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Monday, November 21, 2011



Reform group urges ‘holy disobedience’

Saturday, November 19, 2011

AN organisation of Catholics opposed to the direction of the Church under Pope Benedict XVI has called on other followers to engage in a campaign of "holy disobedience".

The group We Are Church is formally re-launching after 14 years in existence. It expressed deep concern about the intransigence of the Pope in addressing the need for major reform in the Church.

It claimed the forced imposition of the new Roman missal, in the face of strong reservations from groups like the Association of Catholic Priests, was further evidence of such intransigence.

The organisation said the Pope’s views were in direct conflict with the vast majority of Catholics and it was Pope Benedict who was "out of step".

We Are Church said it had five main objectives to reform, including the ordination of women priests, the removal of the vow of celibacy and the establishment of an inclusive Church which would welcome gay and lesbian followers and divorcees.

Spokesman Brendan Butler said its sister organisations in Germany and Austria were already proving themselves as a force for change in the Church.

We Are Church, established in Austria in 1995, set up its Irish branch in 1997 and has about 100 members.

Mr Butler claimed the Vatican’s attempt to suppress legitimate discussion was "reprehensible" and should not be tolerated.

"The enforced silence, especially of theologians, is a punishment more associated with authoritarian governments than with a Church committed to the Gospel," he said.

Mr Butler condemned Church leaders for merging parishes due to the shortage of priests rather than open up ministry to women and married priests. "It seems the Church authorities would prefer parishes to die," he said.

The group claimed the refusal by the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, last year to allow women to become deacons was another example of the Church’s "misogynistic attitude".

Mr Butler said bishops had an "endemic paralytic fear" of facing the current crisis in the Church because of the absolute obedience demanded by Pope Benedict.

Mr Butler said the group had not formed any view on withholding donations to the Church or the recent decision to close the Irish embassy to the Vatican.

The group will hold an advent assembly in the Tara Towers Hotel, Booterstown, Co Dublin on Sunday, November 27 at 3.15pm.

Catholic reform movement issues 'call for holy disobedience'

Saturday, November 19th, 2011
On Friday, the Irish branch of the international Catholic reform movement, We Are Church, launched a grassroots campaign for Church reform with a ‘Call for Holy Disobedience’.

At a press conference in Dublin, We Are Church Ireland (WACI) spokesman, Brendan Butler, said the group’s five reform aims include the removal of compulsory clerical celibacy; full participation of women in all aspects of church life, including priesthood; and the building of a more inclusive Church that would welcome gay Catholics and those in second relationships.

Calling on all committed Catholics to join the group in exercising ‘holy disobedience’, Brendan Butler said, “We will not be cowed down by threats of excommunication.”  Phil Cullen told ciNews that the members are “not dissidents and will not be pushed out of the Church.”

WACI will hold its first public event, an Advent Assembly, on Sunday November 27.  The “inclusive liturgy” will, according to Butler, “be an expression of the five aims, in the same way as the Austrian priests will use every occasion to promote their disobedience.”

However, he underlined that it would not be a Eucharist.

It coincides with the official introduction of the new translation of the missal, a move WACI described as a, “forced imposition,” and, “another example of how the Vatican operates as an ivory towered centralised authority.”

Brendan Butler told ciNews that the group, which has 125 members and was established following last February’s anniversary conference of Pobal Dé, said they rejected the new translation’s use of “sexist, archaic and irrelevant language” and added that the Advent Assembly would not use such language.

Though WACI is a lay group with some members drawn from other groups including Pobal Dé, Voice of the Faithful, BASIC and Leven, there are already a number of priests and at least five or six nuns who are also members and who support the group’s five aims.

Describing the Church in Ireland as, “in a state of crisis,” Brendan Butler said Irish Catholics are appalled at the recent clerical sex abuse scandals and especially by the cover-ups by bishops and senior clergy.  “We despair of any meaningful reform coming from the hierarchy in Ireland or the Vatican,” he continued and added that it was time for lay Catholics to organise themselves and demand the necessary structural changes to save the Church “from a slow death.”

Bishops and theologians, he claimed, are operating in a culture of, “endemic paralytic fear,” and, “absolute obedience to the Pope and even papal opinions.”

“This absolute obedience is not to God but to the preservation of an institution.”
The WACI spokesman accused the Church leadership of abusing the vow of obedience “in a tyrannical manner to suppress legitimate discussion” with priests and religious fearfully of being silenced or excommunicated.  He added, “We have seen our national Bishops’ Conference insulted by Rome over their opposition to the forced imposition of the new missal.”

Referring to the vocations crisis in the Church, WACI said the Church authorities’ response, especially to the shortage of priests, was to, “limit the celebration of the Eucharist by combining parishes, thereby refusing to see it as one of the signs of the times and an opportunity provided by the Spirit of God to encourage women to the priesthood,” and tap into the, “reservoir of priests who have left the priesthood and subsequently married.”
Referring to retired bishop of Derry’s Dr Edward Daly’s call for an end to compulsory clerical celibacy in his autobiography, Brendan Butler said, “There are obviously a lot of people in the church, ordained and not ordained, who back this but are so afraid to say it.”
“It is a justifiable fear because look at what happened to the Bishop of Toowoomba and one theologian here whom I can’t name – he has been silenced in a most terrible way.  Sisters and priests have lacked a support structure up to now.  If anything happens to any of our sisters who are members of our group, we will certainly take a very active protest on that,” he warned.
We Are Church began in Austria in 1995 and with the establishment of the International Movement of We Are Church in Rome 1996, the campaign subsequently spread throughout Europe, the US, Latin America, Africa and Australia.

We Are Church Ireland was set up in 1997 when a national core group was formed and this group has stayed active over the intervening years.

WACI is committed to the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church on the basis of the Second Vatican Council.  Members are seeking to bring about informed dialogue among the people of God on their five objectives:
  1. Equality of all the baptised where decision making is actively shared by all, with appropriate structures for this;
  2. Full participation of women in all aspects of church life, including priesthood;
  3. Recognition of the primacy of an informed conscience;
  4. Removal of the obligation of clerical celibacy and a positive attitude towards sexuality;
  5. An inclusive Church, open and welcoming to all, which does not marginalise people who are divorced, in second relationships or gay.
by Sarah Mac Donald

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