Five Catholics reflect on how we should view Bishop Eamonn Casey, and how revelations of his sexual and financial misconduct affect the Church
Bishop James O'Brien
IN recent years there has been a considerable advance in the Church's understanding of human sexuality. More emphasis is now being placed on a loving, supportive relationship within marriage and human fulfilment and happiness is rightly stressed.
At the same time the Church of the Latin Rite continues to ask of her priests a commitment to celibacy. That commitment has been sought for centuries and has been reiterated only weeks ago by the Holy Father in his Post Synodal apostolic exhortation Pastures Dabo Vobis published by the CTS.
In the light of recent sad events and the subsequent questioning of celibacy, it may be helpful to turn to the papal statement and hear again some of the traditional arguments in favour of clerical celibacy. The Holy Father reminds us (Para 50) that the true nature and real purpose of celibacy is for "evangelical, spiritual and pastoral motives".
He goes on: "The celibacy of priests brings with it certain characteristics thanks to which they renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt 19:12) and hold fast to their Lord with that undivided love which is profoundly in harmony with the New Covenant."
To some, these sentiments may seem unrealistically idealistic. But then the Gospel must always be about ideals. The fact is that the vast majority of priests, past and present, have been inspired by these ideals and remain happy and fulfilled in their personal lives. In times of persecution celibate priests and nuns have been free to lead lives of heroic witness. Both celibacy and priesthood are gifts • from God.
The external call to service in the priesthood is conveyed'by the Church. Though celibacy is nut essential to the ordained ministry, : the Church is of the mind that it is particularly suited to it. Furthermore, as the Church seeks an ever richer understanding of human sexuality, the witness of celibacy becomes even more precious. It
emphasises that loving relationships do not need to find total physical expression. Many millions of the human race, for different reasons, are called to holiness and fulfilment of their sexuality in ways other than marriage. 1 think of single people, widows and widowers, those whose marriages have broken down and all who have chosen celibacy for the sake of the kingdom.
What is essential is that celibacy should be willingly accepted and that there should be adequate preparation for such a life. There is every indication that seminaries have acepted this challenge and will continue to form priests, who, though aware of their own weaknesses. will rejoice in their God-given calling.
Bishop O'Brien is Chairman of the Bishops' Committee for Ministerial Formation.
Fr Andrew Greeley
HOW DO you react, it is demanded of me, to the disgrace of your friend Bishop Eamonn Casey of Galway?
I feel sad for the three personal tragedies of the people involved. I will leave to heaven judgements about how responsibilities and blames should be distributed, if God be concerned about such matters, which I very much doubt. To all of those who are busy judging the bishop, I point out the words of the Scripture about running the risk of being judged yourself.
Moreover, I grieve for Ireland which has lost its best bishop and will not see his like again until the Church changes dramatically. Bishop Casey's record of concern for social and economic justice has been a bright light in the North Atlantic churches for a quarter century. He was enormously popular in his own diocese and throughout Ireland. If the Galwegians were given a vote about retaining him. I'm sure he would win easily.
I am also glad that he did not channel all his passions into the lust for ecclesiastical promotion, a form of sublimation which produces men who are innocent of sexual feeling. Of that sort we already have far too many in the hierarchy. Their arrogance and insensitivity do far more harm to the Church than did Bishop Casey's fall from grace.
Much of the scandalised outrage in the media is absurd. Can anyone seriously believe that after all the turmoil in the Church in the last three decades a fall from grace of a good bishop will be the final blow to anyone's faith? Does anyone really think that the faith of the Irish depends on the virtue or the wisdom of their bishops? Gimme a break.
A cursory knowledge of history would reveal that in most times in Catholic history, no one would have been particularly shocked (though they might have been saddened) by the Casey affair.
Ultimately the resolution of the Casey matter ought to have been left to the priests and people of Galway just as they ought to make the decision now about his successor. As Pope St Leo I said: "He who presides over all should
be chosen by all." If that ancient tradition were honoured, the Church would be in a much better condition,
Fr Greeley is Professor of Social Science at the Univeristy of Chicago
I SEE this incident as an on-going escalation against Irish Catholicism. The media have jumped on this case and blown it up out of all proportion. I'm astonished that the woman involved is not in court for blackmail. She was extorting money out of a man in a powerful position who had a lot to lose.
I find the woman involved one of the most objectionable aspects of this whole thing. It was a seduction and I use that word deliberately. Priests can be naive fools sometimes, but women who set their caps at them rarely are.
Some women definitely get a kick out of flirting with priests. She liked the frisson of an"affair with a Catholic bishop. She didn't "fall in love". Just look at the man. He's an ugly fellow. The women are dishonoured quite as much as the priests themselves by something like this.
The Catholic Church can't afford to have married priests: how could you possibly have a poor inner-city parish supporting a priest and his wife and his kids? They just wouldn't be able to afford it. That has always been a practical argument about what's fair and just and workable.
And if you made celibacy optional, you would have a wealthy group of married priests and poor celibate ones, you would have divorce amongst the clergy, any number of problems just like the Anglicans. The only way to maintain the church is to have one which is quick on its feet, ready to go. with an unmarried. mobile priesthood, just as Christ had.
Bishops who have lived the good life have distanced themselves from their people. And as for Bishop Casey. he's been caught a cropper in a very, very old-fashioned way.
Someone once said that the Catholic Church is full of sinners. but my reply to that is: what other kind of person is there?
Victoria Gillick is a spokeswoman for the pro-life movement.
Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP
THE reaction to the sad story of Bishop Casey has been hysterical. It is said to put into question the teaching of the Church on anything connected with sex.
But why should this be so? What does it say about how our teaching is seen?
There is no logical reason why the failure of one bishop, many years ago, should undermine the Church's teaching. After this he may well have done his best to live a good, moral and celibate life for 17 years. He may have become such a loved and compassionate bishop because he learned from this experience of weakness. After all, the Church is founded on the Rock of Peter. who failed more dramatically than most of us ever will. He is a Rock because his faith persisted beyond that failure and so he could strengthen his brothers and sisters.
The teacher has authority not because of his or her virtue but because of revelation in Christ. If we could only preach what we practise, sermons would be dreadfully self-righteous! So why this hysterical reaction?
I believe that it must make us question how we teach about sexual morality. Often chastity, in marriage or in priestly life, is seen as a state of noncontamination to be preserved rather than of virtue to be acquired. If we see chastity as a primeval innocence that once lost can never be regained, then the only people who could preach it would he those who have kept intact, frozen, an angelic detachment from the world.
And once the angel falls, then he is finished. But surely chastity is a state of unposessiveness, a purity of heart, that we have to grow into, with pain and through the years. and maybe with failures on the way. It is not a childlike innocence but a mature ability to love without domination, to enjoy and delight in people without lust. It is a freedom to give yourself away that no one is born with, but one can only attain with grace and time.
We do not expect the irascible person to acquire gentleness in a moment. And we know that they will speak with authority because they have suffered and had to struggle with their temper. Might this not be so with chastity as well?
The Church is called to offer a moral vision of us as bodily, emotional, sexual, social beings. Often we present that vision so that it is experienced as an accusation of those whose lives have not conformed to that teaching. It is seen as a condemnation of anyone whose experience has been different, for whom the teaching of the Church has not made sense• or who has quite simply failed.
And if our teaching is experienced as accusation rather than an invitation to grow and live. it is not surprising that when there is a moment of failure by the clergy, the "accusers" will stand accused and there is a feast of righteous indignation. The Jews had a name for that particular angel who went around noting people's failures and reporting them; he was called The Satan.
If the good news of Christ is to be heard, we must find ways of sharing a moral vision of sexual ethics that is seen to nurture people on the way, as we try to grow in maturity and unpossessiveness and purity of heart, rather than pointing the finger of accusation.
Fr Radcliffe is provincial of the Dominicans
THE CHATTERING classes have talked a great deal of rot about Bishop Casey, his son and his use of Church funds. Even within the Church the usual wishy-washy bien-peasants have maundered on about the need for a total and fundamental reappraisal of the role of celibacy in the priesthood of today.
Just for once, let an unusual, opinionated 1560s mal-pensant have his say. Bishop Casey is news because he was the exception that tested the rule, which is that even among the most cynical and hard-bitten scribblers who disfigure my often dishonourable profession Catholic priests are respected because they are respectable: admired because they are admirable; revered because they are reverend and not just Reverend.
But does his case raise once again the question whether priests of the Latin Rite should be allowed to marry? No it does not. Chastity, not celibacy, is the issue here: for, unfortunately, there is no more guarantee that a married priest will be chaste enough to steer clear of mistresses than that a celibate priest will be chaste.
No, the Casey case raises a quite different and much more down-to-earth question: are we, the laity, doing enough to make sure that our priests do not become lonely?
It may seem odd that a priest, who meets hundreds of people every Sunday at Mass, can possibly he lonely. But ask yourself this. When did you last ask any of the priests in your parish round to your house for a good, home-cooked meal?
The chatterers continue to demand that priests should be allowed to marry. Some say that the Pope, who vigorously opposes a married priesthood in the Latin rite of which he is patriarch, will one day he forced to give in because vocations are scarce.
Yet I suspect that the real reason why vocations are few and far between is not that priests must be celibate but because our hierarchy teaches the Catholic faith with such lack of conviction.
When, for instance, did you last hear a priest or a bishop explain clearly, or at all, that the blessed sacrament is the bOdy soul and divinity of Christ Himself, and that the great function of the priest is to bring us the blessed sacrament by saying the words of consecration at Mass?
In Poland, where these things are firmly taught, there arc 10,860 seminarians. If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall go forth to battle?
Christopher Monckton is a leader writer for The Evening Standard.