Call to boycott Mass may be start of 'revolution in Catholic Church'


A REVOLUTION “may already have started” in the Catholic Church in Ireland, the Humbert Summer School was told in Castlebar, Co Mayo, last night.

US religion commentator Robert Blair Kaiser said in the keynote address that news reports last week of 80-year-old Jennifer Sleeman’s call for a boycott of Sunday Mass on September 26th in protest at the Vatican’s treatment of women suggested that “this grandmother from Cork” may “already have started a revolution”.

“She obviously believes what I believe, that you can have a voice and a vote in your own church, and still be Catholic and, at the same time, Irish,” he said.

Author of 13 books, many on Catholic Church reform, as correspondent for Time magazine, Kaiser was awarded an Overseas Press Club award for his coverage of the Second Vatican Council.

Speaking last night on the topic Catholic Church Reform: No More Thrones, he said that “until the Copernican revolution, monarchs exercised absolute control over their subjects by divine right. But when the peoples of the world, informed by a new cosmology, put the divine right of kings into history’s dust bin, they forgot to toss the divine right of popes into the garbage, too.

He emphasised: “I am not attacking our Catholic faith. I am talking about the special and corrosive tyranny that popes have been exercising over Catholics everywhere . . .”

Ireland’s first cardinal Paul Cullen in the 19th century and archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid in the 20th century “established the clerical culture in Ireland that Judge Yvonne Murphy identified as the root cause of the Irish scandals that have sent you and your nation reeling”.

He said that “for a thousand years, popes have promoted a clerical church instead of a Jesus church, that the fathers of Vatican II worked for four serious years to give the church back to the people, and that popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI spent the next 30 years repealing their labour, and allowing corruption to reign, a move that has left our church, which is Christ’s body on earth, broken”.

“Can you help create a people’s church?” he asked. “Yes! You can if you want to. In this context, I like to quote Pope John Paul II. In 1978, he travelled to Warsaw and told millions of Poles: ‘You can take back your country if you demand it.’ You could be saying the same thing: ‘We can take back our church if we demand it.’

“The Poles were fighting against long odds – the military might of the Soviet Union itself. But they won their battle.”

He said that “news over the past decade about our crumbling, abuse-of-authority church may tell us that change is already happening, happening faster than anyone thinks”.

Responding, Irish Catholic deputy editor Michael Kelly said that clericalism in the church “was at the heart of the sex abuse scandal”. By “clericalist” he meant “an elitist mind-set, together with structures and patterns of behaviour corresponding to it, that take it for granted that clerics are intrinsically superior to the other members of the church and deserve automatic deference. Passivity and dependency are the laity’s lot.”