It started when I saw, via Luke Coppen's Today's Catholic Must-Reads blog (which itself is becoming a bit of a "must-read"), that a new speakers' group was being set up as a rival to Catholic Voices.
Now, I have had a few disagreements with how Catholic Voices was set up, but I do think the idea of a media pool was a good idea. Creating a rival group, on the other hand, seemed like a very bad idea.
With slight trepidation, I clicked on the link. I then discovered that this rival group, called (with complete lack of originality) Catholic Voices for Reform, plans
to provide alternative views on controversial church issues such as child abuse, women's ordination, married priests and homosexuality.
Now, as I said, I have had my disagreements with how Catholic Voices was set up. However, I have no doubt whatsoever that they will represent the Church's views on each of those topics - child abuse (condemning it), women's ordination (pointing out that it is impossible), married priests (explaining the Church's teaching on celibacy) and homosexuality (condemning homosexual acts as sinful, while continuing to call for compassion to those who experience same-sex attraction.)
So, if Catholic Voices for Reform wants to provide alternative views, does that mean that it wishes to encourage child abuse? OK, I'm being slightly tongue-in-cheek. The quote was an example, perhaps, of sloppy journalism, but then it is from an article in The Grauniad. Trust them to take this bunch of has-beens seriously.
The group apparently called itself Catholic Voices for Reform so as to distinguish itself from the original Catholic Voices group. Somehow, I don't find that a very convincing statement. Calling itself something like Voices of Opponents to Catholic Teaching, or Dissident Catholic Voices would have ensured that there was no possibility of confusion, as well as being more honest.
I saw that one of the founders of the group is Sr. Myra Poole, SNDdeN. She's heavily involved with the Catholic Women's Ordination group. Interestingly (ok, maybe not, but humour me...) I discovered the following quote by Sr. Poole in a CWO newsletter:
I also underlined the deep connection between women’s worldwide poverty and the non–ordination of women. I have said this many times in CWO and I have heard others say it as well. If women cannot represent God in public in all sacramental roles and roles of authority in the Church, then it follows that women must be less than human and they can be abused, ignored, raped etc.; in other words treated as non persons.
What deep connection exists between women’s worldwide poverty and the non–ordination of women? Is she suggesting a causal link? Or perhaps just a correlation? Because if that statement were true, then women's poverty would be greatest in all Catholic countries.
And just because women can't be priests, then they are likely to be raped?
Plenty of men have gone forward for Ordination and been refused by the Church. Does that mean that they, too, are treated as non persons? And are likely to be raped?
I have never heard so much utter balderdash.
Sr. Poole was asked in the Guardian article to comment on the real Catholic Voices group.
"She said: 'I'm not frightened of them. They are the official group, they're very with it, but we're not daft. We all have experience and know about theology.'"
Oh dear. "They're very with it." - That rather shows how stuck in the 1960s Sr. Poole is.
"We're not daft" - *ahem* Calling for women's ordination, when it has been categorically stated by Pope John Paul II that the Church has not got the authority to ordain women, and that this teaching requires definitive assent, sounds rather on the daft side to me. When I was little, I wanted to be a ballet dancer. However, on being told that I was almost certainly going to be too tall to be a ballet dancer, I promptly gave it up. Even at the age of eight, I had enough sense to recognise that some things really are impossible.
"We all have experience" - this made me curious. I wondered who "we all" actually was. A few minutes' exploration of Google, combined with the memories of the last time I'd looked up Sr. Myra Poole and the CWO, confirmed my suspicions. It involves none other than the same old crowd - Bernard Wynne, of Catholics for a Changing Church and Stand Up For Vatican II, and Valerie Stroud from We Are Church UK are two of the other organisers. The fourth is Simon Bryden-Brook, an Oblate at Douai Abbey, who is also on the Secretariat of Catholics for a Changing Church.
Looking at the make-up of Catholics for a Changing Church certainly supports the statement that they all have plenty of experience...
"...and know about theology." - I beg to differ. The groups represented by Catholic Voices for Reform claim to support Vatican II, while completely ignoring what the documents of Vatican II actually said. If they really do know about theology, then they are deliberately attempting to deceive the faithful by misrepresenting the teachings of the Church. I prefer to be charitable, and assume that these groups are merely ignorant of Catholic teaching.
Either way, they are hardly representative of the Catholic Church in this country, and one sincerely hopes that they will not be given any further platforms by the mainstream media.