“Stories like Seán’s deserve to be told and to instruct as this does!”
– Mary McAleese
What happens when theologians are asked to obey rather than discover? Where is the justice in a Church that deploys harsher punishments to those who mention ordaining women than to those involved in child abuse?
Marist priest and theologian Fr Seán Fagan was widely admired and respected as a courageous and compassionate pastor. For many years he was critical of rigid stances by the Vatican on issues of conscience and sexual morality. In 1997, he published the book Does Morality Change?, which was denounced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) as not in keeping with Church teaching. In 2008, the CDF reacted out of all proportion to one of Seán’s letters that was printed in The Irish Times, and two years later he was informed that he would be laicised should he publish anything the CDF considered contrary to Church teaching, and should he disclose this censure to the media. If he failed to obey, he would be dismissed from religious life, a punishment that would have rendered him homeless.
He expressed a wish to his close friend Angela Hanley that when he died she ought to “spill the beans in public on what really went on, to shame our sinful church in the hope that it might prevent further repetitions”. This book is a fulfilment of that wish and is Seán’s opportunity to have his side of the story told.