A few days ago, after posting my reflections about bullying bishops, I got a rather nasty private email. The author, to phrase it here more politely, told me that if I despise the church and hate our bishops and the Pope so much I should simply leave the Catholic Church, move on, and shut up.

I don’t despise the Catholic Church. I don’t hate our bishops or the Pope. Some of my best friends are bishops, archbishops, and even a couple cardinals. 🙂

In all the heated Catholic rhetoric these days, it is easy to miss the main point.

We have a major Catholic leadership problem. It is reaching crisis proportions, as I write. This is bigger and more far-reaching than the sixteenth century Reformation.

In today’s news, we read about an increasingly angry Vatican……..

As reported in the The Irish Catholic and the The National Catholic Reporter, just some weeks after a Vatican report about the Irish Catholic Church lamented what it described as “fairly widespread” dissent from church teaching, it has been revealed that the Vatican has “silenced” a widely respected Redemptorist: Father Tony Flannery.

The Vatican silencing of Flannery has raised a strong protest among the members of the 800-strong Association of Catholic Priests, which has accused the Vatican of issuing a fatwa against liberal clerics.

According to Michael Kelly, the deputy editor of The Irish Catholic, Father Flannery, a popular author and retreat director, has voiced support in the past for opening up debates about the ordination of women, a change to the church’s ban on artificial birth control, and an end to mandatory celibacy. He also provoked dismay among senior Irish bishops when he publicly backed Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s 2011 attack on the Vatican, in the wake of the report into the mishandling of clerical abuse in the Cloyne diocese. Kenny accused the Vatican of “dysfunction,” “disconnection,” “elitism” and “narcissism.” Flannery described the speech as “wonderful.”

By acting against Fr. Tony Flannery now, Cardinal William Levada’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has provoked the ire of the priests’ association. Flannery is a founder of the association, which now represents some 20 percent of Ireland’s clergy.

Since its founding less than two years ago, the group has campaigned for reforms in the church and is due to hold a national assembly in early May to harness momentum. Key priorities for the group include “a re-evaluation of Catholic sexual teaching” and “a redesigning of ministry in the Church, in order to incorporate the gifts, wisdom and expertise of the entire faith community, male and female.”

Father Flannery is the latest Irish priest to face Vatican censure. In mid-April, it was revealed that moral theologian Fr. Seán Fagan had been silenced by the Vatican two years ago. His Marist order even took the bizarre step of buying up unsold copies of his 2008 book What Happened to Sin?.

The Irish Capuchin, Owen O’Sullivan, also fell foul of the CDF in late 2010 after he published an article suggesting that homosexuality is “simply a facet of the human condition.”

The well-known ecologist Fr. Seán McDonagh, a member of the Irish priests’ association’s leadership team, has accused the Vatcan of “outrageous” behavior in silencing of these Irish priests. He accused the Vatican of “throwing a fatwa” at the priests and said that some of Rome’s recent actions were like a return to the Inquisition.

The Irish association of priests has rallied behind Father Flannery, insisting, “This intervention is unfair, unwarranted and unwise”………….

We urgently need to engage ourselves in a CATHOLIC REFORM OF THE REFORMERS OF THE REFORM.

The Catholic Church is OUR church, because WE ARE THE CHURCH. We don’t have a Catholic problem. We have a CATHOLIC LEADERSHIP PROBLEM……

If you care about the Catholic Church, as I do, you cannot stand silently along the sidelines. What we see, hear, and read about is serious stuff. Please join the reform movement.

There are today a number of Catholic reform groups. I appreciate and support what they are doing.

My favorite reform group is one of the oldest. Perhaps it is in fact the oldest: ARCC – The Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church. It appears to be experiencing an energetic organizational rebirth. Rightly so, because the people in ARCC realize that we are the church and that, as Catholics, we have dignity and rights as Catholics. Our dignity and our rights are guaranteed in Catholic Church law, i.e. what is called “canon law.”

Next week a longer reflection about our Catholic rights: For all those who understand what’s happening in today’s church. We don’t have a Catholic problem. We have a deadly serious, aggressive, and festering Catholic leadership problem.


For your homework, check out ARCC. They have an excellent electronic newsletter. It is attractive, insightful, and very up to date.

Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church
Call: 877-700-2722

Email: arccnews@gmail.com

Web: arcc-catholic-rights.net



  1. John, there are a lot of bullies these days, always bullying in the name of Jesus. They are following their leaders, who also bully in the name of Jesus, just because they can, and nobody has stopped them. I fear they and their followers might “win” because their energy seems so much more driven that that of the folks they are bullying. I wonder where all this will end up.

  2. John, thanks again for another insightful posting. We do need to rally. I joined ARCC a couple of years ago when they feted Bishop Gumbleton in Baltimore. Their newsletter is one of the best on line.

  3. Thanks, John for another insightful posting. I joined ARCC a year or two when they feted Bishop Gumbleton in Baltimore. Their newsletter IS one of the most useful on the web.

  4. While I don’t like to admit it, your critic may have a point. Flannery and other reformers are asking to change ideas that have been part of Catholic belief for a very long time. If religion is a specific set of beliefs and practices agreed upon by a number of persons, then to change those beliefs and practices could be seen as a change in religion. Is the Catholic leadership not just adhering to the task given to them: to preserve the philosophy and tradition of the Catholic Church? And, if we disagree with those ideas and practices, why not, as many have, begin join another Church? As a frustrated liberal Catholic myself, I do not claim to know the answer to these questions. I only pose them to get your perspective.

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