Seeking pontifical status Heythrop offers to host priest-led dissent movement

It is widely known that Heythrop College, the Jesuit theological college, is seeking to be recognised as a pontifical college by the Holy See. This aspiration is difficult to reconcile with their offer to host a meeting of the dissenting group  ’A Call to Action’ led by seven English priests

The Tablet reports that Heythrop College intended to host the meeting open to laity on Wednesday 10th October but the numbers were greater than expected and ‘just minutes before the event was due to start’ it had to be shifted to the nearby Anglican church of St. Mary Abbots ‘because the original venue could not accommodate’ the crowd of 400 priests and laity.

The seven priests published their manifesto of dissent in The Tablet (2/06/12). Here are the main points of of their dissent:

Dissent from the Church’s teaching on sexuality

‘The bishops speak of “fostering and encouraging a culture of dialogue and solidarity” but, in reality, there is little opportunity or forum for this and there seems a reluctance to listen to the people whose lived reality is so often at odds with the teaching of the institutional Church. This is especially true in reading the signs of the times; i.e. matters of developing a theology of sexuality rooted in the actual experiences of the faithful and developing an understanding of the relationships between evolution and religion. The sensus fidelium seems forgotten.’

Married Priests

‘“Creating a national vocations framework,offering discernment and opportunities for all” again seems to ignore the view of so many of the laity that it is time for us to have serious discussion about married men and the institutional priesthood.’

Antagonism towards the Holy See

‘While we support our bishops in their desire for the renewal of our Church, we recognise that certain basic teachings of the Second Vatican Council seem to be bypassed by the Roman Curia so that real collegiality is not fully exercised and much of the responsibility of the local bishops has been abrogated by the Curia.’

Opposition to the new Translation

The recent imposition of the new translation of the Mass texts is an obvious example of this. We feel that it is imperative that those of us in the ministerial priesthood who are concerned for these and many other matters should gather together so that we both support our bishops and be a voice to which they can listen.’

Their dissent was given a wider audience at the meeting the priests convened for the laity on Wednesday, 10th October.  The Tablet (13/10/12) provides a report of the dissent expressed:

‘Speakers at Wednesday’s meeting were interrupted with applause when they blamed a “distant” hierarchy for losing touch with the laity on issues such as women’s ordination and the Liturgy.

Chris McDonnell, ex-headmaster of Catholic primary schools including St Joseph’s RC school in Rugeley, Staffordshire, told the audience that he was concerned about “a concerted attempt to undermine the Second Vatican Council”. He said: “There is a distance between laity and hierarchy.”He was also applauded when he said: “Where do we see in print an appreciation from our bishops that, for many, the new translation of the Missal is proving to be a significant stumbling block?”

Mr McDonnell said: “Too often have I heard in recent years of the hypocrisy of the Church on issues relating to married priests, acceptance of gay people – things that we now know so much about yet continue to teach from a historical perspective. Maybe the time is fast approaching when we need to take stock and ask whether we need to make preparation for another council: not in the Vatican.”Catherine O’Donovan, who worked with Cardinal Franz König, Archbishop of Vienna, told the audience about life in Rome at the time of the Second Vatican Council. She said that Vatican II had a positive impact on the Church but said that it had not made a difference to women’s status in the Church. She said: “We have an ageing priest population – let the girls go forward!” Ms O’Donovan said of Cardinal König: “He told me to get out there and speak up and I  never had a chance to do it.”

When 70 dissenting priests and deacons met in July they were addressed by Sr Myra Poole SND, a notorious advocate of women’s ordination who compares Pope Benedict with BNP leader Nick Griffin. Her organisation, Catholic Women’s Ordination, also funded a £10,000 advertising campaign during the Holy Father’s UK visit protesting the  Church’s teaching on the priesthood being reserved to men.

The seventy priests and deacons were also addressed by Mary Grey, a visiting professor at St. Mary’s University College, Twickenham. Mary Grey is a self-described feminist theologian, specializing in ecofeminist theology. In her address to the priests and deacons of ‘A Call to Action’ Mary Grey told them,

‘There has been a slow death of hope and the bleeding away of faith. Today Catholics loyal to the spirit of Vatican II experience their faith as famine and not feast. I have experienced a near despair at the loss of a generation of young Catholics, and particularly women.’

Protect the Pope comment: Apparently the Jesuits at Heythrop are serious about seeking pontifical status for the college and have the support of senior figures in the English Church. Why, then, did Heythrop agree to host the meeting organised for laity by a group of priests who dissent from the Church’s doctrine on sexuality, married priests, women priests and are antagonistic towards the Holy See?

Heythrop just can’t help being, well, Heythrop. It’s true nature will out. Hopefully the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will take note that Heythrop’s actions speak volumes.


2 comments to Seeking pontifical status Heythrop offers to host priest-led dissent movement

  • Sixupman

    The Jesuits are re-taking The Holy Name, Manchester, after abandoning the church 20 years ago, and, they are taking over the Universities chaplaincy. God help the
    student body.

    In the intervening 20 years both Church and Chaplaincy have benefited from orthodox Catholicism of an high order with good congregation levels. Perhaps to the embarrassment of both bishop and other clergy.

  • Simon

    It is true that the greatest danger the church faces comes from within. This group want to overall the teachings of the church. They do not accept the authority of the Pope. How can they continue in their ministry when they are so out of step? Surely this will confuse people?

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