Resignation from the priestly ministry
In the course of my priestly ministry I began to clash with the authorities in Rome, both regarding theology and the pastoral ministry.
When Rome stated that anyone defending the ordination of women “is no longer is full communion with the Church” I had to resign from my priestly ministry.
It showed itself first when Pope Paul VI forbade the use of any contraceptives through his encyclical Humanae Vitae. I was at the time in India where one third of the population lived below the poverty line: earning less than one Rupee a day! I was one of the theologians to express strong public disagreement with the Pope, as can be seen from these excerpts of articles I wrote for the Indian New Leader in 1972 and 1973.
Also related to marriage: I pointed out that the Church has the necessary authority from Christ to decide questions of divorce and re-marriage in ways more sensitive to today’s world. Read: “Do Jesus’ Words on Divorce (Lk 16:18) Admit of No exception?” in the theological magazine Jeevadhara vol 4 (1975) pp. 399-411.
I took an active part in the Indianization of the Eucharist which made good progress in India after Vatican II. I myself used to say Mass in the Indian style (cross-legged sitting on the floor, using Indian gestures and wearing a saffron shawl), both in the parish where I assisted on Sundays and for groups of students in the Major Seminary. I was an advisor of the National Liturgical Committee and knew how responsibly all new adaptations were being thought out and prepared. Like many others in India, I was therefore aghast when, in 1975, Rome suddenly forbade two important new steps: the reading of Indian spiritual texts during Mass and the use of the carefully crafted Indian Eucharistic Prayer. I protested against this in “Authentic Christian Worship in India. A Search and a Struggle”, The Outlook vol 15 (1977) pp. 134-138.
As a Dutchman I also watched with anger and disbelief how Rome broke down the Church in the Netherlands. No other part of the Catholic Church had so enthusiastically responded to Vatican II. The Pastoral Congress established by the Dutch bishops rallied everyone. Religious congregations and Catholic organizations published serious studies. Fifteen thousand discussion groups (!), recruited from Holland’s 1800 parishes, met regularly and an additional 4500 workshops collated written interventions sent in to diocesan “mail boxes”. Media coverage, even in the secular press, was comprehensive and sustained. Rome’s reaction was to clip the Pastoral Congress’s powers, attack leading theologians, appoint conservative bishops and side-track Cardinal Alfrink, who was refused an audience with the Pope for two years! Read my “Towards an Adult Faith” and “That Dutch Church” in the Tablet vol 234 (1980) pp. 7-10 and vol 238 (1984) pp. 181-183.
As Vicar General of the Mill Hill Missionaries I encountered the problem of priestly celibacy among the membership. In many individual cases I witnessed the ruination of perfectly valid priestly lives on account of Rome’s intransigent policies. I expressed this view in the Catholic Herald in 1987.
In preparation for an All India Seminar on the new ministries called for in Vatican II, I started my research on the involvement of women. This was in 1975/1976. I was surprised to find that there are no valid objections in Sacred Scripture or Tradition to the priestly ordination of women. The results of my study were published as “The Ministry of Women and Social Myth” in New Ministries in India, ed. D.S.Amalorpavadass, Bangalore 1977.
When the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith promulgated its reasons for rejecting women from the priesthood in 1976, I published a rebuttal of its arguments in Did Christ Rule Out Women Priests? The booklet, which carried the Imprimatur, was reprinted in a number of languages and countries, the last enlarged UK edition appearing in 1986. It was also made available on the Internet (http://www.iol.ie/~duacon/wompr.asp). I am a member of various organisations which promote Catholic Women’s Ordination: CWO (Catholic Women’s Ordination), St. Joan’s International Alliance and the Canon 1024 Mailing List. I have continued writing on the question, in spite of Rome’s attempt to suppress theological research or pastoral discussion (see my article “Thérèse and the Question of the Ordination of Women” in Mount Carmel (November 1997) and The Catholic Citizen (March 1998).
Recently, John Paul II wrote an apostolic letter which stated that the question of the priestly ordination of women is no longer open to debate (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 22 May 1994). When Rome, in 1998, declared that those defending the ordination of women were not “in full communion with the Church”, I came into an acute conflict of conscience. My resignation from the active priestly ministry was unavoidable. See my press statement of 17 September 1998.
I have tried to explain my reasons for this in a personal report to my close circle of friends. In the course of the avalanche of correspondence that followed, I compiled a list of answers to frequently asked questions.
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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.
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