There is a sinister spirit pontificating in contemporary Roman Catholic leadership. It is a kind of religious fundamentalism; and it is unwelcome, unhealthy, and unacceptable.
In the name of orthodoxy, today’s Catholic fundamentalists condemn and denigrate believers who study, ask questions, and call for a serious discussion. Increasingly silent about about sexual abuse in the church, and about past and present episcopal complicity in sexual abuse, they shout instead about the evils of questioning celibacy for ordained ministers, respecting the nature and dignity of gay men and women, and asking why women cannot be ordained.
Men in Renaissance robes who loudly proclaim “respect or life” are working overtime to squeeze every bit of life out of their church. People who challenge their authoritarian crack-down are labeled “disobedient,” or “anti-Catholic,” or “in grave sin.” Priests are silenced and removed from leadership positions and theologians are condemned, often without any genuine discussion about their research and thought. There is a major Catholic exodus from the church and our bishops applaud it as a necessary institutional purification.
We are not living in the middle ages. Every man and every woman has dignity and rights: to be, to enquire, to think, and to express one’s thoughts.
And every Roman Catholic man and every Roman Catholic woman has rights stated and guaranteed in Roman Catholic Church law.
Here a few significant Catholic rights (and the number of the canon in church law that affirms it):
All Catholics have the right to follow their informed consciences in all matters. (C. 748.1)
Officers of the Church have the right to teach on matters both of private and public morality only after wide consultation with the faithful prior to the formulation of the teaching.4 (C. 212, C. 747, C. 749, C. 752, C. 774.1)
Decision-making and Dissent
All Catholics have the right to a voice in all decisions that affect them, including the choosing of their leaders. (C. 212:3)
All Catholics have the right to have their leaders accountable to them. (C. 492, C. 1287.2)
All Catholics have the right to form voluntary associations to pursue Catholic aims including the right to worship together; such associations have the right to decide on their own rules of governance. (C. 215, C. 299, C. 300, C. 305, C. 309)
All Catholics have the right to express publicly their dissent in regard to decisions made by Church authorities. (C. 212:3, C. 218, C. 753)
All Catholics have the right to be dealt with according to commonly accepted norms of fair administrative and judicial procedures without undue delay. (C. 221:1,2,3, C. 223, 1,2)
All Catholics have the right to redress of grievances through regular procedures of law. (C. 221:1,2,3, C. 223:1,2)
All Catholics have the right not to have their good reputations impugned or their privacy violated. (C. 220)
Ministries and Spirituality
All Catholics have the right to receive from the Church those ministries which are needed for the living of a fully Christian life, including:
a) Instruction in the Catholic tradition and the presentation of moral teaching in a way that promotes the helpfulness and relevance of Christian values to contemporary life. (C.229:1,2)
b) Worship which reflects the joys and concerns of the gathered community and instructs and inspires it.
c) Pastoral counseling that applies with love and effectiveness the Christian heritage to persons in particular situations. (C. 213, C. 217)
Catholic teachers of theology have a right to responsible academic freedom. The acceptability of their teaching is to be judged in dialogue with their peers, keeping in mind the legitimacy of responsible dissent and pluralism of belief. (C. 212:1, C. 218, C. 750, C. 752, C. 754, C. 279:1, C. 810, C. 812)
Social and Cultural Rights
All Catholics have the right to freedom in political matters. (C. 227)
All Catholics have the right to follow their informed consciences in working for justice and peace in the world. (C. 225:2)
All employees of the Church have the right to decent working conditions and just wages. They also have the right not to have their employment terminated without due process. (C. 231:2)
For a more complete explanation of Catholic rights and responsibilities, please consult: