Australian priest rips recent popes; Cardinal Pell responds
A retired priest of the Archdiocese of Melbourne has blasted the teaching of recent popes, displaying particular contempt for the person and teaching of Pope John Paul II.
Pope John Paul II was “out of touch in Scripture and limited in theology, a bad listener and rock solid is his self-assessment as God’s chosen man of destiny,” wrote Father Eric Hodgens in the quarterly magazine of the National Council of Priests of Australia. “His whole life had been spent in the persecuted Church of Poland with its fortress Church mentality frozen in time … John Paul’s lust for power showed very early and was taken to monumental proportions. Accountable to nobody, John Paul moved against any opinion other than his own and removed many exponents of alternative opinions from teaching and publishing.”
“John Paul II also enforced much of his own devotional life on the church at large,” he continued. “He effectively stopped the third rite of Penance [general absolution], reversed a burgeoning dynamic theology of Eucharist by reverting to and re-emphasizing devotion to the static Real Presence, reinforced a distorted devotion to Mary based on fundamentalist theology and introduced peculiar devotions such as Sr. Faustina’s Divine Mercy Devotion which undercuts Easter– the climax of our liturgical year.”
“A more grievous abuse of power by John Paul II was his appointment of bishops,” Father Hodgens added. “Appointees were to be clerical, compliant and in total agreement with his personal opinions. This has emasculated the leadership of the Church. The episcopal ranks are now low on creativity, leadership, education and even intelligence. Many are from the ranks of Opus Dei– reactionary, authoritarian and decidedly not creative.”
Father Hodgens continued:
Why can’t women be leaders in the Church? Why do priests have to be celibate? What is wrong with contraception? Why alienate remarried divorcees? Why this salacious preoccupation with sexual mores? Why are scientific advances always suspected of being bad? Why can’t we recognize the reality of homosexual orientation– and the social consequences of that recognition? Have we learnt nothing from the Galileo case– or the treatment of Teilhard de Chardin? Can’t we escape the Syllabus of Errors mentality?
“We cannot be sure whether Eric’s theological position is typical of a liberal or a radical Protestantism,” Cardinal George Pell responded in the magazine’s subsequent issue, adding that “we do not know the limits to his hostility to some ancient devotions such as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and veneration of Our Lady.” “The now aged liberal wing of the Church, which dominated discussion after the Council and often the bishops and the emerging Church bureaucracies, has no following among young practicing Catholics, priests or religious,” Cardinal Pell added. “This is not only true in Australia, but everywhere in the Western world. In these different countries dominated by a secular media and intelligentsia, liberalism has no young Catholic progeny. On reflection we should not find this surprising, as growth is tied to Gospel fidelity, to faith, love and sacrifice.”
“Pope John Paul provokes a special hostility, allegedly an abuser of power, out of touch in scripture, limited in theology, a bad listener,” Cardinal Pell added. “It is a surprise that anyone came to his funeral.”
“In an astonishing example of provincial arrogance, Hodgens claims that ‘the more intelligent and better educated’ bishops (only ‘some’ to be sure) are corrupt and have sold their soul for advancement,” Cardinal Pell continued. “Me thinks he protests too much. Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict were not hostile to intelligence, education or competence, but they have striven regularly to appoint bishops who will defend the apostolic tradition and strive to implement policies which will strengthen the Catholic position, not white-ant it.”