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?