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documenting the abuse of authority in the Catholic Church


Misuse of authority by the Vatican


The Pope and his Vatican staff indiscriminately usurp all power in the Church

The Pope plays a central role in the Church. He has genuine authority in guiding the People of God.

However, the present Vatican administration has assumed an almost complete monopoly on key decision making in all vital areas of Church life, as if genuine authority does not rest with others too.

Example: the history of Humanae Vitae

On 25 July 1968 Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical 'Humanae Vitae' [Latin for Human Life] on "the Regulation of Birth". The encyclical restated traditional principles and, among other things, declared that the use of contraceptives was wrong in all circumstances and could never be justified 'because it goes counter to natural law'. It has caused immense confusion, opposition, intense suffering and alienation in the Catholic community.

The following TV presentation by Edward Stourton on the BBC documents the history of the encyclical: a mixture of commitment to key morality and of distrust of professional experts whether clerical or lay. Instead of real consultation, a group of Vatican traditionalists manipulated the process so that their own hard-line views came to be imposed on the faithful.

We owe this online presentation to the excellent Australian Catholica website (www.catholica.com.au) and we will be streaming the video from their website.
Click on the following image and click again when the opening page appears!

Next week Bad faith, muddle-headedness and mistiming

Online documentation

Books about this in print or online

  • Bernard Hoose (ed.), Authority in the Roman Catholic Church. Theory & Practice, Ashgate 2002.

For a vision of how the Church structures could work in the future have a look at the website "Church Authority"

Changes and Mistakes made by Popes in the Past

There has been a long history of popes making claims that have since been overruled.

Online documentation

  • Mistakes by the Teaching Authority in Rome - a short list of examples.
  • The Errors of Pope Pius IX, including his condemnation of the right to freedom of conscience, which echoes a pronouncement by his predeccessor, Gregory XVI. Later Church pronouncements correcting his views are given alongside the examples that are highlighted.
  • Shedding Light on Church Teachings. A report on a conversation with Bishop Raymond A. Lucker in which he categorises levels of teaching authority and lists subjects on which the views of the church have changed
    One of the best examples is Biblical criticism. The church once taught that you couldn’t read Scripture in the light of its historical and cultural context. Well, we suffered under that for at least 75 years until Pius XII issued his famous encyclical on biblical studies and opened up the Scriptures to modern scholarship.
  • Council of Constance 1414-1418, in the face of the scandal of three men all claiming to be the one true pope, needed to establish the authority of ecumenical Councils.

Books about this in print

  • Rome has Spoken. A Guide to Forgotten Papal Statements, and How They Have Changed through the Centuries, ed. Maureen Fiedler and Linda Rabben, Crossroad publ., 1998.



For a new vision, see: Authority in the Catholic Church

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

You are welcome to use our material. However: maintaining this site costs money. We are a Charity and work mainly with volunteers, but we find it difficult to pay our overheads.

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