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Exposure for priest's comments on Pope sex focus

Australian priests are more disturbed by the Pope's attitude to sex issues than by unmarried couples or homosexuals living together, according to an Online Catholics article by outspoken Melbourne priest Fr Eric Hodgens.

The article, published in last Wednesday's issue of the online journal, is quoted today in The Age and The Australian.

Fr Hodgens suggests older priests ordained between 1955 and 1975, who form up to 70% of the Melbourne total, "do not like the strong personality cult of the Pope and resent the bishops' sycophantic style of quoting him incessantly".

"Most of them are no longer committed to the old taboos on sexuality. Most do not believe that couples living together are doing something very wrong," he says. "Most are happy to have homosexual couples living lives of commitment. They find the Roman heavy insistence on these issues obsessive and wonder why."

They believe the Pope's "excessive" devotion to Mary undermines the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that bishops are out of touch and "under the thumb of Rome".

Fr Hodgens, who has commented several times in the past year, and presented statistical evidence to back some of his claims, is parish priest of St Bede's in suburban North Balwyn.

"Groups like the Legionaries of Christ, Opus Dei and the Neo-Catechumenate are being promoted as the salvation of a collapsing church, while they see these 'new movements' as narrow, clerical, sectarian and, worst of all, subverting parish life."

Fr Hodgens said yesterday he was taking up issues raised by two senior Melbourne priests in December, when Fr Len Thomas of Ivanhoe West and Fr Peter Foley of Geelong called Melbourne's church leadership dictatorial, remote and lacking compassion.

Melbourne Vicar-General Monsignor Les Tomlinson told The Age that Fr Hodgens' account is highly speculative, and he doubts that the numbers were accurate.

He said the church leadership must be faithful to the Gospel of Christ, and the truth of the Gospel was the impetus rather than consensus of popular opinion.

Monsignor Tomlinson said he did not doubt that the priests represented by Fr Hodgens were motivated by the Gospel, but they seemed to imply that prevalent behaviour, rather than the Gospel, should determine what the church proclaimed.

Papal fixation with sex upsets priests (The Age 1/2/05)

Fr Eric Hodgens: Mad as Hell (Online Catholics 26/1/05)
Melbourne Church fails 'hearts and minds' (Online Catholics 22/12/04)
Fr Eric Hodgens: An Alternative to the Priest (Online Catholics 1/12/04)

Disillusioned priests speak out (CathNews 21/12/04)
National Commission for Clergy Life and Ministry
National Council of Priests of Australia

Priests lash out at cult of the Pope (The Australian 1/2/05)

32 Feb 2005