Priest quits to save order from Ratzinger wrath
Fr Paul Collins MSC, described as 'Australia's most controversial priest', has resigned in part to spare his order from getting caught in the crossfire between him and the Vatican.
Fr Collins has been under investigation by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for three years, since publication of his book Papal Power.
In December, the Superior General of his order, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, was summoned to a meeting with congregation officials in Rome to explain why so little had been done to pull Fr Collins into line. When Fr Collins recently learnt of this development he decided to resign.
The Congregation alleges the book contains a number of errors amounting to heresy, including a denial that the Catholic Church is the church founded by Jesus Christ and incorrect views of papal infallibility. Fr Collins denies this but has refused to comply with an instruction that he submit a written 'clarification' of his views in the book.
Fr Collins explained in a letter to the Congregation that it would be 'disingenuous, not to say dishonest and hypocritical' of him to co-operate in procedures which he had long criticised.
Insisting that his resignation does not reflect any disillusionment with Catholicism or retreat from public life, he told the Sydney Morning Herald: "I can no longer conscientiously subscribe to the policies and theological emphases coming from the Vatican and other official church sources."
He said he has no intention of withdrawing from the church or from 'ministry broadly defined'.
His resignation coincides with publication of his latest book, From Inquisition to Freedom, a critical examination of procedures used by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to defend church teaching on faith and doctrine.
Ordained in 1967, Fr Collins has been working as a relief priest in the archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn in recent years, after resigning from his post as Specialist Editor of Religious Programs at ABC Radio.