that if 1100 priests belong to the NCP (is membership of the NCP, the NCP has just over one third of Australian priests as members (is membership restricted to Diocesan priests?). I would be interested to know the proportion of those priests who are members of the NCP who are retired – or even who are over 65. Just wondering…

      Of course, of those 1100, 250 went to the gathering in Sydney. That’s a fair few, by anyone’s reckoning, of course – about 25% of their membership. If I were organising the show, I would be very happy with such an attendance. Still, it is a fair assumption that it is the most committed members who actually go to the national gatherings, and that not all 1100 paid up members are as fully gung-ho about these issues as the 250 who turned up in Sydney.

      So, that reduces the numbers of those who gave “sustained applause” to Bishop Robinson’s ideas down to about 8% of Australia’s priests. It is certainly believable that 8% of Australia’s priests would hold such opinions – in fact, I am willing to conceed that as many as double that number may do so. But that doesn’t put them in the majority by a long shot.

      • Tony says:

        But that doesn’t put them in the majority by a long shot.

        And, even if they were, it wouldn’t matter, eh David? Because ‘“broadly representative opinions” do not define or direct the Catholic Church’.

        It’s ironic that your first response is that, in a sense, numbers don’t matter and your second was, ‘Well, they’re not a majority anyhow. So there!’

        OK, I ‘paraphrased’ a little.

        • Schütz says:

          And, even if they were, it wouldn’t matter, eh David? Because ‘“broadly representative opinions” do not define or direct the Catholic Church’.

          Quite right, Tony. Just making the point.

      • Peregrinus says:

        The NCCP’s website claims that it includes “about half of all Australian clergy – diocesan and clerical religious”. I see no reason to doubt the claim. The organisation is open to all clergy – bishops, priests and deacons – and I doubt that retired clergy are excluded (though, since it costs money to be a member, and since its activities and services are directed at active clergy, I wouldn’t be surprised if many let their membership lapse on retiring).

        FWIW, the ACCC website gives no information at all on membership numbers. Global membership numbers might not in any event be strictly comparable, since the ACCC admits “lay associate members”. Plus, it’s not impossible that there is some overlapping membership between the two bodies, since the NCCP does things that the ACCC does not (represents clergy at the Bishops’ Conference, runs the Australian Catholic Clergy Relief Fund, etc).

        It’s true, obviously, that the 250 or so at the NCCP conference are a small minority of Australian clergy as a whole. Nevertheless, the NCCP has a reach and representation that no other organisation can match; we can disagree with or resent their views, but we cannot pretend that they are some kind of aberration, held only by the participants in the conference, and wholly unrepresentative of wider clerical opinion (and lay opinion, for that matter).

        And, the more strongly you disagree with these opinions, the more seriously you should take the fact that they are held, expressed and well-received at a forum like the NCCP Conference. As I say, pointing out that the church is hierarchical really doesn’t address the issue raised by this. Far from solving the problem, it compounds it.

        • Schütz says:

          FWIW, the ACCC website gives no information at all on membership numbers.

          I noticed that too. Maybe numbers are not important to them! :-)

          And, the more strongly you disagree with these opinions, the more seriously you should take the fact that they are held, expressed and well-received at a forum like the NCCP Conference

          Well, seriously, I DO take this seriously. And it is a bit of a worry, I reckon.

          From the information I have been able to gleen from the content presented, it doesn’t seem as if these priests had come together for a spiritual renewal, or for the study of God’s word, or for a deepening of their knowledge on this or that topic, so much as for what seems (to all extents and purposes) to have been a political rally. And to what purpose? I don’t know of anything in the entire teaching of the Church nor anywhere in the rite of ordination to the priesthood, which gives priests a role in determining either what the Church should teach or how she should be governed. If they are attempting to make a noise that will be heard by their bishops, are they not, in a sense, attempting to put pressure upon their bishops, to influence them in some way, by political means? And is this the way Jesus intended his priests to act in relation to their apostolic fathers? Surely not.

          So yes, I do take it seriously. It is not the sort of way that I would expect the consecrated priests of God to act.

          • Peregrinus says:

            From the information I have been able to gleen from the content presented, it doesn’t seem as if these priests had come together for a spiritual renewal . . .

            If the “content presented” is what you have linked to in your post above, you may be reading too much into it. The Geraldine Dooge piece isn’t an account of the conference, but simply a paper that she delivered at the conference. Presumably there were other papers, and other sessions, and other activities. I haven’t read the Noel Debien piece (to which your link is broken); does it pretend to be an overview of the conference, or simply a piece about a trend/theme he saw at the conference?

            In any event, even if it is true that the conference was not a spiritual renewal, etc, so what? The conference is presumably not the only thing that the NCCP does, and there is no reason why they NCCP should be engaged exclusively in spiritual renewal. Whether it is fair to describe it as a “political rally” I cannot say, but I can’t think of any reason why priests shouldn’t meet to discuss the practical realities of ministering in Australia, including the problems they encounter, how they think they arise and how they might be addressed, and I can think of lots of reasons why they should do that.

            If they are attempting to make a noise that will be heard by their bishops, are they not, in a sense, attempting to put pressure upon their bishops, to influence them in some way, by political means? And is this the way Jesus intended his priests to act in relation to their apostolic fathers? Surely not.

            It is true that teaching authority resides with the bishops, but bishops would be both stupid and wrong to attempt to exercise that authority without listening – really listening – to the Body of Christ. Forums like the NCCP conference provide an opportunity to do just that. (Not that listening should be confined to clerical forums, of course.) Indeed, the piece you quote from Debien indicates that there was at least one bishop present who was not in sympathy with what was said, but who was there to hear it said – as he should be, as he needs to be. And, if bishops need to hear such things, then priests (and people) need to say them.

            As for priests attempting to influence bishops, why not? How is the Holy Spirit going to speak to bishops, if not through the Body of Christ? Who are the bishops to listen to, if not their own priests?

            Yes, the bishop is apostolic father to his priests. But that does not mean that his priests are infants, or that he can treat them as infants. Children do tell their parents what they think, and they certainly attempt to influence them – with increasing force and passion, and a growing sense that they need to be listened to and taken seriously, as you will no doubt discover in the next few years – and if apostolic fathers treat their children as infants for ever they will fail in parenthood just as disastrously as would actual fathers following the same strategy.

            • Schütz says:

              I haven’t read the Noel Debien piece (to which your link is broken); does it pretend to be an overview of the conference, or simply a piece about a trend/theme he saw at the conference?

              Thanks for the note about the broken link – I’ve fixed it now. It is a piece describing what he saw to be THE “trend/theme” of the conference, in any case.

              I guess I am simply saying that I am not edified by this report. I was left with the impression that this group was behaving like a union or pressure group on the bishops (with a particular focus on one bishop in particular – probably because the meeting was held in Sydney – I wonder what percentage of those present were actually from Sydney itself?). There are, of course, completely acceptable ways for priests to communicate with the bishop (inviting him for dinner and/or a glass of whisky and a chinwag would be a good start, I would think). When meetings of clergy start to resemble anti-episcopal rallies, I have deep concerns.

              According to Debien’s report, there were five bishops there, and I am sure they will be reporting to their brothers.

            • Peregrinus says:

              OK, thanks for the fix. I’ve read Debien’s piece.

              I think it’s a very individual perspective. It makes no pretence at being an overview of the conference, and it focuses on particular points – on one particular point, really – which is of interest to Debien. Which is fair enough.

              Here (http://www.parra.catholic.org.au/news—events/latest-news/latest-news.aspx/the-risen-christ-in-the-changing-face-of-the-priesthood.aspx) is a notice from the Paramatta diocesan website about the (then forthcoming) conference. It sets out the theme of the conference (reflection on reflect on the changing face of contemporary ministerial priesthood and the risen Christ’s presence in the midst of this change) and indicates that, as well as Fr Cozzens and Ms Dooge, the conference was addressed by two other keynote speakers and was presided over by Anthony Fisher, who gave the welcoming address on the first day and celebrated the conference mass on the last day. (The full text of Bishop Fisher’s address is elsewhere on the Paramatta website.)

              In short, it’s clear there was more going on than appears in Debien’s article.

              But I still think you may be characterising Debien’s article unfairly. You talk of “putting pressure on one particular bishop” and of the conference being “an anti-episcopal rally”, but all there is to support this is the fact that one speaker – Geoffrey Robinson – suggested that Pell had been appointed a cardinal because he was seen by Rome as a safe yes-man. That may not be a particularly pleasant thing to say, but if you can gather 250 priests together for four days and have nothing unpleasant said about George Pell well, I take my hat off to you. I don’t think that constitutes an “anti-episcopal rally”. As for the applause that Robinson got, we don’t know whether that was because those present (a) agreed with him about Pell, (b) agreed with him that cardinals should be elected by bishops, or (c) knew, liked and respected Robinson, and would applaud him regardless of what he said. Only the first of these motives could conceivably be characterised as “anti-episcopal” (though in truth it is really just anti-Pell); the second is positively pro-episcopal, and the third is just pro-Robinson.

              How many Sydney clergy were there? I dunno. I’d expect, though, Sydney clergy (and NSW clergy generally) to be over-represented at a national conference held in Sydney.

              At a time like this, you should expect strong feelings in the clergy, and when the clergy gather to discuss their experience of ministry, you should expect strong statements and criticism. I’ve previously expressed the view that much of our current problems as a church can be laid at the door of a seriously dysfunctional culture of clericalism within the church. I think we are all* implicated in this – such a culture could not be sustained without the assent of the laity – but it’s priests, sandwiched between the laity and the episcopacy, who bear an unfair share of the fallout from our collective sin. In these circumstances, if a conference such as this didn’t involve a good deal of letting off steam, and a good deal of serious criticism, then it wouldn’t be doing its job.

              [* Well, perhaps not you, David!]

            • Gareth says:

              Pere: That may not be a particularly pleasant thing to say, but if you can gather 250 priests together for four days and have nothing unpleasant said about George Pell well, I take my hat off to you.

              G: I still am personally unaware just what precise unpleasantries could be said about George Pell on behalf of the clergy or anyone for that matter??

              Like most things, it all seems a fixation of people’s imagination.

            • Peregrinus says:

              Perhaps you need to get out more, Gareth. Dr Pell is not universally popular, and the mixed perception of him extends even to the clergy of his own diocese.

              Whether the specific discontents that people voice are imaginary is not for me to say – I’ve never met the man, and have had no dealings with him. But the fact that discontent is often expressed, even among his own clergy, is not imaginary.

            • Gareth says:

              Pere: Gareth. Dr Pell is not universally popular, and the mixed perception of him extends even to the clergy of his own diocese.

              Gareth: That’s Bulls*** Pere. He is not popular amongst your noisy minority friends known as the acatholics.

              Yet pressed with the question of what precisely is wrong with him – acatholics seem lost for words.

              Pressed with Pell’s results in raising vocations in Australia, acatholics again respond with a mute silence.

              Like most things, acatholics distate of Pell seems based on a fixation of people’s imagination.

              Pere, I honestly think you are in with the wrong crowd if you think his clergy dislike him. Most Sydney clerics I know and most Sydney seminarians that I know personally have no issue with him.

              Its all a fixation of people’s imagination that there is something untoward about him.

            • Tony says:

              Your own internal logic fails you, Gareth.

              Pere’s contention is that +Pell is not universally popular. I don’t think this is a contraversial observation. In fact, I’ve seen those who actually like him characterise it as a badge of honour.

              You respond by saying that is BS and then itemizing the kind of people you don’t think he’s popular with. Thus proving Pere’s point!

              You then talk about most of the people you know for whom there is ‘no issue’ with +Pell.

              Which, again, leaves a subset of people (the ones outside the ‘most’) who do have an ‘issue’ with him.

              Bottom line is that you’ve supported Pere’s contention rather than rebutted it.

              Note: no personal swipes here.

            • Schütz says:

              Thanks for the link to the Parramatta website, Perry, and especially to Bishop Anthony’s oversight of the event. Does that make me feel better about it? Yes, I admit it does. Here is something +Anthony said in his sermon at the closing mass. Can we read a subtext? Is he addressing something we have been talking about here, in his ever-gentle “bridge-building” style?

              We have been challenged to listen to each other, and this bishop, and I know many of my brother bishops, commits to keep listening. In many ways we have been encouraged and refreshed.

              Soon we will return to our daily bread, a world of many opportunities but one that too often presses us to eschew nuance and take sides: priests versus bishops, local church versus universal, Church versus victims, Church versus offenders, pre-Vatican II versus post-Vatican II, the media versus the Church, the Church contra mundum.

              But pontiff means bridge-builder and priests, like Bonaventure, must build bridges between the sacred and the secular, old and new, between the Church and the world, clergy and people.

              Up there upon our cross we see a Christ whose love holds Him there, rather than our cruel nails and cross-bars; a Christ risen, fully alive, still with His wounds but those wounds transfigured; and His cross is the bridge between heaven and earth, between Good Friday and Easter.

              It is His priests we are and if we pick sides as we sometimes must, we stand by Him; but always with reverence for the whole, for all sides, all reality; always in charity, with a view to ultimate unity, to building up the holy People of God in holiness and truth.

              That seems to me to be the kind of talk that builds up, rather than tears down, as the “consipiracy theory” highlighted in my post seems calculated to achieve.

            • Brian Coyne says:

              I provided links to Noel Debien’s blogs from the Conference, and others provided other links and comment, in this string on Catholica (14 July 2010):


              Somewhere or other in that string or another I drew attention to a photo of attendance at the ACCC Conference. They had under 30 priests rock up.

              My sense, from priests who were present at this conference as well as from many lay people I speak to is that the broad population is getting heartily sick of these small minorities who claim to know the mind of God better than anybody else on this planet. We are sick of the way the entire institution has been taken over by this minority viewpoint (and by the corrupt mindset of some high ranking prelates — principally it seems from Italy and South America) who have turned Catholicism into a sick joke. Even the Pope himself acknowledges that the Devil is in the innermost workings of the institution. He’s not talking about friggin’ “liberals” — but notorious right wingers like Marcial Maciel Delgado. These constant games with liturgy, music, “the friggin’ rules”, the high camp costumery we see being promoted by the highest officials in the institution, have absolutely nothing to do with getting a single soul to heaven.

              Jesus Christ simply was not some “mummies boy conservative” promoting that salvation is achieved by some form of “social conformism”!

              Stone the friggin’ crows: when can the vast majority of the baptised have their Church back?

            • Gareth says:

              Thanks for bringing your sense of humour to the port table, Mr Crowe.

              Best laugh I have had for a long time.

            • Tony says:

              From ‘putting his nose into Catholic discussion forums and other people’s blogs when he is not wanted’ to ‘best laugh I have had for a long time’.

              It’s a roller-coaster of emotions at David’s table!

            • Gareth says:

              The Boss said to be NICE, so taking up the advice – I figured that is the nicest thing to be said.

              Don’t blame me for not being cordial

            • Schütz says:

              Jesus Christ simply was not some “mummies boy conservative” promoting that salvation is achieved by some form of “social conformism”!

              Quite right Brian. He was the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He was God Incarnate. He was the Anointed One who, by his resurrection, inaugurated the New Age, the End of the Exile, the New Creation. He is the Eternal Priest, the Spotless Victim, the Spouse of His Bride the Church. Before him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

              In short, you can’t use Jesus for your own pet cause. Absolutely agreed.

              small minorities who claim to know the mind of God better than anybody else on this planet. We are sick of the way the entire institution has been taken over by this minority viewpoint

              Sounds like what they said against Athanasius and Pope Julius…

            • jules says:

              Loved that!!! :)

      • Brian Coyne says:

        Yes, my apologies on the figures. I was trying to recall this set of figures published on the Catholic Australia website:


        How many priests are there in Australia?

        The number of priests in Australia in 2005 is 3126, made up of 1973 diocesan priests and 1153 priests belonging to religious orders (Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia 2005/2006, pp.586). Of the diocesan priests, the directory lists 426 as retired. (Diocesan priests belong to a locality called a diocese and are responsible to the bishop of the diocese (or archdiocese), while religious order priests belong to groups such as the Jesuits, Franciscans or Salesians and are responsible to the leaders of the order. There are about 40 orders of priests in Australia.)

        How does this number compare with the past?

        The number of priests in Australia peaked at 3895 in 1971, and was above 3800 from 1968 till the early 1980s. There has been a decline in numbers of around 20% between 1971 and 2005.

        What is the age profile of priests?

        There is no complete profile on the age of Australian priests available. A 1996 study found that the average age of diocesan priests working in parishes was 56 years. Figures published by the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia’s largest diocese in terms of number of priests, showed that the average age of diocesan priests on appointment (i.e., not including retired priests) had risen from 44 in 1977 to 60 by 2001.

        How many men are training to be priests?

        In 2005, according to the Official Catholic Directory, there were 141 young men training to be priests in Australia’s diocesan seminaries (ie, not including those training to be religious order priests). In contrast, there were 546 in 1969. By 1991, that figure had dropped to 172, and it has remained around that mark since then, although it fluctuates somewhat from year to year.

        What is the ratio of Catholics to each priest in Australia, and how does that compare with the rest of the world?

        In Australia in 2001, there were 1536 Catholics for every priest. According to the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, the number of Catholics per priest by continent in 2003 was as follows:

        * Africa 4723
        * South America 7128
        * North America 1420
        * Asia 2407
        * Europe 1386
        * Oceania 1745
        * World 2677


        • Schütz says:

          According to the latest NCP directory, the current number of men training to be priests is 217 Diocesan and 52 religious. In other words, that is up from the 1991 figure, and well and truly up from the 2005 figure, so someone is doing something somewhere right.

  3. Joshua says:

    It is nothing unusual to find Catholics, even bishops, espousing the usual list of modern moral nostrums – why, Bp Pat Power gave the priests of Hobart and their Archbishop, Adrian Doyle, a retreat this year during which he said exactly the same things in favour of gay and lesbian relationships, married and women priests, etc.

    Not a breath of criticism from Doyle.

    This is all par for the course – just as, when in Rome, Doyle, Power and the rest will not be so gauche as to seriously propose that all those things be allowed. One can imagine the amusing scene if they did so!

    Catholic dissent has a schizophrenic quality: bishops and priests will not actually do what they call for, such as marry lesbians to each other, or ordain women or married persons, because they know they would lose their appointments, status, salary, etc., pretty damn quick. They mouth support but have the luxury of not really having to implement these ideas.

    Meanwhile, confusing the laity by their preaching, they but contribute to the loss of faith and belief, by increasing the number of self-hating Catholics who see Rome as an alien bugbear. Laity draw the obvious conclusion, become indifferent, and ultimately leave the Church.

    No wonder, given such shepherds, Catholicism is on the wane in Oz.

    • Brian Coyne says:

      Catholicism is not “on the wane” in this country because of the likes of Pat Power. It is “on the wane” because of the constant bleating of the minority represented by yourself, Joshua, who haven’t let up for a single second in the last forty years. People are sick to death of this bleating and departed in unprecedented numbers from the “spiritual gruel” the likes of the small minority like yourself who have attempted to “reform the reform of Vatican II” at every single opportunity. I think it is high time you people went and formed your “smaller, purer” remnant Church with Benedict and had a jolly good party all by yourselves.

      • Joshua says:

        No, we will form it once you, dear Brian, and all your works and empty promises die off.

        • Joshua says:

          Feel free to establish your own church; as I’ve said before, you would surely fit well into Anglicanism, but, really, have the courage of your convictions, break with wicked Rome, and save Australia by giving them the real, relevant, sane church you sincerely believe in. Bring it to birth!

        • Joshua says:

          P.S. Sorry to be grumpy.

      • Joshua says:

        I have far more time for those who, sincere but (I believe) misguided, left the Church back in 1968 over Humanae vitae, than for those who spout their dissent in conventicles of the like-minded but have never acted to implement what they believe the Church really should do.

        If the Pope is wrong, so wrong, then act! Start ordaining women and marrying Adam and Steve…

        If the Pope then tries to expel you, fight back, organize, even, sadly, break with him, but establish the real, sane, relevant, modern Church you sincerely believe in.

        This was the courage of the Reformers.

      • Joshua says:

        As for spiritual gruel, it is those whose idea of spirituality is weekend workshops, coloured candles and sappy CD’s who purvey that. Compare that to the spiritual depths of the Christian tradition, as the Benedictines or Discalced Carmelites, say, continue to pass on.

        As for Vatican II, it hardly called for all the stylish moral curiosities of our age to be made official doctrine. Descrying the signs of the times does NOT mean slavishly following transient fashions. If we did that, we would end up preaching nothing, a la Bp Spong.

      • Gareth says:

        Mmm, how many vocations in line do your mates Power and Doyle have?

        Last I heard, poor young Tasmanians are leaving for other Bishops Seminaries.

        Pell, Jarrett and FSSP seem to have a good batch of young men coming along.

        You may need to re-assess just precisely what is on the wane – could be common sense if you seriously think Power is going to bring a ‘springtime’ with his imaginary spirit of
        Vatican II reforms (which no-one seems to identify just what precisely is) to the Church.

        • Schütz says:

          Yes, it does seem to me that a full seminary is a sign that the people of a diocese have confidence in their bishop. It does seem odd therefore that much of the clerical outcry seems reserved for those bishops who have done the most to achieve the turn around in vocations in Australia.

          • Tony says:

            It does seem odd therefore that much of the clerical outcry seems reserved for those bishops who have done the most to achieve the turn around in vocations in Australia.

            Are you trying to out-Gareth Gareth for sweeping generalisations, David?

            • jules says:

              Oh dear it’s the table guard! :/ or is that waiter???

            • Tony says:

              Crikey Jules, what kinds of dinner parties do you attend?

            • jules says:

              Only the good ones- where there is good service! ;) Relax Tony ,without understanding the finer nuances you can’t enjoy the humour .

            • Tony says:

              … without understanding the finer nuances you can’t enjoy the humour …

              Well! Excuuuse me!

            • Gareth says:

              Seminary numbers across Australia tell the truth Tony.

              Pell, Hart, Hickey, Jarratt, Wagga Wagga, MGL, FSSP, Dominicans are getting results.

              Queensland, Canberra, Liberal religious orders, South Australia lagging behind.

              Tasmania is half-dead.

              No sweeping generalisation about that.

              Will the acatholics admit that George Pell has been instrumential in this or will they hide from the truth?

    • Gareth says:

      I wonder if Father Quinn was there (if he wasnt absent saying the funerals for all the lazy priests) what he made of that mad Power fellow??

      I suppose he is an improvement on Sister Cotton.

      Probably went to his cell in disgust and prayed 150 Haily Mary’s whilst all the other Tasmanian clergy went off to lawn bowls and reminsce about how they managed to talk old Guilly Young into allowing them to play a round of golf one day a week during the 1970s and wonder why more Tasmanian men dont take up the good fight.

    • adam says:

      Wow, a Catholic bishop supporting gay and lesbian relationships! Am I hearing correctly? And what type of relationship are we speaking of? sexual, platonic or romantic or all together? And does this cover priests as well as seems to be happening in parts of the planet especially amongst so many English Anglican priests who seem to think it’s fine.
      I would be amazed a bishop in Australia could even come close to that support, differentiating from supporting any gay person in their faith.
      Also, to go on and on about women priests seems futile. The Church is NEVER, yes NEVER going down that cul de sac of stupidity and erroneous theological clap trap. The Orthodox Church, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism DO NOT HAVE WOMEN LEADERS OR PRIESTS in their communities. The Catholic Church will always be the same…and bravo for that theological line that has Gospel credence.

  4. Joshua says:

    There is a curiously self-defeating quality to Catholic dissent. Unlike the fruitfulness, humanly speaking, of Luther and the Reformers then and ever since, who bravely put into practice their different ideas and had perforce to break with Rome when they were rebuffed, setting up ecclesial communities that have endured, internal Catholic dissenters are sterile and barren, a form, even, of spiritual contraception and abortion.

    It is instructive to find their hatred extending to precisely faithful practising Catholics. The NCCP would certainly not like the ACC, and would much prefer that “conservatives” not be ordained. Yet in the end, Catholic dissenters are nihilists, frustrated because their cause never gets implement nor ever bears fruit.

  5. Joshua says:

    Perhaps the affective sterility of celibacy as lived by liberal dissenters is behind the way their schemes never bear fruit? Celibacy can be a positive, spiritually speaking, but borne as an imposed alien obligation it is perceived as exclusively negative.

  6. Joshua says:

    Why has not the Post-conciliar period not spawned offshoot denominations? Historically, there is usually turmoil after Councils, yes; but the only serious “schism” was actually that of the SSPX, which numerically speaking is very small compared to the wider Church. Perhaps only those on the extreme right take such issues seriously enough – on the left, the progressives slide into indifference and atheism.

  7. Joshua says:

    There is a so-called Liberal Catholic Church, isn’t there? From what I know, all such bodies are very small and tend to be considered a bit silly.

  8. Paul G says:

    I hope I am not being petty in the following comments, though I can’t guarantee it…..
    I attended 2 functions in the last fortnight, a dinner organised by “Catalyst for renewal” addressed by Fr Cozzens
    and a short conference on Abrahamic faiths

    The Catalyst dinner was attended by the usual suspects (G Doogue, Bp Robinson, S Crittendon ) and there was an atmosphere of daring rebelliousness in the room. This was defused a little by a letter of good wishes from Cardinal Pell that was read at the beginning.
    I must admit that I couldn’t see much rebelliousness in the content of what Fr Cozzens or others had to say, with the exception of the subject of the ordination of women. Perhaps they were being so subtle that it went over my head, not such a hard thing to do.
    On the subject of ageism, I could see only one priest who looked younger than 50, and in the room of about 300 lay people, I would guess that 80% were eligible for the pension. Make of that what you will.

    The demographic at the Abrahamic conference was much younger, and I found it very interesting and the round table discussion at my table of assorted Jewish, Christian and Muslim people was a lot of fun. We didn’t solve any problems, but there was a lot of bonding going on. As far as I could see, similar discussions were going on among the other 300 people in the room. If there is a 9th Conference, I will make every effort to be there.

    • Schütz says:

      I am glad you got to go to the Abraham Conference, Paul. Many of my friends would have been there, on all sides of the table. I hear that Prof. Neil Ormerod was speaker for the Christians – he is always good value. And the Jewish and Muslim speakers were also good men. Interfaith dialogue can be fun, can’t it?

  9. Matthias says:

    Yes Schutz i would say interfaith dialogue would be fun ,but perhaps not as exciting as seeing Joshua and Brian and eveyrone here verbally discuss their differences over a glass of port-or two or htree,fived orsh sixth.
    Yes we can argue and argue and argue-but does that extend the cause of Christ. if anything it is He we all need to get back to. People -Coynists and Joshuas’ all have the Church’s best interest at heart,and if they are trusting in Christ there needs to be a practising of the purity of Christian love and purity of doctrine.

  10. There is another interesting article about this in the current issue of Into the Deep. See http://www.stoneswillshout.com August issue, page 7.

    • Schütz says:

      Thanks, Janet, and welcome to the Commentator’s table! (Someone pass Janet the port, please?)

      Interesting that the writer in that article reacted to Noel Debien’s reports in exactly the way I did. Thanks to the other opinions on this page, I am willing now to entertain the idea that Noel’s reports may have distorted the overall picture of the gathering of the NCP in July.

      Also, I note in this edition of “Into the Deept” the glowing approval that Bishop Prowse is receiving from his people in Sale. You have a fine bishop there! We pray for him and for the Church in Sale.

  11. William Tighe says:

    A few days ago, on this thread, I was attacked for “promoting schism:”


    but I have not been moved to “repentance” by those strictures; and now, reading this article and thread about such a hellish gathering of errorist Catholics I am moved to add — may there be schism, and may it be soon!

    • Brian Coyne says:

      Dear William, I fear that your wish will be granted. I sense that is going to be the lasting legacy of the pontificate of one Benedict Ratzinger — the “smaller, purer Church of all the answers” vs all the rest of the baptised. I don’t expect it will happen overnight but give it a few more generations and that’ll be the result. The fascinating question today is what “all the rest” end up doing? My own sense is that when the remnant are being frog-marched into Hades for the great stewardship of Catholicism they’ll still be bleating “we were the only one’s who knew your mind, Oh Lord. Thank you for leading us into heaven for our faithfulness and obedience to you!”

      It becomes more laughable by the minute where this tiny minority who are so certain they have all the answers have led the institution. Do they ever stand outside their own insecurities and ever look at this whole canvas from the sort of perspective God might have?

      • Schütz says:

        I am sorry, Brian, but you know this is just a “parody”. You and I (and everyone else for that matter) are all governed in our understanding of the past and the present and our expectations of the future by various controlling narratives. It is vitally important that we correctly identify and honestly analyse these narratives. It doesn’t help when we knowingly parody one another’s narratives. It helps if we actually honestly attempt to understand eachother’s narrative.

        • Brian Coyne says:

          I think the “narrative” of the 86% has been parodied for a long, long time, David. People are sick to the back teeth of it. So, it seems, are the majority of priests. You have wandered into this Church like a lot of more recent converts seemingly attracted to what excites the remnant sector in our midst and I have a real sense of anger at the way you seem to dictate to us what Catholicism is. Yes, despite your banner at the top of the website, I think you do dictate what you would like to see imposed.

          On the other side I honestly don’t see anyone objecting to the Latin Mass people celebrating the Mass in Latin, or people with particular devotional styles being free to practice them, or people with particular ways of thinking their spirituality through being free to think in the ways they do. It’s the same as respecting how the Melkites, Ukrainians, Chaldeans and Ambrosian Catholics approach their faith and ways of worshipping. The objection is to this tiny minority who want to dictate to everyone that THIS is the style of music you HAVE to use, THIS is the liturgical language you HAVE to usE, THIS is the way you HAVE to interpret all the laws and commandments of God. People are simply sick to the death of it.

          The bishops of the world assembled at the Second Vatican Council. They weren’t some “pack of radicals”. If anything they were largely very conservative men as that had been the culture of the institution for centuries. Those men, through the grace of the Spirit, discerned a new direction. For those of us active in the Church at the time of the Council and immediately after this unleashed massive excitement right around the world. It was a genuine work of the Spirit. But a small minority never, ever accepted that. The historical evidence is now overwhelming about that right up to and including the present Pope. He is the one who “changed his colours” and today he “has the power”. People are not dumb and stupid. They can see how the Council, and the Church has been stolen from them. That’s WHY the vast majority have vamoosed out the door. They can see those in power today are simply not the slightest bit interested in addressing their needs, or even in speaking their language. Just look at who Rome has endeavoured to impose on us as a leader of the Church in this country. As Peregrinus observes he isn’t exactly enthused over by the broad masses of the faithful or even the broad body of the priests in this country. That appointment paid absolutely no regard whatsoever to the culture of Catholicism that had developed in Australia with two very different styles in Melbourne and Sydney and it flew in the face of the earlier decision of the Vatican to support the Sydney bishops against the culture that Melbourne endeavoured to impose on this country. The people don’t like it.

          The sense I pick up is that, as in secular culture and all the attention we pay to heritage issues today, ordinary Catholics and Christians do want to respect their heritage — the liturgical styles and costumes and architecture that worked for our forebears in a previous epoch of history. People at large do respect that “narrative”. The issue here is that the minority, whom you seem so anxious to seat yourself with, are not respective of the “narrative” or the vast majority who did have a sense that the Holy Spirit was speaking through that enormous assembly of “pretty conservative men” who assembled in Rome for the Second Vatican Council.

          • Arabella says:

            I cannot see how you can appeal to the Second Vatican Council when the documents of that council support so many of things those you admire argue against.
            I’ll give one example (I could give many more concerning the liturgy): mandatory celibacy for the ordained priesthood in the Latin church- on reading the actual documents we see that mandatory celibacy is applauded and there is no mention of this being otherwise. The council document on the life and ministry of priests recognises that mandatory celibacy is a later development in the Latin Church and goes on to say that “this holy synod again approves and confirms” this legislation “fully trusting this gift of the Spirit so fitting for the priesthood of the New Testament, freely given by the Father, provided that those who participate in the priesthood of Christ through the sacrament of Orders – and also the whole Church – humbly and fervently pray for it.”

            It seems that many at the time of the Vat. II council were more influenced by the then abundant commentary on those documents rather than the actual words of the documents themselves. Sections are often quoted outside of the context of the whole & much is conveniently left out. Are you aware of what the Council says about the retention of Latin in the Liturgy? So many bits and pieces of the document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, are quoted by ‘progressives’ but the bit about the retention of Latin is always left out. Pope Benedict is calling us to explore these documents afresh especially concerning the liturgy.

            Interestingly the converts you are so harsh about often have a better knowledge of the contents of the Council documents than do many ‘cradle Catholics’.

            [For those not familiar with the Council documents the above mention of celibacy is from Presbyterorum Ordinis, the document on ‘The Ministry and Life of Priests’, section 16.]

            • Gareth says:

              Well said Arabella,

              Like most things ‘the spirit of Vatican II’ and ‘the new direction discerned by the Bishops’ are a fixation of acatholics imagination.

              A good read of anything to with Vatican II reveals they said little or nothing that acatholics would have us to believe.

              Brian Coyne is in a warped little world. Spending too much time on the computer ranting and ranting about the 86 per cent and the remant and how Humae Vitae was wrong when it was correct and true has obviously had an effect.

            • Brian Coyne says:

              Arabella, all I can do to respond is in the form of a parable…

              Two people were travelling along a road and came to fork in the road. One chose one pathway and the other the alternative. Time will tell who chose the correct pathway.

              I sense you and I are like those two travellers. We each came to our “Gesthemane moment”. Up until that point my thinking and entire outlook was very much like yours. After much reflection I chose an alternative pathway to the one you have chosen.

              The fullness of time will reveal which of us chose the most wisely. To this point I have no reason to believe I have chosen the wrong pathway. I find nothing attractive whatsoever in the pathway you appear to have chosen. In the final analysis I honestly do not believe it leads to “salvation”. Time though will be the final arbiter to which of us has chosen most wisely.

              At this point I don’t believe there is any argument I could present which might convince you otherwise, and I have not read any arguments from yourself or others who have chosen the pathway that you have chosen that I have made the wrong choice. I honestly have a sense that there is nothing I could write that might convince you otherwise so nothing of what I write is directed at trying to convince you.

              As Tony would say: “peace to you”. I genuinely mean that. I have no beef with you, I am not trying to convince you of anything. I recognise and acknowledge that we are on different pathways and we see life and the final objective in totally different ways.

            • Schütz says:

              Well said, Brian. I agree with you. Following different “narratives” – different maps as it were – we have chosen different paths. That is a stark admission, because it speaks of a parting of the ways which I don’t think has actually happened yet. Afterall, despite all the commentators at this table opinining that “dissenters” should just “leave”, at this point in time you and I and they (for the most part) are still members of the one Catholic Church, and were we to meet at Mass, we would both go to the table of the Lord together. I actually pray that this continues to be the case, and that the divergent “paths” that we have taken may draw closer together and not further apart. We have, afterall, the same goal: communion with God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. May it ever be thus.

            • Tony says:

              Amen, David.

            • Gareth says:

              Interesting sentiment David,

              I don’t want to sound negative, but I am not sure if the fact that we all coincidently attend Mass of a Sunday means there is some sort of mysterious bond between Catholics.

              After all, Judas Iscariot sat down with the other eleven at the very first table of the Lord.

              To have, support or to live out something contradictory to Catholic faith and morals doesn’t make it any less sinful if a person happens to rocks up to church each Sunday.

              Divergent “paths” that we have taken do not mysteriously draw closer together by virtue of the fact that happen to rock up to Mass every week. People have to actively change their ways.

              The fact that I am sitting at the Lord’s table with someone that actively supports a view contrary to Catholic faith and morals means I have less respect for them, because they should know better.

              I have more respect and bond with those not at the table, because they do not know any better to begin with.

            • Tony says:

              I don’t want to sound negative …


              No comment


            • Gareth says:

              Its a pleasure sitting at the same table as you Tons.

              God works in mysterious ways and I am honoured that my purgatory is being shortened here on earth.

            • Gareth says:

              Probably the most sensible thing that Brian has written.

              Good that that we know have it from the horses’ mouth that he isn’t interested in what the everyday Australia Catholic aims for in their spiritual life.

              Although if he is not trying to convince us all of anything, I genuinely have always wondered why he enters Catholic discussion boards or blogs and repeats the same endless lines like a broken record?

              I genuinely don’t think this behaviour achieves anything and I can’t ever remember many Catholics being convinced of his arguments or change their pattern of thinking.

              Quite the opposite, such rants seem to confirm individuals in their faith and their pattern of thinking and make them stronger in identifying with the ‘camp’ they belong to.

              I am sure most people that disagree with Brian would have nothing against him either, they just wish that such opinions are put to more productive use in forums such as the acatholic site where people actually care, instead of forums where most Catholics are generally not and will never be interested.

            • Brian Coyne says:

              The statistics would seem to suggest otherwise I am afraid Gareth. Firstly, take the big statistic that around 86% of the baptised get to adulthood these days and say “bye bye” to regular participation — but they seem reluctant to give up their identification as “Catholic”. That’s where your “most” reside these days. Not on your side of the fence.

              Secondly the statistics which I have published on Catholica quite regularly show that Catholica consistently attracts a much higher readership than any of the diocesan newspapers in this country — by a massive margin. Again, is ask, where does that suggest to you the “most Catholics” reside these days?

              I do acknowledge graciously that you see to have Benedict and the hierarchical leadership on your side as well as that small core of senior bishops in this country who, with the support of the Vatican, exercise an effective power of veto over the institution in this country. They might have the numbers in controlling the institution. Who has “the keys to heaven” these days might be an entirely different question. My sense is that “the keys to heaven” rest with the discernment of the wider “body of Christ” not some minority who believe they alone are “the body of Christ”.

            • Gareth says:

              You and your stats Brian, just what on earth do you think you are achieving going on and on and on about the supposed 86 per cent every time??

              Is it meant to leads us all closer to God? Is it meant to demonstrate your charity? Is it meant to change anyone’s point of views?

              Not much evidence of any of the above…

              Because I can tell you all it serves to prove is that you sound like a ‘broken record’ who cant comprehend when to stop or the appropriate place to post such irrelevant material.

              I am not sure which part of the “I don’t agree with you, it is not the perspective of the average Catholic at all, please tell someone that cares” you don’t understand??

              Anyhow, it is almost laughable that you think it is possible to discern from people from your own viewpoint to get us into Heaven.

              I would rather discern from the humble daily Mass goer, who frequent confession, who have a substantial prayer life, who have a devotion to Our Lady and who support orthodoxy and the Church any day instead of the arrogant that reject the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception, who never put any effort into going to Confession, who mock Catholic marriage which is for forever by abusing the annulment process, who support the Greens, who sneer at Cardinal Pell for no legitimate reason and who are lukewarm about liturgical abuses.

              I think you will find those of the second mentioned are the Body of Satan, not the Body of Christ.

              No doubt you will reply to this post with your usual 86 per cent rant, well here is a stat for you from above:

              “The road to Hell is wide and MANY walk it?

              “The road to Heaven is narrow and FEW find it”.

              So I know where I want my own number to fall and where truly the formula lies.

            • Gareth says:

              Brian: Catholica consistently attracts a much higher readership than any of the diocesan newspapers in this country.

              So that is what you do when you are not posting about the 86 per cent on Catholic blogs – sitting on the computer clicking endlessly on the acatholic website in order to increase its Internet traffick to look better than the few crappy Diocesian papers.

              I can just imagine the scene now…

              Brian sitting on his computer bolstering the Internet traffick to the acatholic website with the hope that Pope Bendict may go sterile and change Humane Viate because acatholics mysteriously received a thosuand hits an hour

            • Arabella says:


              All that may be so regarding different pathways, however my point was regarding your appeal to the teachings of Vat II in support of your viewpoints.

              To quote you: “My point The bishops of the world assembled at the Second Vatican Council. …..Those men, through the grace of the Spirit, discerned a new direction.”.

              I pointed out where the teachings of the bishops of the Council, as seen in the documents of the Council, are often contrary to the causes you support. I gave the example of the strong support of the Council bishops for mandatory celibacy for the ordained in the Latin church.

              Your appeal, and that of many of your peers, to the bishops of the 2nd Vatican Council as supporting your viewpoints gives me the impression you may not know the contents of the Vat. II documents well. I believe many were mostly influenced by the hype & copious commentary surrounding the Council when it was underway (& afterwards) – which did not always accurately reflect the final decisions of the bishops.

              That’s all.

              BTW – thanks for your respectful reply to my post. It made sense but did not address the issue I raised re. your appeal to Vat II. & the actual contents of the documents from that Council which are, in many parts, not supportive of your viewpoints.

            • Gareth says:


              Haven’t you learnt that if you post an excellent reply such as your own posts totally disproving something Brian said, it will be totally ignored or he will go off on another tangent?

              It was an a great post Arabella, well researched and I totally understood the point you were trying to make that people that appeal to the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ often have no concrete examples to back their claims up and as a matter of fact the actual documents of the Council often say something completly in opposition to what they think it said.

              Brian would be even gobsmacked to learn some of the traditionalists teachings taught by his love child Good Pope John XXIII who after I personally have read many of writings as Pope was surprised to learn was probably more twice as hardcore traditional than John Paul or Benedict.

              Traditionalist should learn to quote some writings of John XXIII and claim his as their own.

            • Arabella says:


              re. – “Brian would be even gobsmacked to learn some of the traditionalists teachings taught by his love child Good Pope John XXIII”

              ‘Veterum Sapientia’ would be such a document.

              I think, too, that Blessed Pope John 23rd would be in favour of gracious manners (as a reminder to myself !).

            • Gareth says:

              Read David’s post on Pope John today.

  12. Brian Coyne says:

    Sorry to disappoint you lads who want to take us back to the Middle Ages, the “mutiny” seems to have spread to Ireland according to a news report just coming in:


    • Schütz says:

      They don’t seem to be having it all there own way though, Brian. There seems to be some unwillingness on the part of some priests they have been trying to get into their movement.

      I do not know of any time in the history of the Church when reform in the Church came through the activism of priests (unless you want to consider the 16th Century “reformation”, which ended in schism pure and simple). The 16th Century Post-Tridentine Reformation was largely led by bishops such as Charles Borromeo or Francis De Sales. But I am thinking even earlier: the 11th Century reformation was led by the German monastic abbots, who Aidan Nichols describes as “more papalist than the popes”! When these German abbots replaced the Italian aristocrats as popes, it was precisely from their position as pope that they imposed their reforms quite against the wills of the bishops and priests. Of course, they had the Holy Roman Emperor on their side which helped too!

      Unfortunately the monasteries are no longer a force in our modern Catholicism. But our Pope and our Bishops are. We have been blessed with faithful popes – all of them from John XXIII to our present Pontiff – and God seems to be answering our prayers by giving us bishops now who can actually bring in the necessary reforms. It is from these that we must expect the “reform”, the “purificanda” to take place, not from our priests.

      • William Tighe says:


        I didn’t know where to place my latest response (not so much to you, as to Mr. Coyne, my critics on the prior thread and perhaps Amanda McKenna), so I will place it here.

        The dogmatic formulations of Trent and Vatican I retain their dogmatic force; in 1994/95 WO was declared to be an impossibility (“ecclesiam … nullatenus habere facultatem” etc.), the teaching of “Castii Conubii” and “Humanae Vitae” retains its full magisterial force, so what is one to think about an “assembly of priests” (and some bishops!) many of whom seem to reject these authoritative teachings, as well as the universal teaching against sodomitic vice, and most of whom seem to think that these dogmatic teachings are alterable — other than that there is already a schism within the Church between those whom I have no hesitation in terming “Catholics,” on the one hand, and “errorists” or “deceivers,” on the other. Mr, Coyne may write “Those men, through the grace of the Spirit, discerned a new direction. For those of us active in the Church at the time of the Council and immediately after this unleashed massive excitement right around the world. It was a genuine work of the Spirit,” but I reject this utterly, and what they term “the Spirit” I term “the Zeitgeist,” and if someone wishes to term it instead “the Prince of this World,” I would have no objections, either.

        That being (as I see it) the case, I long for the day when these errors are authoritatively identified as such (insofar as this has not been done already), condemned explicitly, and their proponents, if not willing to recant them, anathematized. I care not one bit if 25%, or 50% or 75% of Catholics (at least in certain milieux) sided with the “errorists” (it would be neither the first nor the last occasion on which “they went out from us but they were not of us” was exemplified in the life of the Church), but at least the boil would be lanced, and with the “corrupted matter” drained, the ecclesiastical body could begin to recover.

        • Arabella says:

          As you say William –
          the teaching of “Castii Conubii” and “Humanae Vitae” retains its full magisterial force

          I cannot see how one can both appeal to the 2nd Vat. Council and call for a changing of the Church’s teachings on sexual matters.

          For example, regarding birth control, Vat. II clearly states that members “of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law”.
          “.. spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church’s teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel.”

          [Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, section 50]

          • Gareth says:

            Good quote Arabella.

            Clearly the real documents of the Council in the flesh reveal who truly is in line with the spirit of Vatican II and who is fairyland.

    • Louise says:

      What, precisely, is wrong with the Middle Ages?

  13. Amanda McKenna says:

    Greeting Gentlemen

    I thought I might add a word or two here given that I was actually at the National Council of Priests Convention – as their director of music.

    I can tell you that this convention was attended by priests from all around Australia and NZ.

    These are the guys who are – year in, year out – serving their parishioners and the wider community. They are the ones who up at 3am baptising babies who won’t make it. The ones who take over parishes to help those hurting communities heal after some guy has been sent to jail . They are on the front line of copping the fall-out, yet big enough men to know that it isn’t really aimed at them personally. There is a huge crisis going on in the Church and they are bearing the brunt of it. I think that may be one of the reasons we all gave Geoff Robinson that standing ovation: the man has written and spoken bravely about the truth of abuse that has been unfolding in the world, and has borne the brunt of very public criticism from various quarters for it. These men (all of us, in fact) wanted to show appreciation for the wonderful work he has done and continues to do.

    What I witnessed was a group of men who are deeply committed to bringing the Good News of the risen Christ to a hurting world. Each morning began with beautiful prayer and song, which set the tone of the day. Great connections were made among them – something I rejoiced in witnessing, knowing how very isolated most of their lives are. They weren’t doing ‘political maneuvering’ so much as simply ‘telling it like it is’ from their own experience. I see nothing wrong with that – particularly given the pressures these guys have to operate under. Together they were seeking a way forward at a very troubling time in the history of the Church.

    I don’t know why it all-of-a-sudden has become a ‘sin’ to have been around at the time of the Second Vatican Council and to have hung in there with the Church since then. Why is that?

  14. Louise says:

    Marie Antionette said nothing of historical note about cakes, I believe. Apparently it was the wife of King Louis XV (grandfather? of Louis XVI)

  15. Louise says:

    I don’t know why it all-of-a-sudden has become a ‘sin’ to have been around at the time of the Second Vatican Council and to have hung in there with the Church since then. Why is that?

    Who said it was a “sin” to have “been around” at the time of the Second Vatican Council?

    • Tony says:


      Paul G hints at it above:

      On the subject of ageism, I could see only one priest who looked younger than 50, and in the room of about 300 lay people, I would guess that 80% were eligible for the pension. Make of that what you will.

      Some people make a lot of it.

      Dissenters are often identified as ‘aging hippies’ or ‘remnants of the Spirit of VatII’ crowd. Age is often denigrated … oh, except when talking about other old guys like Popes or Cardinals!

      PS: Congrats on your new arrival!

  16. Louise says:

    They are the ones who up at 3am baptising babies who won’t make it.

    How often does this happen? Your rhetoric is looking a little overblown.

    • Gareth says:

      Many parish priests can not even spare 30 or one hour a week to take confessions, so why would they be up at 3 a.m. in the morning baptising babies??

    • Amanda McKenna says:

      ‘Overblown’ you think Louise?

      It happens far more than you think.

      I deleted about half of that paragraph containing some of the many things these men do on a weekly basis because – although everything was true – I thought it might be a bit of overkill. Your comment, however, illustrates a belief of someone who clearly knows very little about the ordinary life of a parish priest in modern day Australia.

      Aside from the many liturgies (Vigil and Sunday Masses, baptisms, weddings, funerals, school liturgies etc) these guys are also expected to (be)…

      *Project managers (if still in the building stage) and/or property managers (for parish churches and (often) schools)
      *Available at all hours for pastoral counselling
      *Attend endless meetings (pastoral council, finance committee, sacramental preparations, liturgy committee, various other parish/community meetings)
      *Hospital visits (for parishioners and others in the community who require a priest – often in the wee small hours)…

      …and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Multiply this by two or even three parishes that today’s priests are often responsible for, and you begin to see how very overworked these guys really are. And that’s just the guys who are working in metropolitan areas. The guys out in the bush….well, their problems include vast distances to travel each week…

      The point is that these guys are our parish priests and it just shatters me when I hear them being denigrated for the amazing work they do, all because they have the audacity to speak their truth.

      I heard no one talking about ‘rights’ or making ‘demands’ – they were simply expressing the realities they face day in, day out.

      • Paul G says:

        I agree completely that a conscientious priest is busy, but half of the tasks you mentioned could be done by a lay person, which I assume is the point you are making. Similarly, I think priests as constitutional lawyers, magazine publishers etc is a waste of training, skills and graces.

        Of course, for lay people to do some of these tasks, they would have to be paid, because they are beyond the skills and time of volunteers.

        (PS I am 2 years away from pension age myself, so I fitted right in at the Catalyst dinner. As Peter Costello (or someone else??) said, demography is destiny.)

      • adam says:

        Oh come off it. 3 am baptisms! when was the last time this happened for thousands of priests? And besides, a baby will still go to heaven even if unbaptised surely. God is merciful, whether he be the Christian God or Allah. All babies, especially aborted ones who do, go into the the presence of God as angels forever. True.
        Now, you seem to focus on all the things that priests supposedly DO….do do do.
        I would aks are they men of prayer? How long to they spend in prayer with the Lord each day? 5 minutes, 10, 15 an hour. Bisho Fulton Sheen spent one hour every day of his priestly life in silent adoration before the Lord. M Teresa of Calcutta, who hardly slept, would be up early in the chapel praying for over an hour BEFORE mornging mass. Now, tell me how many priests today are up at 6am praying before they celebrate Mass? Do they still prayer the Divine Office daily or has this gone out the window?
        I think many priests think they have to be busy and some are, many are not and have loads of idle time. I measure the value of any priest or bishop by his holiness in coming close to the Lord so that people can be brought to God by his words and actions.
        There is a crisis in the Church, it is one of prayer and that priests need to pray more. There would not be the scandals there are now, if priests were men of prayer and those who have been hauled out of parishes and into courts of law were indeed holy men or striving to be so. So many of them should never have survived the seminary obstacle course of 8 years and ought have been vetted well and truly. They just played the game, were ‘on the life’, went to mass, went to lectures, looked good and wore their soutanes and surplices when required and never swore. Once ordination came and they were released into parishes they were not ready at all for the journey. Many were and are lonely men, in need of support from their bishop and priests, but above all from the Lord to whom they ought have turned to in prayer for many hours each week.
        Let’s not have any drivel on busy priests and 3am baptisms. Get real and find out what your priests really do do in their lives and how they seek to come close to Jesus Christ and preach his message of the Cross and the Resurrection.

        • Amanda McKenna says:

          You don’t know many priests, do you Adam? Or maybe the ones you know are particularly lazy….I don’t know.

          What I do know is that casting aspersions on people you don’t know and creating straw men left, right and centre isn’t going to advance the discussion very much at all.

          The vast majority of priests I know (and I get around – alot) are prayerful, caring, and incredibly busy people. I count a goodly number of priests as my dear friends and know very well what they do…even at 3am (when I am often awake and happy to give them a cuppa and an ear on their way home from the hospital).

          I suggest you might like to take your own advice, Adam – go find out what your priests really do do….you might be surprised.

          • Gareth says:

            Amanda: Your comment, however, illustrates a belief of someone who clearly knows very little about the ordinary life of a parish priest in modern day Australia.

            Gareth: Get off your high horse Amanda.

            I have never met Louise in the flesh, but I am familar with many of her contacts and and have been invited to many ‘extra-curriculum’ Catholic activities personally organised by Louise in parish’s close to where I live.

            Considering this, I am confident that she knows very much about the ordinary life of a parish priest in Australia.

            In fact I know personally that she goes out of her way to be on good terms with her parish priest, who holds the same sort of notorious views that you and your acatholic friends would hold, such as denying his parish the right to the sacrament of confession.

            That’s right, there is no room for confession in new church.

            Considering your own background with the acatholic community, I would hate to know of some of the priests you might hang out with.

          • adam says:

            Well there you go again as Pres Reagan would say. You obviously did not read my comment as you fell into the trap by confirming my very point of priests being TOO BUSY. What has BEING BUSY got to do with being a priest. I have never seen any gospel reference to Jesus BEING BUSY or the apostles BEING BUSY. Monks are not busy and frankly I am very sceptical of people who say they are BUSY BUSY.
            Being busy is NOT a criterion for being a priest. In fact i would say stop and reflect.
            As for knowing what priests do etc I think I know a lot. Besides how many priests do you follow around day and night to know exactly what they DO? Do you see them at prayer, in adoration (a point I made earlier that is so convenient to avoid).
            I would just like to know if all these people, priests and laity who bitch constantly and complain about bishops etc do ACTUALLY PRAY and spend i hour before the Blessed sacrament each day.
            When was the last time you saw a priest at prayer in his church?
            Rare rare I would say.
            No, you have to go to a monastery to find such.
            No wonder our churches have become empty and cold…
            Just get back to the Cure of Ars to whom thousands flocked and came to see and hear him and go to confession to. So crucial was he that satan attacked him at night so he could not get a moment’s sleep.
            That is the priest we need today…not the so-called busy ones whom I really wonder what they are doing. Probably squabbling or playing golf…oh no, attending another seminar or conference perhaps. That’s it, go to a seminar or do more study….
            crazy and no wonder the Church needs inner renewal.

  17. Louise says:

    They weren’t doing ‘political maneuvering’ so much as simply ‘telling it like it is’ from their own experience. I see nothing wrong with that – particularly given the pressures these guys have to operate under.

    There is nothing wrong with being real about our struggles, but to say that the Church *must* change its teaching about XYZ, because I struggle with it, is not really on.

    • William Tighe says:

      Yes, it’s all very silly, Louise, and shows a startling lack of dialectical capacity in those who advance it (whether due to a native imbecility on their parts, or to the fact that, with one foot in the grave, all they can do is parrot old slogans, I cannot say).

      • Tony says:


        As if on cue William illustrates the point on ageism in his own ‘colourful’ style:

        … with one foot in the grave, all they can do is parrot old slogans ….



        … and shows a startling lack of dialectical capacity in those who advance it …

        ‘It’ being your assertion that ‘… but to say that the Church must change its teaching …’ which hasn’t been established as a fact.

        • Louise says:

          re: “the Church must change its teaching”

          That’s what such people are saying all the time, though, Tony.

          • Amanda McKenna says:

            That, however, was not the case here, Louise.

            The facts are that these guys weren’t making demands or talking about rights or any other such nonsense; they’ve got too many real concerns to be getting on with and generally don’t waste their time on things that are, for them, quite irrelevant.

            Let me be clear here – these guys were representative of parish priests you find all around the country. They do an amazing job of living out their vocations to be of service to their communities. They can see, along with anybody else with eyes in their heads, that the challenges we all face are getting more difficult while the communities they serve are dwindling away.

            They need our support, not our derision.

            • Gareth says:

              And they also need to know that certain behaviours outlined by David will not be tolerated or supported by the Catholic community.

  18. Michael Webb says:

    There need not be a parting of the was so long as we quote consistently and in context from the Second Vatican Council documents and from the interpretations of scope and prudence discoverable since the Council through the various Roman Congregations.
    If people wish to form factions centred upon unhealthy admiration or its opposite re: our bishops then may I suggest that such people go and ‘get a life’ as they say or even better gain a sense of humour and conduct their Ministry of Silly Walks outside of the Church.

  19. Joshua says:

    I still stand by my original point that Catholic dissent (so to speak) is fruitless and somewhat schizophrenic.

    Put bluntly, even if I wished they would, I know that Rome ain’t gonna change anytime soon – to imagine that the “next Pope” (or the next, or the next, or the next) is going to finally give way and say abortion, contraception, divorce, married and women priests, etc. ad nauseam are OK is just plain silly.

    This is nothing other than Joachimism redivivus – the idea of a coming Age of the Holy Spirit, to be ushered in by a Papa Angelicus (Angelic Pope), when the Gospel and Church and sacraments will be outmoded and replaced by the airy freedom of free men.

    I would have much more regard for Coyne and aCatholics if they stopped belly-aching and ACTED – raise the standard of revolt, get bishops to ordain women, thumb the nose at Rome, bring into being the new, better community they trumpet unceasingly. If in the process they get counterattacked by nasty ol’ Cardinal Pell and his henchmen, then let them in sorrow but in sincerity establish many more real communities like St Mary’s in Exile up in Brisbane.

    Time will tell if they are right – I believe they’re not, but if (as they never stop telling us) they’re the majority, then they should take over and wrest control from Rome.

    After all, this was what Luther and the other restorers of the pure Gospel did, nicht wahr?

    Where they could, they took over; where they couldn’t, they strove to establish rival structures.

    Even if I were a dissenting Catholic, I would argue that the current strategy of trying to disseminate a different message within the “official” structures is a failure, because it does not go far enough, and falls between two stools: it produces frustration and bitterness. It also confuses the message, and promotes confusion, indifference and cessation of practice.

    A brave advocate of female ordination would “just do it”, for example. Too many women who would support this just grit their teeth and remain in the Catholic Church for a long time, getting frustrated, and eventually give up on organized religion. Who’s to say, humanly speaking, that they’d not be better off going Anglican being part of a group that shared their own views more accurately?

  20. Joshua says:

    To give the obvious mirror-example: old-fashioned, traditionalist Anglicans, who cannot in conscience go along with the ordination of women, have taken one of three routes: they’ve remained behind to fight a rearguard action, with little to no success (e.g. Forward in Faith); they’ve broken away from the Anglican mainstream and joined or established a continuing jurisdiction (e.g. the Traditional Anglican Communion or one of the non-Papalist groups); or they’ve swum the Tiber (e.g. the one-third of all priests in the Archdiocese of Westminister who are ex-Anglicans, plus the T.A.C. and friends who are at present negotiating corporate reunion with Rome).

    If I were not a believer in women’s ordination, and yet I were an Anglican, it would seem fruitless for me to remain such. How could I accept the Lord’s Supper celebrated by one whom I did not believe to be a priest?

    Similarly, Catholics who in conscience reject the Church’s teaching are only making themselves frustrated and angry by remaining in an organization whose doctrines and rules they are most unlikely ever to see change. If I believed in the liceity of abortion, contraception, divorce, gay marriage, etc., and I believed that women could be ordained, etc., then I would see the Catholic Church as monstrously unchristian – and I would forthwith depart and join the Episcopalians or a like body, who would appear to me so much more palatable.

  21. Joshua says:

    Given changes such as Mass in Latin only to Mass in English, etc., the most one could hope for in the future would be a wider allowance for the ordination of married men.

    On the side of slack discipline, well, going to confession, attendance at Mass, doing Friday penance, bothering to abide by Humanæ vitæ, etc. are all now minority pursuits among nominal Catholics, but the operative word is nominal. Experience shows that the children of those half-in and half-out of communion tend to be even slacker and non-practising, and by the third generation they’re not even baptized.

    Now, Brian Coyne is quite right to be anguished by this – would that all these people loved being Catholics and lived it, rather than just becoming practical atheists indistinguishable from the mass of average folk – but his proposed cure of radically changing doctrine, discipline and governance just won’t work.

    How do I make bold to prove this? By pointing to the Anglicans, Uniting Church people, etc. – their members, despite having standards and systems much more congenial to Brian and aCatholics, are even less likely to practice or to bother darkening the church door than Catholics. Coyne’s proposed cure would only worsen the disease.

  22. Joshua says:

    Sorry, David, I’ve posted three, no, four times in succession again!

  23. Cathy says:

    David, I love your description of your blog as being like a table that we all sit around discussing the issues of the day while drinking port (actually I’d prefer a white wine, or maybe even a glass of bubbly!) I’ve been meaning to come back to the table for a while but somehow haven’t got around to it, but now Joshua has got me stirred up and I feel I must reply to him (I think I can do it all in one post too!!).

    Joshua, you keep asking why Catholic dissidents don’t try to forcibly bring about change, or else form “alternative” communities like St Mary’s, or leave altogether. Well, I certainly consider myself to be Catholic, but I am critical of the Church in a number of ways too, so here’s my response to your questions.

    Firstly, one thing I’ve learnt about life is that it’s pointless to try to fight a person or group when everything is weighted in their favour and against you. As the old song goes, “I fought the Law and the Law won!” Of course we can’t FORCE bishops to ordain women or the Pope to change the teaching on birth control or anything like that! At the same time, if we believe there is something wrong, I don’t see why we should remain quiet about it and let Church leaders (and their supporters) think that all is well at the grass-roots of the Church.

    With regard to forming “dissident” communities like St Mary’s: this community came about, of course, because a whole parish was unwilling to accept the changes being forced on it, but it would be very difficult, I imagine, to create such a community from scratch. However, there ARE any number of “alternative” Catholic communities in existence – Catholica is one! (albeit a cyber one.) There are also numerous grass-roots communities/groups which may not be overtly dissident, but where dissidents can sometimes find a spiritual home, perhaps because these groups concentrate on personal spirituality, building community and social justice work rather than on more contentious matters. I have been fortunate to find such a “home” in the Edmund Rice Associates (Blessed Edmund Rice, as you may already know, being the Founder of the Christian Brothers).

    This leads me on to the third point: why don’t we “aCatholics” simply leave? For me, at least, the main reason I stay is that I don’t equate Catholicism with the hierarchy. The Church is ALL of us: it’s you, Joshua, and other people who usually describe themselves as ” faithful to the Magisterium”; it’s people who identify deeply as being Catholic but find Church teaching just doesn’t make sense in terms of their own experience and/or their understanding of the Gospels; it’s people who practise their faith in a whole myriad of ways in almost every part of the globe; it’s my Irish ancestors, it’s the canonised saints and all those countless ordinary people who lived out their faith over the centuries.

    The word Catholic does, after all, mean “universal”! I am certainly NOT suggesting that the Church should follow an “anything goes” policy, but in between that, and taking a “you-must-obey-the-hierarchy-or-leave” stance, there’s an awfully big space. Let’s particularly not forget that God works in mysterious ways, and the Spirit will sometimes choose the most unexpected people to work through. Or are we going to insist that if God wants change in the Church, then he will just have to go through the correct channels?!

  24. William Tighe says:

    This idea of a friend of mine seems to characterize well enough the form of “Catholic dissent” that we have been seeing on this thread and elsewhere:


    “It struck me that avant garde Catholics believe in a sort of Cargo Cult. Cargo Cult followers (or some of them) believe in a John Frum who will one day come to bring them all they want. John Frum stands for John Frum [From] America (believed to be derived from American missionaries or soldiers who introduced themselves as “John from America”). Leftist Catholics like … believe in John Frum Bergamo. John Frum Bergamo (John XXIII) was prevented (they think) only by death from bringing in married priests, women priests, homosexual marriage and so on. One day (they believe) another John Frum will come to give them all these things. It never occurs to them that the John XXIII of history was a fairly conventional figure in many ways, who certainly went no further than, say, Congar or de Lubac.”

    He writes from Ireland, and, in fact, his posting was occasioned by the meeting of a “dissenters’ coven” not unlike the one that occasioned this posting and thread.

    • Brilliant! Been hearing such from them for years: ‘The next Pope will…’ Yes, such liberals believe in a far more powerful papacy than Pius IX did. The difference with Anglicans is while in Anglicanism everything is subject to change by majority vote, the Cargo Cultist Modernists believe in a sort of ultramontane caricature, a Santa Claus who can invent new doctrine with a wave of his hand and give them the liberal Protestant church they want.

      Then there was the real John XXIII, a Italian naturally traditionalist at heart. The real J23: ‘Step up the teaching and use of Latin in seminaries. Religious orders, don’t ordain homosexuals.’ Oh, and he believed real Roman Catholic doctrine about papal power: ‘I can’t change that. I’m only the Pope.’ (Actual quote from Pius IX.)

      John Frum Bergamo is as real as the Easter Bunny.

    • Schütz says:

      Classic, William! Have to remember that one…

      You are quite right about John XXIII, of course. I have to post something on that…

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