Of course we should forgive Bishop Conry, but welcome him back into ministry? Not until there are signs of massive repentance. Fr. Longenecker does not seem to think that’s apparent.
Kieran Conry said he was sorry for the “shame he brought on the diocese” and that he had “broken his vows”. He also said that he “didn’t dwell on sexual morality” in his sermons and he didn’t think he was a bad bishop because of what he did. What kind of double think is that? All it indicates is that he knew he was flagrantly breaking his vows and flaunting church discipline. Because he didn’t preach on sexual matters was he giving himself and all his people a pass on that area of Catholic life and teaching? He didn’t think this made him a bad bishop? Am I the only one to think that this sounds arrogant and self deluded in the extreme?
Here is the most interesting and disturbing part of the affair: Bishop Conry doesn’t say that sexual relations outside of marriage are wrong. He doesn’t say that adultery is wrong. Did he not consider his actions to actually be wrong or did he just regret getting caught and was just sorry that he “broke his vows”? I don’t wish to rub the poor man’s nose in it, but it does make one think.
If a priest is having an affair with a woman or a series of women over the years, and he has no qualms about becoming a bishop then one must conclude that he has justified this action in his own mind. He’s good with it. How do liberal priests do this? As part of my research for my book on married priests I have discovered that they do this in various ways. One way is that they interpret the vow of celibacy as “I will never get married.” Stories abound of priests who are sexually active but still claim they are keeping their vow of celibacy.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m well aware of the difficulties our celibate priests experience and I’m very sympathetic. Sexual morality is difficult for everyone and few there be who do not stumble, and when we stumble going to confession is the right thing to do. What disturbs me, however, is when anyone justifies the sin, pretends it is not a sin and skirts the issue. I am not saying Bishop Conroy does this because I do not have all the facts, and one should always give the benefit of the doubt. However, his lack of naming sin and repenting publicly for a public sin does have the whiff of liberal watered down Christianity– a Christianity without a cross and forgiveness without repentance.
My concerns exactly. Also, Fr. Longenecker writes a little about the Magic Circle.
Bishop Conry was part of what Damien Thompson calls “the magic circle.” This is the “inside circle” of mainstream, moderate or liberal priests and bishops who govern the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
After our conversion to the Catholic Church I spent seven years working for a small Catholic charity in England visiting parishes each weekend, and through this job I learned what life was really like in the trenches in England’s Catholic Church. It was a complex network of contacts and contacts within contacts through which, in the usual English Machiavellian way people and situations were manipulated while a polite and diplomatic facade was maintained at all times.
For example, one bishop decided that he would not ordain any former Anglican priests. He didn’t say why. It was just one of those autocratic rulings made by the type of bishop who thinks he is a “man of the people”. Then you would discover that over there in another diocese a bishop was not making an outright refusal to ordain, but was simply sabotaging the process of a former Anglican priest’s ordination at every turn. Then guess what? You discover that Bishop A was an old seminary buddy of Bishop B and Bishop B was a protege of Archbishop C who went to school with Bishop A who used to be the vicar general for Bishop B who was once the communications director for Bishop D.