Wednesday, 23 February 2011
I'm posting a link to this reflection by an Australian priest, Fr. Eric Hodgens, on the occasion of the golden anniversary of his ordination. (It dates back to late last year, but I've only just discovered it). Undoubtedly some followers of this blog will condemn it out of hand, but it must have taken great courage to write it. It's further evidence that, for a growing number of faithful Catholics, there is a need to speak out even at the risk of being abused and attacked. After all, Christ did warn us that this might be the cost of faithfulness to him.
Many, indeed the majority of Catholics today, choose to leave the Church rather than deplete themselves in the struggle for acceptance and change. But love asks something different of us - a sustained and loyal commitment inspired by our faith in the fundamental goodness of the Catholic faith and all that it means, but an intelligent recognition that that does not mean passive and uncritical acceptance of all that is done in its name. The Christian faith has always valued freedom above all else. 'If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed.' Of course, our understanding of freedom and our ability to use it wisely needs to be matured and reflected upon, but it is also part of the expression of freedom that we must risk being wrong. Is it really free if we only express our freedom when we are sure that it is both safe and right to do so? As we see so many people today rising up against dictatorial regimes, often risking their lives for freedom, we should ask ourselves why, of all people, Catholic priests and bishops have become the least willing to stand up and defend the freedom that our faith offers us.
Pacifism is not passivity. To long for peace in the Church is not to be complacent in the face of abuse, nor is it to remain indifferent or even hostile to those who are driven away by a yoke that is too heavy to bear.
Fr. Eric Hodgens is an example of loyal criticism and visionary faith. Let's pray for him on his golden anniversary, and thank God for priests like him - priests who affirm the joy and meaning of their vocations, but who still have the courage to speak out when called upon to do so. Happy anniversary, Fr. Hodgens!
(P.S. The petition initiated by German-speaking theologians now has over 23,000 signatories. I realize from recent comments on my last blog that there's some question about the legitimacy of online petitions, but sometimes they have great symbolic power even if they have no legal status. You can sign the petition here.)