By Patrick B. Craine

ANTIGONISH, Nova Scotia, June 1, 2010 ( – A Catholic priest of the Diocese of Antigonish, Nova Scotia has defended submitting an article to a local paper in which an American journalist accuses the Vatican of “male domination” and being “self-absorbed.”  The article, which was originally published in the New York Times on April 17th, also dissents from Church teachings against contraception and the ordination of women. 

The op-ed, which leans heavily to the leftist Catholic “social justice” perspective of the 1960s and onwards, suggests that the sex abuse crisis has resulted from the Vatican's chauvinism and the all-male priesthood.  “I think there’s certainly a lot of truth to that,” commented Fr. Bernard R. MacDonald, who submitted the article that ran in the Inverness Oran May 26th.  “I don’t think you can dodge that.  It’s just there.”

Fr. MacDonald is the pastor of St. John the Baptist parish in Brook Village on Cape Breton Island and has served in the diocese since the early 1970s.

The piece he submitted was entitled “A Church Mary Can Love,” and therein, author Nicholas D. Kristof maintains that there are “two Catholic Churches”– the “rigid all-male Vatican hierarchy” and the “grass-roots Catholic Church” that supports aid organizations, runs schools for the poor, and fights AIDS.

Kristof claims that the Vatican is currently wrestling “with the consequences of a patriarchal premodern mind-set: scandal, cover-up and the clumsiest self-defense since Watergate.”

He explains that nonetheless “it wasn’t inevitable that the Catholic Church would grow so addicted to male domination, celibacy and rigid hierarchies,” insisting that Christ and the early Church were more inclusive and less dogmatic.

He points, for example, to certain Gnostic Gospels that gave St. Mary Magdalene an exalted position, and he highlights the fact that in Romans 16:7 St. Paul refers to “Junia”, a woman’s name, as “prominent among the apostles.” 

Regarding the interpretation of “Junia,” Professor Scott Nicholson, a theologian and Scripture scholar at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry’s Bay, Ontario, pointed out that the Nestle-Aland critical edition of Scripture, which analyzes the various Greek manuscripts and assesses the possible readings, gives an “A” rating to the masculine interpretation of “Junia.”  This means they are “dead certain” that a feminine reading of “Junia” in certain later manuscripts is due to copyist error, says Nicholson.

According to Kristof, it was only later that the Church fell into a “patriarchal rut,” for example, in excluding the Gnostic texts from the Bible, and he says that the Church continues in this rut today.

“The same faith that was so pioneering that it had Junia as a female apostle way back in the first century can’t even have a woman as the lowliest parish priest,” the author bemoans.  “Female deacons, permitted for centuries, are banned today.”

The Vatican is now “floundering,” he says, because it “became as self-absorbed as other old boys’ clubs.”

In an interview with LifeSiteNews (LSN), Fr. MacDonald stood by the contents of the article.  “I thought it gave a different slant on all this junk that’s been going on, that there are really two churches – the people who are really dedicating themselves, and this bureaucratic thing which is really turning people off,” he said. 

“Right now I don’t have too much sympathy with the Vatican.  They’ve handled this whole thing horrendously.”

The priest was referring to the ongoing scandal in the Catholic Church over the sexual abuse of minors by some priests.  Outrage over the scandal has flared up recently, particularly after various attempts by the New York Times and other major media to implicate Pope Benedict, which were later debunked.

The sex abuse scandal has had a deep effect on the Antigonish diocese in the last year after their bishop, Raymond J. Lahey, resigned in September due to police charges for possessing child pornography.  Bishop Lahey’s resignation came only a month after he had reached an $18 million settlement with abuse victims in the diocese.

Fr. MacDonald also said that the male priesthood was “just an historical anomaly … more of a cultural thing than a faith thing.” 

When LSN asked if he felt that his vow of obedience as a priest obliges him to assent to Church teaching, he replied, “Well I also think that I have a brain and I have as much right as anybody else to think about things and to express my opinion about things.”

LSN brought the article to the attention of diocesan spokesman Fr. Paul Abbass, but did not receive a response from the diocese by press time.

Contact Information:

Most Rev. Brian Joseph Dunn, D.D.
Diocese of Antigonish
168 Hawthorne Street, P.O. Box 1330
Antigonish NS B2G 2L7
Phone: (902) 863-3335


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