Cardinal Pell rips flawed rant of “swinging ‘60s”- era priest against moral teachings

A retired, prominent Australian priest has publicly blasted the Catholic teaching on sexuality, female ordination and clerical celibacy, and what he called the Church's "salacious preoccupation with sexual mores".
Thu Apr 14, 2011 - 8:41 pm EST

MELBOURNE, April 13, 2011 ( - A retired Australian priest has publicly blasted the Catholic teaching on sexuality, female ordination and clerical celibacy, and what he called the Church’s “salacious preoccupation with sexual mores”.


Fr. Eric Hodgens, a Melbourne priest ordained in 1960 who served for seven years as the diocese’s Director of Pastoral Formation for Priests, wrote in the April edition of The Swag, the quarterly magazine of the National Council of Priests of Australia that “a large section” of the priesthood is “at odds” with the Church’s “displacement of the main game of spreading a message of life, hope, compassion and forgiveness by overstressing moral issues.”

In response, in the same edition of The Swag, however, the cardinal archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, has pointed out that it is precisely the generation of the swinging ‘60s, and the ascendancy of their liberal agenda that has damaged the Church and repelled the young.

Hodgens’s “solutions were put into practice after the Council,” Pell wrote, “to some degree in Australia, but especially in Belgium, Holland and French-speaking Canada. They emptied the Churches there.”

Particularly odious to Fr. Hodgens was the late Pope John Paul II, who he said was possessed of a “monumental” “lust for power”. He blasted the current trend toward religious orthodoxy in the Church, including the “favoured new movements,” and “World Youth Days” that he said, reassert the “old model which is not working”. He blamed the “drought of priests” and the “loss of the younger generation” on a shift towards conservatism in the Vatican.

In response, Pell remarked dryly that for a pope who was “an abuser of power, out of touch in scripture, limited in theology [and] a bad listener,” “It is a surprise that anyone came to his funeral.”

Hodgens attacked as out of date Catholic teaching on contraception, in vitro fertilisation, divorce, and homosexuality, saying that the Church has “foreclosed” on these and needs to “revisit”. He complained also of the new, more literal translation of the original Latin-language liturgical texts, calling them “defective” and the translation process “non-consultative and politically motivated”.

But Pell pointed out that it is the “mainstream orthodox” trends that have attracted the younger generations who are flocking to the new orthodox religious orders and seminaries, and that the well-worn “liberal” agenda has lost its cache.

“The now aged liberal wing of the Church, which dominated discussion after the Council and often the bishops and the emerging Church bureaucracies, has no following among young practising Catholics, priests or religious.”

In a Western world dominated by secularist media, “liberalism has no young Catholic progeny,” Pell said.

Hodgens is a well known leftist dissenter in the Australian Church and has publicly opposed Catholic teaching on moral issues for years. In 2006, he was a cosignator on a letter by twenty-four self-described “leading liberal Catholics” to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The letter complained bitterly of Cardinal Pell’s “static notion of truth” and said he is “teaching inaccurate and misleading doctrine” that “overemphasises the obligation to follow the church absolutely”.

In 2005, Hodgens wrote on an internet forum, “Most priests are no longer committed to the old taboos on sexuality. Most do not believe that couples living together are doing something very wrong. Most are happy to have homosexual couples living lives of commitment. They find the Roman heavy insistence on these issues obsessive and wonder why.”

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