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Jesuit says Church 'driving youth out'

Young people are being turned off the Church and the priesthood by an increasingly autocratic and doctrinaire Catholic Church that is out of touch with the 21st century, according to a report in today's Australian newspaper on the views of well-known Jesuit Fr Frank Brennan.

Fr Brennan, a lawyer and human rights advocate, is about to spend time as a visiting fellow the Jesuits' Boston College in the USA, following more than a decade as head of the Sydney-based Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre.

"All of us need to accept that the revolution in sexuality has left many people, especially young people, completely uninterested in the views of an all-male, unmarried clergy," he said.

Describing his difference of opinion with Archbishop George Pell over the issue of the primacy of conscience as a "war at arm's length", Fr Brennan said the clergy needed to consider their consciences ahead of church law.

The Australian presented Fr Brennan's critique in the context of criticism recently articulated by Sydney priest Fr John Crothers and published in Online Catholics and the Sydney Morning Herald. Fr Crothers' comments arose from the Church's alleged pastoral insensitivity over the issue of gluten-free communion hosts.

Fr Brennan presented his views in a TV profile aired this month on the ABC's Compass program. Today's Australian also quotes a remark of Fr Brennan's from a talk he gave in Shepparton to secondary school teachers of the Sandhurst Diocese.

He said: "If we provide our Catholic graduates only with a rule book of do's and don'ts issued by the bishops, we know that many of those graduates will throw the book in the bin very soon after their departure from the school."

The article also quoted Fr Bill Uren, an ethicist who was Jesuit Provincial in the 1990s. Fr Uren said priests are under increased scrutiny because of modern communications.

"What's said in the diocese can be known in Rome very quickly and what was previously taken with a grain of salt is now more strictly applied," he said.

He said clergy are often at the mercy of a "right-wing laity" eager to "run in" priests they perceived as stepping out of line.

Catholic Church 'driving youth out' (The Australian 27/8/04)
Pope tells young people to worship God to be free ( 26/8/04)

What Do Our Students Rightly Ask of Us, the Church who are Many Parts, One Body? (Fr Frank Brennan SJ, Sandhurst Diocese Catholic Secondary Education Conference Notre Dame College, Shepparton 13/8/04)
Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre
Pope Warns Youth Against Dabbling In New Age Fads (AFP/Turkish Press 26/8/04)

27 Aug 2004