The silencing of Fr Brian D'Arcy
The news that Father Brian D'Arcy, one of the best-known and most popular priests in the country, has been censured by the Vatican and that his newspaper and magazine articles are now effectively censored in advance of publication by the church authorities will come as a shock to many lay Catholics.
For the past two decades, as the Catholic Church suffered one hammer blow after another as the full extent of the clerical child sex abuse scandal gradually emerged, Fr D'Arcy held out hope for many ordinary believers that the church would one day emerge strengthened from its ordeal.
That is why the action that has been taken against Fr D'Arcy will be so disheartening for so many. They will wonder why the Vatican apparently found it impossible to accommodate a priest who patently had the church's best interests at heart and who pointed the way toward a possible future.
The church, no doubt has its own reasons and is not inclined to be overly swayed by current sentiment. Nonetheless the Fr D'Arcy clamp will make it difficult for ordinary Catholics to understand.
What seems to have been lost sight of in all of this is that ordinary lay members, the people who go to Mass most Sundays and contribute their dues regularly, are the church in practice.
If the Vatican finds the views expressed by Fr D'Arcy so objectionable then ordinary church members are entitled to feel they are owed an explanation of why his thoughts and words have to be checked before being made public. Without such an explanation there is the danger of unnecessary further drift and alienation from the church.