Pure and Simple has a rather sad article from the Irish Times which identifies the depression and hopeless of many Irish priests. It is essentially an interview with Fr Hoban, his pain is palpable, as is his sense of frustration. You get the impression from the article that this is the first time someone has shown any interest in him or his feelings. Fr Hoban blames the bishops and blames Rome, he sees the somewhat heterodox Association of Catholic Priests as being the last toss of the dice. There is real pain here, Fr Hoban and his confreres need our prayers and whatever consolation they can be offered.
I fear for my brother priests in Ireland, for their spiritual and emotional health some will opt out others will struggle on but with the joy gone.
But the paranoia has also infected the priests’ day-to-day pastoral work. “A woman comes to the door who may have psychiatric problems . . . What do I do? Take a chance by letting her into my front room? There is no doubt that priests have withdrawn, that they’ve become ultracareful and ultrasensitive on how they might be compromised.This is not good for Christ or his Church.
What is seen in Ireland and highlighted by the "abuse crisis" is I suspect present elsewhere in Europe. Low quality bishops, priests not seeing anyway forward, many seeing the Church is actually going backwards, a conservatism embedded in the seventies, a distrust of Rome, misgivings about young traditionally minded priests, is not just an Irish problem, it is everywhere in Europe. It is I suspect ultimately what the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization is really supposed to address.
The problem with Ireland, as so many have identified, is Ireland's bishops, my wise and balanced friend Fr Sean Fineagans make this perceptive comment:
Now let us look at the bishops. Before the 60s, it was normal that episcopal appointments would be finally approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (or 'Holy Office'). Pope Paul VI changed this to final approval by the Secretariate of State. This is because he wanted to pursue a policy of detente all round; ecumenism and Ostpolitik were the watchwords. So henceforward bishops would be diplomats; nice guys, people who could pour oil on troubled waters, men who would not rock the boat.In a post today he says:
These are the men who would not pursue child abusers, for fear that a storm might arise. They are good men, nice men; they are just not what is needed now, if ever.
That is why I think that what the Church needs is not bishops like Willie Walsh, much-loved and kind man as he is, but men like Charles Chaput who really get it.But as I say this is a problem everywhere, especially in Europe, if only someone would start a campaign to give back to the CDF the appointment of Bishops, we need learned theologians and hard nosed canon lawyers who capable of leadership.