Everybody heard about the famous speech in Parliament where senior government officials challenged the Vatican for its handling of sexual abusers. We again confirmed that the scandal was not in committing a sexual abuse (which is something terrible to commit on a young child), but rather the philosophy of hiding the abusers, which continued at least until 2009!

It was truly unprecedented because Ireland was considered to be a Catholic country and such challenges were unheard of but the anger against the church is felt nationwide. The officials have chosen to protect the name of the church rather than protecting the innocent children. It has completely backfired and it is still dragging its feet in admitting mistakes.

Another well know priest has written very clearly about the attitude of the Vatican. Who is hearing the message? A government may get to know the truth when it faces election and goes into opposition because of lack of votes (=support). But the church may never ask for an election and hence it may still think that it has the support of the people.

The American priests’ action follows closely on the heels of a “Call to Disobedience” issued in Austria last month by more than 300 priests and deacons. They stunned their bishops with a seven-point pledge that includes actively promoting priesthood for women and married men, and reciting a public prayer for “church reform” in every Mass.

And in Australia, the National Council of Priests recently released a ringing defense of the bishop of Toowoomba, who had issued a pastoral letter saying that, facing a severe priest shortage, he would ordain women and married men “if Rome would allow it.” After an investigation, the Vatican forced him to resign.

While these disparate acts hardly amount to a clerical uprising and are unlikely to result in change, church scholars note that for the first time in years, groups of priests in several countries are standing with those who are challenging the church to rethink the all-male celibate priesthood.

“They are saying, ‘We don’t have enough priests, we’re closing down parishes,’ ” said David J. O’Brien, who holds an endowed chair in faith and culture at the University of Dayton, a Marianist Catholic college. “It’s a sign that the pastoral needs are sufficiently grave now that priests are speaking up and saying, ‘Wait a minute, you can’t just ignore the pastoral consequences of the things you do and say at the top.’ ”

Church experts said it was surprising that 157 priests would sign a statement in support of the American priest, the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, because he did much more than speak out: he gave the homily and blessed a woman in an illicit ordination ceremony conducted by the group, Roman Catholic Womenpriests. That group claims to have ordained 120 female priests and five bishops worldwide. The Vatican does not recognize the ordinations and has declared the women automatically excommunicated.

“Some say the church’s teaching on the nonordination of women is an infallible teaching, some say it’s not defined as such. But it’s clear that an extraordinarily high level of teaching authority has been invoked on that,” said Professor Ruddy, the author of “Tested in Every Way: The Catholic Priesthood in Today’s Church” (Herder & Herder, 2006).

The statement from the 157 American priests says only that they support Father Bourgeois’s “right to speak his conscience” – cautious wording that probably enabled more to sign. The effort was organized by Call to Action, a Chicago-based group that has long advocated change in the church. It is intended to put pressure on the Maryknolls not to go through with dismissing Father Bourgeois.

Austria is home to many Catholic priests and laypeople seeking changes in the church. Besides calling for ordination for women and married men, the Austrian priests called for having women preach at Mass, and giving Communion to divorced Catholics who have remarried without an annulment.

In Australia, the church was shaken in May when Pope Benedict XVI removed Bishop William Morris from the Diocese of Toowoomba, where he had served since 1992.

The National Council of Priests of Australia, which says it represents 40 percent of priests there, denounced the dismissal, saying that those who influenced the decision “have limited pastoral experience.”

The Rev. Ian McGinnity, chairman of the priests council in Australia, said in an e-mail, “Bishop Morris was endeavouring to face honestly significant problems in his rural diocese, particularly with the shortage of priests, which meant that some communities were deprived of the Eucharist on a regular basis.”

The Catholic Church may dream of holding the truth and discard any messengers, yet the time will come when another Pope John XXIII (23rd) will call for openness or calls unbelievers or of other religions to give their views on the church! But that is prerogative of the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand we don’t need to wait. We should start acting NOW. Many people are asking for changes. Why don’t we start the change? Why do we wait for others to make the first step? People won’t change in big numbers all of a sudden, but slowly. We could start influencing our friends, neighbours, colleagues etc…..Let’s support married catholic priests! Let’s celebrate the sacraments with married catholic priests!

Homily [in Maltese]

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