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Dr Philippa Martyr: A great way to finish the Church

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Sociopathic and predatory clergy need to be caught and removed from the active ministry. Some of this shame is being manipulated by so-called ‘reformers’ who would like to get rid of the ordained ministry altogether. PHOTO: UNSPLASH

Sociopathic priests

Are you ashamed of Catholic priests? I had to think about this before answering. I’m ashamed of some individual priests. But I know that clergy sexual abuse comes from sociopathy, not celibacy.

The most prolific abusers were the most charming and popular priests. That’s how sociopaths work, and that’s how they got away with it.

Sociopathic and predatory clergy need to be caught and removed from the active ministry.

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This process isn’t finished yet, and probably never will be in this life (Matthew 13:24-30).
But what about the rest of our priests – the majority who are not sociopaths? They’ve had to carry a lot of shame because of the crimes of the few.

Some of this shame is being manipulated by so-called ‘reformers’ who would like to get rid of the ordained ministry altogether. Why?

I think it’s because they’ve tried for decades to use the Catholic priesthood for their own ends. The idea was to water it down until it didn’t mean anything anymore.

So priests were physically sidelined on the sanctuary while lay people did everything around them. (They were in good company, as Jesus in the tabernacle was also sidelined in many of our churches.)

Sociopathic and predatory clergy need to be caught and removed from the active ministry.

Yes, in the bad old days there were priests who were snooty and pompous and bossy, and probably needed some humbling pastoral experiences to correct this.

While I was writing this sentence, I thought of several younger priests who I think are still snooty and pompous and bossy, so Vatican II clearly didn’t eradicate the problem. That’s not clericalism; that’s personality. However, the best-laid plans of the ‘reformers’ seem to have backfired. The Catholic Church in the West is no closer today to ordaining either married men or women.

In 2005 the Vatican asked that bishops stop ordaining gay men. In 2022 the Code of Canon Law was updated to impose penalties for attempting to ordain women.

All the bright promises of the 1970s – the ones which didn’t appear in the documents of Vatican II – aren’t working out too well. So I suppose if ‘reformers’ can’t neutralise the priesthood or bully the bishops, then they’ll try to get rid of both.

We often hear that a lay-led Church would be safer for everyone. I can only assume it’s because ‘reformers’ think that lay people are more trustworthy than clergy.

However, in my experience, lay people are just as likely to be sociopaths, self-seeking power-trippers, thieves, liars, manipulators, and experts at covering up.

In my experience, lay people are just as likely be to sociopaths, self-seeking power trippers, thieves, liars, manipulators and experts at covering up … some of our reformers think this is a good idea.”

A Church without priests or bishops simply isn’t the Catholic Church. We’d have an affluent shell of a church with a big property portfolio.

Some of our ‘reformers’ think this is a good idea. In Germany, this is where the Church is heading at increasing speed.

Leaders of the second Synodal Assembly are pictured during its opening session in Frankfurt, Germany, in this Sept. 30, 2021, (CNS photo/Julia Steinbrecht, KNA)

But once the last bit of the Blessed Sacrament had been consumed or perished into dust, that would be that. We would be identical to a thousand Protestant communities.

Baptised lay people can baptise, and they can marry each other sacramentally. But lay people can’t call down Jesus to turn bread and wine into His Body and Blood.

And if you want to live forever, you need to consume His Body and Blood on a regular basis. That’s the deal (John 6).

I think people don’t always realise that there are limits to the Church’s powers. For example, I can’t be re-baptised or re-confirmed because those sacraments have already marked me as a Christian for all eternity.

If I found a silly enough bishop and put on some vestments, he could have a crack at ordaining me. But at the end of the ceremony, I’d just be an oddly dressed, slightly greasy middle-aged lay woman.

The Church has never had the power or authority to ordain a woman, or an unbaptised man. So you can try all you like, but nothing will happen.

For real sacraments – which impart real spiritual life and nourishment and grace – you need real priests. For real priests, you need real bishops.

So that’s our choice right now. We can go with the dying Church model – where old women outnumber old men, no one is discerning a vocation, everyone gets to decide their own truth, and then they die. Lay people can definitely run this Church.

Or we can go with the living Church model – where young men and women come to Mass in equal numbers, discern vocations, remain faithful to revealed truth, and thrive. For this, you need good bishops and good priests.

Choose wisely. The consequences are lasting.


Philippa Martyr: So, what about the new Mass?

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