Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pro Vita Sua

Seán Fagan is in his eighties but he writes and thinks like a young man, a wise young man with buckets of experience behind him.

I have just finished reading his book What happened to sin? Originally written in 1977, he has since updated it in 2008.

I really don't know where to start. It is such a relevant and inspirational book that it is hard to see anyone of good faith taking issue with it.

One of his other books, Does Morality Change?, originally written in 1997, was condemned by the Vatican (CDF) on its republication in 2003, on the following grounds (as reported by the Irish bishops):

“the denial of the binding force of the Magisterium [Rome] on conscience”; “the uncritical acceptance of the tendency ‘to substitute a dynamic and more evolutionary concept of nature for a static one’,”; “the effective rejection of the church’s understanding of the natural law (illuminated by revelation)”; “the explicit denial of moral absolutes, specially those concrete acts which are intrinsically wrong”; and “the promotion of a false understanding of conscience”.

I would have thought that these sound more like grounds for praise than condemnation. Of course, they are a hostile presentation of Seán Fagan's ideas by a power-mad bureaucracy that feels threatened by him. They fail to present the inspirational context in which these ideas are put forward, and they fail completely to see that Seán Fagan's thinking could be the salvation of a church which is failing in its duty to its members and which even some of its own highest officials acknowledge is rotten at parts of its core.

I found What happened to sin? the most inspirational book I have read since John Robinson's Honest to God. It is a game changer. Don't be put off by the use of the word sin, and you could even dispense with the divine in its content, and you would still have a programme for good (Godly?) living to bring you in sight of the Promised Land.

I read it as an unbeliever, but with an eye to what its thinking might mean for the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church on the lines promised by Vatican II some half a century ago.

It is a plea/recipe for individual moral responsibility in a buck passing and uncaring world. It debunks the power-enhancing strategems of church administrations over the last decades, centuries even, in favour of person-based moral growth.

It is a disgrace that this man has been silenced, though not very effectively it would seem. It is a sad reflection on the moral pygmies who reported him, those who silenced him, and those, who by their own silence, consent to the outrageous treatment of this holy man.

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