X v Y

Two important documents have been published recently. One is an account of an interview given by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the other records a news conference addressed by the Swiss Abbot Martin Werlen. The documents are linked by a common theme of Karl Rahner’s image of the embers hidden under the ash. Cardinal Martini says: “I see in the Church today so much ash under the embers that often I’m hit with a sense of impotence.”

The abbot said: “The problems are known. Pope Benedict on occasion refers to them. But nothing concrete is done to solve them.” Martini continued: “[My first recommendation] is conversion: the Church must recognise its errors and follow a radical path of change, beginning with the pope and the bishops. The Church is 200 years behind the times. Why doesn’t it stir? Are we afraid? Is it fear rather than courage?”

Beyond the fact that these are the witnesses of two highly influential people, I give no further detail here. Their tenor is clear. My concern today is to look at the psychological reasons why the radical reform of a large and well-established organisation is difficult to achieve and long in coming.

It is tempting, but mistaken, to think of reform in terms of specific issues such as clerical celibacy or the admission of divorced or re-married people to Communion. Broader reform is concerned with creating the culture of a community in dialogue with itself and the Holy Spirit, in which the understanding of what may need to be changed or more deeply explored is a duty shared by all.

It is also a mistake to see reform as, for instance, reducing papal power or dismantling the hierarchy. The shape of chief executive and hierarchy is common to institutions which range in their culture from closed totalitarianism to open community whose members are distinguished not by rank but by function.

The classic description of contrasting approaches was given by Douglas McGregor in 1960. He identified two approaches to leadership. Theory X held that people are inherently lazy and unmotivated. The management approach is therefore one of close control exercised through stick and carrot. Theory Y held that people are naturally responsible and tend to work hard towards organisational goals. The management approach is to provide conditions in which people are free to exercise this responsibility and use it both for the good of the business and personal fulfilment – which are one and the same thing. McGregor argued that Theory X managers would, at best, get mediocre performance from their workers, while Theory Y managers would get superior performance.

It is not difficult to translate these two approaches into an ecclesiastical institution. Nor is it difficult to guess the immediate response; the Church is not a democratic society. It has a sacred authority to lay down what its members must believe and how they must behave. True, of course, but equally true of the secular organisation. This, too, must hold on to its mission statement and the core values which motivate it.

A second problem is fear. A Theory X champion will claim that a slackening of controls will lead towards chaos. He will perhaps point out the excesses which followed Vatican II. But the cultural change from Theory X to Theory Y is characterised by a degree of disorder, like a child who, having been over-strictly brought up, is suddenly released into adult freedom. It takes time for the intoxication to pass and the maturity of self-discipline to grow.

Another problem which obstructs change is that the current office-holders are likely to be, for the most part, temperamentally wedded to Theory X. Most of them will have been chosen as a safe pair of hands. They will have succeeded by passive conformity. It may be the only modus operandi they know. The penalty for non-conformity may be high and, in this case, dealt with by a justice system fundamentally unreformed since the Middle Ages.

A Theory X organisation under threat may produce a facsimile version of Theory Y. Typically, it will set up some form of staff council, but with so little actual power that no one of substance will become a delegate. The ecclesiastical equivalent was the disloyal failure of the Curia to open itself to the influence of the diocesan bishops. Or perhaps the episcopal synods, which Abbot Werlen criticised as “so influentially prepared and accompanied by the Roman Curia that nothing new can emerge”. Ironically at one such synod the delegates were asked to omit subsidiarity from their submissions. Even broaching the idea of the devolution of authority was apparently too threatening. A powerful “kitchen cabinet” is a reliable sign of X theory in full song.

And lastly, because I have emphasised the subject before, the Theory Y organisation is typified by the quality of internal communication. The Theory X organisation is characterised by one-way communication. It is an irony that the Mystical Body, with its message of life, should be so organised as to bear closer comparison in many respects to an old- fashioned Dickensian institution than it does to a successful modern business.

Pope John Paul’s criticism of those who treated the Church as a “multinational corporation” was unfortunate. Despite its sacred mission and sacred authorities, its members behave like any other corporation. To reject what the secular world teaches us about good corporate practice is simple folly. That we do not match up to many secular organisations in our capacity to create community should suggest a pause for thought.

Visit secondsightblog.com (which has 45,000 hits a year throughout the English-speaking world), with links to Cardinal Martini and Abbot Werlen, and say what you think.



About Quentin

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69 Responses to X v Y

  1. ionzone says:

    The idea that the church is perfect is indeed heretical at the highest and most profound level. As every Catholic child should know, Jesus took great offence at the way the religious authorities of the time operated and it is because of him that we follow so few Jewish laws. The main thing that offended him was the fact that the Pharisees followed the letter of their law, but not the spirit. They wriggled and squirmed like the best of lawyers while ignoring the actual intentions behind them. Obviously, this kind of thing carries the base assumption that God is some kind of idiot who didn’t know EXACTLY what they were doing. God makes fools of the wise, indeed.

    In terms of the current dilemma, I think ‘two hundred years out of date’ is extremely harsh. At most the church is twenty or thirty years behind the times, and this is mostly in terms of its media. The church’s problem is twofold. The least excusable part is a tendency to act in a way reminiscent of the Pharisees whenever they are in trouble, there is no call for this and it is hypocritical. The most excusable part, but the part that causes the most problems, is that 99% of the public, including the Christian community, just doesn’t know what the Church is doing, what we believe, and what we stand for. The fact is that the church just has no idea about public relations, at all. The pope’s twitter account is a definite step in the right direction, however most of the public’s information on the church comes from:

    a) Journalists with almost zero understanding of what the church is about, little interest in finding out, and a vested interest in selling papers (read: deliberately getting things wrong and leaving out important details)

    b) People who loath the church and base most of their opinions on myths made up CENTURIES ago and who can repeatedly get away with saying publicly that ALL Christian parents are worse than a paedophiles and that bringing a child up to believe in God is something that should be punishable. This camp is happy to make up stuff about the church as they go along but mostly they repeat stuff made up by protestants to discredit the church hundreds and hundreds of years ago. You know the guys I mean. They often fit into group ‘a’ and think ontology is current theology.

    c) The people who read the stuff written and said by the above two groups and know utterly nothing about the church themselves but who will pick up on every single damn rumour as though it were undisputed fact and repeat them angrily to their friends.

    All these people exist at every level of society and when you add all that to the fact that the Church itself simply isn’t loud or clear enough when it comes to pretty much anything and the fact that most of those people who are willing to defend it either aren’t in a position to really do so or simply aren’t effective enough. After all, who is more interesting and admirable to the papers in this age of sidelined morality and crudeness? The nice, polite, guy trying to be nice and set the record straight about religion (who is therefore automatically old-fashioned) or the arrogant, charismatic, and highly opportunistic sociopath who says all Christians are worse than paedophiles?

    Most people, very wrongly, think the church is anti-science, anti-evolution, and anti-fun. Many of them would rather believe what Dan Brown puts in his fantasy crime novels (or what they hear about what he puts in them) than what the actual authorities on the matter have to say about the church.

    “Visit secondsightblog.com (which has 45,000 hits a year throughout the English-speaking world), with links to Cardinal Martini and Abbot Werlen, and say what you think.”


    • Horace says:

      On the whole I agree with ionzone. I hope to be able to make some more detailed comments later.

      I am interested to note that both the links at the end of this post are to articles in the National Catholic Reporter.

      In an article published in the “Catholic Key” Bishop Robert Finn (the NCR has headquarters in his diocese) states :- “I have a responsibility as the local bishop to instruct the Faithful about the problematic nature of this media source, which bears the name ‘Catholic’.”

      • Quentin says:

        Yes, this raises a very important issue. I do not read NCR on a regular basis, but I do get a good deal of relevant information. For example, how would we know about Martini and Werlen’s important comments without it?
        I do not find any difficulty in discerning in NCR what is favoured by the official Church line, and what is not. But I do know that without NCR the vital dialogue which the Church needs to continue its perennial progress of self-reformation would slow down dramatically.
        It would of course be easy for NCR to get around the difficulty by changing to CCM (Comment on Catholic Matters) but the current episcopal attack carries the overtones of a totalitarian wish to avoid internal criticism.
        That Bishop Finn has received many emails etc complaining about NCR does not surprise me. No one who writes intelligently about Catholic affairs will escape this, often cruel, lobby.

    • Quentin says:

      I wonder if you are asking where the statistics came from. The answer to that is that WordPress provides them to me annually. For 2012 they reported 49,000 views. The winning post by contributions was ‘The Church and the rule of law’ which received 335 comments.

      The major exposure is of course in the UK. But the USA and Australia have a strong showing, followed by Canada and India.

      These statistics indicate the potential influence of the blog and reinforce the value of our accustomed contributions. They are often hard-hitting but are typically well thought out and expressed with Christian courtesy.

  2. Brian Hamill says:

    Just two small points: First, I think that the Church authorities take the saying of Jesus, ‘Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ far too literally. This was borne out apparently in one of the discussion in the Commission set up by John XXIII on Birth Control. One of those present said that if they changed the rules, it would mean that the Church, owing to its former condemnations, had been sending people to Hell for centuries. A nun on the Commission replied, ‘But surely we don’t believe that God obeys us!’. At this there was a moment’s pause and then a burst of laughter. Everyone suddenly realised how silly such an idea was. Unfortunately not everyone in the Church gets the joke. We have made it a juridical saying; Jesus was talking in terms of the inter-relationship between the grace-filled powers of heaven and those on earth in a very Jewish idiom.

    Secondly, there seems to be a myth in the Church that Jesus founded the Papacy. No he didn’t. What he set up was group of followers with a leader. He founded the Primacy, not the Papacy. The Papacy is a human institution not a divine one. What tends to happen in Catholics’ minds, and others, is to leap from Peter to the present day in one bound, touching down briefly at the Reformation and Henry VIII. Church history is a wonderful antidote to the grandiose ideas of the Church as the ‘perfect’ society!

    • johnbunting says:

      “A group of followers with a leader”. Yes, but did Jesus envisage a ‘group’ of a billion or more, world-wide, a couple of thousand years later? Is a group leader then still necessary? If so, how should his office and function differ from those of the present Papacy?

  3. ionzone says:

    “I wonder if you are asking where the statistics came from. The answer to that is that WordPress provides them to me annually.”

    Actually I was kinda joking since the text read “Visit secondsightblog.com and say what you think.” since this is secondsightblog.com and I was commenting. That may not have come over too well in flat text, though.

  4. Vincent says:

    I have thought a good deal about Ion Zone’s first comment; has he hit the most important factor? I wonder to what extent each of us presents the Church to our non Catholic friends. I don’t mean attempting proselytise but letting them see how settled and content we are in the community of the Church.

    That’s difficult because so many Catholics simply don’t feel this. Of course we may love our own priests and our own parish – but the Church as a whole? The hierarchy are very far away and inward looking. They hold hard on to their privacy and superiority. They issue instructions, but they are not inclined to dialogue. Of course we are sacramentally united, and united by our central doctrines, but we are not on the whole a trusting, communicating family. If we were, it wouldn’t matter if the press, and others, got us wrong – those we know would get us right.

    What did Tertullian say about the Church: “See how they love one another”. Do we ?

  5. John Nolan says:

    A few points:

    1. The Martini interview is hardly a recent publication. It appeared in September last year, shortly after the Cardinal’s death and was given wide publicity on account of the “200 years behind the times” remark. It was widely commented on, and although opinion was predictably polarized, Fr Lucie-Smith in the Catholic Herald tried to get behind the headlines and was largely sympathetic.

    2. Abbot Werlen’s remarks to journalists last October were edited and published in a pamphlet for sale in the abbey shop. The Tablet picked it up in November, and the NCR copied the article. To suggest it is an important document, or that Werlen is ‘highly influential’ goes beyond journalistic hyperbole – it’s absurd. He’s not even on the radar of the traditional blogosphere which normally can be relied upon to leave no stone unturned (or unthrown). He has a local reputation as a loose cannon, and last month announced his resignation.

    3. The NCR has pursued what amounts to a vendetta against Bishop Finn since his installation. He doesn’t need e-mails from disgruntled traddies to tell him what sort of paper it is. In 1968, not long after it commenced publication, the local Ordinary tried to prevent it using the word ‘Catholic’ on the grounds that its views were heretical. The NCR went to court over it and the bishop lost.

    • Quentin says:

      I do not think that the last interview of a senior cardinal close to death need be regarded as irrelevant 5 months later. It has been described as Martini’s ‘spiritual testament’.

      I note that the newly elected president of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference has said “Abbot Werlen has taken up urgent questions the faithful are asking; he has outlined the problems very clearly and has put forward possible solutions. This is an impetus for very necessary discussions in the church that are also a great concern of mine. That is why I am most thankful to him.”

      • John Nolan says:

        Quentin, I never said nor even implied that Cardinal Martini’s observations were irrelevant; quite the opposite, in fact. I merely pointed out that they were not the bombshell you are trying to imply they were, nor were they dependent for their publicity on the NCR.

        The quotation from the president of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference you cited reads like the comment of an indulgent tutor on a bad essay from a student he genuinely likes but knows is shortly to be rusticated. The Swiss Church is indeed seriously polarized (not that anyone in the UK or the US knows or cares) but are Werlen’s suggestions concerning the election of bishops, not to mention cardinals, likely to heal the divisions?

  6. St.Joseph says:

    If Vatican 2 had not been hi-jacked by the liberals-we would not be having this conversation now.
    Too many years have been wasted on those jumping on the band wagon with their own interpretation of a Church that they wanted and ignoring the faithful Catholics.who had deeply held faith and devotion to Holy Mother Church, and were ignored and bullied into believing the vision was of a better Church for the future generations.
    How wrong they were-it speaks for itself now with the lost generations of priests and the religious life.Our schools and the home are not holy places any more like they were.
    Is that what we call free speech it seems to me that it worked.
    Those placing the blame on the Vatican are only excusing the responsibilities.
    The laity were not able to carry out their own beliefs and were disillusioned in the long run. and gave up.
    The Soul left the Church since the last 50 or so years.of liberalism.,

  7. Singalong says:

    St. Joseph, I wonder if the Church would have remained so faithful and devout if the Vatican Council had not taken place? Changes in secular society, and the spread of news and communications, were already having an effect, and the undercurrents of harshness in some Church institutions, and the scandal of child abuse, were bound to raise many serious doubts and questions, don`t you think so?

    I wonder how the Orthodox Church has fared? It does not seem to have changed much, and seems to have retained a devout following, but I don`t think it wants to evangelis as much as the Western Church.

    • St.Joseph says:

      That is something we will never know the answer to.
      The Second Vatican Council was called for and I believe needed. Many aspects of it to bring the Church into the modern world without changing the essential Truths of our Faith. We can not remain stagnant. It will only be stifled . No one believes at least I hope not-that we can not move into the future.But that does not mean we lose the vision that it was intended for in the first place.

  8. John Candido says:

    ‘…creating the culture of a community in dialogue with itself and the Holy Spirit, in which the understanding of what may need to be changed or more deeply explored is a duty shared by all.’ (Quentin de la Bedoyere)

    I agree with this outcome or sentiment. However, how on earth do we get there? Anyone with any creativity or any eagerness to make a constructive suggestion risks being sacked, sidelined, ignored, or not taken seriously. As Swiss Abbot Werlen suggested in his sermon:

    ‘Sweeping problems under the table or forbidding discussion of certain issues undermines the church’s credibility, he warned.’

    He goes on to say,

    “The problems are known. Pope Benedict on occasion refers to them. But nothing concrete is done to solve them.”

    Abbot Werlen is a breath of fresh air. It is a pity that he will soon be cut down and placed alongside next week’s garbage collection.

  9. John Nolan says:

    JC, I don’t know, and neither do you, why Abbot Werlen has chosen to resign with effect from the end of this year. He will remain in the community as a monk. He has been abbot for nine years (and would have been only 41 when elected) and probably felt he had been in the office for long enough.

    “Creating the culture of a community in dialogue with itself and the Holy Spirit, in which the understanding of what may need to be changed or explored is a duty shared by all”. The Church Militant alone includes a billion believers, spread across the world, not to mention the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant. It’s about time you liberals had a reality check.

    • Vincent says:

      I can’t speak for the liberals but it seems to me that creating “ a community in dialogue with itself and the Holy Spirit” is possible. Let me give you a few suggestions which might help us along the way.

      Episcopal synods – as introduced by Vat II. A large percentage of the agenda should be set by the bishops rather than by the Curia. Genuine discussion and responses rather than set pieces should be used.

      The Curia should be reformed in line with the Vat II requirements. In particular, the advice of diocesan bishops should be frequently sought. Much more use should be made of the expert laity.

      Bishops should readily seek ideas and suggestions from the faithful in their dioceses, and report back. Most parish priests will follow their example with their parishioners – recalcitrants would be instructed.

      Bishops should be chosen by their own people, with the Vatican having, an extremely rarely used, veto.

      All relevant institutions should be reviewed to ensure that female points of view are properly influential.

      The Church’s own principle of subsidiarity should be well understood and put into action.

      What will the Pope be doing? Making all this happen. It can only really be achieved from the top. Meanwhile the occasional little pocket, like this blog, will continue “in dialogue with itself and the Holy Spirit.

      • Quentin says:

        I think that I would only add at this point: a system of justice which is the envy of the secular courts in its respect for human rights and mercy — instead of the other way round. Any more suggestions?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent .
        Do you remember the National Pastoral Council 1979.?

      • John Nolan says:

        “Bishops should be chosen by their own people”. What precisely do you mean by that? In the past they were elected by cathedral chapters, when cathedrals were monastic institutions. Conservatives have long been critical of a system whereby the Bishops’ Conference was in effect a self-perpetuating oligarchy with the nuncio as its mouthpiece. They coined the phrase “the Magic Circle” to describe it. Given the importance of the bishops’ role, and the disastrous failure of subsidiarity in respect of the sex abuse scandals, this certainly merits further discussion. We also need to ensure that consulting the laity doesn’t simply mean listening to focus groups.

      • Vincent says:

        You are right, the practical issue would need to be carefully thought through. One approach might be to use the national conference of bishops who in submitting a candidate would be expected to have consulted priests and people. I don’t that voting is at all appropriate.

  10. Mike Horsnall says:

    “I wonder to what extent each of us presents the Church to our non Catholic friends. I don’t mean attempting proselytise but letting them see how settled and content we are in the community of the Church.
    That’s difficult because so many Catholics simply don’t feel this. Of course we may love our own priests and our own parish – but the Church as a whole?”

    Vincent’s comment above interests me greatly. I think its probably quite hard to proselytise catholicism per sec on account of its awesome complexity (!!!!!) Many moons ago I was a street preacher in the Evangelical Church. Its a lot easier simply preaching Jesus than trying to explain the Immaculate conception… believe me!

    But I am baffled by the ease with which, on here but also elsewhere, we run to criticize the wider church so freely-as if we were not part of it. I do think it is VERY important that ordinary catholics talk to others about the very basics of their faith experience. I was talking today with a chap in our cycling club, telling him about being a lead altar server-it suddenly brought recollection to him of being a child in the church choir and how he always felt ..”better” after going. I didnt have to ‘proselytise’ to simply talk about part of my everyday life to someone. Trusting the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of individuals is very very important-its probably the most important thing we can ever do-and you don’t have to be an insider at the Vatican to do it….in fact you don’t really have to think about the politics of Rome at all….

    • St.Joseph says:

      Mike Horsnall.
      You say ‘in fact we don’t really have to think about the politics of Rome at all..
      You took the words out of my mouth-.
      My children and grandchildren would not have a clue and nor do I much-If I was to start showing them a discontented attitude to the Church, they would no longer practice, I can be sure of that!. Obviously they know their faith and have a love for God -trust in him- and the church .
      I bought them a CCC when it came out and each one can look anything up they wish..
      So they are not ignorant, and know enough to defend it.My son being a Foundation Governor so he has to and my daughter was, when her older children were at primary school. It is quite simple really,well to me!!

  11. John Candido says:

    Of course reform is coming, as sure as night follows day. No Pontiff worth his salt can ignore malaise for too long when the opportunity presents itself to reinvigorate the church. It will be very interesting to see what will happen after our present Pope has resigned or has passed away.

    There is reform from within the church, but not many can see that there is the possibility that reform will come from outside the church. This will be the outcome of national reviews or Royal Commissions on the subject of how can society prevent the scourge of the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse of the most valuable possession that we have, and that is our children (if you can call children a possession).

    When Royal Commissions have finished and have presented their conclusions, one important recommendation, amongst many others, can be that nations outlaw religious celibacy in the interests of protecting the innocent. The protection of children is paramount and will always gazump religious freedom.

    • John Nolan says:

      John, apart from the fact that most child abuse occurs in a domestic environment, as any social worker will tell you, the idea of the state compelling its citizens to enter into a sexual relationship is bizarre even by your standards. Since around 80 per cent of the reported clerical sex abuse cases concerned adolescent boys and young men, will you argue that the state recriminalize homosexual behaviour?

      • John Candido says:

        ‘…the idea of the state compelling its citizens to enter into a sexual relationship is bizarre even by your standards.’ (John Nolan)

        What have you been drinking lately John Nolan? How on earth did you get to this point? Really???!!!

        We currently have a Royal Commission into the sexual abuse of children by any organisation in Australia, which was setup by the Gillard government, after a series of disconcerting reports that the Catholic Church in Australia has had a sordid history of non-cooperation with police investigations into alleged paedophile priests and brothers. We also have a state based inquiry in Victoria, my home state. My point, which has been explored by a number of Australian journalists, is that state or federal governments can, could, or might, legislate to prohibit celibacy in Australia on equal opportunity grounds, if it can be conclusively proven, or for there to be a very high statistical correlation, that priestly or religious celibacy can predispose some priests or religious to sexually abuse children in their care.

        During submissions to the Victorian Parliamentary Sexual Abuse Inquiry, one former priest who is currently a Professor at RMIT University (the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) called Des Cahill, has estimated that around 1 in 15 priests (around 6.5 %) is a paedophile. (This of course means that around 94% of priests or religious are NOT paedophiles. This is often forgotten by some members of the public who have to regularly contend with this appalling issue in the media.)

        Professor Cahill called,

        ‘…for married priests, as are being allowed now in the Anglican ordinariate within the Catholic Church, as a “circuit-breaker” that would reduce child sex abuse. The state should remove the Equal Opportunity Act exemption letting the church discriminate on grounds of marital status.’



        Click to access Cahill_Professor_Desmond.pdf


    • Vincent says:

      You would have to show that there is a statistical and causal connection between ‘compulsory’ celibacy and paedophilia.. Can you point us to any evidence which indicates this?

  12. St.Joseph says:

    Brian Hamill.
    Your comment above (I am sorry I am not able to place it under your comment).Feb 1st 9.31.
    Would you be implying that ‘it is not only the Catholic Church that has the authority to change the bread and wine into the ‘Real Presence.’ Body Blood Soul and Divinity, (apart from the Orthodox Churches ) ?.

  13. Mike Horsnall says:

    “When Royal Commissions have finished and have presented their conclusions, one important recommendation, amongst many others, can be that nations outlaw religious celibacy in the interests of protecting the innocent. The protection of children is paramount and will always gazump religious freedom”

    John, this really is away with the fairies stuff! Is there anything else you would like to outlaw or make compulsory while you are at it? Just out of interest how would you police this outlawing of celibacy??

    • John Nolan says:

      JC also ought to realize that neither the UK Parliament, the Australian Parliament, nor the US Congress has any authority whatsoever to alter the Canon Law of the Roman Church, any more than the Roman Church has any authority whatsoever to ordain women or condone sodomy.

  14. John Nolan says:

    John Candido

    Having just read your latest comment, may I draw your attention to the sentence which contains the following: “State or federal governments can, could or might legislate to prohibit celibacy in Australia on equal opportunity grounds”. Whether you define celibacy correctly as the unmarried state, or use the word, as many people do, to mean sexual continence, Its prohibition would mean everyone would be obliged to be either married or sexually incontinent. You can’t deny saying it, since it’s in black and white. You can of course say “that’s not what I meant”, in which case why not say what you mean.

    Reading between the lines, I suspect what you meant to say was that the state could legislate to force the RC Church to either ordain married men or to allow those already in the clerical state to marry. Leaving aside the fact that celibacy for those in Holy Orders was affirmed by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 (nearly a millennium and a half before Australia was even discovered), the state can enact laws that penalize Catholics (as we in England and Ireland know only too well); it can forcibly secularize or dissolve Catholic institutions (as Bismarck did in Germany); it can even proscribe the Church in those territories over which it has control. What it cannot do is enact laws that alter the governance of the Roman Church – not one jot, not one tittle, because it is not competent so to do. Even Bonaparte, who invaded the Papal States and kidnapped the Pope, couldn’t do it.

    So whichever way you read your comment, it’s still nonsense.

    • John Candido says:

      While I am not a lawyer, it can be said with certainty that the law can at times be a strange and unwieldy beast. While I concede that no democratic government worth its salt can directly alter the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church by statute or decree, or directly intervene in the laws and doctrines of any other church or religion, unless such canon laws directly contravene statute or common law where the state has jurisdiction. It is an open question as to what governments and courts of law can do indirectly to effect change in the interests of the state and what is in the overriding public interest in terms of public safety, access, equity, and fairness. In this instance I am talking about enforced religious celibacy for diocesan priests, the danger of such a state to our children, and future access to the priesthood by women, in both the religious or diocesan state on equity grounds.

      Without knowing the precise content of current equal opportunity legislation, (both our federal and state governments have their own specific version of such legislation), state and federal governments have allowed religious bodies specific exemptions to legally discriminate against job applicants for various administrative, teaching, and trade occupations. It also allows them to discriminate against all applicants for employment on sexuality grounds, for example to allow them to legally discriminate against a homosexual applying for one of the former positions or as a priest. It allows them to legally discriminate against women who might be interested in becoming diocesan priests.

      This is the interesting part. What would be the effect on the Catholic Church if both state and federal governments were to close such exemptions to religious bodies on simple justice, equity, access, and fairness grounds, and because broad sections of the public demand it to be the case? Of course this effect would be a moot point, but do you see what I am getting at John Nolan?

      The Roman Catholic Church in Australia has a legal position that can only be described as immensely privileged. This legal position is coming under increasing scrutiny by the media, the public, politicians of both sides of the House, and by the many victims of abuse it is ‘responsible’ for. I have place the word ‘responsible’ in commas for a good reason. Its privilege comprises it being immune to being sued in a court of law because it is legally constituted as a property trust that cannot be deemed to have employees. This means that if any diocesan priest were to rape a child or an adult, the Roman Catholic Church cannot be sued for damages because the diocesan priest in question cannot be legally deemed an employee of the cathedral that he is attached.

      Apart from this issue, the Roman Catholic Church in Australia receives funding from governments to assist their work in education, health, social justice, and to the poor. While nobody can argue against the various apostolates of the Catholic Church, the fact that it is a publicly funded institution means that it could face pressure to be in conformity with modern expectations regarding equal opportunity law. Apart from these considerations; the Roman Catholic Church is legally exempt from taxation, which underscores its immense wealth and power as an institution.

      All of this converges into an examination of religious bodies by all sections of the community. The public, the media, and governments of all persuasions, are increasingly interested in the operation of religious entities, especially as it relates to the Equal Opportunity Act, in both its federal and state incarnations.

  15. John Nolan says:

    John Candido

    Ah, clarity at last! If I could make a couple of points, partly in answer to some of the issues you raise.

    1. The fact that the Catholic Church (and all other Churches whose bishops can claim Apostolic Succession) reserves ordination to men is not contingent on the civil authorities allowing her to do so. St Thomas More was a lawyer all his life, and as Lord Chancellor the very embodiment of law and the judiciary, but argued at his trial that the king and parliament could not usurp the prerogatives of the Church. His reward was a crown of glory. And Mrs Gillard is no Henry VIII.

    2. The Church recognizes that some people, including priests, have same-sex attraction. She does, however, require her clergy to be sexually continent, and this includes the majority whose attraction is to the opposite sex. A strict interpretation of Canon Law suggests that abstention from sexual intercourse also applies to married priests, and more significantly (since there are far more of them) to married deacons. So SSA per se does not disqualify a man from seeking ordination. There is a proviso, introduced twelve years ago, that such a man must not have been in a same-sex relationship for at least five years. This is a prudential measure adopted in the wake of the US sex abuse cases, most of which were homosexual in nature. After revelations concerning the late Fr Kit Cunningham gained wide publicity (they had in fact been rumoured for years), it was clear that in the 1950s some men saw the Church as providing cover for activities which were at that time illegal.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Nolan,
      Am I right in thinking that abstention from sexual intercourse aplies to married priests and married deacons. I didn’t know that, have I read you wrong?

      • John Nolan says:

        St,Joseph, a strict interpretation of Canon Law would suggest it, but Rome has not pronounced on the subject, and there have been no test cases. Of course, should the wife of a married deacon die, he may not remarry.

    • John Candido says:

      All of what you say is fine and good; however it is a limited reply to the overwhelming need of the church to contemporise itself through apposite reforms in the light of its many serious problems. What your reply also does not address is what the Roman Catholic Church and national governments are to do about the worldwide clerical sexual abuse scandal. In fairness, society must remain cognisant of the fact that our concern should partly be directed at the 1 in 15 or 6.5 % of priests and religious who have committed offences against children.

      • John Nolan says:

        I would seriously question your statistic that 1 in 15 current priests and religious have committed offences against children. Some of the allegations go back to the 1950s and the perperators are long dead. I can’t speak for Australia, but here we have child protection officers in every parish, and a report some years ago by Lord Justice Nolan (no relation) made recommendations which in effect would deny natural justice to priests who were wrongly or maliciously accused. Rome has expedited procedures whereby offenders can be laicized, and it should be remembered that the mishandling (for whatever reasons) of cases occurred at diocesan level. There have been very few recent allegations.

        One cannot escape the conclusion that in your eagerness to discredit the Church, you are flogging a dead horse. On the wider question of reform, I shall post in due course.

      • John Candido says:

        I don’t have an eagerness to discredit the Church. The Church is doing a good enough job itself without my help.

  16. St.Joseph says:

    I wonder when the national governments will take the log out of their own eye and stop the abuse of babies through abortion. One pro-life group cites governmental and private sources to put the death toll at 55,772.015 since the sixties. Just in America!.How many world wide I wonder?

    That puts things into perspective.At least the Church is doing something about the child abuse.
    But there will always be those who will keep on knocking at it.Perhaps more attention could be shown to the unborn now.If one is so worried about children!

    • Quentin says:

      St.joseph, I think you must have misread the figure. In the UK alone we are talking about nearly 200,000 abortions annually. In my newspaper today, there is a report that the reasons given for abortions under the Act are simply a farce. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/9846014/Mental-health-excuse-to-sign-off-abortions.html

      The most reliable study of paedophilia in the Church is the 2004 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The study, over a 50 year period, showed allegations (not convictions) of 4392 priests out of 100,000 in the US. So that’s just over 4%. 4% too many, of course — but a third less than 6.5. The report specifically ruled out celibacy as a likely cause. And also ruled out homosexual inclination as a factor. In England the rate of abuse (allegations) over 40 years is less than one half of one per cent.

      70% of abuse of minors takes place within families. The shameful rate of 4% (above) is similar to the not-bound-to-celibacy clergy in other denominations, and about half the rate in the general male adult population, which is estimated to be 8%. Clearly we must encourage John Candido to deal with the terrible situation he reports from Australia which is so much worse than US and UK. From all these facts he should be encouraging castration for all adult Australian males — but leaving aside Catholic priests — since they are more likely on average to be innocent.

      We should also take into account the strong condemnation of clerical paedophilia by the Pope and the Church as a whole. And the strict steps which are now applied to control the situation.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin thank you for the information you gave.

        I take my information from the January Family & Life.Update January 2013. 26, Mountjoy Square, Dublin 1 Ireland. Under a heading. of. 55,772,015 Aborted Babies Since the Sixties. It makes interesting reading.
        It does have a web site with all their bulletins for anyone to read. I am a member and receive them by post..

      • Quentin says:

        I think you put your full stop in the wrong place in your earlier note. The figure you now give looks correct to me.

      • John Nolan says:

        The John Jay study concluded (correctly) that paedophilia, as properly defined, is not linked to homosexual inclination. But ephebophilia and pederasty most certainly are, and most of the allegations fell into those categories. Even academics striving for objectivity cannot afford to offend the ‘gay’ lobby. We also need to remember that unproven allegations do not constitute guilt. This does not in any way mitigate the scandal, and the grave damage it has caused.

      • Quentin says:

        John, I agree with you that a large number of victims came into the ephebophilia category. It’s a bit careless perhaps to use paedophilia as a ‘catch-all’ term. Undoubtedly acts in this category are homosexual acts, but the study distinguished between offenders of a homosexual identity and those who, without that identity, nevertheless behaved homosexually. You may say (and others clearly do say) that that is too narrow a distinction, but that’s the one the study made. I notice interestingly that the offenders were on the whole those who went to pre-Vatican II seminaries, or seminaries which had not had time to adjust to Vatican II standards. I have used http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Jay_Report#Report_summary as my source.

      • John Candido says:

        The reason for the higher figure of 6.5% is explained by Professor Des Cahill as due to the underreporting of crimes. He gives his explanation of this discrepancy in his submission to the Victorian Inquiry into Sexual Abuse.

        Click to access Cahill_Professor_Desmond.pdf

        Consult the section entitled, ‘1. Clerical Sexual Abuse as a Historical, Worldwide and Systemic Issue’ on page 14.

  17. St.Joseph says:

    P.S It says in America alone. as I said above.

  18. Iona says:

    St Joseph, your full-stop should have been a comma, that was all. As I realised when I began to wonder how on earth point zero one five of a baby could be aborted.

  19. John Nolan says:

    There are those who have argued that the ‘clerical’ culture of the pre-V2 Church contributed to the problem. Others have noted that the peak was in the 1970s when the Church was experiencing a general collapse of discipline and a dastic decline in vocatons, conversions and Mass attendance. It’s an area where generalization is problematic and probably unhelpful.

  20. John Nolan says:

    In October 1840, reviewing the English translation of Leopold von Ranke’s ‘History of the Popes’, the great Whig historian Thomas Babington Macaulay published a celebrated essay on the Roman Catholic Church and the Papacy, the history of one being of course the history of the other. Macaulay was not in sympathy with the doctrines or practices of the Roman Church, and there is a vein of cynicism running through the piece; yet at the same time there is a barely concealed admiration for an institution whose history uniquely “joins together the two great ages of human civilization” (here Macaulay is referring to the classical and the modern, his generation still tended to disparage the Middle Ages). “The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour … [the Catholic Church] was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished in Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St Paul’s”. Macaulay remarks on the ability of the Papacy to survive the most appalling vicissitudes and emerge not just unscathed, but stronger than before.

    He also remarks on the genius of the Catholic Church in absorbing enthusiasm, even dissent, and getting them to work for her, in contrast to the Protestant Churches. If Ignatius Loyola had been an Anglican he would have seceded; if John Wesley had been a Catholic he would have become Superior-General of a new Religious Order, zealously furthering the cause of the Church. “With the utmost pomp of a dominant hierarchy above, she has all the energy of the voluntary system below”.

    As Catholics we might put it all down to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Historians need to find other explanations, but even the non-Catholic Geoffrey Barraclough, who wrote a history of the Papacy, admitted it was difficult to account for its success when you have to leave out the supernatural. Which brings us to the question of reform. The phrase “Ecclesia semper reformanda” means “the Church always needing reform”. So the discussion of reform does not indicate disobedience or impertinence. However, to argue for structural reform as a means of changing a doctrine you may not particularly like since it does not endorse your chosen lifestyle, or to make the Church conform to a secular morality which over the last thirty years or so has increasingly turned its back on the Judaeo-Christian tradition; this is neither a proper argument nor a proper understanding of reform. The Prefect of the CDF, Archbishop Mueller, said recently that the real stagnation of reforms in the Church was with regard to “essential issues which are not being dealt with, such as participation in the sacraments and knowledge of the Catholic faith”. And the recovery of a right sense of liturgical worship is a precondition to any renewal, as Benedict XVI has long maintained. It is already happening, and will in due course gather momentum. Patience is a virtue, and we have history on our side (Macaulay would agree). Truth and the Holy Spirit are also on our side (Macaulay would definitely not agree).

  21. John Candido says:

    Oh dear! More of the same.

  22. John Nolan says:

    Yes, I agree that Prof. ‘Des’ Cahill sounds like a character invented by Barry Humphries. Is he also in charge of the sheep dip?

  23. John Candido says:

    Every now and then, an Archbishop does the right thing; to wit, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, who succeeded the disgraced perjurer, paedophile protector and enabler, Roger Cardinal Mahoney.


  24. John Candido says:

    I fully and unreservedly apologise and retract my statement that Roger Cardinal Mahony is a perjurer. The retired Archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Cardinal Mahony, has not to my knowledge been convicted for perjury. I am very confident that this is the case and that no one can point to a single case in a court of law with this conviction recorded against him.

    This controversy has been represented inaccurately and incompletely by commentary from a range of mediums, including the internet. It is merely conjecture and supposition at this stage. American prosecutorial attorneys are currently investigating the possibility of charging Cardinal Mahony with accessory after the fact, perjury, obstruction of justice, etc. Everybody, including myself, will have to take a cold shower and have to wait for the outcome of legal analysis by those competent enough to undertake it, especially from specialist academics and the Los Angeles Attorney-General’s Office.

    I do repeat my assertion that Roger Cardinal Mahony is a paedophile protector and enabler, as corroborated by court appearances and the current release of files pertaining to the sex abuse of children by priests under his authority as Archbishop of Los Angeles, between 1985 and 2011.


  25. John Candido says:

    It gives me no joy to report that 124 personnel files of individual priests that were or are attached to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, have been released on the Archdiocesan website, on the order of retired Judge, the Honourable, Dickran M. Tevrizian, in the Superior Court of the State of California, for the County of Los Angeles. Of the 124 files, 82 have information on allegations of childhood sexual abuse. The remaining 42 files are without allegations of childhood sexual abuse but are properly prepared as what are called ‘proffers’, which are formal summaries of personnel files, prepared for litigation.

    All of the files are available from here,


  26. St.Joseph says:

    I often think ‘why Jesus chose Judas to be one of the Apostles,when He could have been ‘betrayed’ by someone other than one of His followers. Including St Peter.
    Perhaps the message there was to remind us that there will always be those in the Church who will be chosen but will not be perfect enough to be able to resist the temptation of sin.(like us all)
    That does not mean that the ‘structure’ of Holy Mother Church be changed.
    There will always be those who would like to see it as a ‘human institution’ run by lay people (God for bid). It would not have lasted 2000 years I believe without Grace.
    John Nolan said it all in his comment Feb 5th 3.49.
    It is not as if the scandals are not now looked into for the future, not only in the Church but society in as well.There is far more to do in the secular world now than in the Church,and people ought to make themselves aware of this and take some action as responsible citizens,not only Christians!! ‘It is not only our duty!! Just look around and it stares us in the face.
    The world needs the Church, and it wont be got rid of that easy!

  27. John Nolan says:

    John Candido

    Joking aside (and you do rather set yourself up), the link to the LA archdiocese was interesting, particularly the bar graph which reflected the findings in the John Jay report (a peak in the 1970s followed by a decline in the 80s and 90s). I have no great admiration for Cardinal Mahoney (a prominent liberal), but it is clear that the incidence of alleged abuses declined steeply on his watch, so that by the turn of the century they were running at under five a year. After the scandal broke and the files landed on Ratzinger’s desk, claimed abuses flatlined at a negligible level and have remained so for over ten years. By all means tilt at windmills, but do make sure the said grain-grinders are still standing.

    The high levels of claimed abuse in the period 1968 to 1978 need to be explained. I assume that, now you have been acquainted with the facts, you are not blaming it on clerical celibacy. All I can do is identify some features from that decade and put them forward as possible causal factors.

    1. The Papacy was weak, and history shows that when this is the case, the Church suffers. Discipline all but collapsed. Priests and religious were leaving in droves. The established religious orders, despite (or because of) a rush to ‘modernize’, were no longer recruiting in any numbers. Vocations plummeted, and the priests who did make it through seminary were not always well formed. Mass attendance declined sharply, despite (or because of) attempts to make the liturgy more ‘relevant’. Confession ceased to be part of the sacramental life even of those Catholics who still attended.

    2. For all the talk of the ‘swinging sixties’ the real sexual revolution was in the next decade. With the removal of censorship, explicit pornography became easily available. ‘Unmarried mothers’ became ‘single parents’ and the social stigma attached to illegitimacy no longer applied. Homosexual behaviour and even paedophilia were openly advocated as ‘normal’. Sex, we were told, should not be associated with guilt. Whether this was a good or a bad thing depends on one’s point of view; but it marked the beginning of a sea-change in societal attitudes and was bound to impact on a Church whose leadership was weak and whose desire to interact with the secular world was strong.

    3. When John Paul II was elected in 1978 he moved quickly to restore discipline and one of the keynotes of his papacy was the necessity of the Church to be counter-cultural. This was conditioned at least in part by his experience of totalitarianism, both Nazi and Soviet. From 1978 levels of claimed abuse begin to decline.

    The above observations do not constitute a definitive explanation. They are open to dispute and counter-argument. All attempts at generalization are of necessity subjective, and I am not even claiming they are relevant even where true. But I submit they are worthy of consideration.

  28. John Candido says:

    It will not come as any surprise that I do not agree with your analysis. What we are seeing, in general terms, is that sexual abuse by clergy and religious in the Catholic Church, and in other Christian denominations, is being exposed wholesale for the very first time, together with its systemic, international, and historic dimensions. The very fact of its exposure, the overwhelming shock of these sordid criminal facts by both believers and nonbelievers alike, the concern expressed by members of society, the police, the media, and governments, the move by society at large, the Catholic Church, and other denominations in order to slow, limit, and stop where possible, these tragic crimes; have all played a significant role in limiting its occurrence today.

    The effect of placing pressure on those who are predisposed to such acts, and by placing pressure on enablers, who fail to report offenders to the police, fail to cooperate with the police, shifting offenders to other parishes, or sending offenders overseas, have all been a part of the collection of reasons for the abatement of this crisis.

    As an indication of the maturity on this issue in the Catholic Church, and the American church in particular, is represented by the statement in 2005 of Dr. Kathleen McChesney of the USCCB (Bishops of the United States) who said,

    ‘What is over is the denial that this problem exists, and what is over is the reluctance of the Church to deal openly with the public about the nature and extent of the problem.’


  29. John Nolan says:

    Firstly, I was not attempting an analysis; this has been exhaustively done by those more qualified than I; the John Jay study was very comprehensive. In particular, it analyses the alleged abuse according to manner and degree, and the age and sex of the alleged victims, rather than lumping everything under the heading of ‘paedophilia’, which is both misleading and intellectually lazy. I think that everybody now agrees that the standard procedures used by bishops in the case of the sexual delicts of diocesan clergy was inappropriate in these circumstances. The most common of these was, and still is, priests having relationships with women. By the time it came to the bishop’s attention it would already have been causing scandal, and so the priest would be moved. (The implication was that the woman was also guilty, but as she was a laywoman no sanctions could be applied to her, but equally she was given little or no support by the Church. This was an issue raised in the media in the 1990s before it was eclipsed by scandals concerning the abuse of minors).

    Since the true nature of the allegations and the way they were handled did not fully emerge until after the turn of the century, your argument does not explain the steep decline in abuse claims from the 1980s onwards, nor the sharp rise in the 1960s and peak in the 1970s ( in the USA at least). I looked at some factors which were operating at the time in the Church and in society at large. Since then society has lurched further into hedonism and moral relativism (many non-religious people recognize this), whereas it was becoming clear quite early on in John Paul II’s reign that the Church was beginning to recover her old self-confidence. Younger priests are notably more orthodox, and some of the younger bishops (Alexander Sample in the USA, an archbishop at 42, and Mark Davies and Philip Egan in England) represent a new post-Vatican II generation, unencumbered with the ideological baggage of the 1960s and 1970, who are determined not to make the same mistakes as their predecessors.

    • John Nolan says:

      Correction: Archbishop-elect Sample, born in 1960, is of course 52, but was only 45 at the tine of his episcopal consecration. Eheu fugaces …

  30. John Candido says:

    One of the most important questions facing the Roman Catholic Church today is whether or not clericalism and enforced celibacy on diocesan and religious priests and brothers, has a causal or correlative (associated) relationship to these crimes. The John Jay Report, from the City University of new York (CUNY), which was commissioned by the USCCB, is a retrospective, descriptive study that is ‘based on surveys completed by the Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States’.

    It did not find a causal or statistical correlation relationship between enforced celibacy and paedophilia. As I previously pointed out in a previous post, between 94% and 96% of priests and religious are not paedophiles. This alone heavily points to the non-causal relationship between the two. (There is some dispute over the actual figure amongst experts due to underreporting as well as other issues, but as it is relatively small in percentage terms it is not worth quibbling about). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Jay_Report

    The Roman Catholic Church, as well as all other mainstream denominations, has put in place various policies and protocols for seminaries, parish schools, and the post ordination care of priests, in order to greater protect innocent children. There is a far greater emphasis today on the humanity of priests, which is reflected in the culture of subjects such as the continuing human formation of seminarians, priests and religious. This is very encouraging news. http://www.usccb.org/upload/program-priestly-formation-fifth-edition.pdf

    Despite this good news, it is still a moot point as to whether enforced celibacy for priests and religious should be maintained in an environment where vocations to the priesthood and religious life have all but dried-up. Apart from this seemingly interminable problem, there is the conundrum of the very real attraction of priestly and religious celibacy for those with a deviant sexuality such as paedophilia.



  31. John Candido says:

    Some documents from the USCCB that may be of interest to readers and contributors of SecondSight.

    ‘The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, ’


    The 2010 John Jay Report to the USCCB,

    ‘The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010’,

    Click to access The-Causes-and-Context-of-Sexual-Abuse-of-Minors-by-Catholic-Priests-in-the-United-States-1950-2010.pdf

    ‘What has the Catholic Church done to effectively respond to sexual abuse by church personnel?’

    Click to access What-has-the-Catholic-Church-done-to-effectively-respond-to-sexual-abuse-by-church-personnel.pdf

    ‘Promise to Protect – Pledge to Heal, A History of the National Review Board.’

    Click to access NRB-History-5-17-2011.pdf

    All of the above are good news indeed. I am catching up with the many responsible actions of the Roman Catholic Church, its Bishops, Priests, and Laity, which I am certain, is not well known outside of the church. Of the little that I have read; I am really impressed. What on earth could anyone expect when the church is faced with an unprecedented crisis such as the child sex abuse crisis?

    There are a lot of good people with an awful lot of talent and good will in the Roman Catholic Church, as well as other Christian denominations. Hardly any of this is placed in newspapers or television programs. Good news is hardly ever newsworthy. It is a glaring example of very unbalanced reporting, similar to the downplaying of plain and ordinary headlines of the ‘Dog Bites Man’ sort, rather than the promoted and more unusual ‘Man Bites Dog’ variety of news stories.

    • John Nolan says:

      JC, I think that at last you may be seeing the light. A lot of the reporting was indeed unbalanced; it was too often malice feeding on ignorance. Incidentally, the collapse in vocations coincided with the high noon of liberalism in the Church. This morning I attended Low Mass for Quinquagesima Sunday (1962 missal) celebrated by a young priest whose orthodoxy, like his Latin, was impeccable. Vocations have started to pick up.

  32. Andres says:

    This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!!
    Finally I have found something that helped me. Cheers!

  33. John Candido says:

    Welcome aboard Andres! Please feel free to contribute to SecondSight whenever you are so disposed. John Candido.

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