By Mairead Corrigan Maguire*, Nobel Peace Laureate, 6 October 2014, TRANSCEND Media Service — On October 4th we celebrated the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. When HH the Pope took the name of St. Francis he declared his desire that we be a church of the poor and a church for the poor. He spoke with passion, calling for justice for the poor, for peace, and an end to violence and war, and gave hope to many people who identify with his ‘Vision of Peace’.
His spirit of love for the poor and disenfranchised and his courage in listening to the voices of the oppressed has given people hope that he will take on board the desire amongst many for changes in the Church; not merely articulating these hopes but implementing them. Also in Ireland many people desire changes in the Catholic Church.
For instance, there is a very serious shortage of priests and this is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately and as a matter of urgency. Various options present themselves. We could, for example, re-instate those priests who have married but wish to return to priestly ministry. We could create new and innovative ways for lay people to participate in church ministry. We could also discuss an issue that’s very close to my own heart, the ordination of women.
Many lay people in the Irish Church are concerned that the need for change is not being addressed. There is little discussion between lay people and Church leadership on issues that are fundamental to the living of Christian faith in the contemporary world. Such dialogue can only happen when/if there is trust, fairness, justice, and sincere openness to each other’s viewpoints.
If the Vatican accepts the principles for such debate there will be a real chance for meaningful dialogue to happen. In this regard, many people have been impressed by the Irish Association of Catholic Priests, which have offered spiritual leadership and provided a voice for priests, religious and laity to address important issues of faith and life in a meaningful, honest way.
It is to be hoped that Pope Francis and the Magisterium of the Church will recognize and acknowledge peoples’ right to freedom of conscience and free speech. I believe that the practice of Vatican Censorship and the silencing of Religious who have questioned certain teachings and practices in the Church goes against the fundamental rights to freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of expression that should be enjoyed by all people.
The treatment afforded to these people by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is nothing short of damaging and unjust, and does, I contend, cause scandal to the faithful not least because of the lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the Vatican authorities who make the decision that so negatively impact on these people’s professional and personal lives.
We are all familiar with the numerous cases of Irish Religious who have in recent times been censured by Vatican authorities. Such unjust punishment should, I believe, be resisted both by the religious orders themselves and by lay people.
The people affected by such censure should immediately be re-instated to ministry and the CDF (and other Vatican congregations) should be subjected to a radical overhaul to ensure that such victimisation cannot reoccur in the future.
I hope Pope Francis will open the windows of the Vatican, let in some fresh air, and let the spirit of love and truth touch the hearts of all people, so that meaningful dialogue and true change can come about.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire, co-founder of Peace People, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland.
Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See:www.peacepeople.com. This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 6 October 2014. Go to Original on TMS.
2014 Human Wrongs Watch