There has been some confusion as to whither or not all sanctions were lifted from Sean Fagan before he died. The Irish Times has twice reported that they have, and the Tablet has now published the same ‘fact’.
But unfortunately it is not true. All that was lifted was one part of the sanctions; the others remained in place. So, to say that his good name was fully restored by Pope Francis is, I’m afraid, not correct.
Below is a copy of the actual situation, as written by Justine McCarthy in the Sunday Times Of April 27th, 2014:
THE VATICAN has withdrawn its threat to defrock an 86-year-old Irish priest if he spoke publicly about a church order forbidding him to express his opinions in public.
Fr Seán Fagan, a Marist theologian and author, was informed in 2010 that he was no longer allowed to write books or articles deemed contrary to church teaching. He was warned he would be “stripped of priestly faculties” if he talked to the media about the gagging order.
Fr John Hannan, the Irish-born superior-general of the Marists worldwide, said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in the Vatican decided “several months” ago to withdraw the threat to laicise Fagan.
Hannan said the decision was prompted by Fagan’s “demonstrable love for the church despite its weaknesses”, his compliance with the CDF’s sanctions since 2010, and out of compassion “in his advancing years”.
Hannan said he informed Fagan in writing of the CDF’s decision and that the wider Marist community has been informed.
The order forbidding Fagan to write for publication has not been revoked. A denunciation of his book, What Happened to Sin?, is still on the Marists’ website, warning that its contents “do not have the approval of or represent the [order’s] views”. The book is not available to buy in shops.
Hannan said he pleaded Fagan’s case with the CDF, after taking advice.
“The restrictions remain in force,” he said. “More importantly, the threat of further sanctions has been removed.”
After What Happened to Sin? was published by Columba Press in 2008, Fagan wrote a letter to The Irish Times advocating the ordination of women and married men. Subsequently, all unsold copies of the book were bought up by the Marist order.
In April 2012, The Sunday Times reported the silencing of Fagan, after he confided in friends. News that the CDF has lifted the laicisation threat was conveyed to his friends by Timothy Radcliffe, an English Dominican friar they had asked to intercede on his behalf. The friends also approached Diarmuid Martin, Dublin’s archbishop, Charles Browne, the papal nuncio, and Mary McAleese, the former Irish president now studying canon law in Rome.
A former secretary-general of the Marists in Rome, Fagan is partially blind and suffers chronic ill-health. He is one of five Irish priests who were silenced during Pope Benedict’s tenure. They are accused of disobedience for advocating liberal views on such issues as married priests, homosexuality and women’s ordination.
Other silenced priests are Fr Tony Flannery, a Redemptorist; Fr Brian D’Arcy, a Passionist; Fr Owen O’Sullivan, a Capuchin; Fr Gerard Moloney, also a Redemptorist.