Catholic Arena –
In recent months, we have heard of how Traditionalists who have faithfully and lovingly crafted a renewal of devotion to the Latin Mass deserved to be punished with the Motu Proprio Traditionis custodes on account of a number of individuals online who have been perceived as disparaging towards the hierarchy.
This collective accountability does not seem to apply to the more liberal wing of the church however, even as a group of priests linked to the Irish government compared their own church (not just the leadership) to a terrorist group known for beating women, keeping them as sex slaves and for stoning them to death.
The Association of Catholic Priests, which has maintained its strong middle to upper class links to the ruling Fine Gael party even through a decade of cruel austerity against ordinary people, has long been a gauche extension of the establishment. Its relationship to the establishment is best understood as similar to the hierarchical clerical class pre French Revolution, they claim to speak for the people, but they are not of the people.
Now, on the same week that Pope Francis opened the Synod in Rome, one of their members has compared the church to the Taliban, the same group known for keeping young girls as sex slaves, executing its enemies and for persecuting Christians.
Father Roy Donovan told the Irish media:
“The Church is Taliban-like because women are not involved in leadership or governance or decision-making. To all purposes they are excluded from public forums in the Church.”
The head of the Irish Synod is a woman, Nicola Brady. Four of the last six Doctors of the Church have been women. The most watched Catholic media outlet in the world, EWTN, was founded by a woman. Take any nation in Europe, France, Germany, Ireland…figures such as St. Joan of Arc, St. Bernadette, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Brigid, Edel Quinn have never been excluded and in fact are exalted in name, word and deed above most, if not all, Catholic men in the histories of those nations. In any parish in Ireland, women form the parish councils, read at Mass and run the majority of lay groups. In short, Father Donovan was playing to the gallery of the Irish media.
This tired routine towards the secular society is merely the perspective of a material world rather than a spiritual one, to them the church is an office rather than a Mystical Body, Christ’s talk to make oneself a servant of all and to humble one’s self is an affront to worldly ambitions of rank and power. This standard is not equally applied to other institutions. Does it matter that there have been no female leaders of Fine Gael? No female hosts of the Late Late Show? No female heads of the Freemasons? Of course not, because there is the implicit acquiescence to those temporal powers which do not seem the soft touch that the church does.
This rhetoric quickly turns into (mostly older) priests performing the role of court jester to the adoring forces of anti Catholicism, a legacy of West Briton self loathing that perpetuates itself in the Anglified legacy media outlets. Unlike jesters however, most of the rhetoric is more often venomous, bitter and regretful rather than humorous.
Take for example, the de facto head of the liberal wing of the Irish church, former Irish President Mary McAleese.
McAleese, who welcomed Queen Elizabeth with open arms during a visit in 2011 and who also once proudly received Communion in a Protestant church, has been a source of constant negativity in her public pronouncements about the church (she rarely speaks on faith as such, rather just on the organisational institution). She recently criticised Pope Francis for being a ‘very disorganised pope’. Her criticisms have gone further than that, even claiming that Francis is a ‘populist’. She has also said:
I really feel that we have to persuade the current leadership [in the church] that they must cede power in order to survive.
This is the crux of the issue, McAleese and the ACP are the ones in power in the church in Ireland in terms of public debate. Despite being vastly out of touch with ordinary people and heavily connected to authority structures that have been at war with ordinary people since the bank bailout, they still maintain the façade that they are speaking on behalf of the underdog, indeed they sincerely believe that they themselves are underdogs.
Such a delusional pessimism laced with ad hominem attacks that compare the church to the Taliban must not be allowed to be included in the Synodal process in Ireland. Most Irish Catholics are polite, kind and open minded. This rigid attachment to the stale religious environment of the 1970s and 1980s and the elitist political environment of the 2010s is something that cannot be allowed to hinder the enthusiasm with which many faithful Catholics wish to engage in the process of the next couple of years. If the apparent aggression of Trads warranted a Motu Proprio, then surely, at the very least, this type of rhetoric must warrant exclusion from the more formal aspects of the Synod.
Imagine how young people feel seeing such negativity dominating headlines surrounding the upcoming Synod, the despair and lack of charity on show is not only setting a bad example but intimidating many from being willing to raise their voices, even though they will inherit the church left behind by this Synod and those rooted in the malaise of the 1970s and 1980s.
Catholics of good will must unite in the upcoming Synod, be they of a more traditional slant or of a more progressive one, what should not be tolerated by the bishops or by those involved in the committee process is comparing one another to terror groups or criticising Pope Francis as both the ACP and McAleese have done.
If the Synodal Committee tolerates this behaviour, in a top down dictatorial fashion from these privileged establishment figures, then the process will be undermined beyond repair. It will be similar to the so called Citizen’s Assembly of the ACP’s friends in Fine Gael, a hand picked faux discussion where those with the most power pursue a preconceived consensus. This is not what Synodality is.
You can listen to Father Roy Donovan’s shocking interview with Irish government media arm RTE here: Catholic Arena