Honesty and Truth

In the course of the centuries the Roman Magisterium – i.e. both the Popes and the Holy Office which has now become the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – have made mistakes. Doctrines were held out to the faithful as inspired teaching (‘God’s Divine Will’) or traditional teaching which, later, were proved wrong. They were errors. Pius IX still taught in 1866: “Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons…. It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given”. See note 1 below Such mistakes in teaching are understandable since the Church should be learning all the time, but why are such mistakes hardly ever openly admitted by the MagisteriumSee note 2 below. In a few rare instances, Popes have openly admitted the wrong done to individuals, but these are exceptions. It would be far healthier for the Church to acknowledge its ‘fallibility’ in all but the most essential items of the creed. See note 3 below. The fear of honestly admitting mistakes also leads to Church leaders hanging on to teachings which the vast majority of theologians, and even a majority of the clergy and educated faithful, know to be wrong. This creates a situation in which thinking Catholics no longer believe or trust what the Magisterium is saying. It undermines the credibility of the Church’s official leadership and so does lasting damage to the Church. To restore its credibility the Church should introduce the practice of public inquiries to establish the cause of the mistakes.


“A more intrepid and dedicated advocate for victims of clergy abuse than Fr. Thomas Doyle is impossible to find. He describes his 25-year crusade for justice, accountability and transparency as ‘wading through a cesspool of toxic waste’. These men among others working to document facts and reveal healing truth are neither anti-religion nor anti-Catholic. Indubitably there are temptations to despair as we read what bishops have done and continue to do in their effort to deny truth and destroy evidence behind a pious PR curtain.Those of us who have reviewed church documents — raw data including the depositions of bishops — and write about what we find, do know what bishops knew about abuse and when they really knew it. There are records. We are not interested in scandal. We are interested in change–reform of a corrupting system and concerned about religious hypocrisy. We are respectful of a church that does much good despite its corruption . . .” Richard Sipe.  Read more here

There is much untruth in the Church. There is hypocrisy and humbug at all levels. There is pretended loyalty, outward profession of the official line accompanied by inner denial; there is the corrupting power of fear. Which is better: honest dissent or pretended assent? We need priests (and people) who are honest. Truth is the bedrock of credibility . . . If people could say, ‘A priest will always speak the truth, no matter what it costs’, that would be great, but could it be said? Have we numbed ourselves into accepting the role of a safe pair of hands, of toeing the party line, of not ruffling feathers, or of not making risky career moves? Fr. Owen O’Sullivan —Read his words!
How can there be life in the Church without women? How can we see to a true ethic and morality of marriage, sexuality, family planning and societal structures, without women to give these direction, definition and therefore, full meaning in Christ? In the very current parlance of our times at this specific point in time, I have little hesitation in describing the Church’s action against women over two millennia as an act of terrorism, and a continuing act if the hierarchy persist in their ‘business as usual’ mind-set. The scale is tragic because women are the invisible majority in Church and society. Aruna Rodrigues MA — Read more!
Integrity, like truth, cannot be attained without a constant passionate desire for it. This desire is certain to put us at odds with the world, for even the most honourable professions rarely take their own rhetoric of integrity entirely literally, and though persons of integrity sometimes rise in the ranks, their career is rarely a smooth one. Conformism is the principal temptation we must overcome in order to be a person of integrity, and we have the handicap of having been trained in conformism very thoroughly . . . Also, we must make choices real through action. Fr Joseph S. O’Leary — Read more!

NOTE 1. Instruction by the Holy Office signed by Pope Pius IX on 20 June 1866. See the full story on the Magisterium and Slavery here.

NOTE 2. Notable are Pope Paul VI’s admission that Galileo Galilei had been condemned unjustly, Pope John Paul II admitting that the Church had unjustly contributed to the persecution of the Jews and Pope Benedict XVI offering apologies to the victims of child abuse.

NOTE 3. Bishop Raymond Lucker lists 65 teachings on which the Church had to change its mind. The Church practically always only revokes its earlier mistakes implicitly, i.e. by further statements that contradict the earlier ones. Admitting mistakes explicitly would great;y enhance the Church’s credibility. Read here!