The Rite of Ordination nowadays tells us the that a priest exists to 'preach the Gospel'. The author of the Epistle to Timothy say "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine."
I have tried to be faithful to solemn promise I made at my ordination to the priesthood to 'uphold everything that the Catholic Church teaches' consequently I felt obliged to be a signatory of that letter in the Catholic Herald asking for clarity over marriage and affirming the Church's teaching on marriage.
For none of the signatories I know who signed it was it in any sense a 'political' act but rather a credal statement of our belief in the sanctity of marriage as the Church has always taught it. For my part doing everything I can to promote the Church's teaching, including signing this letter is part of my priestly office. I know that one day I stand before God and be judged on how I exercised or failed to exercise my sacred ministry.
Our beloved Holy Father has continuously emphasised the need for frankness and openness parrhesia in conversation over this matter, it is part of the lio or mess that he invited the youth to make in Rio, when they returned to their dioceses
As far as the Synod is concerned bishops do not go as individuals but as heads of local churches, in that sense they are answerable to their clergy and people, they also have to reflect, not the opinions but the faith of their local Church. The Cardinal suggests that clergy should restrict their comments to the 'discussion process in their dioceses'. Well in my diocese our bishop who resigned after fifteen years said, "I have been careful not to make sexual morality a priority", the problem is that 'care' shows and I am afraid I fear those 15 years will be reflected in the consultation process. The process in my diocese is a one day discussion on a document which begins by suggesting those who do uphold the Church's teaching are comparable to Donatists. The rumours are that the document which merely identifies itself as being from the Bishop's Conference and bears no author's name was actually written by the Cardinal himself who has made his position clear on numerous occasions.
The Westminster priests I know are sceptical of the consultation process in their diocese, it is sad that their Archbishop has now added intimidation to that scepticism, which in a diocese which has always had a reputation for being 'fatherless' only adds to its deep wounds.
His Eminence is not a Primate and therefore his remarks should be seen as being addressed solely to his own clergy, which would seem to suggest that they should not even mention marriage, lest their discussions become public. He puts priest in a very difficult position. We are supposed preach and teach and uphold the Catholic faith but not, according to him, in the media, presumably he means the public forum. and yet Cardinals, including himself, do so. What is 'in the media' in this sense? I have always regarded this blog as being an extension of my pulpit, friends regard pamphlet writing or articles in the same sense. Unless the doors are sealed and one's people sworn to silence the pulpit is a public forum. Does His Eminence really expect clergy to remain silent about the very thing many Catholics are deeply concerned about? If talk of marriage is ruled out what else does he wish to censor?
I think it is worth noting that Westminster Diocese seems happy to welcome all kinds of eccentric speakers who deviate from the faith but His Eminence puts the boot into orthodox clergy expressing orthodox beliefs in the discreet forum of the Catholic Herald.