The International Synod of Bishops meeting in Rome on the subject of ‘The Formation of Priests’ concluded at the end of October.
The Synod, said Pope John Paul, had faced the identity crisis which priests suffered since Vatican II, had reaffirmed the true nature of their vocation, and would bring new hope.
An earlier Synod report had indicated that the overall number of students for the priesthood throughout the world has been on the increase since 1977 despite a continuing decrease in Western Europe and North America.
At a final press conference Brazilian Archbishop Moreira Neves, acting as Synod spokesman, also noted a renewed consensus on priestly celibacy. This, he stated, had developed after “free, spontaneous” discussions.
Bishops, said information officer Archbishop Foley, had wanted to show that they were united round the Pope. They wanted to end the speculation that John Paul II was isolated in his support for mandatory celibacy in the Latin rite Church, as well as remove any “false impressions” that the rule might change. (Tablet, Nov. 3).
Among the strong supporters of celibacy was Canadian delegate Aloysius Ambrozic, Archbishop of Toronto. The synod’s final “Message to the People of God” included the observation that “celibacy has shone out for us in a new light and with a new clarity.”
The Synod’s reaffirmation of celibacy was too much for Joanna Manning, co-founder of the Coalition of Concerned Canadian Catholics (CCCC). She resigned her diocesan position as editor of religious education guidelines for Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Toronto (“Educator quits job with diocese in fight against ‘blatant sexism’” Toronto Star, Nov. 13).
The CCCC was organized in Toronto I the fall of 1989 as a Church “reform” movement, primarily by teachers of religion in Catholic schools. These have declared themselves ‘the future leaders’ of the Church. Other allies come from Faculties of Theology , academics, ‘progressive’ parishes, and feminist contributors to the Catholic New Times, all unhappy about the alleged patriarchal nature of the Church.
CCCC ‘reform’ aims at the remaking of the Church in doctrine, discipline and structure. The Church is to be cleared of sexism, through the abolition of celibacy, the ordination of women, the use of inclusive language and the re-writing of scripture and doctrine. Ultimately, so the CCCC expects, the hierarchical system is to be replaced by participatory democracy I which “power” will be shared by all.
The mainstream media gave Mrs. Manning’s resignation a great deal of publicity. No subject is more attractive to them than dissent in the Catholic Church’ no cause is more worthy than the battle of a ‘progressive’ and ‘enlightened’ laity against a ‘reactionary’ and ‘backward’ clergy and bishop.
The two large Toronto dailies, the Star and the Globe and Mail, provided ample space, while radio and television promptly organized interviews. The Toronto Star carried Mrs. Manning’s lengthy letter of resignation, “Accepting the ‘feminine’ in God” on their opinion page. The Globe did the same for her submission, “Are the bishops listening?” Accompanying it was a drawing of three bishops – one covering his ears, the second his eyes and the third his mouth.
Mrs. Manning’s protest resignation was directly due to the policies of Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic “denying women full equality in the Church,” stated the newspaper.
The Globe article makes clear what is wrong with the Catholic Church according to Mrs. Manning.
The International Synod’s reaffirmation of mandatory celibacy is an outrage in view of this year’s Newfoundland “Winter” report, she implied. This report specifically states that celibacy should be examined. But the Synod, acting once more behind a “curtain of secrecy,” refused to listen to Canadian experience.
Celibacy can hardly be taken as serious tradition in the Church, Mrs. Manning says. It may be a gift from God, but it has its “shadowy side.”
The theology of the Catholic Church, she states, “written until now by celibates, has been anti-sexual and often misogynous.” Celibacy may lead to “repression of an individual’s sexuality, with the possibility that this may find deviant outlets.”
Male celibacy is “a further rejection by the Church of feminine experience and influence.” The celibate priest is “without a social context, a hero without a cause,” a “eunuch” created to withstand the hostile secular world. But this betokens the “re-emergence of Neoplatonic dualism” among a clergy now “frightened and threatened by the new model of church that began to emerge” after Vatican II.
The “clerical oligarchy is now beating a hasty retreat,” “battening down the hatches,” and “rubberstamping the Vatican agenda,” she states. But fortunately, Ms. Manning assures her readers, all over the world there are theologians and lay people banded together in groups such as the CCCC ready to fight Rome and the reactionaries.
The 1000 members of CCCC “see sexual abuse by the clergy as a symptom of a far more insidious abuse of power at the heart of the Church, and of the planet.” (emphasis added)
An “increasing rate of defections threatens the Church’s future,” she says, but despite this “the so-called heroism of an all-male, celibate priesthood is to be trumpeted around the world as the ideal model.”
She concludes: “At a time when the whole Church and the planet are crying out for the Bread of Life, Rome has given us yet another circus.”
Mrs. Manning and her friends consider the recent, mostly homosexual, priest sex scandals only a symptom. So far, so good. But a symptom of what?
It is not a symptom of corruption which comes from outside the Church, she says. Rather this corruption stems from inside, where, she says, “there is a far more insidious abuse of power at the heart of the Church.” By this she clearly means a false theology, a false Church structure and a false Church discipline.
If that is what she believes, Mrs. Manning must resign her teaching post. She is unsuited to teach the Catholic religion and faith. The young should not be exposed to this falsification of the truth.