Sunday, 17 November 2013

Fr Brian D'Arcy on BBC Radio 2

I have just listened to part of an interview of Fr Brian D'Arcy on Radio 2's Sunday morning programme. The presenter was Clare Balding.

In part - and in a way that would be reflected by many other Catholics from the kind of background from which Fr D'Arcy comes - Fr D'Arcy spoke about the impact of Pope Francis' election for him. The way in which he spoke about the resignation of Pope Benedict and the subsequent election of Pope Francis as a miracle for him in his own situation at first sight seems somewhat hostile to Pope Benedict, but it was combined with a tribute to the greatness of an act of someone who stepped aside as he realised that another was needed to do what was needed for the good of the Church. Perhaps we should not be mean in recognising the disposition of divine providence for Fr D'Arcy in this regard.

Two particular points, though.

Fr D'Arcy attributed his being the subject of disciplinary provisions from the Congregation for Doctrine to his being outspoken in his criticism of the way in which superiors in the Catholic Church had responded to the child sex abuse scandal in Ireland, and he insisted that, though progress has been made by the Church in this area, he would still be just as outspoken today. However, I suspect that the reasons for the intervention of the Congregation for Doctrine are actually other than this. This BBC News report refers to other issues in Fr D'Arcy's work, as well as to those around sexual abuse:
Fr D'Arcy has spoken out against mandatory celibacy for priests, church teaching on contraception and has been a vocal critic of the handling of clerical sexual abuse. In the wake of the Murphy Report into clerical abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin Fr D'Arcy called for reformation of church structures and accused the Holy See of using legal procedures to shield itself from criticism over its handling of abuse.
The second point is that, in his interview, Fr D'Arcy spoke in a way that contrasted the institutional in the Church to the living of the Christian life by its people in, for example, action in favour of those suffering in the Philippines at the moment.  Though Fr D'Arcy was presenting himself as being very much encouraged by Pope Francis action in the Church (though with an aside qualification that "strangely enough, he hasn't changed any rules or regulations yet" - memory quote, not exact), he appeared to me to be very much off-Pope-Francis-message here. Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken to the effect that to know Christ is to know the Church, to be one with Christ is to be one with the Church. The following is from a General Audience address earlier this year, but in other addresses Pope Francis has made the point more systematically (I will post those links when I have time):
Still today some say: “Christ yes, the Church no”. Like those who say “I believe in God but not in priests”. But it is the Church herself which brings Christ to us and which brings us to God. The Church is the great family of God’s children. Of course, she also has human aspects. In those who make up the Church, pastors and faithful, there are shortcomings, imperfections and sins. The Pope has these too — and many of them; but what is beautiful is that when we realize we are sinners we encounter the mercy of God who always forgives.
This having been said, it was interesting to hear Fr D'Arcy speaking in a way that acknowledged the difficulty of the situation in which he found himself as a result of the intervention of the Holy See - he observed that he had come to a position where he felt he was going to assert his own freedom and that you could not go on feeling that you are being hounded for what you are doing. The way in which he spoke, however, seemed to me to lack any edge of bitterness, and this was something I found encouraging.

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