Today it was announced that Bishop Kieran Conry was resigning as our Bishop, because, as he put it, he had been unfaithful to his calling as a priest.
As his letter was read out, the church was silent. There had been no warning, jut this, a resignation. For most people, Bishop Kieran was a good bishop, approachable, a man of faith, human… And it is that humanness was seems to have led to his downfall. Another priest has been sacrificed on the altar of perfection. And the swivel-eyed loons of an austere, ungiving Catholicism are dancing in ecstasy on the grave of Bishop Kieran’s reputation. Who is next in their sights, Cardinal Vincent Nicholls? Perhaps Pope Francis? Would even the Lord himself have passed muster, with his dangerous, liberal ideas that floored the Pharisees with their emphasis on “right” teaching and living? Would St Peter, that flawed individual, or St Paul, riddled with angst, be good enough? Today’s gospel challenges all of us who think we know what makes a good Christian. The true followers of Jesus are those who know they need to be forgiven, the tax collectors and prostitutes.
This should be a wake-up call to the whole Catholic Church, to stop denying the humanity of our priests, to stop crucifying our priests by expecting them to be “in persona Christi” all day and every day. Sadly, for Bishop Kieran, there may have been no other course of action, he had to resign. We know not the details behind his resignation. But many of us wish he did not have to go. Cannot a flawed human being, truly contrite, make a good bishop?
It is time for the Church to change, to concentrate on the mission of the Church, to bring the Good News of God’s love for us to the world. It is time for the Church to realise that blanket priestly celibacy is counterproductive and does not sustain the Church’s core mission.