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Irish priests challenge next pope

15 March 2013

THE largest and most vocal representative organisation for RC priests in Ireland has called for radical change within church structures by the new pope.

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), some of whom say they have been "silenced" by Rome, also welcome "the growing realisation at all levels in the Church of the need for reform and renewal in the Church all over the world, but not least in the Vatican itself."

In a statement, the Association said: "We hope he will not reappoint the existing heads of congregations within the Vatican, or at least that he will give them only temporary appointments, and that he will bring new people with fresh ideas and attitudes into the system. This, we believe, is the only way that the acute problems in the Curia will be put right."

A Redemptorist and one of the founders of the ACP, Fr Tony Flannery, said on Monday that a scandal concerning the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the late Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, could cause damage to the RC Church.

"This man founded a large and conservative religious order, and also a lay institute, Regnum Christi. . . He died in 2008, and it is now clear that not only had he fathered children by two different women, but, much more disturbing, he had a record of sexual abuse, including seminarians, and even some of his own children. He was also possibly the greatest fund-raiser the Church has known.

"His order, the Legionaries, is immensely wealthy, and he poured enormous amounts of money into the Vatican, including reputedly funding most of John Paul [II]'s foreign journeys.

"If John Paul did know that there was, at least, great suspicion about this man, why did he present him as a model? Or was it that he, old and frail, was ignorant of the facts? If so, who was responsible for not warning him, to prevent him from making such a terrible mistake? Or is it possible that the Pope did know, but chose to ignore the facts?

"There must be people in the Vatican who know the answers to these questions. John Paul has already been declared 'Blessed', and there is a possibility that he may be canonised. When the truth eventually emerges, and if it is the case that John Paul was actually covering up for Maciel, and that comes out after canonisation, it will do enormous damage to the Church."

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