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Australian priest rips recent popes; Cardinal Pell responds

April 13, 2011

A retired priest of the Archdiocese of Melbourne has blasted the teaching 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.”


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  • Posted by: - Apr. 14, 2011 11:03 AM ET USA

    Again the oil slick of politics pollutes the waters of faith. Why, with various repositories of "creative" and "intelligent" and "dynamic theology" open to them, like the Anglican communion, do the "spiritual elite" waste their time trying to reform the hopelessly "static" Catholic Church? His litany fits comfortably at the doctrinal center of the Progressive Church. Rev. Eric, your vicarage awaits! Why not leave us reactionary, authoritarian dimwits to wallow in our Holy Roman ignorance?

  • Posted by: - Apr. 13, 2011 11:47 PM ET USA

    Aha, another traitorous priest surfacing, just as the telling of the story of Judas is approaching. Wonder if they'll ever make the connection and blush for shame.

  • Posted by: mwean7331 - Apr. 13, 2011 10:44 PM ET USA

    what vitriol! What does his priest have "stuck in his craw?" Me thinks he is very bitter about some position in the Church that he felt he should have but he did not receive. If that is true, Thank God for that. Of course it is easy and safe to libel and malign the dead. They cannot respond. Some day he will encounter Pope Paul and receive his foregiveness as did the Pope's intended assassin.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Apr. 13, 2011 10:21 PM ET USA

    normnuke, you put your finger right on the pulse of the rebellion in the Church. It is no accident that such people are in positions of Church leadership.

  • Posted by: Anselm - Apr. 13, 2011 8:44 PM ET USA

    Obviously Fr. Hodgins never read the rubrics in the first edition of the Rite of Penance that cleary states when General Absolution may be used and that the faithful can only receive it once--they have to confess what they would of confessed to a priest the normal way before receiving General Absolution again. It was so clear Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles were able to read it. So Fr. H, blame Paul VI.

  • Posted by: voxfem - Apr. 13, 2011 8:20 PM ET USA

    Re: Divine Mercy. God has overcome sin and in his mercy wants to pull us out of the mire. His love can and will bring good out of evil. We celebrate Christmas in an Octave, culminating in the feast of Mary the Mother of God. Why not a feast celebrating the Mercy of God to complete the Octave of Easter? The Triduum and Easter are all about mercy and forgiveness and it seems to me to be a perfect fit. What better day than Good Friday to bring all people, especially sinners, to the heart of Christ?

  • Posted by: - Apr. 13, 2011 7:18 PM ET USA

    It's so uplifting to hear a bishop speak bluntly. Wish we had a Cardinal Pell in the U.S.!

  • Posted by: - Apr. 13, 2011 3:31 PM ET USA

    Something tells me that his idea of being "educated" is to have gone to a liberal university, then on to a liberal seminary, and be formed into something that looks nothing like Catholic philosophy or theology. Even if he is right in that regard, I'd rather have a faithful untrained servant of God than a trained heretic as a Bishop.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 13, 2011 11:47 AM ET USA

    Fr. Hodgins is a laughable fossil. As long as we're asking questions, why do people like this invariably wind upon the Catholic payroll as priests?

  • Posted by: jdieterich616502 - Apr. 13, 2011 10:14 AM ET USA

    First of all I have to commend Cardinal Pell for engaging the comments so directly. It's refreshing to see such boldness coming from a prelate... With regards to Divine Mercy, I see it as a beautiful feast and devotion that elevates Easter, not detracts from it. The truth is that Christ's Passion and Death on Good Friday (depicted in the blood and water of the Mercy image) and Christ's resurrection on Easter, conquering the stain of sin through though the Holy Cross is essential to Divine Mercy

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Apr. 13, 2011 9:12 AM ET USA

    "Exponents of alternative opinions" = Advocates of a non-Catholic faith. "Appointees were to total agreement with his personal opinion." Is he unaware of Cardinal Mahony? "Why can’t women be leaders in the Church? Why do priests have to be celibate? What is wrong with contraception?" He sounds like a child: "Why can't I play with knives? Why can't I stay up late? My parents are so mean!" Has the Church not written extensively about the answers to his questions? Grow up and read, Father!

  • Posted by: - Apr. 13, 2011 8:47 AM ET USA

    Whatever his faults, John Paul II reversed a trajectory of decline that marked the Church for several decades after VII. He was the right man in the right place and time - no wonder his memory provokes such outbursts amongst these liberals. And the Cardinal rightly points out the Catholic Left's Achilles heel: far from being the vanguard of the future (as they believe), they are already becoming an historical relic, like Arianism, Pelegianism, or the Albigensians.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 13, 2011 7:39 AM ET USA

    I don't agree with most things that Fr Hodgens says, but I do agree about undercutting the Easter octave with Divine Mercy Sunday. If only he'd started and stopped with that one.