Open debate and free discourse are healthy, so maybe it’s good that we are witnessing “rebel priests”, such as Fr Iggy O’Donovan, Fr Gerard Moloney, Fr Tony Flannery and Fr Brian D’Arcy making their opinions known, even when this invites Vatican disapproval.
I am not sure if the correct word really is “silenced”, since the priests in question have ample access to the media and the airwaves – although of course I sympathise with any person who has been deprived of their ministry or the practice of their profession. A colleague of mine was recently fired from her job – at which she excelled – in circumstances which do not at all seem just. And she, now, cannot practice her profession.
The axe tends to fall with some alacrity in the media business. You contact the page editor to ask if there are any problems with your text – corrections or amendments needed? And you are told, “er, sorry, the editor has sent you a letter saying we’re not using you any more. End of arrangement. Awfully sorry about that, old girl, but as you know, a newspaper is a dictatorship and what the editor says, goes.”
That’s how it happened to me, last time I was sacked. It’s painful, it’s upsetting, you feel rejected and you start worrying about the bills. But you also get inured to the idea that this is the way the world works. Maybe the Vatican isn’t too different from any other corporate body in its operational approach.
The remedy? You just have to be brave and carry on as best you can, hoping that when God (not the worldly boss) closes a door he also opens a window of opportunity.
In the long run, maybe the priests who are in some disagreement with the Vatican will usher in an era of more open debate and more challenges to authority.
However, not all priests easily accept challenges to their own authority. I recently heard a sermon – in England – in which the priest inveighed against the practice of ‘zero hours’. I put to him the suggestion that some employees found zero hours convenient. Some of my invalid husband’s carers willingly accept zero hours because they are able to work limited shifts without losing social welfare benefits. The priest in question didn’t at all like me questioning the social basis of his sermon. The clergy are not, perhaps, accustomed to the laity arguing back.
But that could be the trend of the future, as we all get more argumentative.
Promoting awareness of sepsis
Concern has been expressed by the National Institution of Medical Science in London because 37,000 people died last year from sepsis in British hospitals.
The condition is not quickly enough diagnosed and often not properly monitored once sepsis set in; patients died in these alarming numbers because of medical failure to spot symptoms and act accordingly (fever, chills, rapid breathing, painful muscles, passing no urine in a day).
There is now a UK Sepsis Trust set up especially to raise awareness of the numbers who die ñ more than from breast or bowel cancer.
This is exactly the condition that proved fatal for Savita Halappanavar, and when further enquiries are conducted into her tragic death, the frightening ubiquity of sepsis should be noted. And all in the medical profession should be made aware of the number of fatalities claimed by this condition.
Speaking against bullfighting
I have no animus against fox-hunting, which is part of a countryside tradition and keeps Renard the Fox from killing chickens and biting babies, but Iíve always thought the Spanish corrida a horrible, sadistic sport.
So it was uplifting to read of the Colombian former matador, Alvaro Munera, who quit bullfighting when he came to accept that it involves the deliberate torment of an animal.
He gave an interview recently in which he recalled a bad moment: ìOnce I killed a pregnant heifer and saw how the foetus was extracted from her womb.
The scene was so terrible that I puked and started to cry. I wanted to quit right there but my manager saidÖ scenes like that were a normal thing to see in this profession.
Iím sorry to say that I missed that first opportunity to stopÖ.Some time later, in an indoor fight, I had to stick my sword in five or six times to kill the bull.
The poor animal, his entrails pouring out still refused to die. He struggled with all his strength until the last breath.î It was only when he was badly gored that Munera finally decided to quit. ìIt was like God thought ñ ëif this guy doesnít want to listen to reason, heíll have to learn the hard way.
Bravissimo to Alvaro Munera, who now speaks out against the bullfight.