“The CDF is doing great harm to the Church”

It is now over five years since the Vatican first got their claws into me. Most of the time I believe I have moved on, that my life has been interesting for those years, that I have moved into a different world, got to know many interesting people. But once in a while a wave of anger comes over me. I know that anger, if it gets a grip on a person, is destructive, so I usually manage to let it go. The anger is never to do with me being censored or forbidden to exercise my ministry as a priest. It always has to do with the unjust procedures of the Vatican, and the fact that no Church authority, bishop or religious superior, is willing to highlight this publicly.
Every now and again I find it helpful to write a little about it. So here goes.

A Synod of Bishops has been recognised, since the early Church, as one of the main sources of wisdom and authority for the Church. In the last couple of centuries Synod have been neglected, as more and more emphasis was put on the authority of the pope. But the Vatican Council, in the middle of the last century, reinstated Synods of Bishops. Unfortunately, while they were held occasionally during the papacy of John Paul and Benedict, they were so tightly controlled that they became meaningless. As we know, Francis is trying hard to put them back into a central place in the life of the Church.
But there was a good one held a few years after the Council, in 1971. It produced an excellent document on Justice in the World. I quote below from this document, written forty six years ago:

“While the Church is bound to give witness to justice, she recognizes that anyone who ventures to speak to people about justice must first be just in their eyes. Hence we must undertake an examination of the modes of acting and of the possessions and life style found within the Church herself. Within the Church rights must be preserved. No one should be deprived of his ordinary rights because he is associated with the Church in one way or another.
We urge that women should have their own share of responsibility and participation in the community life of society and likewise of the Church. We propose that this matter be subjected to a serious study employing adequate means: for instance, a mixed commission of men and women, religious and lay people, of differing situations and competence.
The Church recognizes everyone’s right to suitable freedom of expression and thought. This includes the right of everyone to be heard in a spirit of dialogue which preserves a legitimate diversity within the Church.
The form of judicial procedure should give the accused the right to know his accusers and also the right to a proper defense. To be complete, justice should include speed in its procedure

In other words, as the last piece that I have highlighted shows, it is official Church teaching that everyone has a right to freedom of expression and thought, and a right to be heard. An accused person should know his accusers, and have the opportunity to defend him/herself. And justice should be done speedily. In all these ways, in my dealings with the Vatican, they have blatantly violated their own teaching.
Of course this 1971 teaching was not knew. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 said much the same thing:

He who is the object of an enquiry should be present at the process, and, unless absent through contumacy, should have the various headings of the enquiry explained to him, so as to allow him the possibility of defending himself. As well, he is to be informed not only of what the various witnesses have accused him of, but also of the names of those witnesses. (Fourth Lateran Council, 1215)

Like most others in my situation, I still do not know who my accuser was, even though I understand it was someone in a high position in the Irish Church.

My experience and contact during these recent years have taught me that I am by no means the only one who has suffered in this way at the hands of the Church, there are, and have been in the past, countless others.
The Marist priest and theologian,Sean Fagan, who died last July, was a person who suffered greatly at the hands of the Vatican. The quote below is from an address he gave to Catholics for a Changing Church in 2009. Because of the pressure he was under, he requested that it would not be published until after his death. I read it in the latest issue of their magazine RENEW.

“The Vatican ignores basic human rights in its procedures; the right to be heard, the right to know your accusers, the right not to have the same individuals as prosecutor and judge. Those accused are never addressed personally, but only through their superiors, who can command them to silence. The CDF is doing great harm to the Church.”

The main impact of all of this for me is that I have very little respect for the Vatican establishment any more. I do know Francis is trying to change things,and I hope he will have some success, though clearly the opposition is strong. Unless there is real change in the Vatican, and particularly in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it is hard to see the Catholic Church regaining any of the credibility it has lost in the last twenty of thirty years. Sean Fagan was right. The CDF is doing great harm to the Church

I am further disillusioned by the fact that bishops and religious superiors, including my own, are unwilling to stand up and name this blatant and damaging behaviour of the Vatican. What price staying silent?