Columnists > Scandal is alive and well in the Church whenever we fail to practise what Jesus preached

09 February 2017 | by Richard Leonard

Scandal is alive and well in the Church whenever we fail to practise what Jesus preached


In 1994, after I had spoken at a conference entitled “Women and Men and the Future of the Church”, I received a letter of rebuke from the local bishop.

I had argued that, given that the Pope had ruled out the ordination of women to the priesthood, we should move apace to return them to the Order of Deacons and to readmit laypeople to the College of Cardinals – including, this time, laywomen. The bishop was incensed that I would present such “personal and maverick ideas” in his diocese.

His letter went on: “What is most shocking is that you have committed grave sins for a Catholic priest: confusing the lay faithful; being publically [sic] disloyal to the Pope and the College of Bishops; and providing scandal – which can only be the work of the evil one.” Heavy stuff.

For the record, the magisterium of the Church has never declared that women cannot be deacons or cardinals, so, despite the bishop’s protestations, these were issues for serious debate – and they still are.

The bishop is long dead, but I wonder what he would make of the very public dissent from the teaching of the Synod of Bishops and the Pope recently expressed by a small group of cardinals, the petition from 45 priests and theologians, and the regular social media campaigns being mounted by so-called loyal Catholics against the present magisterium.


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