WELL OF WISDOM
*'Matters outside the remit of Synod 2020' refers to the Liverpool Synod 2020,
not to be confused with Bristol Synod 2021
There are so many books but here are a few we’ve recently reviewed.
More to come when we have time!
A Question of Conscience
This moving and accessible book, which is the author’s own story, is a harrowing account of how an Irish Redemptorist priest (also a successful author and columnist, and founder member of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland) had his ministry cut short by the authorities of the Catholic Church. They objected to the views he was expressing in his preaching and in his writing. Over time, he endured a prolonged confrontation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (none of whom he was ever allowed to meet or speak to directly) which led to him being removed from his ministry.
As he tells his story, Fr. Flannery shares his own insights into where the Catholic Church is today and the many problems assailing it. He reflects on the increasing isolation of the laity from the leadership of the church, brought about largely by its rigid-as-ever position on, amongst other things, the celibacy of the priesthood, women priests, divorce and contraception which has driven many to either compromise their beliefs or leave the church altogether. This isolation is compounded (or created deliberately?) by the lack of any forum in which to have their voices heard. As Fr. Flannery found out for himself, this is the church which likes to say ‘We can’t hear you!’
A compelling and informative read.
The Curia is the Pope
John O’Loughlin Kennedy
This is an amazingly readable book and John’s style manages to be conversational and clear at the same time. He interweaves salient quotes from encyclicals with biblical quotes and references to show how out of step curial teaching is from biblical origins. Another strength of the book is to help readers understand how it happened- so at what point Roman emperors and Popes built their empires and created their own power structures.
An aspect that I found eye-wateringly shocking was the times bishops abdicated their own sense of authority and responsibility to rubber-stamp something the Vatican and Curia wanted, notably the forbidding of discussion on women’s ordination. It is helpful to have the explanations for this in print for the times we are in discussion with the hierarchy.
I was encouraged to see where O’Loughlin Kennedy’s writing chimed clearly with the words of Tony Flannery, highlighting where sacramental teaching on the Eucharist has moved so far from its biblical origins. We are encouraged to “leave aside the trivia and do what Jesus told us to do...sharing the Eucharist with all his disciples”.
What They Don’t Teach You in Catholic College
So why aren’t women allowed to be priests?
Anyone daunted by the prospect of burrowing into the dark and dusty labyrinths of Catholic theology to find answers to this increasingly topical question, will welcome this book, which leads the reader through accessibly written theological research, with a commentary that is energetic and indignant.
John Wijngaards, a former Mill Hill Missionary priest, begins with the story of a small but significant incident which happened to him when he was a young priest in Germany. It brought about a sudden realisation of what he calls his own ‘preconceived and ill-informed’ ideas about the status of women in society, which would eventually challenge his own vocation. Then, whilst working in Southern India, he saw first-hand the consequences of the Catholic Church’s resolve to prevent women from participating fully in the ministry of the church. Young novices were prepared only in the most rudimentary way for their work in the missionary field, consequently being able to provide little more than basic skills in cooking and nursing in the hospitals, schools, hostels and care homes where they would work. He was appalled at this failure to make good use of a valuable resource. If some of the sisters had been allowed to become priests, they would have been able to bring the sacraments to so many more people than the shortage of priests at that time allowed. He began to research why the Catholic Church was so determined to exclude women from any form of ministry. This research became a mission in itself. What he discovered, as he sets out so clearly in this book, was that the position of women in the church, from the time of Jesus onwards, was determined not on doctrinal grounds, as Catholics have always been led to believe, but on the prevailing cultural prejudices of the times. These, of course, viewed women as the inferior sex. John Wijngaards believes that it is these prejudices which the Catholic Church still clings to and asserts as the reason why women cannot be ordained.
His work and findings eventually led him to resign from priestly ministry in 1998 as he could not reconcile himself to the church’s position on the ordination of women. Today, his published work and the Institute for Catholic Research which he founded, lead the movement for women in the Catholic Church. All it needs now is for this book to be put on the curriculum in all Catholic Colleges!
Awakening: Catholic Women’s Ordination from the Public Square
Myra Poole and Pippa Bonner
‘Awakening’ is the story of the organisation ‘Catholic Women’s Ordination’ which has now been in existence for 28 years.
The seed of CWO’s creation was sown on November 11th, 1992 when the Church of England voted in favour of women priests. In the ensuing public celebrations, a young woman appeared with a poster proclaiming: ‘Roman Catholic Women Next!’ This was later pushed through the letter box of Cardinal Hume, then Archbishop of Westminster, an act which became the first of many protests characterising the work of CWO. The group was officially launched on 24th March 1993 and it has campaigned ever since for a re-examination of the whole idea of priesthood and for the ordination of women in a reformed Catholic church. At the heart of this book is the belief that change needs to occur through a process of awakening and reform. Awakening, for Poole and Bonner, is about achieving a change of consciousness through awareness, healing and spiritual growth. Consequently, the subject of every chapter is examined in this context. Renewal is seen as the only way women’s ordained ministry can be brought fully into the church, not just added on to the flawed system which already exists... [read more]
Rebel Saints for 21st Century Girls
The vibrantly coloured cover of this book will be an immediate attraction to its young readers. The hardback ‘annual’ size is also an inviting feature. Inside, the rebel saints of the title, all women, are each presented with a bold and original illustration alongside a short biography.
The most striking quality of the stories told by Moorhead is their honesty. The women she writes about are not romanticised ideals of saintliness. They are not the sweet-faced, obedient and passive individuals of Catholic tradition. These are women of strength, intelligence and resourcefulness. They are reformers and trail-blazers who challenged authority and went to enormous lengths to achieve their vision for the church. Many suffered personal tragedy and debilitating illness. Yet the depth of their spirituality is evident as they endured and overcame these obstacles... [read more]
Women’s Ordination in the Catholic Church