Fr Seán Fagan: ‘Brilliant thinker’ who was ‘broken’ by Rome

Fr Seán Fagan

Fr Seán Fagan:

‘Brilliant thinker’

who was ‘broken’ by Rome

By Patsy McGarry, in Irish Times, Jul 17, 2016

Late priest was censured by Vatican until former president Mary McAleese intervened


             (Note:  This story is posted just to remind  ourselves of the very difficulty and conflicting times we are living through even during a Pope who wears the prodigal face of   compassionate  God and who insists on being  very liberal and merciful in the Church’s pastoral practice.

          James kottoorWhat stands as an anachronism today is the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which does not permit freedom of thinking and expression on theological matters, as if this  Congregation has a hotline with God almighty (How stupid?) on the destiny of man here below and here after.  To counterbalance such antediluvian thinking we have also very bold lay persons like Mary McAleese, former Irish President and most of all Francis Pappa, who repeatedly plead to go very slow with judging any one a sinner. As a result he lifted all sanctions against Fr Seán Fagan in 2014. In any case it would be very interesting to know more about what he wrote in his book: Does Morality Change?  and Whatever Happened to Sin?


                    This scribe wrote long ago, there is no such thing called Sin in all its magnificent varieties  (mortal, venial etc.) and that it is the glorious discovery of Canon law to enslave frail humans. One should instead think with Vivekananda who said: “Don’t ever dare to call Man the crown and glory of God’s creation a sinner!”  Of course we all make blunders, stupid, idiotic statements and dastardly deeds, just like little kids when they learn to walk. They fall down and get up as Jesus himself fell three times on his herculean climb of Gagulta. When children fall down and break their nose you don’t say they are committing sins. We humans will continue to fall down and get up till our last breath. Only  don’t call them sins.

              The church must change, must go through constant reform. So does every human being. That change is not from Sin to Virtue, but from ignorance to enlightenment, from imperfection to perfection. Trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle as Michael Angelo said. Or as Newman said: “ In a higher world  it may be different, but here below, to live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed most often.” So just forget about sin for a while. Just go on changing, improving. Every time you fall down, get up promptly like Jesus. That is perfection.  james kottoor, editor)



The late Fr Seán Fagan had his “heart and spirit” broken by the Vatican in the years before he died, former President of Ireland Mary McAleese has said.


“His long and illustrious priestly career was blighted in latter years by being silenced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” she said. Marist priest and theologian Fr Fagan died at St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin last Friday.


Widely admired and respected as a courageous theologian and compassionate pastor, he had been ill for some time.For many years he was critical of rigid stances by the Vatican on issues of conscience and sexual morality, not least in letters to this newspaper.


In 2003, he published the book Does Morality Change? , for which he was censured by the Irish Catholic bishops in 2004, and in 2008 Whatever Happened to Sin?


He was first censured by Rome in 2008, and in 2010 was informed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that he would be laicised should he publish anything it considered contrary to Church teaching, and should he disclose this censure to media.


Then in 2012, he was one of five Irish priests silenced by the Vatican, including Fr Tony Flannery, Fr Gerard Moloney, Fr Brian D’Arcy and Fr Owen O’Sullivan. In April 2014, Pope Francis had all sanctions against the very ill Fr Fagan lifted.It later emerged that in December 2013, Ms McAleese had written directly to Pope Francis asking that he personally intervene in the case.

This weekend Ms McAleese told The Irish Times she was “saddened by the death of that great questioning mind that was Fr Seán Fagan’s”


“A brilliant theologian and thinker who brought great distinction to Ireland, his long and illustrious priestly career was blighted in latter years by being silenced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His heart and spirit were broken but his fidelity to the Church and quiet acceptance of such an unjust fate won him even more admirers,” she said.


 “When, thanks to Pope Francis, the CDF finally restored him to good standing in 2014 it was a case of too little too late. A great and good man’s life and his life’s work had been ruined. Anyone wishing to comprehend the collapse of the Catholic intellectual tradition need only examine Seán Fagan’s tragic story.

“It reflects well on Seán and badly on those who hounded him using byzantine processes with no regard for due process or human rights. God grant him peace at last and may his legacy be an inspiration to restless inquiring minds who pursue justice and truth no matter what the personal cost. Seán was such a hero,” she said.

Fr Fagan’s remains will repose at Mount St Mary’s in Dublin’s Milltown on Sunday afternoon from 3pm until 6pm and all day on Monday prior to removal to the Church of Ss Columbanus and Gall at Milltown Rd, arriving at 5.30pm.Funeral Mass on Tuesday morning will be at 11, followed by burial at the Marist community plot in Glasnevin cemetery       







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