Fr Brian D’Arcy: Vatican Now Monitoring Outspoken Voice for the Faithful in Ireland

imageIf any grace can come out of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDF) investigation of Fr Brian D’Arcy, it’s that someone in the Vatican has at least read what he has to say.

Sadly, the Vatican’s failure to engage with the Vatican II-inspired movement within the Catholic Church – in which D’Arcy is prominent in Ireland – is less about its ignorance of it than its rejection of it.

The CDF has taken issue with four articles published by D’Arcy in his Sunday World column in 2010, on the subjects of:

  • how the Vatican dealt with the issue of women priests;
  • why US Catholics were leaving the church;
  • why the church must take responsibility for clerical child sex abuse;
  • and homosexuality.

D’Arcy remains a ‘priest in good standing,’ but now ‘in instances where he addresses matters of faith and morals in his writings or broadcasts, he must first submit these to a third party for clearance.’

Of course, the Vatican readers have examined D’Arcy’s writings with a view to censorship, not with a view to genuinely listening to or engaging with his perspectives –perspectives shared by the majority, it seems, in the Irish church (at least according to the recent survey commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests).

D’Arcy has not commented on the matter, but an article in today’s Irish Times quotes from his column in last week’s Sunday World:

Writing in the Sunday World last week, Fr D’Arcy said there were those in the church who believed that “priests like me, for example, should have ‘the party whip withdrawn from them’ as one prominent Catholic woman so smugly put it on a radio programme recently.

“Sadly in our church now, it has become impossible to be open and honest about what good people are convinced of. It’s as if merely stating unpalatable facts is in itself disloyal. For years I’ve tried to point out the perils of the growing disconnect between church leaders and the ordinary people.”

Yes, it seems to be too much to hope that those who have assumed power for themselves in the church hierarchy can be moved by the plight of the Christians whose faith they seem intent on crushing and moulding to their own image.

Their image of Church seems to me to be an increasingly draconian and even, at times, un-Christian one.

By draconian I mean that dissent and debate within the church, features of the lives of the faithful apparent in even in the earliest Christian writings, are being quashed. Vatican II was supposed to give the Holy Spirit more breathing room; the CDF seems intent on suffocating it.

By un-Christian I would include (to name just a few):

27 thoughts on “Fr Brian D’Arcy: Vatican Now Monitoring Outspoken Voice for the Faithful in Ireland”

  1. I notice this use of the term unchristian by ” liberals ” when anyone dares to disagree with them. Sometimes it’s interchanged with uncharitable. The irony is that this name-calling is actualy more unchristian. In any event, the CDF’s function is to protect the deposit of the faith, on matters which are settled in Catholic theology. If you love someone, it would be unloving to fail to confront them when you believe their views are in error. The CDF also has to avoid this error spreading ; especially by use of a false reading of Vatican II. If Fr. D’Arcy feels he can’t agree with Church teaching ( like the other ” liberal ” theologans ), he know’s where the door is. Also it’s rather arrogant for Fr. D’acy to assume that ” ordinary people ” ( whatevr thery are ) all agree with him. I think he’s too much in awe of the D4 magesterium.

  2. Hi Eric, to confirm, you take the view that people who disagree with the churches teaching should leave right?

    Well as far as I can see most Catholics disagree with the churches teachings (eg so can I ask would you be happier with a church that had 80% less members if the 20% remaining where total followers of the churches teachings?

    This is not a trick question, I am just interested in your view of what people who disagree with the churches teachings should do.

  3. Hello Brian, I would say of course if one totally disagrees with core Church teaching’s, it would be intellectually dishonest to stay ; however, I would be wary of survey results. No one knows what’s really written in peoples’s hearts. For example, there are aspects of Church teaching that I find difficult, but I don’t want the Church to change to accomodate my weakness ; I want to aspire ( principally via the sacrament of Penance ) to live up to the teaching. Hope that helps to answer your question. God bless.

  4. Hmm with respect Eric your answer is a bit vague.

    You said: ‘If Fr. D’Arcy feels he can’t agree with Church teaching ( like the other ” liberal ” theologans ), he know’s where the door is.’

    Why should he have to leave but the church can ‘accomodate your weakness’?

    I am just trying to clarify your stance. If you are saying people who do not believe the church teachings should leave, this is ok, but it seems to me you have some kind of grey area on who should leave and who should stay.

  5. Sorry Brian, the point is that the Church accommodates all of our weaknesses, via the sacrament of confession. But we confess that we have sinned, we were wrong, & we try not to sin again. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. My understanding is that Fr. D’Arcy want’s the Church to change it’s teaching in certain areas, to effectively concede that wrong is right. This is’nt vague at all. It’s standard Catholic teaching. Hope that’s clearer, but if you want clarification, come back to me.

  6. You are still not answering the question Eric.

    You said: ‘If Fr. D’Arcy feels he can’t agree with Church teaching ( like the other ” liberal ” theologans ), he know’s where the door is.’

    Why should he have to leave but the church can ‘accomodate your weakness’?

    So your saying Fr. D’Arcy now does not need to leave, it is enough for him to go to confession and we are all sorted?

    It is a simple question, do you expect those who do not follow the churches teaching 100% to leave, what is your criteria for who stays and who goes?

  7. Your obviously not familiar with Catholic theology Brian. Let me try to simplify matters. Fr. D’Arcy has publicly repudiated certain core Catholic teaching’s. He is saying they are wrong ( he is entitled to do this ). But obviously if he so fundamentally disagree’s, it would seem consistent for him to leave the Church. Why stay in something he disagrees with. This get’s back to your original question. Why would someone stay in an organisation they so fundamentally disagree with. It’s dishonest. Regarding confession, why would he confess to something he does’nt believe is wrong ?. That would be both disrespectful to his own integrity & indeed to the sacrament. Hope that clarifies matters for you. God bless.

  8. OK, but to continue this line.

    Most Catholics disagree with the churches teachings, you can disagree over individual surveys but it is common sense that most ‘Catholics’ do not follow the churches teachings 100%. In fact as you rightly point out I am not familiar with Catholic theology, but nor are most Catholics.

    So can I ask again would you be happier with a church that had 80% less members if the 20% remaining where total followers of the churches teachings?

    As you say ‘Why would someone stay in an organisation they so fundamentally disagree with.’

    As I understand your view you want most Catholics who do not toe the line to leave I am just trying to tease out how this would work in practise.

    Some Catholics are under the naive view that it is ‘their church’ and that they can influence the decisions of the church. If in the reality if the church is not a democracy (which we know it is not) then I wish they would be clear and tell people who disagree with their views to leave.

    The sceptical amongst us would say the church is being extremely Hypocritical by not enforcing their own teachings, they are more concerned with bums on seats and donations than they are with theology.

  9. Brian, there is a difference between totally disagreeing with the Church’s core teaching’s ( be it in relation to sexual ethics or any other area – but many of the dissenting theologans seem to have an obsession with sexuality ) & wanting them to change in accordance with the zeitgeist ; and not being able to fully live up to it’s teachings – that’s essentially us all. It’s defintely me, I’m a sinner but I dont want the Church to amend it’s teachings to accommodate me. That would be capitulation/cheap grace. But the Church does’nt disown me because I fail at times. Of course I would be happier if all were in accord with Church teaching, but that’s not realistic. The numbers game is not really all that relevant. Pope Benedict has stated that the Church in western Europe ( at least for the foreseeable future ) will be a minority, because the prevailing culture is hostile to Catholicism ;again primarily in relation to sexual ethics, abortion etc. Hope that’s of some help. Can I recommend the theologan Scott Hahn if you wish to delve deeper in this area. God bless. I understand where you are coming from in your questioning.

  10. Father Brian Darcy does not speak for me, a young Catholic adult. I am glad he has been taken to task. He has misled a lot of people through airing his opinion contrary to Catholic faith and morals in books, newspapers, TV, and radio, for many years. He’s not a victim, not by a long shot. And why do we even know these disciplinary proceedings were imposed? BEcause either Father Darcy or the ACP thought now was a good time to reveal it to the Tablet magazine.

    You’ve your own agenda Gladys, I’ve no doubt about that, but I suggest you actually read what the documents say instead of what you and Fr Darcy think they say or just quote the bits you like and ignore the rest.

  11. Brian, Fr Darcy desires a change in Church teaching on, for example, homosexuality. He wrote about it on his newspaper column and in his books. There is a massive difference between a person struggling with homosexuality and trying to live a chaste life in imitation of the Lord, and a person who campaigns to have the Church doctrine on homosexuality changed so they can enjoy that lifestyle without being alerted to the fact that it is immoral. I am a young fellow and I struggle with the Church’s sexual moral teachings, especially the one about fornication, but I accept them as the truth of Jesus Christ on the authority of the Church, whose authority comes from Christ. It would be foolish of me to say that, actually, fornication is not a sin, the Church is wrong, and I am right. Me thinks my own mind would have become very clouded and darkened through sin to adopt that position.
    What is also really tiresome is that the supporters of homosexuality within the Church base their position on bogus science and flawed anthropology.
    How about I nail my flag to the mast: If* the Catholic Church introduces women priests and changes doctrine on homosexuality, I shall leave the Catholic Church. There.

    *If. A big if. It’s not happening, it can’t. But it’s an interesting thought experiment.

  12. The Church has a big problem with many nuns in America who support immoral things like abortion and homosexuality. This is a little overview of what the good nuns have been doing, including acting as escorts at abortion clinics:

    That is why the Church has made a move to try to save the women’s religious orders from their own destruction. Me, I think it is too little, too late. Let them go their won way, but let’s not call it Catholic.

  13. It’s not really surprising that ordinary Catholics are against Church teaching in areas around celibacy, women priests and sexuality. When are these topics ever even mentioned or explained? The bishops and priests have let the flock down. Only last Sunday, it was reported in the Independent that Fr Brian D’Arcy said that he hasn’t mentioned the topic of contraception for 20 years because the people have made up their minds. What a sad , admission, to give up the battle in the light of the wonderful insights in books like The Theology of the Body and the rich Catholic teaching on human sexuality and the dignity of every human being. Fr Brian D’Arcy has been a voice for those who want a more liberal Church, but has ignored those who would willingly embrace Church teaching …if they only knew what it was.

  14. There have always been Catholics, priests and lay people, who have disagreed with aspects of the Church’s current teaching. Sometimes, with hindsight, we see that they have been wrong, and it has been beneficial that their suggestions have not been followed (though they have not always been treated with the dignity that all human enquirers deserve). Sometimes they have been right, and their insights are now enshrined in our mainstream understanding of our faith. Usually, like most of our thinking, theirs has been a mixture of right and wrong, of enlightenment and misunderstanding. None of us are totally correct or entirely deluded, however closely we think we adhere to the traditions with which we identify. We all, I think, have to recognise both the Spirit-led tradition and the ways in which it may be developing during our lifetimes. Some of us are called principally to defend tradition; some to question it. There is nothing to be gained in criticising either role, but much to learn from one another in finding common ground. We Catholics are enormously blessed in the richness of both our past and present, the breadth of time and space across which our church spreads. There is room for us all, and we are all the people of God.

  15. Martin, Maria B. & Tanya make good points. I particularly liked Maria B’s in relation to the lack of proper teaching in some of these crucial issues. If only the Church would explain the teaching & the rationale for it more aggressively, instead of appearing to back off & often apologise for it. Our Bishop’s in particular need to make this a priority. In many way’s the prevailing culture is not a happy place, the Church has much wisdom to pass on in this regard. Sections of the illiberal media will sneer at it, but they are largely juvenile. We should be brave.

  16. Tanya, I think some bees are busy building up the nest, whereas little parasitic wasps are nibbling around the edges and causing problems for the colony. We are all called to be ONE in faith and love. In the Church, there ought not to be builders and destroyers. It does the Church no good to have people stirring and provoking about matters which are definitively closed, such as women priests, artificial contraception, or even, as the American nuns are doing, promoting abortion and homosexuality. That is the work of anti-Christ.

    Maria is very right about the teaching thing. I very, very rarely good sermons on any substance. No wonder most of the Catholics appear to reject the Church teaching when they’ve never even been offered it. I must conclude that priests do not have either the faith or the intellectual and evangelical abilities to convey it. So instead, they convey nothing, or at most, empty sweetness and sentimentality which is devoid of any real substance. OK, perhaps that is a little harsh, but there is a lot of truth in what I say.

  17. On the broader question of the ” censoring ” of ” dissident ” Catholic Priests – they are hardly banished to Siberia !. Compare & contrast with dissident Anglican Priests who disagree with their Church’s teaching & wish to accept Papal authority. There is absolutely no accommodation/compromise afforded to them. They have to leave their homes & convert to Catholicism. Which is the more tolerant/compassionate approach ?. Seems to me that the Catholic Church does’nt appear too bad by comparison. Never heard Patsy McGarry being overly concerned by this injustice !.

  18. You’re right Eric. Those Patsy McGarry blinkers are very effective.

    Did you also see the BBC statement? Apparently the Vatican has ‘breached’ BBC editorial guidelines! Just imagine! The BBC had the cheek to say that they held sole editorial control over Fr D’s utterances. Conveniently forgetting that Fr D is a servant of the Church first and foremost. The BBC ultimately decides what Fr Darcy says on air. BUt that’s OK, it’s the BBC. They can exercise positivie censorship aka editorial ‘control’.

  19. s.scott My mother, a good catholic all her life, and a university grad, used to say that the vatican was an “old boys club” I am now 70, and wondering if,given the atmosphere, I can stay within the church. I wonder what would happen if all the women who are dismayed with the place their male collegues give them, perhaps withdrew their monitary support from the church for a period of time Would it perhaps allert the powers that be to the need for open, forthright discussion. .

  20. Thank you very much for your post. I hope that you will stay, for the same reason that I am thankful that Fr Brian has stayed. The Catholic church will continue to exist, in one form or another, and many of us who are deeply dismayed and disappointed by its institutional failings have, I think, a special call to remain and to speak out on behalf of those who feel forced to leave. Most of the Catholics who comment on this site see things rather differently but I continue to hope that there is room for us all, and that together we can, as a penitent and humble people, move forward into a better future.

  21. Sorry, I should have said, in case it isn’t clear in the chronology, that my last comment was a response to SM Scott’s post. Thank you again. (And yes, I’m sure your mother was right, though I suppose that’s true of most institutions, religious or secular.)

  22. If the Church is, as you say, an old boys club, then would I be right to say that some people would be happier if it was an old girls club? What’s the difference? I suggest the lens through which one would see the Church in that way is defective. The Church is the instrument of salvation. It’s not about jockeying for positions or power, even if those positions could be occupied by women. The role of bishop or priest is about sanctifying, teaching, and governing the flock. It misses the point to be seeking that for yourself for the purposes of your own ego. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood you, but I think we need to look closely at the psychological motive for much of the popular clamouring.

  23. No,this isn’t about gender or about power. I entirely agree with you that “The role of bishop or priest is about sanctifying, teaching, and governing the flock. It misses the point to be seeking that for yourself for the purposes of your own ego.” (Though the holiest priests I have known would all probably put ‘serving’ first in the list). The point about an ‘old boys’ club’ isn’t that they are boys – women can do just the same – but that they put the perceived imperative to preserve the structure and reputation of an institition before the commandment of our Lord to love God and our neighbour. This tendency seems to be what kept the cases of child abuse hidden and continuing for so long, and many fear that unless it changes, similar tragedies could happen again.

    I love the Catholic Church – I was received over twenty-five years ago, against some opposition from family and friends – and I am still thankful to belong to the community in which I see the Christian faith in its richest and deepest truth. It is because it means so much to me that I, like you, long to see the Church appear on earth as it is in heaven – the Kingdom of God, shining with faith, hope and love. We differ on what we think has gone wrong and the images we would use for a renewed and faithful Church, but I think and hope that we share what is most important.

  24. We need new, holy, courageous, and faithful bishops. At present, we have some liberal Catholics who have loud leaders in the form of the ACP. The Catholics who are loyal to the Pope and their bishops have no effective leadership here in Ireland. Yes, we have leadership from Rome, with lots of guiidance from the Holy Father, but the Irish bishops are so silent as to be irrelevant. Faithful Catholics (those who are loyal to the Magisterium) feel badly let down by the Irish bishops. Yes, bad things happened and people were hurt in the past, but that hurt is being compounded by the inaction and ineffectiveness of the Irish bishops. I call it silent shepherd syndrome, or absent father syndrome. I don’t think any bishop can be under the illusion that there is anything to preserve in terms of structure or power. We have the blueprints, but is anyone looking at them? As a start, I’d suggest the Holy Father’s letter on the upcoming YEAR OF FAITH:
    It’s so frustrating to see all this good stuff coming from Rome and there’s not a word about it from any Irish prelates.

  25. Formerly, If you ate meat on a Friday, you had committed a mortal sin and would go to Hell if you died without Confession. Now it’s not. Once it was morals, now it’s not. Does that make sense?
    Sean McElgunn

  26. May I add; formerly Vatican teaching on slavery, or lack of it, was plainly wrong. It was pressure from the laity inside and outside the Church, that finally got that changed, at Vatican 11! None of us can be smug; Jesus says,’When I return, will I find faith on the earth’? The laity need the clergy and the clergy need the laity to be true to God’s truth.
    Sean McElgunn

  27. Is faith or morals involved in the question of women priests? Is there any clue in the revelation, in scripture or tradition? Silence is not proof one way or the other. Silence may actually suggest male prejudice toward women. Traditionally, the church teaching has always listened and learned from the church listening. We must always follow conscience and tell the truth, as we understand it. Leaving is not the answer; it is arrogant to tell me to leave the Church I love.

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