The Duty of Speaking Out
Because of the special situation that now pertains in the Church, bishops, priests, religious, theologians and lay leaders have a duty to speak out against what they know to be wrong in the Church’s present official teaching and practice.
Speaking out — making one’s objections and criticisms known — needs to be done with a great sense of prudence and responsibility. But keeping silent is no longer the best, or the most responsible option.
This applies very much to the Church’s present ban on the ordination of women.
In this section we reflect on the implications of this duty of speaking out. What we offer is a first selection of challenging readings. Other documents are in the process of being prepared for publication on www.womenpriests.org. Please, let me know your own feelings on this subject.
|The opinion of Lay Leaders|
|Mary McAleese, President of Ireland (1997-2011) and a committed Catholic, has repeatedly stated that the discussion on the ordination of women should go on.
“The [channel of communication] which goes up starts with the bishops, goes up through the cardinals as far as the Pope. The one which comes down comes down from Pope to laity. But that one is mostly one way traffic . . . This means that within the power structures of the Church the voice of the laity generally and of women in particular is very rarely heard.”
|‘Coping with a Christ who does not want women priests almost as much as He wants Ulster to remain British’, by Mary McAleese in Women Sharing Fully, Proceedings of the Seminar on the Ordination of Women, Dublin 1995, pp. 11-21.
‘It Won’t Wash With Women’, by Mary McAleese in The Tablet, March 15th., 1997.
“They say the debate is closed. Well, they better turn up their hearing aids!”
|Melanie McDonagh is a journalist on the Evening Standard in London.||‘Count me out!’ by Melanie McDonagh, in The Tablet, 26 August 1995, pp. 841 – 843.||“It is bad enough to have minority status if, by race, religion or whatever, you are actually in a minority. But to pretend to minority status when you as women are the tougher, healthier part of the population, the part that reads more, goes to prison less and to church more…that is bizarre.”
|Alain Woodrow is religious correspondent for Le Monde in Paris.||‘Free speech in the Church’ by Alain Woodrow, The Tablet, 30th June 1998, pp. 841 – 843.||“Like all authoritarian and non-democratic institutions, the Catholic Church loves secrecy . . . . The journalist has a duty to break down these taboos, in the interest of the Church itself .”
|The opinion of Priests|
|Fr. Owen O’Sullivan is an Irish Capuchin priest based in Belfast.||‘Where are the Priest-Prophets?’ by Fr. Owen O’Sullivan.||“We have put the institution above the message it exists to serve. We have put the structures above the gospel. We have allowed power-structures to become self-serving rather than gospel- or people-serving. We believe in Churchianity more than in Christianity.”|
|Monsignor John J. Egan was a priest in Chicago archdiocese for 66 years.||The Last Testament of Monsignor John J. Egan||“The arguments that women cannot be ordained because Jesus selected only men to be his first apostles or because tradition has restricted the priesthood exclusively to men are no longer persuasive to the majority of Catholics. ”|
|When Fr. Eamonn McCarthy, priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin in Ireland, was offered a post as parish priest, he refused to take the oath that would imply women cannot be ordained. He was not made a parish priest.
Read also The Call of Conscience. The dilemma of the Christian in a totalitarian church, by Michael Keane, BASIC Newsletter, Spring 2003.
|* ‘Soline Vatinel, the Archbishop and Me’, by Eamonn McCarthy, BASIC Newsletter, 19 January 2000, pp. 26 – 31.
* What about you, do you want to go away too? The oath of fidelity and its effect on the Church of our times, by Eamonn McCarthy, BASIC Newsletter, Spring 2003, pp. 13 – 16.
* “It is time to speak out!”, by Jonas Association
* ‘Integrity’, by Fr. Joseph S. O’Leary.
“If priests who, in conscience, are at odds with the new ‘teaching’ from Rome on the matter opt to keep silent, . . . how will there ever be a witness to conscientious leadership, especially when many of the people of God struggle in conscience?”
Jonas, priests in France.
Fr. Joseph O’Leary
|The opinion of Theologians|
|René van Eyden is Professor Emeritus of Theology at the Catholic University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.
“Repressive systems continue to repress through the complicity of those who are dominated.”
|‘Womenpriests: Keeping Mum or Speaking Out?’ by René van Eyden, address to 1500 participants of the Acht Mei Beweging in the Netherlands (2 November 1996).|| “From research among Roman Catholic parish priests in the Netherlands it is clear that 68% believe women should be ordained . . . Why then does everyone keep his mouth shut? Why are there no signs of solidarity with women? Why does everything just go merrily on in the traditional way? Is this not a form of complicity?”
René van Eyden
|Marie Louise Uhr was professor at the University of Canberra, Australia.
“Neither scripture nor authorities can be blindly obeyed. It may be wise for small children to be taught to obey their parents, but they need to learn that some orders must be disobeyed.”
|‘Obedience, a questionable virtue’, St. Mark’s Review 173 (1998) pp. 3-9.||“To what extent have images of a god-monarch ruling subjects, and a father-god requiring the death of his son, influenced the manner in which church authorities rule? Society is only beginning to see the consequences of the violence and abuse that have been carried out by clergy, teachers, spouses and parents under the belief that they had the God-given right—even the duty—to command . . . . ”|
|Sr. Jeannine Gramick worked for many years in the ministry to homosexuals. She pleaded for a new openness. The Vatican tried to silence her.||‘The Place of Silencing in the Teaching of the Church’, by Jeannine Gramick, SSND.
Presentation delivered at Haverford College, Philadelphia, PA, Sept. 16, 2000
|“Secrecy in any group, including the Church, can prevent its members from perceiving perilous situations that can damage the mission of the group. Secrecy and control guard against change and foster the status quo. Without freedom of expression on religious views within the Church itself, the community risks the danger of perpetuating erroneous views. Without freedom of expression, thought itself is stifled.” Sr. Jeannine Gramick|
|Sr. Joan Chittister,||‘A Pope the Laity Wants’, by Sr. Joan Chittister, National Catholic Reporter 1996.||Theologian and spiritual writer.|
|Bernhard Häring wrote The Law of Christ (Mercier Press from 1961) which made him the leading post-conciliar moral theologian.||‘A Letter to the Pope’ by Bernhard Häring, The Tablet, 30th June 1990, pp. 841 – 843.||“If the teaching authority of the Church becomes the battle-cry of intransigent people . . . and if it becomes a weapon against those who resist far too strict an interpretation, then one does no good service to the Church, to its mission or even to the Petrine ministry.”
|Peter Hünermann is Professor of Theology at Tübingen University in Germany.||‘A theologian’s dilemma on women priests’ by Peter Hünermann, The Tablet, 3rd September 1994, pp. 1113-1115.|| “Catholic theologians feel a responsibility to do everything imaginable in order to avoid schism . . . but there is a dialectic between a legitimate need for unity and an equally legitimate need for the development of the intellectus fidei (the understanding of faith) in which theologians engage. Both are indispensable if the Church is to remain in the truth.”
by Peter Hünermann
|Josefa Theresia Münch is a German theologian, who felt called to the priesthood, and who has been protesting to Rome from 1953(!). Read her story here.
“At least one copy of my article ‘Catholic Women Priests?’ ought to have had the chance not to be thrown in the waste-paper basket before even reaching your anteroom, but to be read by you, Venerable Head of the Catholic Church; for at the general audience of Wednesday, the 8/3/1989, you had it collected from me by one of your staff.”
|My Letters to the Pope”, The Catholic Citizen, Journal of St. Joan’s International Alliance, vol 72 (1991) no 1, pp. 18-29.
‘Letter to Pope John Paul II’ by Josefa Theresia Münch, sent on the 29th of May 1994.
Should Women be Silent in the Church?, Der christliche Sonntag, 15th. Aug. 1965.
Catholic Women Priests? Der christliche Sonntag, 10th Oct. 1965?
|John Wijngaards is the webmaster of this web site.
Read his story here.
|‘Why I challenge the Pope’, statement by the webmaster of this web site.
‘Resignation from the priestly ministry’, press release, 17 September 1998.
|“The teaching authority has lost its credibility even among loyal pastors, who often struggle to limit the damage inflicted by offering their faithful a more sensitive pastoral guidance than Rome does. Most alarming of all is the inevitable corruption Rome causes in all levels of responsibility in the Church by forcing on all a complicity of silence.”
|Paul Collins, theologian and author, resigned from the priestly ministry in 2001.||‘Reasons for my Resignation, by Paul Collins.||“A person with a public commitment like a priest is bound in conscience to ask: ‘Can I continue to co-operate with this kind of regime in the church?’ I feel bound in all honesty to say now: ‘No. I cannot’. ”|
|Luis T. Gutierrez, editor of the E-newsletter Solidarity, Sustainblility and Religious Violence.||The Male-only Priesthood Is Not Revealed Truth||An Open Letter to His Holiness Pope John Paul II
Mailed November 28, 1995
- ‘Deficiencies of the Church’s present Leadership’, by Reinhold Stecher, Bishop of Innsbruck in Austria, The Tablet, May 1998.
- ‘Shedding Light on Church Teachings’, interview with Bishop Raymond Lucker, The American Catholic, January/February 2001.
- ‘Conscience’ published by Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, 1998.
- Theologians and the Magisterium, by Richard A. McCormick. From Corrective Vision, Explorations in Moral Theology, Sheed & Ward, 1994, Chapter 7.
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